If you’re like me, you easily get irked with the bloated interface and extraneous features that iTunes contains, when you simply want to listen to music. Of course, it’s great for managing your various devices and browsing the multimedia and app stores, but the emphasis on music management is sub-par. Overall it’s slow, resource consuming, and lacks a lot of music-focused functionality. Well move over iTunes, there’s a new sheriff in town, and its name is Sonora.
Sonora is a beautiful and focused music player by Indragie Karunaratne and Tyler Murphy. It features a slick and easy to use interface, and a solid feature set to manage and enjoy your tunes. It’s a standalone player and completely independent of iTunes. With that being said, you always have the option to import or sync with your iTunes library whenever you like.
I briefly spoke with Indragie, the developer behind Sonora, to get some insight into why he decided to take on the daunting task of developing a direct competitor to iTunes. Here’s his thoughts:
“Basically, two goals: focus and minimalism. We wanted to take the focus away from absolutely everything except your music. This means no podcasts, no audiobooks, no movies, nothing. Just music. Everything has been cut down to the bare essentials that you need to browse and enjoy your music. By removing much of the extraneous UI it gives your music center stage. The end result is that it’s a lot easier to browse and use and it allows us to implement features that are specific to listening to music, like our central queue. If we had integrated a billion other things like iTunes does, that takes away our opportunity to add awesome stuff that’s tailored specifically for music listening.”
— Indragie Karunaratne, developer of Sonora
I’ve been testing Sonora since its first alpha releases, and have really enjoyed it. The features are well thought out and the GUI is always pleasing to look at. There are some core features that really separate Sonora from iTunes, which make it a unique and powerful application. First of is the centralized queue. The queue is a super flexible way to play the music you want in the order you want. You can queue up full albums, or individual songs, and you have the ability to add, remove or rearrange your queue at any time with a simple drag and drop interface.
Another powerful feature is the global search box, which is activated either through a global hotkey or simply by typing anything while the Sonora window is focused. You can search for songs, artists, and albums, and immediately play or enqueue them quickly and easily. The search box stays out of the way until you need it, which aids to keep the interface as uncluttered as possible.
Sonora also gives you a few different sorting options for your music. Don’t want to view the artists A-Z? You can go ahead and filter by your newest tracks as well as your most popular. I frequently use the Popular tab to listen to my favourite tracks without having to build individual mixes for them.
A great feature of any audio player is the ability to handle multiple audio formats. Sonora has got you covered here, with the ability to handle mp3, m4a, flac, ogg, wav, aiff, ape and more. So what about playlists? Sonora uses a feature called “Mixes” to allow you to put together a collection of songs into a playlist. One thing I really enjoy about them is the ability to use custom artwork for your mixes, that doesn’t affect the individual song’s album artwork. It adds a nice personal touch to your personal collections of music.
With some great 3rd party services and apps out there that could be interfaced with iTunes, you may be worried that they will be unusable with Sonora. Two of my favourite music based services have already been implemented with Sonora. The first is Last.fm support. Simply log in with your Last.fm account, and Sonora will begin scrobbling all your music behind the scenes. Simple and seamless. Sonora also works with the ever popular Bowtie desktop app for Mac. I’ve always loved having my current track info sitting on the desktop, and I can continue to enjoy this with Sonora. To the developers out there, Sonora has solid AppleScript support for things like track info, playback controls, player attributes, etc. There is also more information for Cocoa developers who want to listen for distributed notifications from Sonora from within their app here.
If you need a clean, focused, powerful and flexible application to manage your music, Sonora is certainly your best option. The 1.0 release is very impressive, and I’m sure it will only keep getting better in the future. If you’re unsure they offer a fully featured 14 day trial on their website. When you’re ready to buy, Sonora goes for $9.99 in the Mac App Store.