The Best Media Player for Mac (Free and Paid Options)
Utility • May 27, 2019
There are thousands of people who buy macOS devices for the purpose of media consumption. And, let’s keep the other thousands of content creators away for now.
And, it’s kind of a shame that macOS does not have a great built-in media player.
Of course, as you know, macOS ships with a default media player — QuickTime and even iTunes. But, have you ever wondered why most people still go for third-party media players for macOS?
About Apple QuickTime Player and iTunes
As we said earlier, QuickTime Player and iTunes are the two default way to play media content on macOS — QuickTime for video and iTunes for audio. But there is a common problem: both of them are very basic.
We don’t mean to say that QuickTime or iTunes is bad. It’s just that you cannot have the best media viewing experience with these tools. Let’s take the case of QuickTime Player for instance.
While it’s a decent player, it doesn’t support many media formats. While it works well with macOS, the customization options are very low.
Similarly, iTunes too works well with the macOS system. However, when you are looking for advanced playback features, it won’t be a right fit.
All these points reassure the need to find a better media player for macOS. And, that’s exactly what we are going to do here.
What’s the Perfect Media Player for macOS?
Here are a few things we were looking for in that perfect media player for macOS.
- Simple & Intuitive: The player should not put much load on your Mac. After all, media consumption is something you see on the side. You don’t want that to take over the whole resource set.
- Compatibility: We expect the support for almost all popular media formats in the player. If it cannot play MKV, it isn’t on the list.
- Additional Features like Picture-in-Picture Mode, Content Sharing and Streaming Support are surely some things to love in a media player.
- Faster: Everyone needs a faster media player than QuickTime. First and foremost, the player should not lag during playback.
- We also love dedicated media players for video and music as much as we love hybrid ones.
And, let’s see the media players we came across.
Our Preferred Free Media Player for macOS — IINA
IINA is slick new video-playing app for the Mac. Developers of the player call IINA the modern media player for macOS. And, if you ask us, that is true from every single aspect. That is why we gave the first position to this open-source media player for macOS.
IINA is a free, open-source media player that is in active development. While IINA handles audio and video content alike, we recommend it for watching movies and videos mainly. Compared to VLC and similar free media players, IINA packs a number of advanced features. For instance, you can avail support for Picture-in-Picture and Dark Mode on macOS.
Now that you have a basic idea about IINA, we will check out the other aspects of the program. First of all, we will check out the User Interface.
UI & Video Playback
We won’t think twice to call IINA the cleanest media player for macOS. Just as you can see in the screenshots below, IINA Player keeps everything super-clean. Once installed, getting started with IINA is very easy. You can simply drag-and-drop the file you want to play into the IINA interface. Or, if you want to play an online stream, you can open the URL too.
There isn’t anything new about the playback screen, though. The control panel is placed at the bottom-center portion of the screen and you have many keyboard shortcuts to assist. IINA also makes the right use of Mac gestures. You can move your fingers on the touchpad to seek the video content. Clicking the Settings button would, however, open up a whole set of options.
You can change various aspects of playback such as the aspect ratio, crop, rotation, playback speed etc. And, in case you are really into that sort of stuff, you can also equalize visual elements like brightness, contrast and saturation etc. There are different tabs for controlling audio playback and subtitle control as well. Both these are great when you want a customized media consumption experience.
In short, the playback screen of IINA resembles that of VLC but there are more things inside. For instance, it has a thumbnail feature that we really loved. This is great while trying to find a specific part of a movie or a long video. Similarly, the quick-access buttons to Picture-in-Picture mode and Settings are also great from a media enthusiast point of view.
IINA isn’t a dedicated music player, but it does the job very well. Once again, IINA UI sticks to the philosophy of minimalism.
You will be able to control the basic playback from the mini-screen and access the playlist below. While the screen seems quite small, there are options to create and manage multiple music playlists. And, yes, you can always go back to the full screen and access options like Audio Equalizer. If you want a dedicated music play experience, make sure that you enable the option.
Altogether, we were really impressed by what IINA had to offer here.
