Clementine: Amarok 1 series’ true successor?

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I think Netrunner’s default music player is absolutely great. Tomahawk offers a very good experience, it has a good interface, it looks modern, it has tons of contextual information and it plugs into the cloud with ease, but one of its defects is that your local collection management isn’t very versatile, a lot of space is used to show images from the artist, then album arts, then songs, and this default hierarchy can’t be modified, and playlist management is good but not Amarok 1.x good. It used to be that Amarok was the king of local collections, that’s no longer the case in my opinion. I’ve noticed every time music players are mentioned there’s a sizable set of people recommending Clementine, so let’s see if Clementine succeeds where Amarok has failed.

What is Clementine?

When the developers of Amarok released 2.x series I was far from the only one to notice it was inferior in many regards, and its developers didn’t seem to want to correct course. GNOME users (and users of other desktop environments) always used to install Amarok even if it was Qt and part of KDE, I don’t think that’s the case anymore. After waiting for a change that never arrived a group of developers took things into their own hands: Bringing Amarok 1.4.x to KDE 4.

But Clementine developers went many steps further, make no mistake, Clementine is much better today than Amarok 1.4.x ever was.

Playlist management

Unlike most music players that show your collection kinda as if it were a playlist, Clementine takes the old-school Amarok approach of having a smaller panel on the left that displays all your collection and then you can add songs, albums or the entire music from an artist to your playlist by drag’n dropping or by double clicking them, if you want to save it you just hit the save icon up top. Your collection can be sorted in many ways by clicking the wrench, from artist/album to genres.

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This makes playlist management a breeze. Creating playlists on Clementine is more efficient than with most (if not all) music players. Saving them as favorites so they show up in the Playlist pane is a bit weird, you need to create a new playlist, then another tab appears, and then you can click the star icon to save it as a favorite.

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I’ve been so far unable to find a way to starred them without creating a new playlist, I think is fair to say that this obscures and otherwise great feature. Reordering songs is accomplished by simply dragging and dropping and thanks to Clementine’s no-clutter playlist design it is very space efficient, instead of displaying countless of album arts only the album art of the currently playing song is shown.

Compared this to say Tomahawk. In Tomahawk you need to create a playlist, then you can drag’n drop files from any other playlist or your collection to it, but in order to do so you have to leave your new playlist then drag’n drop to the sidebar, and this will merely append the song to the very end meaning you will need to open your new playlist again just to change the position of your recently added song, then you can go back to your playlist and start over. On Clementine if you just want to append you double click it on your collection if you want to put it after or before a specific song you just drag’n drop it to the correct place without ever changing views.

Contextual information

As I’ve argued last week Amarok 2.0 has negatively affected the music experience by putting contextual information in such a manner that gets in the way of managing your music. Clementine was built to be Amarok 1.x’s true replacement so naturally it has contextual information. Did its developers manage to add it without causing noise?

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Yes. To keep the interface from cluttering, even inside the panes themselves, contextual data was divided in two categories: Song info and Artist Info. To get to either of them you just click the corresponding section on the sidebar, showing attention to detail these two sections are separated from collection and playlist related sections by a blank space, providing a clue that their nature is different from all others and providing visual guidance.

Streaming and Subscription Services

As I said Amarok largely missed the streaming revolution that is still ongoing, true to Amarok’s beginnings Clementine stays at the cutting edge, making good use of the web by offering multiple streaming and music subscription services, including Spotify. Enabling them (only needed if it requires logging in) is as straightforward as it gets, just by going to Tools > Preferences and selecting the corresponding internet provider, Spotify doesn’t work out of the box because of licensing issues but it merely requires hitting download when you’re going to log in. To access them you just need to click on the Internet section of the sidebar.

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It works perfectly. And the list of supported services is very extensive.

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My only complain is that you can’t sync your Clementine playlists with Spotify, you can see your Spotify playlists but you can’t modify them or make new ones, which is a shame because Spotify’s playlist management is pretty poor and Clementine’s is great, it could be a killer combo.

Search 

Clementine’s search capabilities are the best in the industry, only Tomahawk matches them. The list of supported services is over 20 and I greatly appreciate that unlike Tomahawk it divides them by source.

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Such a powerful and well designed search mixed with Clementine’s approach to collections and playlists makes for a killer playlist creation experience, to my knowledge there’s no better player in this regard than Clementine. One of the cool things about Clementine’s search approach is that unlike Tomahawk it worries less about having a big and pretty image with biographies and countless information, it goes right down to business. By default it sorts all search results by artist, this can be modified in a second by hitting the wrench, just like with your local collection:

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Remote Control

You can control Clementine remotely using your Android device by going to Tools > Prerences > Network Remote and enabling. To download the app you just need to scan the QR Code or click the link to the Play Store.

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Once you’ve downloaded Clementine Remote you just need to touch the icon to select one player or manually write your IP address, for convenience it’s shown right on your settings.

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Controlling your playback is as easy as it gets.

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By touching the name of the playlist you can select what track to play. It works well but it would be amazing if you could control every element of Clementine with it, like creating playlists, reordering elements, searching, etc.

Conclusions

Clementine is one of the best music players available on any platform, creating playlists is very efficient, it’s aware of where the world is moving to by being a cloud aware player, it supports various subscriptions services (Last.fm, Spotify, Grooveshark), contextual information is always a click away and the searching experience is unmatched. There’s things that I would like to see improved like like starring playlists being more straightforward or playlist syncing with Spotify or even more features on their remote app or adding automatic playlists like those of Tomahawk, but that’s just because nothing is perfect, Clementine is an incredibly packed experience that manages to be full featured without being a cluttered mess. My only true gripe with it is the looks, I think despite being so modern Clementine looks old, the interface design isn’t particularly attractive, that’s a very minor complain and Clementine has a few options to mitigate it, like using the album art of the currently playing song as the background, but everything considered it still appears old.

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In other words, my only real complain is that Clementine doesn’t look as modern as it is, it doesn’t look as modern as it deserves, yet, not looking as good is a very minor problem (it’s not ugly either) and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Clementine to anyone, from my grandfather to power users. Is Clementine a worthy successor of the ubiquitous Amarok 1.4? Yes, it is.

Mathematics and Philosophy student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Website

  • Real_PTR

    Tomahawk on Netrunner can’t get use of my multimedia buttons when Tomahawk’s window is out of focus. Clementine does it like a charm…

  • Derek

    Clementine is very very good, yet it all counts for nothing if it can’t play gapless – and it can’t on the systems i’ve tried. Some people say it works for them, but i’ve tried in Windows and Linux and it just didn’t work. It’s been a reported bug for a good couple of years. They seem to have no interest in fixing that critically important and common in other software ‘feature’.