Kaboodle/Noatun vs XMMS

There's a story (print version) on reviewing sound quality between Noatun, Kaboodle and XMMS. Not surprisingly, Noatun and Kaboodle come out on top, with the author stating that "I'd recommend the Noatun/Kaboodle solution to most audiophiles and people with decent sound gear." Unfortunately, the author didn't take the time to discover some of the other features and plugins that make Noatun a better all around player. An interesting, if audio-centric, read.

[Ed: Of course, this is really a review of aRts, KDE Multimedia and all those Open Source audio libraries involved. Noatun, Kaboodle and even XMMS win automatically.]

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by Thomas Fjellstrom (not verified)

So Kaboodle/Noatun actually work now? I've got the versions that come with KDE 3.1.1a and niether player will play any files. wheather they are mp3, ogg, mod, it, midi, mpg, avi, even wavs won't play. I've tried the Kabbodle with 3.0, 3.1 and 3.1.1a, and the only time Noatun played any files was back when I had KDE 2.*, and even then it was fairly unstable.

by uga (not verified)

>KDE 3.1.1a and niether player will play any files. wheather they are mp3, ogg, >mod, it, midi, mpg, avi, even wavs won't play.

Do you actually have a soundcard? ;-)

I don't know why kaboodle shouldn't play for you. Does anything else work? (i.e. xmms for example) otherwise you have serious hardware/driver problems

by Thomas Fjellstrom (not verified)

Har Har ;) Good one though :)

Yup. Have an SBLive! Value, (and a builtin AC97 thing, usually disabled), arts is usually running, XMMS, Xine, Mplayer all work with the OSS and/or ALSA drivers, KDE's startup sound even plays. But noatun hasn't worked since 2.* (and then It'd crash most of the time) As for kaboodle, I try and play a file... Ok, scratch that, I tried just starting kaboodle and using the file -> open command and Whoop! That worked, Ok.. Now I'm confused. :( I retried Kaboodle launched from Konqeror (I'm pretty sure thats all I've ever tried before) and it worked too.. Maybe it was just the Debian 3.1 version[s] I used to use. Possible, that whole install was a mess. Same goes for Noatun :( I tried testing it again, just to see how foolish I can look ;) It works all of a sudden. heh.

I'm somewhat impressed with the Gentoo packages now. Things are faster, and more reliable :o

Sory to post such a negative message!

by Neil Stevens (not verified)

Yay, I won. Well, not really. Two problems here.

1. Jim Blomo is right. John Knight was wrong to say that Kaboodle and Noatun sound the same. Kaboodle is the generic one-shot player. Noatun is the optimized music player. Given some effort with the Noatun equalizer and plugins, Noatun should *always* sound better for music playback than Kaboodle.

2. Why would audiophiles use lossy compressed music?

3. This was really a review of mpeglib, the mpeg decoder library that ships with kdemultimedia. That player with the horrid, horrid UI could sound just as good as Kaboodle if an mpeglib plugin were written for it, too.

4. To all you people complaining about the software not working, get a better packager. If you're trusting SuSE, Mandrake, Red Hat, Debian, or FreeBSD, you're not getting a good kdemultimedia.

by uga (not verified)

>To all you people complaining about the software not working, get a better
>packager. If you're trusting SuSE, Mandrake, Red Hat, Debian, or FreeBSD, you're
>not getting a good kdemultimedia.

What about us who use cvs? Are we getting the good kdemultimedia by default, or should we compile/add/change/tune something else?

I saw that there are some plugins in kdemultimedia that are not compiled by default right now. Should we, or should we not use them?

by Neil Stevens (not verified)

You do not want to compile the two kdemultimedia arts plugins that are disabled. Those were efforts started when mpeglib didn't work on FreeBSD, and those efforts were aborted when mpeglib was made more portable. I don't think the plugins ever did get stabilized.

by Blue (not verified)

>2. Why would audiophiles use lossy compressed music?

