How to convert M4A format to MP3?

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If you could go back in time , say about ten years, one would probably be surprised to remember how much file formats they were really very important.

Discussions regarding the differences between the various file compressions were on the agenda, so much so that it was often necessary install an extension to allow the app to run a certain file format.

With the advent of iPhones, which have gradually become ultra popular phones, things have changed. As all the files are now inside the apps there are no incompatibility problems . Likewise, with most of our work moving to the web, archiving happens right away in appropriate software, so you don’t have to worry about file formats anymore.

However, from time to time, it is still possible to deal with a file that fails to open, or with an audio file that we want to convert to another format. One of the most common problems for Mac owners, for example, is what happens with M4A files, which you often want to convert to MP3.

In this article we want to try to describe in detail the M4A format and we will try to provide all the information to find the best M4A to MP3 converter.

What is M4A format and how to use it

Probably the name M4A leaves more “displaced” than MP4, even if in fact it is not that there is all this gap: the only difference is that an MP4 file can handle the video while the .m4a file is for audio only.

MP4 (also known as MPEG-4) is itself based on QuickTime File Format (QTFF) and it is not a mistake to say that it was developed precisely to replace the MP3 file.

M4A files, for example, are usually smaller in size and can store audio with better quality compared to MP3s. Their only drawback is that M4A players are much harder to find, while MP3 is one of the most universal audio formats out there.

Where can we find the .m4a format? Mainly in the Apple iTunes Store, as this is the default file extension for song downloads, so it is encoded with AAC for small file size or ALAC for lossless audio. However, it should be emphasized that copyrighted songs they may also have the .m4p format , which is a variant of .m4a.

Having clarified this aspect, the question arises: how to play M4A file on Mac and what is the easiest way to convert files to MP3? We see it in the following paragraph.

How to Play M4A Files on Mac

As mentioned above, many of the M4A files you can come across they come from the iTunes Store , so they can obviously also be played on iTunes (or on the Music app, but you need to have an operating system installed from macOS Catalina onwards). Just drag and drop any M4A file into Music and it will be added to the library.

In addition to Music or iTunes, M4A they also work with QuickTime Player (as they are based on the QuickTime file format), which is one of the default apps that can be found in the Applications folder. Although QuickTime is primarily used for movie playback, this tool also has a feature of built-in standard audio playback. But what about if you’re looking for a great .m4a audio experience?

A good solution is undoubtedly Elmedia Player , one of the most versatile audio and video players around.

Not only is it able to reproduce easily a variety of M4A files and MP4 formats , but it also allows you to stream content that comes directly from the web and save videos (such as YouTube) for offline viewing.

In addition, the user will be able to stream on any smart TV or AirPlay-enabled device and fully control the way subtitles are displayed.

How to convert M4A to MP3 using iTunes

Although there are quite a few M4A players available on Mac, both via default and third-party apps, it may happen that you need to convert M4A to MP3 format via iTunes with the aim of giving it a wider availability: to be clearer, this way you can easily transfer music or audiobooks to virtually any device.

Maybe not many people know it – also because it’s not a very simple process – but there is a way to use iTunes as an audio file converter . Regardless, here’s how we can convert files to MP3 using iTunes:

First of all you need to launch iTunes (or the new Music app) and open Preferences. Then click on File and then on Import settings. At this point it is necessary to modify the import using MP3 Encoder, then pressing OK.

Drag and drop your M4A file into iTunes. Select it and then go to File, then on Convert and finally on Create MP3 version. As a last step, the user will be able to find the new file created in the library (with the old file still intact).

Similarly, you can change the default iTunes encoder for create WAV, lossless, AIFF and AAC files . Overall, iTunes is a pretty good M4A converter and a decent file to MP3 converter if the goal is to convert only one or two songs occasionally. For more frequent conversions it is better to rely on much more efficient apps.

A better way to convert M4A to MP3 on Mac

We said that iTunes can be a decent M4A to MP3 converter, but we also concluded the previous paragraph by pointing out that there are a number of specialized apps able to do an even better job.

One of these is Trade-ins , a professional-grade and truly universal media converter. This super fast app allows you to drag and drop any number of files and get converted results in seconds.

Permute transforms audio, video (even video to audio), images and more. The possible combinations are almost infinite: just think that it is also possible merge two videos into one , or add a subtitle track on the fly.

How to use Trade-in as an M4A to MP3 converter? As a first step you must obviously start the app. Once done, you drag and drop your M4A file into the application window. You select the MP3 file in the Audio menu and is completed with a click on the Start icon.

The user will be able to find the MP3 on the desktop. The “gem” consists in the fact that Permute can handle all files at the same time therefore you can use this audio file converter to transform entire albums as well.

Since it is not very common to deal with file formats, it shouldn’t be difficult to find the app that suits us the most. In the case of M4A files it is recommended to use iTunes (Music) and QuickTime to play them, although Elmedia Player turns out to be a higher quality choice. If, on the other hand, you need a converter of files to MP3, you must firmly point to Permute.

Elmedia Player and Permute are both available free for seven days via the trial version of Setapp , a platform with over 200 top-tier Mac apps across all categories.

Setup and Audio