what's the best way to convert .m4a to a more common song format, like mp3 etc.

The m4a files are recorded by the iPhone and my machine runs windows vista home premium 32-bit sp2

I want it to be as lossless as possible. (hopefully possibly 0%)

  • Have you dragged one of the files into iTunes to see if it has any DRM (protected and purchased would be the type). The prior needs to be cracked since you aren't intended to strip that protection. – bmike Jul 26 '11 at 14:41
  • its definitely not protected.. i recorded it myself using my iphone. – Pacerier Jul 26 '11 at 21:21

If the song is already in iTunes, it's easy to do it right within it. Go to the iTunes Preferences and choose "Import Settings" on the "General" page. You can set the desired output format here. Afterwards, select the songs you would like to convert and choose Advanced > Create XY Version, where XY is the file format you specified in the Import Settings. When iTunes has finished converting the files, you will have each track twice - you could use a smart playlist to filter the ones in the new format.

Bear in mind that converting from one lossy format to another lossy format will always result in a lower quality.

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  • 1
    Nailed it about quality loss with conversion between lossy compression formats. If you're concerned about quality don't convert. – David Barry Jul 26 '11 at 0:43
  • but m4a is not lossy is it? – Pacerier Jul 26 '11 at 9:16
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    M4A is just the container (MPEG4 Audio). The codec is the important part here. AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) is lossy, ALE (Apple Lossless) is not. – René Jul 26 '11 at 11:41
  • The iOS 4 and iPhones record AAC lossy - but quite high quality. Unless you are using a Mikey or other external mic, the chances of AAC being your limiting factor are slim so the conversion to lossless might just add size to the files for no increase in quality. – bmike Jul 26 '11 at 21:44

You can download Max (then File > Convert file).

Max can generate audio in over 20 compressed and uncompressed formats including MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, AAC, Apple Lossless, Monkey's Audio, WavPack, Speex, AIFF, and WAVE.

Max is integrated with MusicBrainz to permit automatic retrieval of compact disc information. For MP3, FLAC, Ogg FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, Monkey's Audio, WavPack, AAC and Apple Lossless files Max will write this metadata to the output.

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QuickTime will export most sound files in the m4a container to many common formats, including mp3. There are many utilities where you can drag and drop, but free, capable, included with every mac is hard to beat.

Especially with Automator to automate the conversion using a folder action.

Also, iTunes will convert tracks for you. Simply change the import settings to be AIFF / WAV / Apple Lossless and right click and convert your songs (you can select several and they will all be converted sequentially.) Watch to clean up the duplicates in your library.

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  • quicktime doesnt allow me to open m4a files so how do i export a m4a file into mp3? – Pacerier Jul 26 '11 at 9:40
  • What is your OS level as well as your quicktime level? (on my Snow Leopard mac, both quicktime 10 and quicktime 7 open all my m4a - except those that are both purchased and restricted) – bmike Jul 26 '11 at 14:36
  • 7.6.9 (1680.9) on windows vista home premium 32-bit sp2 – Pacerier Jul 26 '11 at 21:19
  • Ouch - I'm not up on Quicktime for windows - but i will edit my answer to include iTunes as a conversion tool. – bmike Jul 26 '11 at 21:39

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