Media Jukebox is another program that goes for the gusto, trying to fit almost any conceivable feature related to digital audio in one program. OK, I am exaggerating but it does do a lot. However, the massive amount of features create a bit of confusion for the new user trying to get used to the interface. If you want a program you can learn in under a minute, this is not the one. A trip to the help files is a necessity.
Getting the player to load and play files was a bit more tricky than necessary I thought. After giving it a few tries, it sure made me appreciate the easy directory add feature found in WinAMP. Once play started, I noticed one file sounded scratchy in Media Jukebox and just fine in WinAMP. . . go figure.
Another annoying problem is that the help files sometimes did not coordinate well with the actual user interface, especially since some icons are hidden behind a collapsed view bar at the top of the page you are expected to customize yourself. Some options are also hidden in the organizational tree on the left that you have to expand to find.
To rip and encode, selecting the 'settings' tab at the top of the page will allow you to navigate to an encoding button that will let you alter encoding parameters. Interestingly, the program only comes equipped with a WMA and Ogg Vorbis encoder. LAME or any other external encoder must be downloaded separately. Once set up, I had no idea where the encoded file had been deposited since nowhere in the above process was I given an option to set the output directory. Back to the help files. Once I could actually listen to the file, it didn't sound too bad encoded at 128kbps with LAME v.3.89.
When I did convert the MP3 back to WAV, Media Jukebox responded fast and furiously, producing a nice uncompressed WAV in very little time. More on the Media Jukebox decoder here. Burning wasn't as much an ordeal, I already knew where to look in the help files and was starting to get a rudimentary feel for this program. In the free version, burning is crippled to a slower speed that can only be reversed by coughing up $24.98. However, the burn process was still pretty quick, a lot faster than Music Match's free version. One bonus is that Media Jukebox will let you either burn audio or data CDs. When I did an audio test on the MP3 burn files, I did notice some had inherited some decay not found in the original MP3s on the hard drive.
Overall, for the basic (free) version, you get a lot of features if you are willing to take time on the learning curve. After speaking with a J. River associate, he let me know the company is working on the usability issue as they are dedicated to improving the product. Upgrading for $24.98 may give you more features but you don't get free updates for life, much like Music Match. Bottom line: Media Jukebox has potential, decent MP3 conversion, and a lot of features. However, the difficulty of use at first will turn off many users who are used to easier jukebox programs like WinAMP. For an all in one MP3 conversion program, I don't think Media Jukebox beats the clear and easy to use functionality of Music Match.