The links to the demo of each player will open in a new window since I didn’t want to have multiple players competing with each other on the same mp3 files.
The most basic of all the players on this list, the Delicious Playtagger, is minimalism in action. You can start, stop or add the file to Delicious. That’s about it. No pause or volume control. In fact, no audio controls whatsoever.
The one little problem I have with the Playtagger is that if you click on the text link, the mp3 file may either try to load in your default media player or try to download the mp3 file to your computer, depending on your browser. It would be better if the mp3 file played in Playtagger regardless of whether you click on the Playtagger play icon or the actual text link itself.
That one minor problem aside, if you are looking for a simple option to play an mp3 file, you can’t get much simpler than Playtagger.
2) Yahoo Media Player
The Yahoo Media Player has more features than Playtagger. There is a pause button, skip forward/back to the next/previous track control, volume control, and track and time information.If you have multiple audio files on a page, the Yahoo Media Player will play the files back to back like a playlist. In fact, there is a playlist option within the media player itself.
The Yahoo Media Player does give you more options to customize the interface and the default behaviour of the player. There are some documented hacks at the media player wiki which come in handy if you want to extend or change the player.
Another resource you will want to check out if you use the Yahoo Media Player is the blog of Eric Fehrenbacher. Eric has written a number of scripts that extend the player and add extra features. Features like TrackSeek , which adds a slider to give users the ability to move forward and back in a track and TrackLoop which will loop through a playlist after it is finished.
3) WordPress Audio Player
This audio player is a tad more complicated than Playtagger or the Yahoo Media Player. There is more mucking around with the code to set parameters, but the process is well documented and should be fairly straightforward to get you up and running.
You also have to download and install the scripts for the WordPress Audio Player on your own server, unlike Playtagger and the Yahoo Media Player whose scripts are hosted on external servers. This could be a deal breaker if you don’t have access to a web server. However, if you are using D2L, you can use the file manager in D2L as a place to serve up the files from.
Those negatives aside, I think the WordPress Audio Player has the nicest interface of the lot and packs all you need for features in a compact player. The player itself slides open and closed so it takes up very little screen space and you can change the look and behaviour of the player by changing a few values in the settings. And unlike the Yahoo Media Player, the WordPress Audio Player comes with a slider enabled out of the box with no need for a third party script.
4) JW FLV Player
The JW FLV player is by far the most full featured (and hence, the most complicated) of the 4 players here. The JW FLV Player works not only for audio files but for video as well.
Of all the players, JW FLV is the only one capable of doing true media streaming using RTMP as opposed to progressive downloading. True media streaming requires a media server. If you have access to a medai server, then JW FLV Player is your player.
Speaking of which, the JW FLV Player does have a vibrant developer community and many developers are creating and releasing skins and addons that change the look and functionality of the default player, so you have a lot of pre built interfaces to choose from if the default interface doesn’t toggle your play button.
JW FLV Player in action as an audio only player. This is a streamed mp3 file from our Flash media server.
5) Bonus for the more geek oriented: SoundManager
And then there is HTML 5
The chances that most of these players will become obsolete once the WC3 releases HTML 5 to the world are pretty good. HTML 5 promises easier ways to embed audio and video content on web pages with standard HTML tags. The goal is to make adding multimedia content to a web page as easy as adding an image or a table is currently.
But even though HTML 5 got a huge Google boost with the demo of Google Wave, which is a fully functioning HTML 5 web application, we’re still a few years away from it being available widely enough to rely on it as the sole method of delivering audio and video content. So in the interm we still need players to play multimedia content.