The M4A file format isn’t exactly a household name. However, Apple’s iTunes store — a dominant force in digital music distribution — has releases music in M4A alongside AAC. Considering that MP3s are universally recognized by devices and media players of virtually all stripes, we thought you, the reader, would benefit from a guide on how to convert M4As to MP3s.
How to convert M4A files to MP3 using iTunes (Windows/Mac OS X)
Though iTunes isn’t the only desktop app capable of converting M4A files to MP3, it remains one of the best (and most recognizable) choices out there. It’s easy to pull off too.
Step 1: Open import settings
Click the button in the upper right hand corner of iTunes (you should see a small down arrow here), and click Preferences. The General tab should be opened by default, otherwise, click on it. Then, click Import Settings “OK” button.
Step 2: Adjust import settings
Click the drop-down to the right of Import Using and select MP3 Encoder. Keep in mind that you can also adjust the bit rate for your songs. The higher the bit rate, the better it will sound. The lower the bit rate, the worse your music will sound. So why would anyone ever select low bit rates? The higher a bit rate a song has, the bigger the file is, and the more space it will take up on your hard drive. If space is tight, we recommend that you go with 128, if you can swing it. If you think you need to go lower (or want to hear how lower bit rates change sound quality), click Custom next to Setting in the Import Settings window. Then, select the bit rate of your choice from the Stereo Bit Rate drop-down. You can fine tune other settings here as well, or revert to defaults. When you’re done, click OK, and then click OK again.
Step 3: Convert
Once you apply the settings, right-click the file you wish to convert and click Create MP3 Version. iTunes will create and automatically place an MP3 version of the song directly beneath it.
Converting your M4a files to MP3 using Cloud Convert (Web-based)
Cloud Convert, Zamzar, and Online Convert are three websites that allow you to convert files for free without having to install any software. You simply upload the files you wish to convert, which the site then converts you. Then, you download the newly-converted files – no toolbars or add-ons required.
We’re going to demonstrate how to use Cloud Convert. The minimalist site allows users to convert files of all types, from audio files and videos, to Word documents, and more.
Step 1: Select your M4a file
Head to the main Cloud Convert homepage, click the grey Select Files button on the left-hand side, and select the desired M4A file you wish to convert. Alternatively, click and drag the file you wish to convert from its save location into the site’s conversion window.
Step 2: Customize your output settings
Scroll through and select the mp3 option from the list of audio formats. Unless specified, Cloud Convert will automatically convert your file into an MP3 at a bit rate of 250kbps. However, much like iTunes, you can click the wrench icon beneath the drop-down menu to adjust the file’s output settings. From there, you can change the number of active channels, the sampling frequency, and more. Once your satisfied with your settings, click the blue Okay button in the bottom-right corner.
Step 3: Convert
Click the red Start Conversion button on the right-hand side. When the conversion process finishes —which should take roughly 10 seconds with most files — click the green Download button, and select a save location.