7 Ways to Convert M4A to MP3 on Mac with/without iTunes

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Peter William
September 05, 2023 Preview 25.8K Preview 0
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M4A is the extension of the standard MPEG-4 audio file. Since Apple began using M4A in its iTunes and iPods to distinguish the video and audio files from MPEG-4, the M4A extension has become popular. But M4A is an audio format compatible with Mac. If you need to play it on Windows, Samsung, Android LG, HTC, or other systems, you may meet some knotty troubles.

Whereas MP3 is a sought-after audio format that can be recognized by most devices and players. To play M4A anywhere, you’d change it to MP3. How to convert M4A to MP3 on Mac with the easiest ways? Here shows the ultimate guide.

 

How to Convert M4A to MP3 on Mac Free with iTunes

In terms of audio quality and file size, M4A indeed has a greater advantage over MP3. But if we are unable to play the M4A file, all the advantages are just decorations. So changing M4A to MP3, you will have no worries about the M4A audio playback problem.

In this part, you will know how to convert M4A to MP3 on Macintosh with iTunes - the app preinstalled in macOS Mojave and earlier.

  1. Launch iTunes. Click the tab in the upper banner, navigate to "iTunes" > "Preferences" > "General".convert m4a to mp3 with itunes 01
  2. In the "General" interface, click on “Import Settings…”.
  3. Choose "MP3 Encoder" from the dropdown menu of "Import Using". Click OK.convert m4a to mp3 with itunes 02
  4. Select an M4A song that you want to handle and right-click the song to bring up a menu. Choose “Create MP3 Version” to save your M4A songs to MP3 format in iTunes on your PC.

Although this method requires only a few clicks to complete the conversion, it is not my most recommended method. Because iTunes only provides users with limited output audio formats. Meanwhile, since macOS Catalina, iTunes separates into Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Podcasts.

 

How to Convert M4A to MP3 on Mac without iTunes

Apart from iTunes, we can still use other useful converters to start the conversions. Here we list 6 tools to help you.

#1 Cisdem Video Converter (professional conversion app)

Cisdem Video Converter supports converting audios, videos and DVD movies to any hot formats and devices in high quality without data loss, which is undoubtedly the best M4A to MP3 converter for Mac. It not only provides a merge function that capable of combining multiple files into one large file, but also offers extra useful features to edit, enhance and personalize audios and videos before conversion.

Not only being as a powerful converter to change M4A to MP3 on Mac, it can also be worked as a video downloader or DVD ripper due to its versatility. However, despite being a multifunctional application, it is still easy to use with the intuitive and simplicity interface. Furthermore, no matter you choose to convert, download or rip, it can help you batch process the files at once in a fast speed, largely speeding up the process and saving your waiting time.

Advantages:

  1. Convert audios and videos up to 600+ formats
  2. Can quickly batch convert M4A files to MP3 in high quality
  3. Provide rich customization features, including editing the external looking and configuring the encoding parameters
  4. Provide a preview window to check the final appearance before conversion
  5. Play and enjoy the added file with the built-in player

Disadvantages:

  1. Not for Linux

Free Download

Step 1. Import M4A files to the program

Download and install Cisdem Video Converter on your Mac. Launch the program, drag and drop the M4A files to it.

add m4a files cisdem

Step 2. Select MP3 as output format

Click on the blue format icon, a format tray will pop up. Choose “MP3 Audio” from the “General Audio” tab.

choose mp3

For further configuration, click the "gearwheel" icon next to the output option you choose. And then an "Advanced Settings" will display, which gives you an opportunity to adjust the parameters of the exported audio.

Note: If you are not a technical user, keep the current settings, which are already good enough.

advanced settings

Step 3. Convert M4A audios to MP3 on Macintosh

Select a file destination as the output folder by clicking “File > Save Convert Folder to” on the top toolbox. In the end, click the conversion icon icon to start the conversion of M4A audio to MP3 on Mac without degrading the original quality.

 

#2 To Audio Converter (a dedicated audio-only converter app)

To Audio Converter is a simple yet professional audio converter that focuses on generating audio files in MP3, M4A, FLAC, AIFF and WAV format. It is able to convert 200+ audios and videos, and it even supports loading files from iTunes directly for conversion. However, it can only convert M4A to MP3 for free without additional decoration. If you want to edit the files or make bulk conversions, you have to upgrade to its premium version.

