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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Replacing iTunes on OS X with Something Better

Some time ago I finally had it with iTunes on OS X. It's a really bloated piece of software these days. So as a result I decided to look for an alternative. I wanted something simple that supports multimedia keys for playback. Apparently a combination of Clementine player and a fix to disable default bindings does the trick.

In this post I'll recap my efforts. I tried various solutions before coming up with this specific combo. I'm not a big fan of Clementine's playlist driven user interface but it does the trick on a minimal level.

Alternatives I Tried

My requirements were simple. I just wanted something that 1. works 2. supports multimedia keys 3. provides equalizer. For many I tried especially number two was a tough one. Most programs, Spotify as a notable exception, come with some kind of an equalizer. This is a biggie for me given I want to tone down the mids of my otherwise excellent Grado SR325is' to suit my tastes better.

At the beginning of my quest I threw the magic words "itunes alternative" to Google and came by this site. Songbird, one of the top hits, looked familiar so I decided to give it a go. I've used it before on some other platforms and it has proven to be a solid piece of software.

Out of the box it filled requirements 1. and 3. Sadly there doesn't appear to be a proper solution for number two. I came by this addon just to realize it's out of date. I didn't feel like hacking so it was time for Songbird to go.

I decided to try Amarok next. I installed it via MacPorts and promptly ran it just to get one of those "application has crashed" kind of dialogs. I guess it must be broken in ports at the moment or I just failed to do something "obvious". Anyhow no Amarok for me, at least yet.

Banshee was next on my list. Unlike Amarok I managed to get this to work without problems. Unfortunately just like Songbird so did Banshee fail my requirement for multimedia key support.

Finally it was time to try Clementine. Even though I'm not a big fan of the current user interface it did fit requirements 1. and 3. Based on this question I figured it is possible to use "shift + command + multimedia key" at Clementine so in a way it satisfies requirement 2. too. This shortcut works at least but it's not ideal. Enter mmfix!


mmfix (download) is a really simple piece of software. Apparently it just disables the daemon that is responsible for mapping multimedia key presses to iTunes. After I ran it multimedia keys began to work in Clementine as expected.

Note that it's possible to re-enable the daemon again simply by running mmfix again. This should restore the system to its previous status. I did give this a go and it seems to work just fine.


It's a bit disappointing to notice how much effort it took to find a simple replacement for iTunes on OS X. I can't help to think I missed something obvious. How come there's no easier way to remap the multimedia keys? I know Apple isn't known for its eagerness to make things customizable but this is a bit ridiculous.