Because Noatun doesn't play FLAC.

This means that I only use XMMS, as no KDE apps will play my FLAC files.

by Neil Stevens (not verified)

Heh, I started with two points and ended with four, swell.

Just a followup to the packaging issue: If you're trusting Red Hat, you're not even getting mpeg 1 layer 3 audio playback at all! Now that Red Hat has applied for its own software patents (on portions of Linux in fact), Red Hat has decided to play ball with the rest of the software patent world, starting with honoring the mp3 patents.

by RJ (not verified)

It seems to react much "snappier" to me. And I still don't like that arts-stuff.
Sometimes the audio is blocked without any reason and I can't play
any new files. Otherwise, no audio player is really what I need. Most ones
are too small and try to simulate some real-world device. I find
this somewhat ridiculous. KWord doesn't look like a typewriter, either. I want
an application which I can run fullscreen which shows all my songs properly
and has a standard KDE GUI. Next Problem: I don't like those ID-Tags.
Who has the time to enter all that information. Do you always know
from which year a song is? And what if I want to categorize songs in
some way which does not fit into those categories? I'm about to write a
KDE-MP3-Player myself because I really need some good management software
for my MP3s. But there learning curve for writing KDE apps is quite steep
if you are coming from Windows / Delphi and there is hardly any help in
the kdevelop forums. Anyway I hope I can release a first version soon.

by Christian Schug... (not verified)

This one makes the work easier. Well, I really do things like

md mycd
cdparanoia -z -B -g /dev/scdx initials.wav
oggenc -q5 *.wav

Until now the names are like track01.initials.wav

I enter the tag and afterwards I use the renamer: %a -%n- %b %t or something similar :-)

If you just knew how many cddb entries don't match my needs....

Have fun :-)

by Scott Wheeler (not verified)

If you're looking for management software, look at JuK (or for that matter one of the dozen organizers on It's in KDE CVS and will be released as part of 3.2 or 1.1 is available at

JuK does tagging, playlist organization, search, tag data guessing, will soon have MusicBrainz support (for looking up meta-data information by using a sample of the audio and comparing it to a database), oh, and it plays stuff too. ;-)

(Ok, and to come clean, yes, I am the author plugging my own software. ;-) )

by Hetz h.dyndns.o... (not verified)

But I think that noatun is the most crappiest player I have used. It crashes, hard to use for newbies, and doesn't even know how to do streaming (PLS) right!

I asked few of out local Linux group who uses KDE all the time - NONE of them liked noatun, and all of them are using XMMS now..

Sorry, but if there's a crown for the most crappiest player that I spent lots of time trying to use it - is noatun.

No offence charles...


by not me (not verified)

Let me just add a 'me too' to that. aRts sucks - it's inefficient, crashy, laggy, and skippy. Noatun sucks - it's hard to use, crashy, has a stupid default playlist, and has a rediculous obsession with plugins. Winamp uses plugins well - they are a good way to extend winamp's already good functionality without needing access to the closed source code. Noatun uses plugins poorly - they are redundant, badly designed UI wise, don't have a good set of base features to build on, and aren't really necessary in the first place since everyone has access to Noatun's source to add whatever feature their little heart desires. Plugins should not be used to implement an application's basic functionality. Plugins should only be used to separate out piddly little features that are only useful for a few people (such as an alarm or a thing to put your currently playing song into your IRC chats), so the rest of us don't have to load the extra bloat.

