Simplify wins for most versatile music controller for the Mac!
Lory Gil has been reviewing Mac apps for years and regularly tests and evaluates new apps as part of her job as app editor at iMore. If you have suggestions for this guide, you can contact her at email@example.com or @appaholik on Twitter.
Simplify has it all. You can connect Spotify, iTunes, Vox, Pandora, SoundCloud, and more, and then switch between players with keyboard shortcuts. You can also control music playback from all of your favorite music services with your keyboard's media keys thanks to the Simplify PrefPane addon. If all of your music services are open, you can switch between them without having to look at them.
Bottom-line: Simplify makes switching between music services on your Mac a pleasure. If you use Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, SoundCloud, or others on a regular basis, you need this app.
One more thing: You can also use your iPhone as a controller with the Simplify Controller app
Why Simplify is the best
You can use it all with all the music services!
Ok, maybe not all the music services, but more than any other. It works with stand-alone services like iTunes, Spotify, and Vox. Plus, the Simplify Chrome and Safari extensions work with web-based players like Pandora, SoundCloud, VK, and Deezer.
It takes a little work to set up Simplify with all of your music services. And, they all have to be open and set to the music you want to listen to. But, once you're set up, you can switch between music like a boss.
With the PrefPane, you can use your keyboard's media controls (pause/play, skip, rewind) to control all of your music services, not just iTunes. So, if you're playing music from SoundCloud or Pandora, you can pause or skip a song using your keyboard's media keys.
When you set up multiple music services, you can also set a hotkey to allow you to switch between them. There are a lot of little adjustments in Simplify's settings that you'll want to tweak in order to make it work perfectly for you. For example, you can enable the ability to pause music as soon as you switch between music players (this is not on by default and can cause a little irritation until you enable it).
Visually, Simplify is the best-looking music controller for the Mac. Not just because of the album art window that appears when you hover over the Menu bar icon, but because you can set a desktop widget that will display the current track in an artistic way.
The widgets are called "jackets" and you can set one to hover above all of your windows, or allow it to remain in the background. There is a traditional album art style jacket that looks like a CD, one that looks like a vinyl record, one that sends a transparent banner across the side of your entire screen, one that sends a transparent banner across the bottom of your entire screen, one that displays a slightly askew album art box, and my personal favorite, one that displays the name of the song and artist in a small, minimalist window that looks stunning on your desktop.
Best for sharing
Plaaying works for iTunes and Spotify. You can use the Menu bar mini player to control playback. You can also enable keyboard shortcuts so you can pause, play, skip, and rewind without having to look at your screen.
The real joy of this little music controller is how easy it is to share what you are listening to with everyone. You can connect your Twitter account and automatically share your playlist throughout the day. You can even set it up to share every new song, only once per hour, or only once per day.
When you share a track, it will include a high-quality image of the album, movie, or TV show you are streaming with a link to it in the App Store or Spotify. You can also share to Facebook, send in Messages, or email it to a friend. Plaaying is all about the sharing.
Bottom-line: If you like to brag about your impeccable taste in music, or want to help others discover new music, Plaaying makes it happen automagically.
One more thing: There is a nifty little "Intermission" feature that automatically restarts your music, movie, or TV show after a few minutes when you pause it. I need this because I regularly pause music and just forget to hit play again for hours!
Best for radio
Radium is a stand-alone music player that features thousands of internet radio stations. You can add stations to your favorites by genre, location, and type. If a song is playing that you love, you can add it to your iTunes wish list, or buy it directly in iTunes. The sound equalizer adjusts to the type of music that is currently playing, but you can also manually equalize it if you think you can do better.
The player window shows the album artwork of the currently playing track and the mini player in your Mac's menu bar shows the artist and song title.
Bottom-line: If you like streaming internet radio stations on your Mac, Radium makes it easy to find stations and looks good, too.
One more thing: You can sign in and connect your CalmRadio, Sirius XM, or DI Radio account. You can even import a station from a URL.
Best for YouTube
Tuner for YouTube music
Tuner lets you build playlists out of YouTube videos. It's designed for listening, though you can watch using the video player window. It is a great way to make your own, personal playlists fast, and without needing a YouTube account.
Search for a genre, artist, or album to add it to your playlist. Then, when you're all set, you can play, pause, or skip tracks right on your desktop without having to open a web browser at all.
Bottom-line: If you get your music fix from YouTube, Tuner makes it easy to make playlists of your favorite tunes without needing to open your browser.
One more thing: If you do want to watch videos, you can open the video player window to full screen on the Mac.
Best for rating music
BarTunes is a simple Menu bar widget that lets you play/pause, skip and replay tracks. It also has one fantastic little feature that makes it stand out: You can rate tracks you are listening to, right from the Menu bar. You don't have to open your iTunes window, find the track, rate it, close the iTunes window, and get back to work.
Bottom-line: If rating iTunes tracks is the name of your game, your game will get a whole lot better with BarTunes.
One more thing: You can display the album artwork for music you are listening to, right in the Menu bar, as well. It is really tiny, but a cool feature that I haven't seen any other music controller offer.
Simplify has the most versatility and usability of all the music controllers for Mac I've ever tried. I love using the keyboard shortcuts to switch between services. My favorite aspect is the unique info display desktop widget. It looks so good on my Home screen, but isn't distracting at all.
The PrefPane add-on and Simplify browser extension makes it even easier to control all of the music streaming services I listen to.
If you use multiple streaming music services, like Spotify, Vox, SoundCloud, and Pandora, you'll love being able to switch between them with Simplify.