Media player

If you have your audio files stored on a hard disk, you need software to manage and play your collection.

If you go the streaming way, you need at least software to rip and to tag.

The major media players Windows Media Player and iTunes both cover the basic functionality well and offer a straight forward interface.

Ripping

Most media players do a good job ripping your CDs.

There are dedicated ripping programs like dBpoweramp or EAC.

Iím a dBpoweramp fanboy as it is fast, supports AccurateRip, offers excellent Meta data and has a very reliable format converter.

Do media players have a sound?

This is covered here.

My experiences is that the players themselves often matters less than the driver you choose.

Players like JRiver or Foobar allows you to choose different drivers.

This enables you to fine tune the sound quality of your system.

Recommendations

I recommend a media player:

iTunes and WMP don’t fulfil all these criteria.
Have a look at JRiver Media Center (paid, my personal preference), Foobar or a very elegant piece of freeware like MusicBee.
If you are into classical music, have a good look at MusiCHI.