Oh, and let me also add that comparing two mp3 players on the basis of how they sound is rediculous. Especially when it is done by one guy who played all the songs himself, so he knew exactly where each song was being played. It's amazing what hogwash audiophiles will believe about their precious audio. Unless the decoders are buggy, the output of two different mp3 decoders is indistinguishable even in labratory conditions. If this was a comparison of the sound-enhancing plugins available for each program, that would make a little more sense. But comparing the sound of two players is just absurd.

by Ricardo Galli (not verified)

I cannot agree more with you. Your are right concernig arts amd noatun. Noatun or kaboodle better than xmms? C'mon, give a break, XMMS _does_ support vorbis and mp3 streaming, for example. xmms is far older, and it shows, but noatun or kaboodle have a long way to go yet.

by anonymous (not verified)

That and it only plays about three formats.

by anon (not verified)

me too.

that article was a pretty lame way to make noatun look good.

there is something fundamentally wrong with noatun/arts even before you take into account how unstable they are.

by Booga blue (not verified)

Not only Noatun is a crappy player, it's a crappy name. Both are soo crappy, I barked each time I clicked on a song. Thank goodness for xmms.

by KDE User (not verified)

Why aren't there more skins fore Noatun on ?

by not me (not verified)

Because nobody actually uses Noatun, because it sucks. Everyone tries it for a while, and then figures out that they were much happier with xmms, and goes back. Want proof? Just look at the screenshots on, count how many feature xmms (nearly all of them), and how many feature Noatun (I've just gone and looked at 10 or so, and I didn't see any).

by mETz (not verified)

Who let the trolls come out again

by Michael (not verified)

Don't know why you cosider this trolling.
KDE can only get better if you say frank and open what isn't good.
Noatun / Arts is really awful. Noone in my company uses it though
we all really like KDE.
It's not about attacking without any reason.

by mETz (not verified)

Didn't find a reason in the text above

by lit (not verified)

I don't think it's trolling at all.. simply, not many people use Noatun compared to xmms.

by mETz (not verified)

If you are talking about the KJöfol skins this is probably because the original player who invented this format is dead.
I have links to some kjöfol skin-archives on my homepage:
I still have some ideas to create new skins but as I'm a rather bad artist it takes a lot of time ;)

One of the main reasons why i use XMMS is that it has the best search function i have ever seen in a player:

the j key gives you a list where you can type the name of the song or of the artist and XMMS will list everything which contains letters you typed in!!

i find another player with this function i maybe will change the player...

and i can minimize XMMS and place it on the top of my screen in always on tope mode so i have it always available in front even if i have other programs maximized.

but i read something about the hayes playlist in the text above so i will check it out today and have a look at it.

by Daniel Molkentin (not verified)

Two words: JuK CVS

Two words: Bloated Application.

>i find another player with this function i maybe will change the player...

Well I think winamp first had this feature, but I guess you aren't going to switch to that ;) Seriously, though, this is a nice feature and I would like to see it in one of the playlists (preferably Hayes since that's the one I mainly use).

>and i can minimize XMMS and place it on the top of my screen in always on >tope mode so i have it always available in front even if i have other >programs maximized.

I would suggest the Young Hickory and Keyz plugins to implement this functionality. Young Hickor will dock noautn in your panel so you can have it available even when other programs are maximized. Keyz lets you bind keys for many things, including Forward, Play/Pause, and Back. This way you can access noatun without even switch apps.

BTW, these plugins are only so usefull because noatun has the ability to use plugins for some of its core functions. (That was more in reply to one of the above posts about plugins).

by Christian Schug... (not verified)

XMMS is very usuable, just hide the Windowm make it sticky (or not) and use the gamepad (/dev/js3 for me) or gkrellm-Plugin to navigate.

And I can use all WinAmp2.x-skins but I really miss skins without corners like in ZINF or that crappy (hardly readable) one in Noatun.

by Jim Dabell (not verified)

Why are there differences in decoding mp3s at all? Unless I am missing something, they should all sound the same, and if they don't, one or more of them are buggy. I can easily believe the reviewer conned himself into hearing differences where there were none, especially if it wasn't a double-blind test.

On the subject of artsd, it has never worked well for me, ranging from stupid amounts of CPU usage, to hanging the audio programs I use, to crashing completely, to failing to compile altogether. The first thing I do after installing KDE is disable artsd.

