There’s no denying iTunes is one of the most influential pieces of software to come out of the Apple HQ in Cupertino in the last decade, it changed the music industry for better and for always, there is also no denying though that as a music player iTunes can be cumbersome and clunky, there is just too much window for it to be a plain and simple music player. There are so many iTunes controllers out there which try to make using iTunes quicker and easier, a very well known one is Bowtie, as well as CoverSutra, and of course, Ecoute.
Unlike most other iTunes controllers Ecoute is a windowed application, it squeezes all of the awesomeness of iTunes into a window a quarter of it’s size. When you open it, you get a small window with all the Artists in your iTunes library. From there you just choose the Artist you want to listen to and that’s it! Because there’s less window to navigate Ecoute gives a better, quicker experience, one of it’s big advantages is that it only has to focus on playing your iTunes library so it’s a lot more responsive. One thing I really love about Ecoute is that it really embraces keyboard controls, you can easily navigate through your Artists, Albums and Songs all day just by using four keys: Left, Right, Up and Down. To make dealing with things a lot quicker Ecoute also has a fully configurable shortcuts preference pane, so that you can do pretty much anything in the app just using your keyboard. If you’re not a fan of keyboard controls though, you can use it just fine without with ease, or you can even link up your Apple Remote.
Ecoute has a leg up on Bowtie, it allows you to do multiple things Bowtie can’t, all in one window. Ecoute manages to tie in really well with social media, on of it’s killer features is sharing your music with your friends, Ecoute can post the song you’re listening to on Facebook, Twitter, or with Last.fm, it also integrates really well with Grooveshark so you can even post an audio link to the song. Another great feature in Ecoute is the ability to watch the music video of the song your listening to. Ecoute can find videos of the song playing on YouTube with one simple click, a list of videos are opened on Ecoute that you can filter based on Relevance, Rating, Play Count, or Global Rating. The one downside to this exceptional little feature though is that when you chose a video, it will open in your browser, rather than in-line in the app. Another novel little feature is that you can view the lyrics to a song you’re listening to, if any apply, which I confess i’ve never used myself but it really underpins the fact that the developers have thought of everything, I feel looked after when I use this app.
Unlike iTunes, Ecoute manages to get out of the way, there are no unnecessary sidebars or controls, it’s an incredibly minimal app, a perfect example of this is the one menu-let in the app, allowing you to navigate quickly and seamlessly between different categories of content, in iTunes whenever something new is supported it just gets added to the sidebar, Ecoute manages to do things so much more tastefully. Another great feature is the ability to search for a specific song. If you have a huge iTunes library, just type the first letter of the track, album, or artist and you’ll usually find the song you were looking for.
Every pixel in the interface of Ecoute just looks so minimal and so polished, the developers have even created their own video controls for movies and podcasts. Like Bowtie as well, Ecoute also supports a desktop widget for controlling your music, there are themes you can make or download for Ecoute. The PixieApps’ website also has a lot of Ecoute skins that they like.
I personally adore Ecoute, it might not be to some peoples tastes as it’s obviously not iTunes, but I think that’s a good thing. There is far less weight to it compared to iTunes, which is noticeable when iTunes stalls loading while Ecoute launches in a flash. When i’m using Ecoute I feel like everything has been thought through a little better, from the interface, to the functionality, everything just makes a little more sense. Ecoute is perfect as long as you are cool with giving up the iTunes Store, iTunes Sync and Ping. You probably wont miss that last one but I find myself having to open iTunes on occasion to buy a song, sync my iPod or download new podcasts. Ecoute is like if iTunes was a hipster - it would look really awesome and be super social - that sums it up pretty well I think.
Although Ecoute is an iTunes controller, not a replacement, it can’t be competitive with iTunes until you can at least download updates via it, until that day, I think i’m still going to use it, but it will sadly be co-dependent on iTunes. Ecoute costs £5.50 which is worth it without a doubt, providing a more polished take on iTunes. If I haven’t quite convinced you, you can download Ecoute and use a 15 day free trial, Once your free trial runs out, you get 15 minutes of usage before Ecoute quits each time.
If you like the take Ecoute has on playing music, you’ll be excited as I was to hear as well that the awesome guys at PixiApps are working on Ecoute for iOS to “bring something new to the iPod app” which will obviously have the same beautiful user interface and extra little bonuses like social that the Mac version does. Follow the progress over here.