A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you a selection of lesser known music players for locally stored media that had some special powers and functions. However, playback and streaming aren't the only functions a music aficionado looks for, especially when your favorite app sometimes lacks a certain functionality. So how do you fill this void, or how do you improve on your basic music listening experience? Here are 10 utilities that can be used in conjunction with your preferred music apps to complement them.
Viper4Android (Root only)
This entire article stemmed from the comments mentioning Viper4Android that we received on the original music player selection post. This magical tool apparently does wonders for the music playback quality on your phone. I say apparently because it requires a rooted device and geeky maneuvers to install — my rooting and modding days are far behind me, I don't have the time for that anymore.
Not having personally tested Viper4Android (and not being an audiophile to begin with), I can only rely on the thousands of positive comments the app has received on XDA Developers to recommend it. The app claims to make your music seem lossless, enhance its quality through headphones (and also speakers recently), improve fidelity, bass, and clarity, set up different options for the left and right channels, and more.
Viper4Android isn't for the faint of heart. You'll have to dig in its XDA thread for the setup instructions, the explanation of its various settings, and the download links. But its cult-like user following shows that it could be worth it. Oh, and there's a Material mod too in case you are allergic to Holo.
iSyncr : iTunes Sync (Pro)
Before you start listening to your music, you need to access it on your device. There's your Google Play Music library, various streaming apps, manual copying of your music files, and automatic synchronization from your computer. For the latter, and in case you use iTunes like I do, my recommendation always goes to iSyncr.
It's the type of set-it-and-forget-it app that does its magic in the background without you ever worrying about it again. It works on Windows and Mac, transfers music over WiFi or USB (including MTP), and comes with a smorgasbord of options to tailor it to your needs, including playlist selection, default storage locations, and synchronization scheduling.
I especially appreciate its play and skip count logging, and embedded lyrics and ratings synchronization. Most of them are factors I use in my iTunes smart playlists so keeping them updated is crucial. Used in conjunction with Rocket Player, this is almost as seamless of an Android-iTunes experience as you would get were you to use an iOS device.
Now that you have your music on your device, you want to start listening to it. Many music players have a built-in option that launches them automatically when you connect your wired or Bluetooth headphones, but if your app of choice doesn't or the options there aren't granular enough for you, there's Headset Menu. Okay, there's Tasker too, but that's only if you know how to navigate that daunting app.
It can launch a default music player when it detects your headphones or provide you with a notification to pick one among a preselected list. It also adjusts the volume to your liking. And if you don't want the notification to be triggered when you're connected to Bluetooth speakers, you can blacklist them. Headset Menu also comes with a widget, icon pack support, and some settings over the looks and feel of the notification. And while the Play Store's screenshots still show a Holo design, the app is already updated with Material Design elements.
The idea of using multiple devices on the same WiFi network as speakers for your music was popularized by Samsung, but SoundSeeder brings it to all Android devices. Say you want to share the latest and hottest Selena Gomez (I ain't judgin') song with your friends, you can either play it on your phone's speaker and hope — in case it doesn't have BoomSound — that everyone will hear it clearly, or you can use SoundSeeder.
Install the app on both devices (more can be used if you purchase the $4.49 Premium IAP), make sure they are on the same network, start playback on one device and switch the second one to Speaker Mode in the app. Music flows like fairy dust between both and you get a stereo sound experience. Trust me, the first time you demo the app to people, their first reaction is, "But, but, I don't have that song on my phone. How?!" Yeah, I know tricks.
The app comes with a few settings, online radio access, and could possibly be used as a standalone music player, but it isn't really spectacular in that aspect. It's better left for those music sharing instances.
Maybe last.fm's glorious days are behind it. Maybe there's no need for its scrobbling and stats in this age of modern music streaming services and their powerful recommendation engines. But I have used it for years and I will continue to do so. It knows my music history better than iTunes and Play Music combined and has always suggested many cool artists and bands to me. If you're like me and you prefer to scrobble your songs to last.fm, you might find the option in your music player of choice. But what if it isn't, as is the case with Google Play Music?
