Easy Methods on How to Convert M4A to Mp3


MP3 is one of the most popular music formats because these files are trusted by virtually all media players. This is not the best alternative for audio quality as the tracks are compressed quite heavily and some valuable data is lost in the process. However, this compression also means that MP3s take up relatively little storage space.

Apple, always the type to reverse a trend, has instead opted for the new M4A format on iTunes. Apple’s Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC for short) means your music is stored without loss of information so you get powerful, full-bodied sound. Best of all, M4A files often take up less storage space than MP3s, so it’s the best of both worlds.

M4A tracks are supported by many players and devices these days, not just iPhones and other Apple gadgets. However, you may still want to convert to MP3 to increase compatibility.

What is M4A and how to use it

You might be more familiar with M4A files if you think of them as MP4, which they actually are – the only difference is that an MP4 file can handle video while .m4a is audio only.

MP4 (also known as MPEG-4) is in turn based on the QuickTime (QTFF) file format and, in a sense, was developed to replace MP3. M4A files, for example, are generally smaller in size and can store higher quality audio than MP3s. Their only downside is that M4A players are much harder to find, while MP3 is one of the universal audio formats.

So where can you stumble upon the .m4a format? It’s mostly in Apple’s iTunes Store, as it’s the default file extension for song downloads, which is then encoded with AAC for reduced file size or ALAC for lossless audio. However, copyrighted songs can also be in the .m4p format, which is a variant of .m4a.

All of this leads us to wonder how you play M4A vs MP3 on Mac, and what is the easiest way to convert files to MP3?

How to Play M4A Files on Mac

As already discussed above, a large portion of the M4A files you come across are from the iTunes Store, so naturally you’ll be able to play them on iTunes (or the Music app from macOS Catalina) as well. You can drag and drop any M4A file into music, and it will be added to your library.

In addition to music or iTunes, M4A files also work with QuickTime Player (since they are based on the QuickTime file format), which is one of the default apps that you can find in your Applications folder. While QuickTime is primarily used for playing movies, it also comes with standard audio playback functionality. But what if you’re looking for a great .m4a audio experience?

Elmedia reader is one of the most versatile audio and video players. Not only can it easily play a variety of M4A files and MP4 formats, but it also allows you to stream content directly from the web and watch online videos (eg from YouTube) ad-free. Plus, you can stream to any smart TV or AirPlay enabled device and ultimately control how the captions are displayed.

How to Convert M4A to MP3 with iTunes

While there are very few M4A players available on Mac, whether through default or third-party apps, you will often need to convert M4A to iTunes MP3 format to make it more widely available. So you can easily transfer music or audiobooks to virtually any device.

Surprisingly, there is a way to use iTunes as an audio file converter, although not many people know about it because it is not that easy. Anyway, here’s how to convert files to MP3 using iTunes:

  1. Launch iTunes (or the new Music app)
  2. Open preferences (⌘ +,)
  3. Go to Files âž™ Import Settings
  4. Edit import using MP3 encoder OK
  5. Drag and drop your M4A file into iTunes
  6. Click on it then go to File Convert âž™ Create MP3 version
  7. Find the newly created file in your library (the old file will still be intact)

Likewise, you can change the default iTunes encoder to create WAV, Lossless, AIFF, and AAC files. Overall, iTunes is a pretty good M4A converter and general file to MP3 converter if you only need to occasionally convert one or two songs. For more regular conversions, there are much more efficient apps.

How to Convert M4A Files to MP3 on Your Computer Without Using iTunes

Alternatively, you can use one of the many free downloadable audio converter programs for Windows and Mac users.

A good example is NCH’s Switch audio file converter, which is simple to use and comes with a lot of tools for more advanced users. The basic free version will do just fine for M4A to MP3, while the Pro (paid) version adds more features.

Freemake Audio Converter is a completely free alternative, which isn’t quite as fast or as stylish, but still gets the job done.

How to Convert M4A Files to MP3 Without Installing Software

You can also create MP3s from your M4As using online converters, which do all the necessary processing in the cloud. This is a good option if you don’t want to download and install new software on your computer.

One of those options is Cloud Convert, which is very easy to use. To start, browse M4A files on your computer and select MP3 as the conversion format. Your tracks will be uploaded and all the hard work is done on these remote servers. Once the job is done, you can then download your freshly created MP3s.

Cloud conversion options tend to be a bit slower, but they work just fine.

How do I convert M4A audio file to MP3 on my phone?

A cloud conversion solution is also the most accessible option when you’re on the go without your laptop. You can download your tracks above and then rip the new MP3s after the conversion is complete.

A better way to convert M4A to MP3 on Mac

If iTunes can be a suitable M4A to MP3 converter, you may also wonder what other specialist apps can do an even better job?

Swap is a professional level and truly universal media converter. This super-fast app lets you drag and drop any number of files into it and get converted results in seconds. Convert audio, video (or video to audio), images, etc., the possible combinations are almost endless! You can even mix two videos into one or add a subtitle track on the fly.

To use Swap as an M4A to MP3 converter:

  1. Start Swap
  2. Drag and drop your M4A file into the application window
  3. Select MP3 from the Audio drop-down list
  4. Click on the Start icon

You can find the result MP3 on your desktop. Repeat as needed and remember that Permute can handle as many files at once as you want – you can also use this audio file converter to edit entire albums.

Ultimately, most of the time these days we don’t have to deal with file formats and can find the right application relatively easily. In the case of M4A files, you can use iTunes (Music) and QuickTime to play them, but it’s better to completely switch your default media to Elmedia Player. And if you ever need a file to MP3 converter, look no further than Permute.

Best of all, Elmedia Player and Permute are available to you free of charge for seven days.


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