hey zelrio & others like me who are still on the quest for an all-around great player that is better than Windows Media Player (WMP).
1st, my reply is mainly about audio files, as I'm into music and use my player mainly for music. WMP does an ok job. It's readily available, rips up to 192kbps, and it is easy to use to both burn and rip music (I use my laptop as my music player so in no way am I contributing how these players work with iPods/etc). The main drawback to WMP is that it automatically adds 2-seconds between any ripped songs, so if you try to burn your own Pink Floyd hits for a CD jukebox like I have, your complete side to Dark Side of the Moon has gaps, or live CDs have breaks in them. It's completely studid and likely something Microsoft did to make someone happy. To any music fan, it will drive you nuts. So other players like iTunes, Nero, Real, WinAmp give you the option of removing that gap function.
But iTunes has it's own codec and it maxes out @ 128k. My Nero was a free bundle software I got and sucks up lots of memory and tries to override any other media player (as does Real). Nero supports many different codecs (all but FLAC...?) but maxes out at 128k too, and when I contacted them, they said I should be able to raise my quality but their suggestions didn't work. I needed to find the players that would support higher 320k and FLAC codecs, so I found the FREE players from both Real.com and WinAmp.com. They both support many codecs. WinAmp had a little more by supporting FLAC, and Real has it's own FLAC for ripping highest quality CDs in almost any codec format. I found Real is very broad and can be used for lots of stuff and is faster than WinAmp, but WinAmp seems to be easier to use. Again, this is based on me not paying to upgrade to both Real or WinAmp's paid services which lets you burn/rip faster and adds things like crossfading. See their sites for those paid upgrade plusses.
To me, I'm still looking for a burner that gets rid of glitches, bumps, pauses, etc between tracks that stream together like Steve Miller Band's Space Intro into Fly Like an Eagle or better his entire 1st LP of Children of the Future. Nero and iTunes seem to have done that the best for me better than Real/Winamp, but I wish I could get higher 320+ kbps that Real/Winamp and the FLAC codecs allow vs 128k of Nero/iTunes (I'm PC, not Mac).
I'm not super technical and between jobs, I like to make my own personal greatest hits CDr's, since labels never seem to make Hits packages with all the hits we want. And I have to admit, the labels HAVE improved CD sound (or just compressed it up louder) as ReMasters sound much better now than they did in the '90s (stuff around 1997-8 and later and things in 2000s all sound improved over earlier CD sound prior).
I hope that is a better "answer" as to my experiences as I am still looking for ONE player that does it ALL (why I stopped by and felt bad that a good site like cnet had such a lame set of responses and support).
(codecs are the particular way each player encodes the music file represented by a 3 (or 4) letter/# combo like the most widely known music file .mp3).
(All the different codecs for video/DVD are too much for me and someone could add to this thread as it regards to players and video.)