How to Convert M4A to MP3

How to Convert M4A to MP3

With MP3 being the standard file format for audio files, people wonder what to do with their M4A files. Well, these files can be converted to MP3 without much difficulty. In this article, we tell you how you can go about doing exactly that.
Techspirited Staff
To begin with, it is very important to understand a little bit about the various file formats available before we progress to the process of converting them. The pros and cons of different file formats available can leave the average user flummoxed. Let us backtrack and first understand what a file format is. Simply put, a file format is a way of encoding information so that a computer can understand it or store it. So everything you use on your computer, right from the word processor to the music player, is saved in a particular file format. As technology has progressed, there has been improvement in the way things can be encoded, giving rise to different formats, each with some improvement over the others. In this article, we will be looking at converting files from the M4A format to the MP3 format.

M4A vs MP3

Basically, both these formats are music formats or to be precise, audio formats. The MP4 file format came after the MP3 format and was used for video as well as audio encoding. It is a part of the MPEG4 container format and can handle video, audio, and Internet streaming as well. In other words, an MP4 file could store video, audio, and even subtitles, while MP3 could manage only audio. MP3 came into existence when it became difficult to separate the audio from the video and subtitle files of the MP4 format. With the MP4 file extension, it was difficult to know if the file contained audio, video, or both. Thus, for the easy identification of content, audio files were given the extension M4A. Since the MP4 container format was based on the QuickTime format specification, MP4 and M4A were the file formats of choice used in Apple products. Consequently, with the rise in popularity of Apple's iPods, these file formats also rose in popularity.

MP3, on the other hand, is an audio-only format, and is the choice of format used for storage and playback on most digital and portable music players. Introduced in 1991, the popularity of this format rose due to is capability to encode files to a much smaller size, while not losing much of the quality of the sound. Another benefit of this file format was that the bit rate or the quality of encoding could be changed as well. Higher bit rate files had more quality, but were bigger in size and vice versa. This worked out well for the end user, who could convert files depending on the size or the quality desired. Due to these points, the MP3 file format became popular and it the most popular file format for audio used today.

Converting M4A to MP3

Thanks to MP3 being the most popular file format for audio used today, most audio content comes in this format. Also, due to the relative small size of MP3 files, this is the format of choice for portable MP3 players, where space comes at a premium. MP3 is also considered the standard audio file format and is not only used extensively all over the world, but is supported by almost all players capable of playing audio files.

Thus, it is better to have all content in the standard MP3 format, rather than risk compatibility problems with other formats. The good news is that even though content is available in other formats, it can be converted to the MP3 format. There are many ways to do this and you can even convert it online, with minimum fuss; a good option for the technologically challenged. Another way to go about doing this would be to download an audio converter software and run your M4A files through it.
  • Search the web for a good converter program. There are many free ones out there and you can take your pick. A good option is to look for something that converts the specific file format you are looking to convert. In this way, you will have less confusing options to worry about.
  • When you download the converter, you should have the codec downloaded as well. If not, you will have to search for the M4A codec and install it on your computer. Usually, this is done by the program, so you need not worry, but in case the program does not have the codec, you will have to install it manually.
  • Once you have the codecs and the software installed, converting is just a matter of adding the files to the program and choosing your settings. Simple programs will do everything by themselves, or in other words, will not allow you to change any setting, while advanced programs will allow you to change settings such as the bit rate, quality, etc.
  • In most programs, you will have to choose the M4A file you want to convert as the 'source file' and select MP3 as the desired 'output file'. You should also take note of the location where the program is storing the 'output file'. It might be stored in a location such as My Downloads or My Music, or the program might even make its own folder. The best option is to choose a location manually, and use a folder named 'Converted Files' on your desktop. This way, you will spend less time searching for the file when the conversion is over.
  • It is even possible to convert many files at one go, though most free converters might not support this. Instead of adding one file, you can add a folder or multiple files and let the software do its work.
That's all you have to do to get the best conversion done. Of course, finding the right converter is most of the work, and if that step gets done correctly, the rest is as easy as a hot knife through butter. Again, for people who don't want to mess around with manual conversion processes, there are programs online that can help you.

Before starting any conversion process, it is advisable to conduct some research and determine the file type that would be best suited to you. For example, while the iPod and the iPhone can both play MP3, ringtones on the Apple iPhone are only recognized in the M4A file format.