Winamp: Free Software to Mix Music for Parties, PA Systems or Internet Radio Stations

Working at radio stations for many years, I’ve experienced many music automation systems. Every one of these systems requires some amount of forethought for each song to help them determine when the song is ending so the system can start the next one. Usually this involves “marking” a point in the recording toward the end that tells the system to start the next song or event. When the .mp3 craze got hot, I was determined to find software for home that would mix my music for me like a radio station would do, but automatically without any preparation or manual intervention other than just listing the songs I wanted mixed. The software I finally found after about six months of trying is wonderful and free. Using this setup on a laptop at parties has gotten rave reviews and questions like “how do you do that?” Since it is not a well known solution, I thought I would share it.

First, if you’ve experimented at all with music on your PC you’ve probably heard of Winamp. Winamp is a free .mp3 player that goes back to the beginning of the .mp3 era and is thought to be one of the best .mp3 players out there. The problem is that when you load up your songs in the Winamp playlist there are gaps between songs. This is the solution to the problem. The first thing you will have to do is get Winamp if you don’t already have it. You can download it here… http://www.winamp.com/player/ All you’ll need is the basic free version for this project. After you choose “basic” you can then pick from any of the free versions presented but the “lite” version will work just fine.

Download and install WinAmp. Now, here’s the secret. There’s a brilliant Argentinean named Mariano Lopez that has developed two amazing plugins for Winamp. One is the “crossfading” engine that does the actual mixing and the other is a “limiter” that evens out the volume levels of your music to give it a more consistent sound especially while the crossfader is doing its job. Mr. Lopez’s web site where you can download these free goodies is www.sqrsoft.com.ar Under “downloads” and “plugins” look for “SqrSoft Limiter” and “SqrSoft Advanced Crossfading Output.” Download them and let them install in the Winamp plugins folder which is the default. After each install you will be asked if you want them to be the “default” DSP and Output pluginâÂ?¦ say yes.

Now start up WinampâÂ?¦ right click anywhere and select VISUALIZATION and then SELET PLUGIN. Select OUTPUT in the left window pane. Highlight SqrSoft Advanced Crossfading in the right pane and click on CONFIGURE. Click on the PRESETS tab and then the IMPORT button. Browse to you local drive (probably C:) then PROGRAM FILES, WINAMP, PLUGINS, ACF PRESETS. Double click on CLUB. This puts you back at the PRESETS screen where you will want to highlight CLUB and hit LOAD. This loads settings the author felt were right for a “club mix.” Click on CLOSE and then CLOSE again to get out of the plugins screen.

Now you will see the playlist window at the bottom of the Winamp screen. Click the ADD button twice and browse to a few of your favorite .mp3’s. This will load them in the playlist. Hit PLAY and watch the magic as your songs are played in order and MIXED perfectly just as in a club or on a radio station. You may want to click on SHUTTLE to play them randomly and choose your EQ settings with the PRESETS button in the equalizer section. I like the EQ preset called FULL BASE AND TREBLE. You will also notice the “limiter” making your songs “jump out” of the speakers sounding better than just playing them flat.

This setup has provided many hours of enjoyment for me and it is all free. It is great for parties and get togethers except for the complaints of your guests that have an eclectic music taste and have requests.

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