Advantages:

  1. Easy to use
  2. Support many file formats as the input format

Disadvantages:

  1. Can only make a single conversion without any adjustment, because all advanced features are only provided by the paid version
  2. Support a few output format
  3. Only work on Mac

Steps:

  1. Download and install the program on your Mac.
  2. Open it, clear the “gearwheel” icon on the default interface to make output settings.
    free m4a to mp3 converter mac 01
  3. On the popped-up window, stick on the Format section, click the drop-down icon of “Audio Format” box to select “MP3 (MPEG Audio Layer 3)” option. Also, you can change other settings based on your needs.
    free m4a to mp3 converter mac 02
  4. Back to the main interface, if needed, click “Destination” button to choose a suitable location so that you can easily find the converted file.
  5. Finally, tap on “Open” button to choose the M4A file for conversion, or directly drag-n-drop the target M4A to the program to start the conversion. Meantime, it will pop up a new window for you to view the working process.

 

#3 Audacity (open-source audio editor and recording app)

Audacity was initially unable to import M4A, because it could only add some common audio file formats like WAV, AIFF, and MP3. If you have the FFmpeg library installed, it will support more formats, including M4A, AC3, MP4, WMA, etc. Audacity uses LAME to encode MP3, and it actually has been packed with a built-in LAME encoder already. But you can still install a higher version. These two extra libraries are necessary for converting M4A to MP3 but are not packaged together.

Advantages:

  1. Free and open source
  2. Support bulk conversion
  3. Can also edit the audio effects and record screen

Disadvantages:

  1. Need to download third-party tool
  2. Not friendly to people because of the outdated interface without any prompt

Steps:

  1. Navigate to https://lame.buanzo.org/#lameosx64bitdl. Find the FFmpeg package you need to download to your Mac.
  2. Download and install FFMPEG.
  3. Launch Audacity. Go to the menu bar, and click on “Audacity” > “Preferences” > “Libraries” > locate and add the FFmpeg library.convert m4a to mp3 macintosh audacity 01
  4. Return to the main interface of Audacity. Drag-n-drop M4A audio into it.convert m4a to mp3 macintosh audacity 02
  5. Head to “File” > “Export” > “Export as MP3”. From the pop-up “Extract Audio” window, click “Save”.convert m4a to mp3 macintosh audacity 03
  6. Edit metadata tags and click “OK”.

Note: If you want to use Audacity to batch convert M4A to MP3 free on Mac without mixing them into one stereo file, just add all M4A files to the interface, click “File > Export > Export Multiple” when making the output settings. After choosing MP3 as the output format, click “Export” and then edit metadata tags for each file one by one. After editing the last one, click “OK” to start the conversion.

batch convert m4a files to mp3 for free on Mac with audacity

 

#4 Terminal (use command line and FFmpeg)

Terminal provides a graphic interface for some transcode programs, like FFmpeg, using the command lines to make different conversions. It's complicated to make conversions on Mac in the terminal. It will cause "command not found" because of outputting a character or letter. It took me a lot of attempts to get it right, which was a bit time consuming, especially for beginners.

Advantages:

  1. Open source and free
  2. Support batch conversion

Disadvantages:

  1. Need to remember different command lines for different file format conversions
  2. Need to help of third-party conversion tools

Steps:

  1. Install FFmpeg and open Terminal.
  2. Type the command line.
    To convert a single M4A file to MP3, use the one of the commands: ffmpeg -i input.m4a output.mp3, ffmpeg -i input.m4a -acodec libmp3lame output.mp3, ffmpeg –i input.m4a -f mp3 output.mp3.convert a single file ffmpeg To convert multiple M4A files to MP3, create a folder on the desktop to save M4A files and enter the script: for i in *.m4a; do ffmpeg -i "$i" "${i%.*}.mp3"; done.
  3. Press the enter key to start to convert M4A to MP3 free with FFmpeg on Terminal.

You can't type the command line: ffmpeg -i audio.m4a -c:a copy audio.mp3 to copy or remux M4A to MP3, as they use different codecs.

 

#5 Automator (self-service engine and automation tool)

The Automator app built into macOS is a way to create workflows for handling repetitive manual tasks and boosting efficiency. If you need to convert audio files to MP3 often, Automator can help you save and reuse your workflows, along with creating MP3 in bulk. The custom scripts below are written in Automator using Shell to convert M4A to MP3 on Mac.

