Instacast for Mac is without question the best way to listen to podcasts on OS X. And for anyone who’s been stuck using iTunes for the job, it’s something of a revelation. You can finally set Apple’s bloated media player aside — at least when it comes to podcasts — in favor of Vemedio’s sleek and efficient replacement. Most importantly, everything’s fast. Very, very fast. Adding your favorite shows is as simple as searching for them and hitting the subscribe button. Organization is equally simple; you can view all of your podcasts at once, or drag and drop individual episodes into custom lists (i.e. a collection of every podcast Zach Galifianakis has appeared on).

It does one thing, and does it well

Rather than applying your preferences in broad strokes, Instacast lets you set custom preferences for each podcast. That means you can tell it to check for the latest Adam Carolla Show each afternoon, or pick manual updates for This American Life and other weekly / infrequent shows. In the move from iOS to OS X, the app has also picked up some desktop-exclusive features; Up Next lets you queue up another episode before your current podcast wraps up, and there’s a MiniPlayer view designed to eat up minimal space on your Mac’s display.

The absolute best experience awaits those also using Instacast for iOS, however. Subscriptions and episode progress can be synced to the cloud for a seamless experience across devices, and everything proved reliable in our tests . But even if you prefer an iOS alternative like Downcast (or Pocket Casts for Android), Instacast for OS X still works great and ultimately gives you one less reason to open iTunes. That’s never a bad thing.

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