XMMS wins on audio quality for me every time. That's because it's the only one that supports FLAC, the non-lossy codec that has recently been adopted by the Ogg project.

Every single KDE player I have used has seemed buggy, hideous, or lacking in features to me. For instance, noatun crashed on startup every time I tried it until recently. I've just loaded it up, and it doesn't look impressive at all compared to XMMS, loads of wasted space, badly thought-out toolbars (why on earth is the first toolbar icon a quit button, when I can just close the window? Why are there separate play/pause buttons?).

I would much rather use a KDE player than XMMS, because I dislike the gtk dialogs, and don't like the way loading files into the playlist completely blocks the UI. But KDE audio has always seemed to me to be a botched job. I hope this changes, but I'm not very hopeful.

by Tim Jansen (not verified)

Arts uses splay as decoder, xmms uses mpg123. xmms also does a lot of post-processing, like the volume slider, equalizer and so on. There is a lot of potential for rouding errors and similar things, so it's not surprising that there can be differences.

Audio and especially video is still immature on free systems... in one or two years things will look better..

by not me (not verified)

1. xmms doesn't do any post-processing itself related to the volume slider, it simply sets the sound card's hardware mixer volume. Noatun (or aRts) does do post-processing to adjust the volume in addition to the sound card's hardware mixer, thus introducing the possibility of more rounding error. If anything, Noatun loses here. (but in reality, not audiophile-land, any rounding error would be far too small to hear)

2. The guy specifically said in the article that he disabled all mixers and extra plugins to compare the sound of the players directly.

3. mpg123 is an excellent mp3 decoder, agreeing with other good mp3 decoders up to the last bit of precision in decoded samples ( If splay is different enough from mpg123 to hear the difference in a listening test, that means that splay is horribly buggy.

Anyone who believes that Kaboodle/Noatun sounds "better" than xmms when playing mp3s with all equalizers and sound processing plugins disabled is only decieving themselves, as audiophiles often do.

by Ian (not verified)

In what context is video immature on free systems? For playing DivX files, I have a lot easier time then my friends who use Windows since they have to go download various codecs from all over the place. On Linux, install mplayer (and kplayer or kmplayer of course), and it supports everything (except some new .mov files like the Animatrix, since the audio codec isn't supported yet.) Weird problems like the video stopping and audio continuing are not uncommon on Windows. And the Linux players are better able to handle corrupt files in general. I think this is because whether you use mplayer or xine the developers feel responsible to have their players play as many type of files as possible and well. None of the players in Windows really seem to have this ethic, they just wrap around the Windows Media system for playing codecs.

by Tim Jansen (not verified)

1. MPlayer (the current generation) is very focused on playing and simple recording, you cant do anything else with it. Like writing a video conferencing tool or a video editor... or, like iTunes does, broadcast streams to other computers. There is also no API, so an application can't really control the video and you can't, for example, get meta-information about files or just analyse them (file length etc). This is why KMPlayer is quite limited and not very responsive. MPlayer is a fine hack that solves the most urgent immediate problems, but it is not a long-term solution for video
2. ... and don't forget that the Windows codecs that you use with MPlayer are not licensed for use on Linux with MPlayer and thus illegal. Most native video codecs violate patents. The MPlayer version that ships with Suse 8.2, which contains only legal stuff, is almost completely useless. There are very few video codecs that you can legally use, at least as long as Theora isnt finished, and they can not compete with the proprietary ones.

by Nobody Cares (not verified)

I've tried using Noatun and Kaboodle since the KDE 2.x days and have never been able to get them to play. Everything else seemed to work but not these two. I also always had difficulty navigating the interface so, I figured it could be me or it could be the app. Either way, I had no worries with other players so I just abandoned Noatun and Kaboodle.

