Doppler Is the Mac Music Player Apple Should Have Made

Less futzing, more listening

Key Takeaways

  • Doppler is a beautiful and simple Mac app for playing your own music library.
  • No streaming, no subscriptions, no lost tracks.
  • Apple’s iPhone and iPad music apps still don’t let you load your own music.
Doppler music player app on Mac and iPhone


Doppler is a beautiful, simple, music playing app for the Mac, and partners with the existing iPhone app. For people overwhelmed by the stock Music app, it’s perfect.

For years, Mac users moaned about iTunes, hoping for a simpler, less-bloated replacement. In a textbook case of "be careful what you wish for," iTunes’ replacement was even worse. Even the name—Music—is confusing. Doppler is a glimpse into an alternate future where Apple put user experience first, instead of trying to encourage sign ups for Apple Music subscriptions. 

"Apple has been melding its Apple Music service with the basic music-library player functionality with an eye towards pushing users to use Apple Music," Mac app developer Edward Brawer told Lifewire via email. "There is no doubt this affects the user experience, as it is important for Apple to push users to use Apple Music." 


Doppler is the Mac version of the existing Doppler app for the iPhone, and the two can work together. There are no music subscriptions, or streaming in the app. Doppler is old school, an app that plays the MP3, AAC, and other audio files on your Mac’s hard drive or SSD. This simplicity makes it a pleasure to use. But don’t get the idea that the app has no features. It just has the ones you need. 

On first use, you have to tell it where to find your music files. Just point it at your iTunes/Apple Music library inside your Music folder, and it will scan everything. If you’ve been using Apple Music or Spotify for the last few years, you might not have many recent songs in there, but Doppler plans to add support to import directly from your Apple Music library, like it does on the iPhone. Right now, though, you’re stuck with your old music. 

Searching in the Doppler music player app on Mac


After that, you browse, then press play. No instructions needed. The column on the left shows artists, albums, and songs, plus any playlists you create. The center panel shows the results of the left-panel selection: a grid of albums or a list of artists. The panel on the right shows the current playlist. You can drag and drop songs into this, or drag to reorder them. 

If you’re used to struggling through Apple’s sluggish Music app, then Doppler can feel like a breath of fresh air.

iPhone Sync

If you already use Doppler on the iPhone, then you can easily send music from your Mac to your iPhone’s Doppler Library. But this may not be necessary. Doppler for iPhone can act as a front-end for your existing iPhone Apple Music library, but if you prefer to manage it all yourself, then this is a great feature. Right now, these transfers are manual, but Doppler’s developer says full inter-device syncing is coming in a future version. 

Even if all this doesn’t interest you, there’s one feature that should. Did you ever try to add a downloaded MP3 to the Music app on your iPhone? Ridiculously, this is still impossible. The iPhone and iPad may be as powerful as many desktop and laptop computers, but in music terms, they’re still iPods. Music is added via Mac or PC, and synced across. And if you don’t have a Mac or PC? Tough.

Transferring music from Doppler's iPhone app to the Mac version


Doppler, however, comes to the rescue once again. You can easily open music files in the app, add them to your library, and listen to them. Imported songs include album art, and you can edit all the metadata—track and album names, release year, and so on—right there in the app. Just like iTunes in the olden days. 

Doppler isn’t for everyone, of course. If you’re all in on Apple Music, Spotify, or another streaming service, then you’ll have to stick with those apps, or find other alternatives. But if you want a straightforward way to organize and listen to music that doesn’t limit your options, and has a beautiful, simple design, then Doppler is worth a look. Especially since there’s a free two-week trial.

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