IINA is surely one of the most customizable macOS media players out there. From playback to the UI, almost everything can be customized according to your requirements. In fact, a simple look at the Preferences tab would give you the best idea.
As you can see, there are hundreds of options, spread over nine categories. For instance, you can go to the General tab and change how IINA responds when you open a media file. Or, if you take screenshots, you can check where they’re being saved to.
If you go to Control section, there is something really cool. You can decide how actions like scrolling as well as seeking work. You can also assign specific actions to single and double-clicks you make via your touchpad. Altogether, we’re talking about 100% customizability.
Features Worth Noting
Let’s now have a look at some of the additional features we loved in IINA.
- Dark Mode
IINA comes with a dark mode that goes really well with macOS system. Even if you have not turned on Dark Mode on your macOS Mojave system, you can alter the settings for IINA. This is great when you want to get a seamless media viewing experience.
- Picture in Picture Mode
We already talked about this. IINA makes use of the native macOS feature for picture-in-picture. This means your media file would be playing in a small window floating on top of other windows. This is great when you want to watch movies/videos while you’re working.
- Advanced Subtitle Settings
This is something we really love in every media player and IINA gets that right. There is a dedicated bunch of options for controlling how subtitles appear on screen. You can also adjust subtitle delay, which is a superb feature while finding movies online.
- Browser Extension Support
IINA also offers a number of browser extensions that let you play online streams. If you come across a media stream online, you can click the IINA button and it would start playing on the actual desktop app. This works with YouTube playlists as well.
- Plugin System
That’s right. IINA community is working on a plug-in system that is kind of really flexible. It means you’ll be able to add new features to the player by simply installing a plug-in. So, even when IINA stays as a simplistic video player, you have an option to add features.
What Could Be Better
There isn’t anything we hated in IINA, but some things could certainly be better.
IINA does not come with AirPlay support, which is a great addition when you have a number of Apple devices at home. If you are someone who needs AirPlay for life, IINA is not probably the best choice for you.
We also had a little difficulty in getting ready with online streams. Not that they’re impossible but there is a lengthy process to be followed.
Except for these, it’s all cool.
Availability & Pricing
IINA is currently available for macOS only. The browser extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox.
Regarding the pricing, IINA is completely free to use and open-sourced.
The Bottom Line
IINA is definitely the best free media player for macOS, on any day. It packs so many features like Picture-in-Picture and the tool is completely free to use too. From the utility point of view, this seems to be a deal that you would not want to miss. If you are looking for a simple yet powerful media consumption experience, it’s a great choice indeed.
Our Preferred Paid Media Player for macOS — Elmedia Player Pro
Are you ready to pay for some extra cool features in the media player? In that case, you may want to consider Elmedia Player Pro. It’s one of the most popular choices when it comes to media players for macOS. And we believe this powerful software deserves the position in the list.
About Elmedia Player Pro
As you can guess from the name, Elmedia Player Pro is the premium version of Elmedia Player, one of those popular software solutions from Eltima Software. It packs almost every feature you would expect from the standard macOS media player, but there is definitely more. And, as it happens, Elmedia Player Pro has some features you couldn’t find in IINA.
Now, we will move onto explore the different aspects of Elmedia Player Pro that you want to care about. Do note that we’re talking about the fully-fledged, premium version here.
UI & Video Playback
Elmedia Player Pro offers an elegant User Interface for managing video playback. The whole interface is clean and offers enough space for immersive viewing experience. You can decide the type of full-screen experience you want — macOS native or legacy. It’s true that Elmedia Player Pro packs a number of additional features, but none of them is intrusive.
There is a modern note when we consider the playback screen of Elmedia Player Pro. As you can see, almost all controls are aligned perfectly. It does not matter what you want to do, you can do it from the main screen itself. For instance, if you want to stream the content to your Chromecast or DLNA device, you can do that right away.
Getting started with normal playback is also easy. You can open your media files the traditional way or simply drag and drop the file to the Elmedia Player Pro interface. You can then have one of the most immersive video playback experiences ever. It is also worth noting that Elmedia Player Pro comes with full support for 4K content.
