MediaMonkey 4.1 Gold In-Depth Review:

Our world has dramatically changed in the last sixteen years, as it relates to media consumption and portability. Pre-2000, we watched movies on VHS or DVD, listened to music on CD, and watched TV shows on what else, TV. Now days, we watch movies and TV on Blu-ray, online, on our computers, not to mention on our electronic devices in our pockets and backpacks. The same can be said for enjoying our music and other entertainment pursuits. Such a dramatic shift means the old rules no longer apply. Sensing the trend change in the wind, pioneers, such as Apple, Creative, and Microsoft laid a groundwork for personal consumption and taking our fun with us, wherever we go (in the car, on the bus, walking to and from school/work, etc.). While their contributions cannot be undersold or downplayed, the numerous companies, technologies, and platforms on the tech landscape, today, necessitate flexibility and usability. That in mind, being trapped into one ecosystem or software suite or program is far too limiting in scope and functionality.

This is especially true of the advent of the divergence between Apple devices (closed-loop proprietary O/S) and the emergence of the Android operating system (a fork of Linux; an open-source kernel O/S). Trying to take your media (music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, etc) back and forth between these two presents incompatibility issues, in terms of file format, DRM, and sync profiles. Addressing these has been frustrating and infuriating, especially as my household is now both iOS and Android; needing this key interoperability. Thankfully, I recently discovered a turn-key solution for cataloging, tagging metadata, and syncing my media files between my iPhone/iPad devices, and my wife’s iPhone and her Amazon Kindle Fire. This saving grace is called MediaMonkey from Ventis Media.

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Once you open this media organizer software, you are presented with a multi-pane window, which is in the vein of a hybrid of Windows File Explorer and Winamp. You have the directory tree on the left, with your media files (showing artwork, details, or a combo of each) in the center, and on the far right you have a Now Playing List and an Art and Details sub-panel. From here, you can choose which category of media you want to browse (music, movies, podcasts, etc.) and you can select individual tracks and files, play them, and see the upcoming files to be played next.

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These tasks will take place, after you have imported your media into your MediaMonkey’s internal library. The nice feature of this is that you can manage/sync your files, separate from iTunes, which is very handy if you need to do so, on non-Apple devices. This media import function is easy to setup, as you set a directory/hard drive to monitor for changes, and it will do so, automatically, so any additions or subtractions of you files will match up with its iTunes counterpart (contingent on using the same directory or drive used for the iTunes library). The wizard takes several minutes, but worth the wait, as it speeds up bringing your files into MediaMonkey, in a streamlined manner. One thing of note, if you have iTunes FairPlay DRMBased video files (such as copyrighted TV shows and movies), these do not usually work, as playback of these files requires iTunes decryption algorithms. I have read that if you have Apple QuickTime 7 or later installed, they might playback, but I did not have this result. To play these back, you might have to use alternative means to transcode these files for non-Apple playback.

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Getting my media files and library organized, so I could use them across my wife and I’s Apple and Android devices, and I feel that this is MediaMonkey’s greatest asset and reason to buy the Gold Edition. My wife uses both an iPhone 5C and an Android Kindle Fire tablet, so syncing our movies, podcasts, and music, without having to buy two copies (Amazon Store version and an iTunes Music store version), and having to manually adding said files to each device, in a clunky fashion is not for us. Rest assured, MediaMonkey has the plugins built-in, so you can just connect your Android or Apple devices, via USB, open the software, and choose a one-time sync or auto-sync list, so your device has your files you want it to have.

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Whether or not you have all of your media files metadata tagged, MediaMonkey can come to the rescue. Since I was trying to find an Android solution for our iTunes Media Library, I wanted a better way to make sure the data was correct and up-to-date, over iTunes. Last thing I wanted was to keep propagating errors on my portable devices; bad enough on my computer. Just choose a file, right-click it, and choose from the Web, and presto, it will bring up the internet database page for that file, and you can add that info, easily. I concede that Apple iTunes will do this, too, but not nearly as good or accurately. I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten bad metadata or missing fields or artwork. Best experience I have ever had getting the correct tag info, hands down.

I could go on and on about the elegant and simple media library client that MediaMonkey is, but I will cut to the chase as to why you should elect to buy the Gold Edition of this fine piece of software. The price tier comes in two flavors, Gold Edition (4.x only) $24.95 USD, and Gold Edition (Lifetime) – $49.95 USD. While the Basic version works well, the premium features for Gold Edition are well worth the price of admission. There is a fairly long list of added features that comes with Gold Edition, but I want to highlight a couple of them, which are worth going gold for. The first feature set that is well worth it is the Auto Artwork and tag lookup from the Web, which I have mentioned, previously. If you have spent any time, trying to find artwork and info on your files, the lost productivity, alone is worth the cost, not to mention that ease that comes with just a right-click. The second feature set worth the cost is cross-check/sort/catalog of your media files. This really comes into play, if you have a large library, and want to dig deep and easily find what you are looking for. Having the option of selecting the Composer, Conductor, Original Year (published), cross-fade tracks, by genre, etc. makes it much better and nuanced way to file your media, and create playlists and custom Collections (both additional features of Gold Edition).

Either way, try out MediaMonkey from Ventis Media, and see what you think. After all, once you see the potential, I know that you will want to go for the Gold. Until next time, Happy Belated New Year 2016, and I hope you have a nice Valentine’s Day, too!

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