Is there a good lightweight music player for Mac OS X?

I’ve been looking for a good lightweight music player for Mac OS X.  It’s pretty well known that iTunes is a huge resource hog, but what are the alternatives?  While there are some pretty lightweight options out there for Windows users there aren’t quite as many for Mac users (it seems most Mac users just use iTunes and live with – or pay little mind to – how much of their system’s resources it uses.  So I went looking for alternatives, which needed to be lightweight and free.

Well, if you’re using software that is resource intensive, like graphic design or 3D modeling software – anything that needs both a lot of physical memory and a bunch of “scratch disk” space / virtual memory, if your “background music” is hogging some of it that’s a problem.  So, after about an hour of Googling, downloading, trying, and running Activity Monitor this is what I found out:

App Name Real Memory Virtual Memory Shared Memory Private Memory
iTunes 118.7 MB 2.62 GB 26 MB 45.7 MB
Nightingale 98.6 MB 898 MB 34.6 MB 51.4 MB
Vox 74.6 MB 3.35 GB 23.5 MB 46.7 MB
Sonora 62.0 MB 2.56 GB 49.8 MB 27.9 MB
VLC 71.8 MB 2.66 GB 36.7 MB 33.4 MB
COG 42.2 MB 784.8 MB 32.5 MB 14.9 MB
QuickTime Player 26.3 MB 2.45 GB 20.4 MB 6.9 MB

Test done on OS X Mavericks 10.9.5, each app played the same song file, stats are from Activity Monitor

The “Real Memory” and “Virtual Memory” are really the only ones I’m looking at because the former refers to the physical memory and the latter to usage of the hard drive as “fake” memory.  It’s pretty clear that, across the board, COG is the lightest weight player amongst those I tested.  Nightingale is pretty good too, and much more polished and feature-rich than Cog (Nightingale is built on the now defunct “Songbird” which used to be my player of choice).  Vox is arguably the best looking of the bunch.  Quicktime Player doesn’t support playlists or media libraries, so it’s not a realistic option.

Of course the better solution for resource allocation (but certainly not environmental friendliness) is probably to put the media files on another system entirely and play them from there.  If I use a media server software like “Plex” I can still manage the player from my work computer via a web browser.

← Previous post

Next post →


  1. I am very late to the party obviously but I was wondering what player you ended up settling on?

    • kmhcreative

      I settled on Nightingale. I used to use Songbird on both Mac and Windows so it felt the most familiar. I’ve also pointed Plex Media Server to the same folder so I can stream to other devices on my network.

  2. Patrick Dolan

    Thanks for that, using 3d software and need to free up some memory, will go with Nightingale…:)

Leave a Reply








Share this On:

Google+ Reddit Stumble It Digg this! LinkedIn Pinterest RSS Feed E-mail Link!