All things in consideration, the User Interface of Elmedia Player Pro is just awesome. On the right side of the window, there are drop-down menus to manage your playlist and access the Elmedia Browser. It’s just super that the developers have managed to implement so many features within this simple UI design. And, the UI is indeed a reason to recommend Elmedia Player Pro to everyone.
Just like IINA, Elmedia Player Pro too has a dedicated music playback section. This one, however, packs a few more features.
There aren’t any UI-related changes when you shift from video to audio playback. However, the screen gets smaller and it becomes easy to manage the playlist and individual tracks. As you can see, you can also shuffle and randomize tracks during playback. And, in case you have a Chromecast-based device around your Wi-Fi network, you can stream the tracks to the device too. It has native volume control as well.
Once again, Elmedia Player Pro enriches the experience with more features.
Elmedia Player Pro too leaves a few doors open when it comes to the domain of customization. You can find a variety of options in the Preferences pane. In fact, some of the options are for the additional features like the media downloader and screen capture.
Split into eight sections, the Preferences pane allows you to control almost every aspect of Elmedia Player Pro. For instance, if you go to the Streaming tab, you can actually manage your DLNA and AirPlay preferences in overall.
It’s also great that Elmedia Player Pro has separate sections for Video and Audio. Both these sections can be really useful when we consider the availability of features. Despite having plenty of options, customizing the tool doesn’t take a toll on you.
Features Worth Noting
These are some of the features that make Elmedia Player Pro a worthy upgrade.
AirPlay and Chromecast Support
Elmedia Player Pro comes with native support for Apple AirPlay and Google Chromecast. So, if you have any smart TV with these technologies, streaming content to them would become super-easy. And, if you have another Mac with Elmedia Player Pro installed, you can stream the content to that computer too.
Easy Online Video Playback
When compared to other media players for macOS, Elmedia Player Pro offers an easier way to download as well as play media from sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Using Elmedia downloader, you can download and store the content in maximum quality too.
Excellent Subtitle Support
Elmedia Player Pro is really effective when it comes to displaying subtitles during playback. You have a good level of control over how the subtitle appears and you can adjust the font, size and sync. For those who get not-so-compatible subtitle files, it’s a blessing indeed.
You get a built-in utility for taking screenshots during Elmedia Player Pro playback. The best part is that you can even create a screenshot series by setting regular intervals at which screen will be captured. It’s a great way to manage stuff, if you ask me.
Equalizers and Sound
Standard options to equalize the sound and graphics are available in Elmedia Player Pro as well as the free version of the tool. Even if you are not an advanced media consumer, there are points when these features would come in handy.
Media compatibility is the strongest point of Elmedia Player Pro if you ask me. You don’t have to worry about unsupported formats. Even if there is an unsupported format, Elmedia Player Pro will transcode and file and play it in an available format. That’s something cool. We should also mention that the media player is really quick when it comes to detecting Chromecast and other streaming devices in the network.
What Could Be Better
There are still some areas where Elmedia Player Pro could get some work done.
It’s kinda cool that Elmedia Player Pro has so many features to offer. However, some people may need some more time to get used to this abundance.
Well, that’s the only thing.
Availability & Pricing
Elmedia Player Pro is available for macOS only.
The personal license of Elmedia Player Pro costs $19.95 from the official website. If you want to go for Family or Business licenses, they are available for $39.95 and $29.95 respectively. You can get the software directly from App Store as well.
The Bottom Line
Elmedia Player Pro is indeed a great upgrade for those who are ready to pay. For the amount you’re paying, you get a superb set of features like AirPlay support and ultimate compatibility. Also, the tool can work well with other sub-sections like the YouTube stream viewer. And, we should also mention that Elmedia Player Pro is one hell of a tool from Eltima Software.
Other Options We Had Considered
The following macOS media players didn’t make it to the top position. But they are still worth consideration when you are looking for something specific.
VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player has been the gold standard of open-source media players for some time. Of course, we’ve found a better alternative to VLC Media Player, but you don’t have to leave this golden choice. Even now, it is worth your consideration when you need a neat player to handle audio and video content. While VLC does not have advanced features, playback management is up to the mark.
