Why you need Audion

by Giles Turnbull

The decision by developers Panic to make their Audion music player/editor available for free sparked a lot of interest when it was announced last week.

Audion has been, and remains, an excellent little app for playing and managing music. As Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser explained in a manner unusual for any business owner, Audion came this close to becoming Apple's iTunes. But SoundJam became iTunes instead, and with iTunes so dominant, Audion simply can't compete in any meaningful way.

But you still need Audion on your hard disk. Now that it's available for free, you have nothing to lose, but there is a good practical reason for downloading it.

This comes from my own personal experience. I'm still using a trusty old dual USB G3 iBook, a machine that impressed me with its 20GB hard disk when I bought it about two or three years ago. Today, that hard disk is seriously overcrowded and every megabyte counts. I can't afford to have my disk getting cluttered up with music that might be interesting, but is not actually worth keeping.

Now one of the problems with iTunes is that it doesn't let you simply play an existing song. Download an mp3 file, double-click it, and iTunes imports it. This means making a copy of an already perfectly usable file; more disk clutter. Call me fussy if you like, but that bothers me.

The simplest way round this is to use the Finder's built-in preview function to playback a file, but this brings its own problem. Try to do any other common tasks with the Finder while this is happening, and you'll find them very slow. At least, that's what happens on my creaky old G3.

Audion provides that simple drag-a-file-and-play-it functionality that iTunes lacks. If, like me, you like to listen to new music but might not want to keep it, or like to listen to radio programmes but have no need of keeping them afterwards, it's an ideal and very useful little tool to have around.

What are your thoughts on the Audion story?


2004-11-23 07:20:12
QuickTime Player

Of course, QuickTime Player lets you play an mp3 file without importing it too... I think that's the only reason it's still on my dock (C'mon Apple, let's support more formats in QuickTime, it's just stupid that VLC and MPlayer can play things QuickTime can't).
2004-11-23 07:42:07
iTunes doesn't necessarily copy
Unless you have iTunes set to manage your music (which might be the default; it's been a while since I set up a machine without copying ~/Library/ across first), it doesn't copy the track into your Music folder.

Of course, it does still add it to the library, meaning that if you decide to delete the file, there's an orphaned listing, and while there are AppleScripts that clean your library of such orphans, I can see that it's the sort of hassle that people don't expect when dealing with a Mac.

2004-11-23 08:55:38
I agree, Quicktime is there, will always be on a Mac. So, if you really are pressed for drive space, why add Audion.
2004-11-23 11:08:50
Play MP3s straight from a connected iPod!
Trying to conserve as much HD space on my iBook as possible, I have my iTunes library saved in an external drive at home. So if you are like me, read on...

If you have an iPod connected to your Mac, start Audion and you can play any MP3s (sorry, no AAC) in your iPod thru it without having to transfer the MP3s into your Mac!

This is cool when your iPod is running out of juice, and you want to listen to your iPod's music while working on your iBook or Powerbook in a cafe. :o)

2004-11-23 11:59:01
Why Don't You Change a Preference? Instead of reporting bad info
Why Don't You Change a Preference? Instead of reporting bad info. You can easily just uncheck a box in iTunes preferences to stop this from happening....or just continue to report bad info.

iTunes >> Preferences.. >> Advanced >> uncheck 'Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to Library

for all of those who wish to make a small effort to investigate.

2004-11-23 12:06:03
Um, thanks to everyone who has commented here, or sent me direct mail, to point out the glaring error of my post; iTunes can indeed play without importing.

I've, uh, made a mental note.

I still think Audion is worth holding on to. There are so many other features built into it (editing, mixing, stream playing, broadcasting, recording, alarm clock and sleep timer, to name a few) that it is bound to come in useful sooner or later.

In the meantime, I'm off to check out the rest of the iTunes preferences box. Goodness only knows what else I've missed. Next, you'll be telling me it has some kind of crazy built-in online store...

2004-11-23 15:09:35
Play MP3s straight from a connected iPod!
An extremely cool function; thanks for highlighting that one.
2004-11-23 15:10:50
Default app for MP3 playing
Sure you can set iTunes to NOT import the file but having to delete the library entry is a pain. iTunes tries to keep track of every file it comes across, and that's not how I like to sample a download.

And so I select one MP3 file, get info, and set QuickTime Player as the default app for all MP3 files. Now I can simply double-click MP3's and they will play in QuickTime Player. (Substitute the now-free Audion if that's what floats your boat.)

If in fact I want to ADD them to my iTunes Library, then I drag them onto iTunes.

That's the most seamless method if you ask me.

2004-11-29 09:32:06
New to i-Tunes
Hey there, our debut CD just came out and should be posting to itunes soon. Is there anyway to find out how to get it on Audion now?


2004-12-01 13:09:35
Number One for getting Audion
Their are two really good reasons to get it. Audion supports Ogg Vorbis playback out of the box, without having to add new Quicktime components or iTunes plugins. Then there is the recording and editing features. You can record audio and streams direct to disk. Think of it as a replacement for not just iTunes, but your waveform editor and transcription software.
2004-12-01 15:00:48
Number One for getting Audion
Great point about the Ogg support. I've only got a handful of Ogg files but they rarely get played, cos I have to dig out a separate player for them. This is another excellent reason for having Audion around.
2004-12-07 09:16:42
Play MP3s straight from a connected iPod!
Does this work before you begin using Audion to manage your music? I just plugged in my iPod and it doesn't seem to see any of the music on the iPod.

I was hoping to keep using iTunes at home as my library manager but to be able to use Audion to play music through my laptop (so I can hear other system sounds and free up hard drive space.)

2004-12-07 09:58:59
Play MP3s straight from a connected iPod!
OK, well, answering myself, I found that if I get into the secret "iPod_Control" folder, I can drag MP3 files from the iPod over to the Audion iPod playlist and then it will play them, and it's smart enough not to re-copy them to the iPod.

To get to this folder, open a Terminal window and type in:
open /Volumes/[your iPod's name]/iPod_Control/Music

Alas, I've been ripping to AAC for a long time now, so I could only play back a pretty limited subset of my music.

It seems like an enterprising person could write an AAC input plugin for Audion using Quicktime and avoiding any patent restrictions, no? I can't find much doc about adding plugins, and I don't know the first thing about that level of development. I don't care about m4p files, just m4a.