I'm using KDE 3.1.1 now and after reading this article I thought I'd give them another bash. As before, I had trouble with the interface. I opened, or tried to open, a local MP3 three times and it kept saying it was trying to play a .ram stream form the internet. It really didn't seem to be doing anything. On the fourth attempt I found the playlist which was FULL of stuff that I don't know where it came from. Mostly internet URLs. I found the MP3s I had just tried to open three times at the bottom of the play list and when I selected it, low and behold I finally got sound out of Noatun. Gleefully I jiggered around a bit with plugins and the equalizer. The equalizer, though basic, seemed to work but, plugins immediately disabled my sound.

After listening to a track, I decided to compare the sound with XMMS. I had expected an MP3 played on the same hardware to sound identical, regardless of the player. To my surprise, it was immediately apparent that they sounded very different indeed. In this case XMMS was noticably superior in sound quality. I can't really explain why except for the possibility that XMMS is using OSS and Noatun is using aRTS, I dunno.

Anyway, I am willing to concede that different people will like different things. For some Noatun will be the choice player while for others it will be something else. But, I do think that there is something in this thread that seems to be share by the majority of people. That is, a general dislike for the Notatun interface. It seems that there are a lot of people who do not like it and/or find it difficult to navigate, myself included. It does not seem intuitive and or easy to use.

Of course my opinion is as subjective as anyone else's but, as there seems to be a general consensus that the interface is bad, and since KDE is all about interface and ease of use, perhaps the developers may wish to re-examin the interface design.

by ? (not verified)

Ok, the subject may sound trollish but I'm serious.

The article had me trying Noatun once again and it's unusable due to arts; arts uses more than 2% cpu on my athlonxp 1800 compared to 0.1% for xmms and even if that numbers are not correct (xmms using cpu-power some other way too, etc) it *feels* like they're correct.

I'm currently compiling in the background and noatun skips every no and then or when I'm switching windows, desktops or even doing nothing. It's annoying like hell, we're not talking about mpeg4 in 1024x768 with 2000kbit but about mp3s!

If it's somehow possible to use Noatun without arts I'd probably use it (k-jofol is cool =) but with arts it's simply junk

by i think not (not verified)

> arts uses more than 2% cpu on my athlonxp 1800 compared to 0.1% for xmms and even if that numbers are not correct (xmms using cpu-power some other way too, etc) it *feels* like they're correct.

Yeah, that makes it unusable for me too. I mean, really... if I use artsd my CPU only idles 98% of the time instead of the usual 99.9%...

No, what makes artsd unusable for me is the fact that it **sucks ass**. It has absolutely friggin' horrendous responsiveness rendering it completely useless for anything but the most trivial of applications (ie. playing a "ding" whenever an error occurs). Even switching songs in XMMS/aRts is annoying because of the .250s (or whatever) delay. All sound servers are evil, with the possible exception of JACK which has very good responsiveness, but unfortunately lacks application support.

by Fox (not verified)

Same question. my arts crashes sometimes ([email protected]). And it seems pointless have arts only for naotun. Can't use xmms, because it skips sometimes (mplayer, xine etc have no problem, so it's not a alsa problem). So I discovered noatun to be good substitute. Except, can i use it without arts?

by Rizwaan (not verified)

I like noatun and it sounds great esp. with "extra stereo and other effects". But Noatun Interface is very ancient, somewhere in 1980s... When usability did not matter...

Look at windows media player 9. It sounds bad but wmp's Interface and playlist option is very nice. and even other things like effects, settings are more sanely placed. Noatun must be a integrated Multimedia Player...Noatun is very cumbersome to use... It should have a new interface. neither I like kjofol, xmms, etc plugins for noatun...

But Ugliness rules in KDE...