For instance, while it supports almost all types of subtitles, you don’t have much control over how they are displayed. That is, you cannot adjust the sync. Even some of the available features are a bit tough to access, especially when compared to something like IINA. That having said, we cannot ignore the powerful team of developers behind VLC Media Player, who keep adding awesome features to the package.
Compatibility, however, is a strong pillar of VLC Media Player on any day. This player would be able to handle almost every media file out there, including audio and video. Because it makes use of hardware accelerated tech, you don’t have to worry about performance either. At the same time, VLC Media Player is not the best option if you want streaming, sharing etc.
VLC Media Player is available free of cost and is open source. Apart from macOS, it’s available for Windows, Android, iOS, Linux and several others.
Movist is a paid media player for macOS that you can try for sure. Compared to other media players in the list, Movist tries to bring a revamped viewing experience. That having said, whether a common user has the need of nerd stats is another question. On the other hand, if you are into the technicalities of what you are watching, Movist is a clean choice.
There are certain restrictions in Movist because of the freemium structure. For instance, some features like internet video are available only in the premium version. As far as the controls and playback go, however, the tool offers a better experience. You can, for instance, use your mouse and touchpad gestures to move between the different parts of the video.
Keep the restrictions aside, there are some minute features we loved in Movist. For instance, in order to get you a seamless viewing experience, Movist would keep the subtitles in the letterbox area. In addition to this, the player also lets you keep track of your playlists in the best way possible. Music playback, however, isn’t the best feature in the package.
Movist offers a standard version and a premium version and is available for macOS only. The Pro version has been priced at $4.49.
VOX Player is the best choice out there when you are looking for a high-quality audio player for macOS. One of the promises VOX Player makes is that of advanced audio. Through a number of techniques, VOX Player makes sure that the audio output is enhanced, bass boosted and better sync rates. It should be noted that you will have to create a VOX account for the best experience.
When it comes to the User Interface, VOX Player is pretty simple. As you can see in the screenshot, it has a mini-player interface, with controls on top and the playlist at the bottom. You can shift between tracks and create your own playlists. It should be noted that, as the developers promise, VOX Player offers some kind of better audio quality.
But, ultimately, that depends on a number of factors, such as the audio output device you are using. We will not say the UI is the best, but it’s better than what iTunes has been offering. We also wanted to point out the fact that many features are limited to VOX subscribers only. So, if you are ready to spend something, the player has a lot to offer.
VOX Player is available for macOS and iOS. You can use the program for free of cost, but the Premium plan would cost you $4.99 per month.
Are you looking for a macOS media player that is performance-friendly? In that case, 5KPlayer should be in your consideration list for sure. Compared to other players in the list, 5KPlayer packs a lot of features like AirPlay support and DLNA support. In addition to this, you can use 5KPlayer to download and view YouTube videos, directly from your Mac. There are, as it happens, a lot of good things inside.
We are not the biggest fans of the User Interface, though. There were times when 5KPlayer was taking too much of resources and lagging the whole stuff. Once you are in the playback interface, however, all things are good to go. Because it takes some resources from the computer, we witnessed no sort of lag in the overall playback speed and experience.
5KPlayer works also great when you have to manage a media library of your own. We wouldn’t say it’s the best, but it’s surely a great place to keep your movies and music for easy access. You can also easily share the content with DLNA devices from the same Library section of the software. All in all, 5KPlayer is a great choice for those who strive for performance and additional features.
5KPlayer is a freemium media player for macOS. It means you can download the software for free, but you will have to pay something for prolonged use and advanced features.
The Final Words
There you have it: some of the best media players for macOS. As you have seen, we have included both free and paid software in this list. For instance, if you want a simple yet impressive media experience, you can go for something like IINA. On the other hand, if you are looking for more options and control over what you are seeing, Elmedia Player Pro seems to be the right choice too. At the same time, do make sure that you give our other recommendations a try. That is, for instance, VOX Player makes a lot of sense when we use it for music playback.