You just walked home the proud owner of a brand new music player. Your workplace won’t allow you to use your phone for your tunes, but with this handy player, you can take your music with you. Take that, corporate man!

You connect your music player to your computer and start moving your files over. It seems like everything went over fine until you hit play on the music player.

‘Unable to read file type’ are five words no person wants to read, techie or not. You just discovered why you need to know how to convert m4a to mp3.

Confused? Let’s break down each of the file types, and how you can convert them.

Music Files Are Music Files, Right?

Not quite. Different music file extensions hold different amounts of data or code. Certain audio file extensions are lossier than others. The amount of sound quality loss depends on the amount of compression.

Some audio files, like WAVs, aren’t compressed at all. This leads to a close-to-pure audio experience, but massive file sizes. Others, like MP3 or WMA, get compressed so that the files are smaller, but you may lose quality.

The other thing to consider is that certain music file types might only be compatible with certain computers or codecs. For example, WMA and WAV tend to be Windows-exclusive, while M4A and AAC are more common on Macs.

What Are MP3s?

MP3, short for MPEG Audio-Layer 3, is a common audio file extension read by most computers and devices, regardless of origin. MP3s can compress a song, reducing its file size down to 10% or less of its original size, while still retaining near-CD quality.

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The biggest issue with MP3s is that the conversion process, while useful, is not perfect. Certain frequencies get lost in translation. Additionally, you might hear compression artifacts or sounds created by the compression process itself.

What Are M4As?

M4A, short for MPEG-4 Audio File, is the most common audio file extension used by iTunes and Apple products in general. These files, like MP3s, are compressed versions of the original music data. However, they are often much smaller files than MP3s.

M4As use a type of encoding known as Advanced Audio Coding, or, if Apple-exclusive, the Apple Lossless Audio Codec, to ensure maximum quality at minimum file size. They’re higher quality and smaller files than MP3s, so what’s the problem with them?

Compatibility, point-blank. M4As typically can only get read by Apple products, or require specified codecs if downloaded elsewhere. This also means that many budget music players won’t be able to read them.

How Do You Convert M4A to MP3?

Now that you know why your music from your iTunes wouldn’t work on your new MP3 player, you need to know how to convert M4A to MP3. Fortunately, the file conversion process is the simplest part of the whole thing, and you have many options available to you.

Conversion by Website

If you do a quick Google search online, you’ll find many free online file conversion websites. These websites are incredibly handy if you only have one or two files you need to convert into MP3s.

All you need to do is follow the website’s onscreen prompts, upload the M4A file, and download your new MP3 once the conversion completes. Simple!

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However, this can prove a bit time-consuming if you have a ton of files to convert, and your connection isn’t the strongest. What then?

Conversion by App

If converting via the website doesn’t work for your needs, you can try downloading a third-party app to perform the file conversions for you. CloudConvert and Audacity are common options. However, if you decide to convert the file in Audacity, you will need to download some extra codecs to your computer before proceeding.

If you don’t know about downloading some third-party app to your computer, there’s a built-in option you might not have known about!

Conversion in iTunes

The simplest option of all is to take advantage of iTunes’ built-in media conversion capabilities. You can handle this process either through Apple Music on Mac or iTunes on Windows.

Per the Apple website, the steps for Mac are as follows:

  • Open Apple Music
  • Click Music -> Preferences from the menu bar
  • Click Files, then Import Settings
  • Mouse over next to Import Using, then select the preferred file format (MP3 in this case)
  • Click OK, then select the files to convert
  • Click File-> Convert-> Create MP3 Version

The files that you converted will appear right beside your original ones.

For Windows, you do the following:

  • Open iTunes
  • Click Edit-> Preferences from the menu bar
  • Go to General, then Import Settings
  • Click next to Import Using, then look for the MP3 file format
  • Click OK, then select the songs you want to convert
  • Click File-> Convert-> Create MP3 Version
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As on Mac, the secondary copies will appear next to your original downloaded versions.

Bringing It Together

M4As are a fantastic, high-quality audio format, but their lack of compatibility with systems other than the Apple ecosystem makes them suffer in popularity compared to MP3s. If you have a music player that can’t read M4As, knowing how to convert M4A to MP3 will save you frustration in the long run.

With many free options available online, from Apple themselves, or through Google Play or the App Store, you’ll be able to find the best means of file conversion for you.

If you liked this article about audio file conversion and would like to read up on more tech news and tips, feel free to check out our blog daily for the latest information!