That's where WAIL beta comes into play. It's an open source, elegant last.fm scrobbler that monitors music playback from a variety of apps (with the option to ignore some if you need to), lets you set up the time or song percentage at which it sends the song to last.fm, and supports the service's Now Listening and Loved Track features. All of that with minimal permission requests and with the developer being named Artem. Not our Artem, but... still.
There's nothing worse than being interrupted in the middle of a cool song or jam by dozens of notifications from people who want to discuss the color of that damned dress. It could be green and red for all you care, why do they want to ruin your mood? Well, luckily, if you have Don't Pause! your phone can do a magical behind-the-scenes switch of your settings when you're listening to music. It removes the notification sound and sets it to vibrate (or silent) so your music doesn't pause no matter how many emails or messages your receive. Stop playback and the notification sound comes back to normal.
You could definitely set a similar rule in any automation app such as Tasker, but Don't Pause! makes it easier, especially if you consider the Pro features that let you auto-start the service upon connecting wired, Bluetooth, or USB headphones.
If you have an Android Wear watch, chances are that you enjoy controlling the music playback there instead of fumbling for your phone. After all, it's really cool to be able to leave your device on a desk or dock, connected to a set of speakers, and move freely while still maintaining control over your music. Wear integrates quite well with most music players, but if you want more, there's Wear Music Controller.
It lets you launch specific music apps and playlists — which is even more awesome — directly from the watch and use voice commands and bigger control icons, both of which come in handy when you're driving, running, or otherwise unable to select with precision an element on your watch's screen.
You can also pick between multiple layouts on the watch, and best of all, the notification can hide itself after a certain amount of time with no music. Wear Music Controller has a free trial for 4 days so you can make sure the app has all that you need before you commit to the full $1.99 license.
NextSong's claim to fame comes from its use of Lollipop's floating notifications. Why would you have to drop down your notification shade to see the current playing song when your phone already has a built-in system to layer the information on top of your screen?
NextSong harnesses that power to let you know what song has just started playing, which is handy when you have shuffle mode on or you're streaming a recommendations-generated playlist. In the free version, NextSong has a limited set of options: notification duration, themes, whether to show a list of compatible music players when a headset is plugged (à la Headset Menu above), and the notification can only be pinned or hidden.
The Pro version unlocks music controls in the notification, letting you quickly dismiss a song or repeat the previous one, and the possibility of excluding notifications when you're in certain apps. That's cool for avoiding interruptions while playing games for example.
Back in 2008 or 2009, I remember using an app on my Nokia Nseries (running Symbian) to control music playback using nothing but gestures detected by the front camera. 6 to 7 years later, it's still as mystical to wave in front of your phone and have the music unbelievably respond to you, Minority Report-style.
Brainwave is the kind of app that allows it on Android, and it's as simple as possible: a set of instructions followed by a menu to pick the music player (among many supported ones) to control. That's it. The magic happens when the service runs in the background and you're working, driving, your hands are dirty, or you can't exactly reach or fumble with your phone. One wave and the music obeys. But make sure your whole hand is at a 30cm (12") distance in front of the camera. I never had problems triggering the FF or RW controls, but pausing and playing is a bit finicky until you find the right way — and distance — to do it.
So you've been playing your music for a couple of hours and you're ready to fall asleep now. Most music players have a built-in sleep timer, but if your choice player doesn't or if you want more power over how the music stops, then this app is for you.
First of all, Sleep Timer understands that you will use it before you head to sleep, so it has a very dark theme with only the timer in bright shifting yellow, green, and blue colors. It lets you set a countdown and start it with as few taps as possible. A notification runs then, with buttons to stop the timer or extend it. When the countdown hits zero, the music slowly fades and then stops, closing the app and returning to the homescreen.
My favorite feature of Sleep Timer is the shake to extend, which quickly adds more time, so if you know that you're still a way off from falling asleep, you can easily add another 10 minutes of playback. The app is free with ads, but you can remove them and get a nice widget to boot after you donate to the developer.
As with all roundups of this nature, we always say that this is but a small selection of apps among the sea of different options and alternatives in the Play Store. So what are your favorite music utilities?