Advantages:

  1. Can auto complete repetitive tasks
  2. Work with various third-party programs on Mac, like Safari, Finder and more

Disadvantages:

  1. Not user-friendly

Steps:

  1. Open Automator. Go to “File” > “Services”, and click “Choose”.go to service
  2. Choose "audio files" in services receives selected and "Finder" in any application.
  3. Search for "Run Shell Script" in the "Library" on the left and drag it to the right.run shell script
  4. Choose "/bin/bash" in Shell and "as arguments" in Pass input.
  5. Change echo "$f" into /Users/thh/Downloads/ffmpeg -i "$f" "${f%.m4a}.mp3" in script. Replace /Users/thh/Downloads/ffmpeg to your own path.type script
  6. Navigate to “File” > “Save”. Put "convert to mp3" in the service name and save it.
  7. Locate to the M4A files you wish to convert. Right-click on them and choose “convert to mp3 ”.

 

#6 Audio.online-convert.com (online website)

Online converters are simple, free, and come without any added frills. If you search the keyword “M4A to MP3 online” on Google, you will get tons of free tools. To make your selection task a little easier, we pick up one of the best online M4A to MP3 converters for Mac.

Audio-online-convert.com is the one that will help you convert audio to M4A, M4R, OPUS, MMF, AIFF, etc. It lists more than related free online audio converter items. The free account empowers you to convert up to 20 audio files per 24 hours and up to 5 audio files per time.

Advantages:

  1. Free and easy-to-use
  2. No need to waste time on the installation process
  3. Customize some audio parameters

Disadvantages:

  1. The maximum upload is 100MB
  2. Support a limited number of conversions per day and each time
  3. May lose audio quality

Steps:

  1. Go to https://audio.online-convert.com/convert-to-mp3 in your browser.
  2. Click “Choose Files” and select M4A from your Mac.
    online m4a to mp3 converter mac 01
  3. Personalize optional settings like audio bitrate, sampling rate, or trimming audio.
    online m4a to mp3 converter mac 02
  4. Hit the “Start” button to begin to convert M4A to MP3 online free on Mac.
  5. Once the conversion process is complete, click the appearing “Download” button to save the new file to your local folder.

 

FAQs

1) Can I convert M4A to MP3 on Macintosh via Google Drive?

In fact, it is similar to use an online converter. But it added the steps to log in to the Google account, and the converted MP3 will be saved in Google Drive. It has designated tools-CloudConvert.com and suggested apps-Cloud FLAC, MP3, AAC Player, and Cloud Audio Recorder.

  1. Sign in to your Google Drive.
  2. Import the M4A file.
  3. Open M4A with “CloudConvert”, and then perform the conversion there.open m4a google drive

2) Can I convert M4A to MP3 on Mac using QuickTime?

The answer is no. QuickTime merely allows you to export media files to M4A format now.

Whether it’s the past or the present, the answer is no.

The old version of QuickTime 7 Pro allows you to export media files to AIFF, AU, and Wave. There are no MP3 options to choose from. The sole solution is to install a third-party add-on (LAME encoder).

export audio qt 7 pro

However, QuickTime Player 7 no longer provides Pro upgrades since 2009 and Apple has completely killed it since Catalina.

When Mac OS X Snow Leopard was released, it's equipped with the new QuickTime X Player, which can merely save the audio to M4A format.

3) Can VLC change the M4A file to MP3 on Mac?

Yes, VLC offers an audio transcoding function. You should select the format as "Audio-MP3" and make sure to manually name the file as "xxx.mp3". It seems to me that VLC on Mac isn't as good as it is on Windows, as the latter supports more plugins, update timely and is more flexible.

 

Conclusion

We introduced 7 ways to convert M4A to MP3 on Mac. Taking into account the limitations of the iTunes application, audio-only converter and online converters, as well as the complexity of Audacity, the command line, and Automator, we are more inclined to use the full-featured applications, like Cisdem Video Converter for Mac. You can easily find the merits of it.

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Peter William
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Peter has always had great enthusiasm for writing, programming and web development. He likes writing about software and technology, his works are featured on some tech blogs or forums like Tom's Hardware, CNET, etc.

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