Free M4a to MP3 Converter

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CNET Editors' Rating 4.5 stars

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Works as they say it does."

    November 5, 2012  |   By BigAl35540

    Pros

    Can convert MP4a files, (which includes VARIABLE BIT RATES), to your choice of multiple steady state stream speeds in MP3. Transfers the album art and titling (in it's original format ITunes or everyone else!).

    Cons

    You cannot drop a FOLDER containing an entire album of songs, but have to SELECT ALL and copy the songs into the converter...clumsy! Not real fond of the interface initially, takes some getting used to. Puts the output folder in Music Library by default and can cause you to "double up" music if you add files to your library with a media player.

    Summary

    Being a person who despises the proprietary nature of any Apple product, MP4a is just another method of forcing you to deal with overpriced Apple products! Unfortunately LOTS of equipment DOES NOT support MP4a. MP4 was originally designed as a VIDEO PROTOCOL. Thus, most older MP3 players and car stereos that can play MP3 music don't support MP4a. This was the problem I ran into. I tried to put newly acquirred music onto a flash drive and play it on the car stereo. The files weren't even there! Winamp on the other hand does play these MP4a files fine and actually displays the album art from ITunes too, (which is also proprietary). So to get them on my JVC/Kenwood car stereo, they had to be converted.

    First thing you need to do is to look at where these files are going to be output to. I will describe how the interface appears in Microsoft Windows 7. That is done on the lower portion of the interface, SPECIFY FOLDER. You then can change where that goes. I usually browse to the USB stick and to the actual folder you are going to replace the songs in. After you have done this, make sure that the MP4a music in that original folder is deleted otherwise you will have two copies of each song Mp3 & MP4a! That's just a waste of space as the device that doesn't support MP4a can't see those files but a device that does will now see two copies of each song and that can literally drive you crazy in a player like Winamp! The SETUP button on the lower right allows you to output either MP3 or WAV and allows you to change the output stream rate. MP4a appears to be variable upon content bit rate and when at maximum resolution is very close to CD in quality. The converter is default at a 128 Kbps setting and this does reduce the resolution of the audio file from the original to the trained ear, so use 256 or 320 Kbps on the output file. If you can't hear the difference don't bother, the size of the 128 Kbps file is smaller and uses less space. Picky audiofiles like myself though will gladly sacrifice file size for audio resolution. The conversion will transfer the album art in the original protocol it was on there, the totally proprietary ITunes format or the standard Windows Media Player protocol, so if the player does not display anything but the ITunes format like my JVC/Kenwood car stereo does it will not display art on music purchased off of anything but ITunes, but when the converted to MP3 file plays, it displays. Same holds true for anything designed for Windows Media Player, that art will display in it's original format. All song titles imbedded in the music also sucessfully transfer.

    You will notice buttons up in the top part of the interface. THESE ARE NOT AVAILABLE ON THE FREE VERSION!!! They send you to a website to purchase them. Some of these are handy like the ID/Tag Editor which allows you to edit the EMBEDDED artist/album/song information. This is handy when you have a media player such as Winamp that sorts it's library by the embedded information but ignores completely a folder name you may have designated for it. Avoids that UNKNOWN ALBUM problem when the library is sorted. Frequently, that folder is a jumbled mess and things are quite lost inside it! This would allow you to edit those tags so that a program like Winamp would sort it correctly.

    I basically use this when the odd album I acquire is encoded in MP4a and I want to put it in the car stereo music collection. This free version does that nicely. Those still running Window XP and trying to play music on the Windows Media Player may find this converter handy because the player in that program may not support the MP4a format. So this is a nice tool to have for the music collector who now plays their music entirely from a computer or MP3 player. I would reccommend this to a friend.

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