Personally, I prefer Winamp 2.81 for playback and Easy CD-DA Extrator 5 for ripping. For library management, I hear Winamp3 and Windows Media player are OK... at least they're more stable than MusicMatch.
Yeah, winamp has much better sound quality. The eq does not always have to present. Infact, for superior eq, I highly recommend downloading the Shibatch EQ dsp plugin. This is a much more accurate, quality eq.
I'm not sure if you can even find this anymore, but Sonic Foundry Siren Jukebox is what I use. I know Sonic Foundry no longer offers or supports this, so this suggestion may be of no use, unless you message me and get the copy I have. It is (was) a free program and Sonic Foundry does still allow the online registration required to activate it. The only drawback to it is that the free version does not allow burning or ripping and the EQ is disabled, but there's much better progs for burning and ripping and the EQ doesn't really matter (at least to me). In Siren you can organize your files and make playlists (although the playlist feature is really slow to load). By default, when you scan your drive(s) for mp3s, it will automatically sort them by artist, album, genre, artist/album, & more. Of course, in order for this to work, you must have the files correctly tagged in ID3v2 format.
As for organizing your mp3s, I highly recommend Tag & Rename 2.05 (or higher if they have released a new version). There is a free version with no time restriction, but it only allows the auto-renaming of 10 files per folder. If there's more than that you have to do the rest one at a time. It's well worth whatever they are charging if you have a large media collection. Get more info here.
As for burning, Nero Nero Nero. I use 126.96.36.199 which has an awesome SVCD plugin for converting almost every video format to svcd.
Ripping, I use CDex. It's free, it does everything I need it to and it uses Lame encoding. It will also write ID3v1 and ID3v2 tags. Not sure if this is a common feature, but the last encoder I used did not support v2 tags and 95% of the music I download is not tagged in v2. Since Siren uses this, it is important to me.
That is about the same preferences I have! Except I use Winamp 3 now. I like the MMD interface with it. One thing I notice though is that Windows Media Player 9 sounds better to me than Winamp. Maybe the Winamp team is hoping that you buy one of the DSP plug-ins?
I use NeroMix for audio playback. I find the EQ settings sound much better then anything Winamp could ever produce. For ripping I use Cood Edit Pro 2 (FGH II codec).
The only drawback is that it's not as easy to use. I liked Winamp because I could have a 1000 song playlist, and keep it that way. The fonts where small so all the text fit into a small area. It was really easy to read.
But in NeroMix, the font is big and you cant fit more then 8 or so songs on the screen at a time. But if I apply a High Lift EQ filter to the music, it is enough to make up for any faults in the layout
Personally Ill take sound quality over ease of use
Ep, glad to see you come back and tidy up...did want to ask a one day favor, I want to enhance my resume , was hoping you could make me administrator for a day, if so, take me right off since I won't be here to do anything, and don't know the slightest about the board, but it would be nice putting "served administrator osnn", if can do, THANKS