The M4A file format isn’t exactly a household name, coming in far behind the vastly more popular MP3. However, that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. Apple’s iTunes store — a dominant force in digital music distribution — offers DRM-free music as M4A files alongside AAC, and so it’s not impossible that you’ll one day find yourself with a M4A track that you’ll want to play somewhere other than iTunes.
Follow these steps to convert your purchased M4A iTunes tracks to MP3s for universal use.
Step 1: Select your M4A file
There are a number of cloud conversion sites, but our favorite for this particular task is Cloud Convert. Head to its homepage and click the gray Select Files button, and then select the desired M4A file you wish to convert. Alternatively, click and drag the file you wish to convert from its saved location into the site’s conversion window. Clicking the Select Files button directly will open up a File Explorer view of your system, from which you can select your file. If you click the down button you can select from a number of other sources, such as DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, and a URL.
Step 2: Customize your output settings
Once you’ve selected your file, you’ll be presented with the conversion options screen. Click on the file format arrow, and select the MP3 option from the list of audio formats. Unless specified, Cloud Convert will automatically convert your file into an MP3 at a variable bit rate of between 220kbps and 250kbps.
You can click the wrench icon next to the drop-down menu to adjust the file’s output settings. From there, you can change the number of audio channels, the sampling frequency, and more. Once you’re satisfied with your settings, click the blue Okay button in the bottom-right corner.
Step 3: Convert the file
Click the red Start Conversion button on the right-hand side. When the conversion process finishes — it should take about 10 seconds with most files — your file will be available for download.
Step 4: Download your new MP3
The green Download button indicates that your MP3 file is available. You can click directly on the button and your file will be saved in your default downloads folder. Options available from the drop-down arrow include creating a QR code for downloading to a mobile device. If you click on the Create archive button drop-down, you can include your files in a compressed file of a variety of types.
iTunes isn’t the only desktop app that shows you how to convert M4A files to MP3 but it remains one of the best (and most recognizable) choices out there for both Windows and MacOS. It’s easy to use and we can help you with computer authorization or making sure it’s up-to-date if necessary.
To use it, open the Preferences menu and tweak your import settings to use MP3 Encoder. Then simply select the file you want to convert in your music library. Click File, then Convert, followed by Create MP3 Version. After that, iTunes will do all the heavy lifting for you.
If you want a dedicated device to play those newly created MP3s, check out our suggestions for the best modern MP3 players once you’re finished!