Windows comes with its own music software in the form of Media Player, and it works well enough, but third-party music apps can do so much more.
Whether it's organizing and tagging your music collection, downloading and streaming from online radio services, or optimizing playback for different devices, there's an app here that will make it effortless.
The best free music apps for Windows will give you full control over your music library and help you enjoy it like never before. Here's our pick of the best options around. Which music player do you rely on for everyday listening? Let us know in the comments below.
A customizable media player that can tackle virtually any music or video file
Some music players are all style and no substance, with flashy interfaces and a distinct lack of decent features. foobar2000 is the opposite. It doesn’t look like much – this free music app is designed to be simple and memory-efficient – but you can make it look any way you like and add whatever features you want.
That’s because what’s already a very useful audio player, ripper and converter offers stacks of 'components', which extend its powers even more. Components include CD burning, decoding of PlayStation sound files, visualizations, playlist organisers and all kinds of useful things. You can even customize the keyboard shortcuts to suit your way of doing things. foobar2000 is the best free music app for Windows.
Spotify's desktop client is great for managing music on all your devices
Spotify isn’t the only free music app for streaming, but it’s the one everybody knows and the client software is extremely well designed.
Spotify isn’t just a music player; it’s a music platform that works not just on Windows but on mobile devices, games consoles and all kinds of other devices too.
As you’d expect from a service that’s primarily about subscriptions the free version is limited in what it can do – tracks shuffle and you’ll get the odd advert - but if you don’t mind somebody else controlling the playlist it’s a great way to soundtrack whatever you’re doing.
An incredible free music app for Windows that puts a wealth of information at your fingertips and makes managing your tracks easy
MusicBee describes itself as the ultimate music manager and player, and it’s available for Windows versions from Vista onwards. If you’re still using the Windows default, it’s like moving from black and white to Technicolor.
There’s a multi-band equaliser with digital signal processing effects, support for high-end audio cards, upmixing from stereo to surround sound and even support for some WinAmp plugins to expand the app further.
It comes with a choice of skins, syncs with mobile devices including Android and Windows phones, integrates with Last.fm and includes a vizualizer to make your music look as good as it sounds.
Step-by-step guides to help you get more from your favorite tracks
Dopamine is your brain’s happy juice, and its music playing namesake should give you the warm and fuzzies too. This free music app is designed to make organizing and listening to music as simple as possible, and it looks absolutely brilliant on Windows 10.
It supports wav, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, WMA and M4A/AAC, and there are a range of views from full-window to sitting in the taskbar. It’s a lovely-looking thing and it really is easy to use, and we like the way you can make it as shouty or quiet as possible by changing the notifications settings. It’s well worth the download.
If your music library is disorganized, MediaMonkey will help get it in order
One of the big pains about digital music is that if your collection is bigger than a few albums, it’s easy for it to get messy. For example, you might have REM and R.E.M., or U2 and good music (kidding).
MediaMonkey can’t stop unwanted U2 albums turning up, but this free music app can automatically tag your music as well as other useful things including DLNA streaming, syncing with devices including Android and iPods, run in DJ mode, automatically set volumes so tracks don’t vary, record CDs and download audio from the internet.
Add-ons offer even more including sound effects and additional format support.
A classic free music app supported by a huge collection of downloadable skins and plugins
Winamp has been languishing in development hell for a while now, but a new version is coming and the classic version remains a very good little music app that we love to bits, largely because it was our introduction to the joys of MP3 music.
It’s ancient in software terms but there’s a charm to it that more modern players lack – partly because it looks horrible, and partly because you can make it look even more horrible.
But the real fun is in its visualizations and plugins, which have the benefit of two decades of developers’ efforts. If you fancy kicking it old-school, it’s a lot of fun.
A brilliant free music app, VLC can play just about any file or music stream
You probably know about VLC, the kick-ass free video player, but you might not know about VLC, the kick-ass free music app. And here’s the twist: they’re the same program.
VLC Media Player might not be as pretty as some other media apps, but that’s never been a key part of its appeal: it’s the fact that VLC can import and export in file formats so numerous that we’re secretly convinced some of them are completely made up. It plays any kind of disc you can throw at it, supports all the main online streaming protocols, and of course it has brilliant video features too. It’s an absolute gem.
A free music app towards the pro end of the spectrum, with advanced options
AIMP has been kicking around for 10 years now, but it's still very much alive; its most recent release was just a few weeks ago. This is a free music app for power users, with a built-in 18-band equalizer and a whole host of sound effects and even a vocal remover, smart playlists based on criteria you select, a fantastic audio file converter and CD grabber, and group tag editing to keep your library in top shape.
You can even get AIMP to wake you up in the morning or automatically shut down the system at night once your favorite tunes have lulled you into a deep sleep.
Give your mouse a rest with Resonic's single-click interface and quick shortcuts
Resonic Player might not have the high profile that other music apps enjoy, but it’s a high quality app with an interesting approach: it’s built around frequency analysis and waveform viewing so you can actually see what you’re listening to – not as a visualization, but as a real-time view of the audio file and the frequencies it’s using. There’s something wonderfully hypnotic about that.
The rest of this free music app is good too with an attractive interface, wide format support, automatic fades and a sleep timer. Resonic integrates with the Taskbar in Windows from Windows 7 onwards too. And there’s an integrated MIDI synth that’s optimized for quick auditioning of MIDI tracks.
More than just an audio editor – Audacity is also a superb media player
An oldie but a goodie, Audacity can be used as a music player, but we like it more for editing music. It’s particularly good for jobs such as digitizing old cassettes or vinyl records, removing background noise and chopping albums into discrete tracks, and you can use it for multi-track recording and for audio mastering.
If your hardware supports it, you can even record at sample rates of up to 192,000Hz – the same as pro recording studios use - or up to 384,000Hz if you have a high-res sound card. The loopback feature is particularly handy – it captures whatever the system is playing, making it great for recording Skype calls and other audio.