Windows Media Player and Audio Codecs

Ogg Vorbis, as their website states, is a 100% free (free as in beer, free as in free speech) audio encoding and streaming technology. Ogg Vorbis is very popular among the 'underground' on the Net because it is Open Source, and unencumbered by patents and other frustrating issues. However, it is not supported by one of the world's most populare media players, Windows Media Player. However, all is not lost! You can grab the codec right off our website here. Just download that, install, and you can now play ogg files on Windows Media Player!

The .mpc File Format

Musepack is mean to be the 'utlimate' in lossy audio compression technology. While a little bit larger than a lot of other lossy compression formats,.mpc files are extraordinarily good at preserving musical quality. Windows Media Player does not support this format in a fresh install, but if you grab this, run it, and restart Windows Media Player, you can play Musepack files to your heart's content.

The .flac File Format

The Free Lossless Audio Codec is arguably the 'best' way to store audio files. While extremely large, FLAC files do not lose any of the audio nuances that a lossy compression format does, and it is still a great deal smaller than a WAV file. Grab the codec, run the installer, and with a quick restart of WMP, you can play back FLAC files.

Is there any end to these file types?!

No kidding. The list of audio file formats in existence on the Internet would boggle the mind. While the above three should get you rolling on the vast majority of what you find while downloading music, you are inevitably, eventually, going to run into yet another file format (there is even an acronym for this, YAFF!)

While some power users may choose to always be on the leading, cutting edge of sound file formats, many simply do not care. There are two major solutions to this: 1) grab a standalone player that can handle pretty much anything, or 2) look for a huge pack that has a veritable kitchen sink of codecs.

Codec Packs

Just like the number of codecs, there are many codec packs that contain them. Just search Google and you should find one in a few seconds. Just be very careful about downloading viruses!

VLC Media Player

VLC is a fantastic standalone player that supports playback of virtually every audio and video file known to man. The best part? It's also 100% free. You should probably download it even if you think you do not need it. It is a phenomenal piece of software. The only problem with VLC is the slightly lower quality of some of its codecs. While it can do everything, this comes at the cost of quality in some aspects.

Media Player Classic

The very close runner-up to VLC Media Player, Media Player Classic is stripped down but feature rich older version of Windows Media Player 6.4. Grab it from SourceForge now.

Windows Media Player has always been a reasonable media player, but these days they have put a lot of effort into stability and the music management system. It is a great audio player that just lacks some codec support. You should probably just grab the popular codecs and stick to it if you are familiar with it, but feel free to try the above players, as they have their own very loyal and justified fan base.

Good luck!

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