With TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award winner ZenPoint MusicCenter, the manufacturer has found a way to satisfy the various appetites of jukebox software users. While some buyers shop for a robust feature set, others prefer simplicity. And many others are most interested in a visual experience that brings their music to life. MusicCenter addresses all of these needs in one impressive product. In short, this hard-working product will play your music, manage your collection, and entertain your guests with a look and feel sure to be the life of the party.
MusicCenter is actually a single application within ZenPoint’s DigitalCenter, a suite that includes applications for movies (MovieCenter), photos (PhotoCenter), and internet radio (RadioCenter). These applications have the same appealing look as MusicCenter, and their functionality further enhances the product. But music lovers may have a hard time tearing themselves away from MusicCenter long enough to notice the other features onboard.
MusicCenter’s interface combines functionality with a stunning look that reaches out and grabs your attention. Album artwork comes to life on a display that looks even better than many digital jukeboxes you may find at your local bar. Buttons, player controls, and search controls are so well-designed that your party guests may spend as much time at the PC as they do at the buffet.
Be sure to read all of our reviews of jukebox software including those for MediaMonkey and others.
Without question, the predominant feature of MusicCenter is the interface. It has the type of eye appeal that will immediately draw users to it. Album cover art is beautifully displayed, and a full-screen mode immediately turns your PC into every bit the digital jukebox. An animated home screen for the DigitalCenter Suite adds to the visual experience.
The interface is not just fun to look at; it also is a powerful feature-launcher. An alpha list across the screen makes searching for tracks, albums etc., as easy as clicking a letter of the alphabet. The inclusion of this feature alone provides a realistic jukebox feel. And with a full QWERTY-style on-screen keyboard, users can search for an album, artist or song title, with auto completion of text entries. Music can be navigated by album, artist, title, genre and year.
Playlist management is easy and powerful as well. The number of playlists that can be supported is unlimited. Playlists can be shuffled, and within playlists helpful features like “Play Now” and “Play Next” will be a hit with party guests making requests. There is even a playlist countdown.
If the default look and feel is not enough for you, a number of effects are available to create a custom look. Skins are available, or users can create their own. If you have a touch screen, MusicCenter will look even more like a realistic bar-style jukebox.
Despite an interface that may be second to none, buyers considering MusicCenter should be aware that it is an audio player at heart. There is little functionality beyond the playing of music. The program will not rip, burn CDs, or convert file types.
The elaborate interface produces another issue to consider; it is a drain on system resources. Startup is slow, as is the launch of the other features (including the administration utility).
While ZenPoint MusicCenter does not support a wide variety of file formats, it does support the most popular. For audio files, MP3, OGG and WMA formats pose no problems. The DigitalCenter suite also supports several video file formats.
MusicCenter is not just easy to look at; it is also easy to work with. In fact, we found it to be among the easiest to use of all the products we reviewed. Most of the functionality is designed to be launched with a single mouse click. Icons and player controls are very clearly marked, and there are few menus or other options to flip through. Most controls highlight upon mouse hover, giving the product a sort of web feel.
Searching for music is as simple as clicking a button. Users can search by artist, album, genre or year. Each of these options has its very own button. A search button launches a full on-screen keyboard, and the free text search has an auto-complete feature that makes text searching a snap.
Customizing the look and feel of the product is relatively easy. There are a number of setup options within the DigitalCenter suite that enable changes to animation effects, skins and more.
Creating playlists and adding music files is relatively easy, but must be done through an administration feature of the program. We would have preferred that this feature be accessible from the main screen and be a little more intuitive, but this would clearly detract from ZenPoint’s attempt to keep the main screen looking and acting like a true jukebox.
One of the most surprising things we encountered while looking at this product was that it has no help menu. While the product is easy to use it seems odd that users have no means to easily get answers to questions about the program. There is a support link on the product’s web site that contain a few “How To’s”, and a page that enables submission of support requests to ZenPoint. But overall there is a disappointing amount of help available for users.
ZenPoint’s DigitalCenter is a flashy product, and the MusicCenter component is a very attractive application. This is definitely a product you want to invite to your party, as users are sure to enjoy the display and ease with which they can make their own music requests. There are significant shortcomings, such as the inability to rip, burn or convert files. But the interface compensates for these. If you want a product that walks and talks like a genuine bar-style jukebox, ZenPoint MusicCenter is most definitely worth a look.