WMP is by far the most ugly and unusable thing I've ever used so your points can't be taken serious at all. A stupid app (WMP) that cannot even easily save a playlist file somewhere.

by Jim Blomo (not verified)

In addition to agreeing with Metz's statements, I'm not sure how you consider XMMS's interface to be that great. Try asking a new user to open the playlist. How quickly will they see the tiny button marked with "PL"? How about getting to options? Right clicking anywhere on the interface is not very clear way of accessing them. I think you are confusing fancy looking with good interface.

That being said, one may like the interface provided my XMMS because it looks cool/they are used to it/it looks like winamp. That's why noatun is able to use other interfaces to suit your desires. You can use winamp skins. You can use kjofol skins. You can use no window and just keep it docked.

I like in XMMS that you can right click and choose "Select Directory." My files are all organized in a Genre/Album (sometimes Genre/Artist/Album) directory structure, and I like to listen to whole albums at a time. Granted, in Noatun I can choose "Open..." and just select all the files in a directory. All the noatun playlist's are a little bulky that I've seen, but I can see the UI advantages it has over XMMS I suppose. I use the Winamp skin in noatun so it looks just like xmms. I wouldn't mind the simple Milk-Chocolate interface except you can't shade it up.

How do you have it just docked with no other UI?

When I used XMMS I actually used the arts output plugin. For some reason, straight OSS sound doesn't really work on my emu10k1 system. It sounds like its overpowering the speakers even when the speakers themselves are relatively quiet (there is a similar effect when I turn up the Arts volume to around and above -15, I usually keep it about -24).

by Jim Blomo (not verified)

>My files are all organized in a Genre/Album (sometimes Genre/Artist/Album) >directory structure, and I like to listen to whole albums at a time.

You would definitly benefit from using the Hayes playlist by Neil Stevens. Ithas been discussed in previous threads, or you can see it directly at URL

>How do you have it just docked with no other UI?

When using Young Hickory, click on the icon in your dock. This toggles showing and hiding the main UI. (This is actually standard KDE behavior for items in the dock.). I'm not aware of any settings to make the UI hidden by default, although I suspect it is possible using DCOP. Cheers,


by KDE User (not verified)

It rocks. For all those of you saying aRts is unstable, well it hasn't crashed a single time for me and it multiplexes *all* my sound.

by Erik Hensema (not verified)

I was listening to xmms when I read the article. So, I stopped xmms and started to play the same stream in noatun. I have to agree with the writer: it sounds better than xmms.

So, I switched back to my browser, and noticed a flashing icon in my eye corner. Obviously something important was happening. But no: it was simply noatun telling me that it was doing what it was designed to do: play a media stream. Great.

I am NOT going to work 8 hour days watching a flashing icon in my systray.

I'm back with xmms again.

by Ian Monroe (not verified)

You can turn off the systray. And mine doesn't flash while playing, perhaps your using an older version? I seem to remember seeing some player do that at some point. I use Gentoo and KDE 3.1.1.

by TomL (not verified)

You can turn off the flashing/blinking and still have it in the tray.

Personally I think both noatun/kaboodle and xmms/xine bindings are not even close to be a viable solution, I would prefer if those all would be replaced with kmplayer/kplayer combo that use mplayer as it has much more supported fileformats and works just great with kde-3.1+...

by Ian Monroe (not verified)

Mplayer is a bit overall kill for playing mp3 files. I use kplayer for pretty much all video files, I wish it had a better playlist system though, for the 20 audio .wma's I have.

A mplayer-audio-only plugin for one of those players wouldn't be a bad idea, to pick up all those other formats.

Yes it's an overkill but the point is that if mplayer would do all mpg/divx/mp3/aac/ogg etc. decoding/encoding (kmencoder sucks by the way as it bloats the memory) and have kmencoder used as konqueror plugin and kplayer as external (separate window) player would enable to dump whole bunch of binding code.

Hopefully kmplayer (why not kplayer too?!?) will be included to the kde-3.2 from kdeextragear-2... ;-)

And then just to get k3b (embedded for konqueror too?!?) from kdeextragear-1... Heh!