Mufin music-recommendation engine heads for your desktop

Mufin on Friday announced the beta release of its new music player, billed as the first ever to sort tracks and recommend other tunes by analyzing the songs themselves.

Betanews took a look at MAGIX AG's Mufin, a spinoff from the legendary Fraunhofer Institute (home of the MP3 codec!), late last year. At that time, the company was showing off the song-sorting technology itself. Mufin's designed to examine tracks strictly by sound fingerprint -- not by artist, not by track title, solely by what the tune presents the ears.

Or, anyway, the "ears" of the algorithms. As before, a great deal of the fun with Mufin is in its slightly alien sensibility.

Mufin's pattern-matching song recommendation engine, which divided reader opinion back in autumn, continues its merry ways. It's just impossible not to love an algorithm that notes that John Lennon's acerbic "Working Class Hero" has a lot in common with Dean Martin's "A Hundred Years From Today."

Other choices were more... challenging. Gillian Welch's elegiac, furious, bluegrass-inflected "Everything Is Free" (a slapdown of file-sharing culture and/or the evils of the record industry) handed back a recommendation for the slow jazz track "Do To" by Andrew Hill and "You Are Gone" by Wunderbare Katze, which at least I understand tonally. On the upside, the comparison may be obscure but Mufin's right -- never heard of the German band before, but I think I'll like them.

(And then there are the absolute biffs -- for instance, when it doesn't twig that George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" is exactly the same song as the Chiffons' He's So Fine. Even federal judges can pick that one out.)

The player's a fun new toy, and if you have a music collection of any decent size, you'll find that just one feature makes the (free) download and lengthy analysis process worthwhile: automatic playlist generation. The software takes a few seconds to analyze each track on your system (and could take a day or two to parse a good-sized collection), but once it knows your collection it can cook up some magical things thanks to the similarity engine -- even spotting similarities between known music and tracks you recorded yourself. (Take note, plagiarism-fearing composers!) So pick a track; the system returns, in descending order of relevance, everything it believes makes a match. Cool stuff in action.

Curiously, in our tests we noted that the similarities Mufin found in our own collection were often clearer to our ears. That might have something to do with having a smaller universe of tracks, or maybe familiarity with the material played a role; Mufin also makes "outside" similarity recommendations between your track and the millions of tracks in its database, and those continued to vary between oh-wow and say-what.

The in-player link to Audio ID, Mufin's track-identification utility, is worth pointing out to those of us with unwieldy collections lacking good metatags. Pull up a song in the player and right-click; Mufin identifies the track and tags it appropriately. That connection back to the mothership is also handy when an outside match turns into an impulse buy.

Other features include CD-burning capabilities, support and management for many MP3 players, and support for WAV, CD-Audio-1, WMA, OGG, ASF, and FLAC files. It's available only for Windows 2000 and later at the moment. Take note of the word "lengthy" in the review above -- perhaps you'd like to let this set itself up over the weekend? -- but if you've got music and a playful sense of ways to listen to it, Mufin's still a tasty treat.


mufin player from mufin on Vimeo.

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