Power users who find the new music jukebox applications to be too bloated are in for a real treat with musikCube. Although it doesn't integrate with any music stores, the application offers lightning-fast, powerful performance for users looking for a little more oomph from their music playback software.
After installing musikCube, importing your music files into its library is easy and intuitive; MP3 files, OGG files, and CDs are supported natively, and you can add playback support for AAC/MP4, FLAC, WAV, and unprotected WMA with free plug-ins. Another plug-in enables you to import existing your M3U and PLS playlists. The included CD Ripper comes preset to import CDs to the OGG format but can also output to MP3 or FLAC. As for any digital music you've purchased from online music services such as iTunes or Rhapsody, musikCube won't support it; open-source programs can't, by their nature, support current digital rights management systems.
Once you've added your tunes, musikCube offers a number of ways to find what you're looking for. A general search box in the upper-left pane lets you search for music just as you would within iTunes, with narrowing results being returned for as many letters as you type. You also have the option to search within only the Artist or Album field by clicking within those windows and typing your query (by contrast, iTunes has only general searching). musikCube also lets you sort by clicking column headers.
Although musikCube was designed to run as efficiently as possible, it includes some playback niceties. New songs fade in automatically, with subsequent transitions cross-faded from one song to the next, and you can configure these fades to your liking or choose to have no fades at all. Whenever a new song starts, a bubble pops up from the taskbar to display track information and disappears after a few seconds. We also appreciated that musikCube recognised the playback control buttons on our Media Center PC keyboard (for pause, fast-forward, rewind, and stop); those buttons do not work with iTunes, Rhapsody, or Yahoo Music.
The creation of regular play lists is easy and self-explanatory, but you can also create your own dynamic play lists by entering SQL queries that specify criteria (such as artist, album, genre, title, rating, bit rate, times played, last played, time added, track number, and notes/comments) for the songs that will populate the list. musikCube includes a good example of such queries right within the program, so even if you know nothing about SQL, you'll be able to use it to construct your own dynamic (ever-changing) play lists. Preset dynamic play lists include 50 last played, 50 newest, 10 most played, favourite artist, and favourite album.
Right-clicking one or more songs brings up comprehensive file options, including the ability to delete files from the library or your computer, clean up tags, batch update tags, batch rate, queue for playback and more. True to its bare-bones nature, the program does not display album cover art.
When you attach any mass storage device to your computer, it'll show up in musikCube's Devices pane. You can drag songs on or off of the drive easily, unload all of the songs onto your computer in one shot, or organise the songs on that device and have that information stored in its own database (on the device). This makes MusikCube a good choice for those who spend a lot of time carting their music between multiple computers on an external hard drive or any MP3 player that's configured to act like one.
Near the right side of the main pane, you can rate songs exactly as you would in iTunes, and musikCube keeps a tally of how often you listen to what, which helps generate dynamic play lists based on your listening preferences. If you have already rated songs in iTunes, a free plug-in enables you to import those ratings into musikCube.
The program includes a Net Radio feature, although it's weak. In order to add an online stream or song, you click Ctrl+R to spawn a pop-up box, into which you paste the URL. The online location (single songs supported, play lists not supported) will show up in your library with the word netstream as its album, artist, and genre. You'll have to right-click the stream in the library in order to name it, or you'll end up with an unsightly domain as the song name. There's no support for podcast subscriptions, and no streaming radio presets are included. musikCube works well only with music that's already on your hard drive.
This application was designed to use few computing resources, and it succeeds. The installer is only 2.7MB, and our cursory tests revealed that the program used about 25 percent as much memory as iTunes, on average. It consumes about the same amount as Winamp, but since musikCube has the better features by a long shot, we'll give it the edge.
Should you need support, musikCube offers a decent wiki-based help section as well as a forum where you can seek assistance (although discussion there revolves more around the additions of new features than helping beginners).
You can download musikCube for free, and it runs on Windows 2000 and XP only. It's certainly a worthwhile program for Windows users with a boatload of unprotected digital music.