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Finding god

Okay, not really. What happened is I recently wanted to play an XM file. If you don’t know what an XM file is it doesn’t matter. It’s an old music format that was popular for geeks before MP3 hit the scene.

Well, the Windows Media Player and Quicktime do not play XM files. You have to have something else. I knew Sonique played XM files from the last time I used it probably over 18 months ago. Sonique’s main purpose is to play MP3 files and it was/is great but ever since Microsoft upgraded the Windows Media Player, in response to Apple’s iTunes, to a descent MP3 player there’s been no real reason to run Sonique anymore.

Until today when I found out that the demoscene is alive and kicking! The demoscene is where XM music or actually MOD music, the original format of which XM is a descendant originated. So, I downloaded a couple and then downloaded Sonique to be able to play them.

Sonique is arguably one of the cooler players. It’s interface is very pretty and animated. When you switch modes all the buttons and displays slide all over. Very slick. It’s also go some great skins (custom looks) which I believe were first made popular on Winamp a similar program. The difference between Winamp and Sonique is that Sonique skins from the very beginning did not have to be rectangular which made the much more interesting. Still, Winamp was first and retains it’s popularity.

Typical Winamp Skin Typical Sonique Skin

But, all of these programs support what are called Visualizations. Plugins, additions to the program that put images on the screen usually related to the music. The simplest might just be a picture of the music’s waveform much like an oscilloscope but the more complex visualizations can be fairly complex.

It turns out there are at least 4 visualizations that really stand out from the rest. They are G-Force, Whitecap, Smear and Acidspunk. For the first two there’s actually a pretty interesting article about how popular they are and how they’ve been used at various raves etc. Here’s another article that mentions a few more. So far of the 4, Smear is probably my favorite but it’s really hard to pick. Whitecap can get pretty amazing sometimes. Looking at the still screenshots you really get no idea of what they are really like because they are so dynamic and because they are always changing. Whitecap can go from a waving flag, to 3D fireworks, to animated smoke, to flying over a landscape, and beyond.

If you are into this kind of thing I recommend you download all four. Some of them will work with both Winamp or Sonique. I personally recommend Sonique but others may have a different preference. You can also download them for a couple of them iTunes, the Mac MP3 player.

If you’re using Sonique, once you’ve installed both Sonique and the plugins, pop in a good CD. The one that I tried and that worked great was the Fight Club soundtrack by the Dust Brothers. If you didn’t configure Sonqiue to play your CDs open the CD in Windows Explorer and drag all tracks over to the Sonique window. Near the top of the display you should a small icon, a title, and to the right of that 2 itty-bitty icons. One a small rectangle, the other a rectangle with a small *wave* in it. Clicking it will take you to full screen mode. (Don’t confuse that with the six icons on the top right) Now, press the right square bracket key until you get a 32 bit display. Then press the + key until you get a 640×480 display. If your computer is too slow for that high of a resolution you can choose lower but you’ll eventually need to get further from the monitor so the pixels don’t distract you. Finally, press < or > to change the visualization until one of those cool ones come up. Turn all the lights in the room off and enjoy. Note: you might not be impressed at first but those 3 plugins have an almost infinite variety of combinations of effects so let it go for a song or two before you make up your mind (or before you blow your mind) :-D

I’m sure these instructions are not sufficient so you might have to RTFM but hey, that’s a small price to pay.

  • kongorilla
    Duuuuuuuuuuude.

    Man, was I addicted to Acidspunk about a year ago. Jill found me a few times in the dark AM just staring at my screen, jam in my eyes, unblinking, with drool on my chin. "Wow, you should have seen it a few a seconds before you came in…aww…nevermind."

    Smear is cool, too, but Sonique's interface is a little too wacky for me. I have to re-learn how to use it every time I launch it. Makes me feel like a chimp randomly hitting keys until it does what I want. Does that mean I'm old?

  • greggman
    Software for Chimps

    Yea, I know what you mean about Sonique's interface and it only gets worse with lots of the skins where you can't figure out where any of the buttons have gone. I suppose that's an argument for Winamp. Worse, they are working on Sonique 2 and following the Netscape 6 lead (which I haven't personally checked out) they are adding a whole language to the skin interface so it can become even wackier.