I'm looking for something, preferably free, to play MP3s in OS X in a way they don't automatically get dumped into iTunes. Any suggestions?

Songbird is not lightweight.

VLC I use for videos.

7 Answers 7


If you prefer a dedicated app rather than use Quick Look, check Vox, the lightweight music app for Mac OS X.
It's free but you can donate.

  • 3
    I'd say that Vox is not lightweight. It requires you to make playlists instead of just playing all the highlighted files. Most of the time I just want to play a few songs (organized in folders) without searching through the thousands in my playlist.
    – SMBiggs
    Jan 16, 2017 at 6:06
  • 2
    Not lightweight anymore... But you can probably run an older version
    – Capsule
    Dec 30, 2017 at 0:23
  • It also requires me to log in - I sort of hate that, I just want to play some of my local mp3s, this is annoying
    – JKB
    Oct 16, 2021 at 10:59

Quicktime player. Quicktime player.

  • 1
    Just did a quick test playing a 44mb mp3 with Vox and QuickTime, both the lastest versions. Quickly scrubbing the mp3 back and forth used the most processor, just playing it was non-max usage. Vox: cpu 2.3%, cpu max 5.0%, memory 11.3mb. QuickTime: cpu 2.8%, cpu max 7.1%, memory 35.4mb. Conclusion: neither is a pig, but Vox is definitely lighter, especially in memory use. May 25, 2011 at 20:04
  • I wonder why someone downvoted my answer. Quicktime is free (as in beer) and light. That's what i use anyway when I don't want to add mp3's to my iTunes library. May 25, 2011 at 20:58
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    +1: I think QuickTime Player is a reasonable suggestion here.
    – boehj
    May 25, 2011 at 21:08
  • I don't know, @Rafael, your answer is certainly completely valid, even if it's not what the OP ended up using. May 25, 2011 at 22:20
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    It plays music, it's a music player. Lightweight is going to mean fewer features, and OP didn't specify needing playlists. I think it's a perfectly reasonable recommendation—particularly as QuickTime is in fact my primary music player! Dec 18, 2020 at 0:42

This probably isn't what you're looking for, but it so happens that the very lightest of lightweight music players is preinstalled on every Mac. No, it's not QuickTime, and it's not QuickLook—you already knew about those, and they're not as lightweight. We can do better.

Open a Terminal and type:

afplay path/to/song.mp3

Your music will begin playing. No, there's no UI—you said you wanted something lightweight, didn't you?

To stop the song, press ^C.

To pause, press ^Z, then resume with the terminal command fg.

If you want playlists, you can do that too:

afplay song1.mp3 && afplay song2.mp3 && afplay song3.mp3

Enjoy listening to music with the satisfaction that none of your precious processing power is being wasted on modern extravagances.

  • 1
    This is exactly what I am looking for. Thanks mate Apr 12, 2020 at 20:54
  • Do you know how to set afplay to a default sounder player in mac? Apr 12, 2020 at 21:02
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    @HuibinZhang I don't think you can set command line apps as default file handlers. What you could do is create an Applescript app, or a shell script wrapped in a .app wrapper. You might consider asking a new question (it could link to this answer) with details on exactly what effect you're trying to achieve—for instance, do you want a terminal window, or should music play without any visible indication whatsoever? My answer was mostly intended as a joke, tbqh. Apr 12, 2020 at 21:09
  • thanks I also tried to set that as default file handlers but wasn't able, as it grey out and system won't allow me to set that to a default file handers. I don't want ui to be present to be honest, that is why I want to have this afplay as default player. Apr 13, 2020 at 10:23
  • Hi @Wowfunhappy I have submit a new questions here apple.stackexchange.com/questions/388197/…. Thanks a lot. Apr 13, 2020 at 10:52

I've been looking for the perfect lightweight OSX player for a long time and still stick with Cog

Change the update feed to Nightly in the preferences and you'll get 0.08 that runs in High Sierra and lower.

UPDATE: An active fork is now available at https://kode54.net/cog (thanks OleGG for the mentioning it)

  • I used Cog for a lot of years, until the stable version stopped working and I was sad. I just came across this now, and the latest "nightly" from ~2013 does indeed still work! Considering that this player is effectively defunct, I'm not sure it's necessarily a good answer, but I really appreciated this and I'm using it again, so I'm upvoting.
    – adfaklsdjf
    Jan 14, 2019 at 18:01
  • Thanks @adfaklsdjf, yes, I had the same kind of Eureka moment when I discovered the nightly build :-)
    – Capsule
    Jan 15, 2019 at 22:29
  • It took me some time to find a "nightly" from cogx.org ... and eventually found in the forums that the project has been forked and that (as of this comment!), a working Cog for Mojave (10.14.6) can be found at https://mamburu.net/cog/.
    – Dɑvïd
    Aug 14, 2019 at 7:13
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    Cog indeed has a supported fork in active development kode54.net/cog
    – OleGG
    Aug 31, 2019 at 17:13

I usually default to using VLC but it has one annoying (to me) limitation: playlists do not persist when you close the app. (At least, I can't find a way of overcoming this in the preferences.) I have used Cog, but after recent updates of OS X (I'm now on Mojave) it seems very flakey. So....

Pine Player

After a bit of a search, I've now found Pine Player ("Price: Free") which is also available in the App store. It has some other nice features, too, but is a fairly simple player and so lacks some features that users might like to have (e.g., I don't think it varies speed of playback). But it is a nicely implemented audio player with "persistent" playlists, and that's exactly what I'm looking for. Works well for me!


  • 1
    Reminds me of Winamp. There's no button to add a song to the playlist 🤦‍♂️ At least I didn't find one. I added songs with the menu File -> Open ...
    – lenooh
    Jun 9, 2020 at 7:21

On Finder, click the mp3, press space or ^+Y.

It will open a Quick Look window and that will preview your mp3.

  • 3
    @idober Quick Look does play the mp3 and offers basic controls: play/pause and a scrubber for changing position in the track. However it only works if you don't leave the Finder or click on anything else in Finder. Still, I wanted to clarify that for future people reading this question. May 25, 2011 at 13:50
  • If you use column view, you can also use the preview column to play it, and it won't stop playing if you switch applications or windows.
    – ughoavgfhw
    Jul 22, 2011 at 18:30
  • Works perfectly for playing just one song. But if you want anymore (like say, an album) you're out of luck.
    – SMBiggs
    Jan 16, 2017 at 6:08

SimpleSong seems to be exactly what you are searching for - this is as simple as it gets, basically just a searchbar. You can now also drag tracks from the finder to the dock icon, to open the tracks as a playlist.

  • New versions of the OS have replaced SimpleSong with Quick Look. And in the time, it has gotten less compatible (and therefore buggy). Too bad; it looked pretty nice.
    – SMBiggs
    Jan 16, 2017 at 6:19

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