I had a friend with a BluRay drive extract the audio from my copy of a concert BluRay disc into AC3 files which he returned to me, but now I'm not sure what the best way would be to convert those AC3 files into AAC files.

I've read that it's not possible to go directly from AC3->AAC, but instead have to use WAV as an intermediary; AC3->WAV->AAC. I can probably figure out how to do this, but why should I be the one to make two steps? Is there software already available (free preferred, but not required) that will simply let me plug in an AC3 file and get an AAC equivalent out?

When I say AAC equivalent, that means identical channel setup to the source AC3 files by default, but perhaps also preferences to constrain it to 2 channel or anything else I'd like.

I've already tried using Handbrake and Max to no avail.

  • Can AC3 files be imported to iTunes?
    – Tuesday
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 23:05
  • Nope (11 more to go...) Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 1:52
  • Did you try SoundConverter from Steve Dekorte?
    – user49906
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 6:54

6 Answers 6


VideoLAN can do this. Select "Streaming/Transcoding Wizard" from the File menu. Choose "Transcode/Save to file". On the next page click "Choose" and open your AC3 file. On the next page tick "Transcode audio" and choose "MPEG 4 Audio" and choose the desired bitrate. Click "Next", choose "MPEG 4 / MP4", click "Next" again and "Choose..." where to save the file. "Next" and "Finish".

The file VideoLAN creates has the extension .mp4, change it to .m4a and there you go.

  • I tried this as part of my testing yesterday and it didn't work–no file was created. I'll give it another go.
    – jaberg
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 22:40
  • 1
    And today it works…via a remote screen login from my iPad no less. Not sure what changed, but this looks like the solution.
    – jaberg
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 22:49
  • It does work, but the quality is ghastly. I'm not sure what exactly is wrong, but the end result is not nearly as good as I'd prefer. Ghastly = this really obnoxious "warble" in the low end hits. Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 2:26
  • I'm awarding you the bounty because this is certainly the best result so far. But I still have more specific problems which I think I will open up another question for. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 4:33

Would using Automator to run Apple- or shell-scripts that call ffmpeg be a workable solution? This site has some ideas on AC3 to MP3 using ffmpeg. The first comment mentions this which seems pretty close:

ffmpeg -i audio.ac3 -acodec libmp3lame -ar 48000 -ab 256k -ac 2 output.mp3
  • (1) Handbrake doesn't work with audio only files, as I've recently learned. (2) Handbrake could work with video files with ac3 as the source audio. Perhaps I could have the BRay re-ripped as video files, I could convert using Handbrake, and then extract the AAC audio from the m4v. Those source video files are going to be huge though. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 0:15
  • What about ffmpeg and a script? (See edit.)
    – Cajunluke
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 0:56
  • I think this should be a comment…
    – Tuesday
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 1:00
  • 1
    I realize that your post is kind of a mash of edits now CajunLuke, but your current second paragraph is probably almost perfect. Note that your command is very similar to the one I linked in my first comment. I really need to get used to considering ffmpeg more quickly. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 2:32
  • 1
    @Jason I excised the Handbrake part and stuck to Automator and ffmpeg.
    – Cajunluke
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 15:14

I was playing with this problem today and while I didn't find a batch process solution, I did learn something that may me useful to others faced with this problem.

If you install the Perian QuickTime components, QuickTime Player X will open and play AC3 files. Unfortunately, it will not export them. However, if you use QuickTime Player 7 Pro (again, with Perian installed) you can export an AC3 file into an AIFF or WAV format. Once you have the file saved in one of those formats, it is trivial to create an Automator Droplet (or service) to convert the files into an AAC/MP4 format.

image of Encode to iTunes Plus workflow in Automator


The Audacity 1.3 beta claims to import AC3 files and will export M4A/AAC so long as the ffmpeg libraries are installed.

I can tell you the software opens cleanly and imports an AAC file, but I have no AC3 files with which to test it.

  • But Audacity doesn't have an Applescript Dictionary. Augh! Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 2:18
  • Now you want AppleScript. Sheesh.
    – jaberg
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 2:44
  • 1
    I really hate grunt work. Opening 26 files and exporting them is slow and painful. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 2:47
  • 2
    Your question doesn't state your desire to automate the process. And your pain point (26 files) before resorting to automation is much lower than my own.
    – jaberg
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 12:41
  • @JasonSalaz Audacity does have a batch processing feature of its own. Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 19:52

It's not pretty, but if you'd prefer a GUI app, Audio Converter should do what you need. It's 99¢ on the App Store, or free from their site.

  • 1
    I downloaded Audio Converter and tested it. The file it produced was at a low bitrate, and there doesn't seem to be a way to change that (at least in the free version.) Also, the file it created wouldn't play via QuickLook and only showed a subset of Applications available for Open with…. QT X wouldn't recognize the file in its open file requester.
    – jaberg
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 21:52

Personally recommend some tools or guides which I have used to convert AC3 to AAC to help you solve your issue:

  1. Format Factory: it supports converting AC3 to AAC and is free.
  2. VideoLAN: this tool is free too and I can use it to convert AC3 to AAC. Just follow the guide Max Ried offered.
  3. A useful step by step guide: this guide tells us how to convert AC3 to AAC, MP3, WAV, etc.

Hope the above all will help you more or less.

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