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I have installed Foobar2000 in Playonlinux (ElementaryOS) and all it can play are radio internet streams.

All files give the error Unable to open item for playback (Unsupported file format): - even common formats like mp3.

Along Foobar2000 I also installed Winamp to see if that works: yes, it does.

I have Foobar installed in a similar manner in another Linux installed in multiple boot (in Mint 17.2 KDE) and there it all works fine.

How could I investigate what is different between the two systems?

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In fact the problem was not initially properly identified: it was not about an inability of playing certain formats but that of adding properly files and folders into a playlist by drag&drop from Pantheon Files. The mentioned files that worked (radio stream links) must have been added there in a different way...

To add properly the files and play them I have to use the inside options of the player and the Wine file browser

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