Most big-name audio players come with a few visualisations to liven up playback. Right-click inside Windows Media Player, click Visualisations, and you can have it display swirling clouds, spectrum-type bars, psychedelic ripples and space flight effects, amongst others.
These aren’t always great quality, though. There may not be much choice, and smaller audio players often don’t have a visualiser at all. But if you like the core idea, you can always improve the situation by installing the free Plane9.
The program installs in seconds, adding plugins for both WinAmp and Windows Media Player. At a minimum, choose Plane9 from the Windows Media Player Visualisations menu and it’ll start cycling through its 260+ bundled 3D scenes.
These can be impressive, too (although not always): there are light effects, smoke, fire, geometric shapes, more organic objects, text, clouds, even the Android robot.
Some scenes are bright and colourful, others dark, more subdued – there’s a design for every mood.
Better still, Plane9 allows you to build “playlists”, sequences of visualisations you particularly like. If you prefer the more psychedelic effects for dance music, say, then string together your favourites and it’ll play only those.
The program even applies some transition effects to make this work smoothly. This YouTube video gives you a basic idea, although there’s plenty of scope for improvement.
You’re probably using another audio player, of course, but that doesn’t matter. Plane9 can also be run stand-alone, in which case it reacts to whatever’s being played by your media player, browser or anything else.
The latest version added an option to analyse sound from your microphone, giving you even options and possibilities. (This is turned off by default, though – visit the Options dialog if you’d like to enable it.)
And even if you’re not interested in music visualisations, Plane9 also installs itself as a screensaver. Create a playlist of your favourite scenes as before, choose the program from the regular Windows screensaver applet and it’ll appear as necessary. Very nice: go take a look.