How do I convert audio from 3ga to mp3 on a Mac?
March 9, 2012 8:27 PM   Subscribe

Mac question: how can I convert a 3ga audio file to mp3 or other friendly format?

For an online radio show I'm working on, I need to edit audio that's sent to me. Usually it comes in relatively reasonable/familiar formats. This time, however, I got files with an extension of 3ga. After doing a little research, it seems this may be a proprietary mobile format that encapsulates the audio portion of a multimedia file that would normally have an extension of 3gp.

Googling "3ga to mp3" or simliar only brings up suspicious malware-looking sites, unresolved forum posts, and ads for video conversion software. Similarly, a search for "3ga" in the App Store only brings up video conversion software. I tried the highest-rated one, and it couldn't process the file because it there was no video component. Finally, some forums suggested just changing the 3ga extension to mp3. Probably needless to say, this didn't work either.

Worst case, I can at least play the file with VLC Player and then capture the audio with another piece of software -- but I'd really rather not go there unless I have to.

Any help/clues would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
posted by treepour to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Does MediaInfo or ffmpeg give you any insight into the actual properties of the file? If VLC can play it, you should also be able to view the "Codec Details" report in VLC to find out what it is.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:34 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife sent me a “.3ga” file from her Samsung Galaxy S2 Smart Phone. I couldn’t open it in any of the Applications I had on my Mac, so I began trawling forums for an answer. There weren’t any!!
In the end, I simply tried changing the file extension from “.3ga” to “.MP3″, and then I opened it up in QuickTime.

I'd be curious if this actually works.
posted by mazola at 8:35 PM on March 9, 2012

Response by poster: Inspector.Gadget, thank you! I didn't know about that option in VLC.

It's apparently mp4a. (In case someone else needs this info, I got to this via right-clicking the file in VLC's playlist, then selecting "Media Information..." then clicking on the "Codec Details" tab).

I tried changing the file extension to mp4 and now both iTunes and Audacity can work with the file, which is good enough for me at this point (mp4a and m4a also work).

I'm not familiar MediaInfo or ffmpeg, but will definitely look these up. Thank you again!
posted by treepour at 8:51 PM on March 9, 2012

Best answer: 3ga is an audio only file container for 3gp media (which uses a form of AAC as specified by the MPEG standard) so should play in any other AAC capable player. If it's not recognised with the 3ga extension I'd suggest changing it to .3gp / .m4a / .aac before mp3 - at least the decoding process is similar. Try opening in Quicktime, VLC, ffmpeg or Sox.
posted by dirm at 8:52 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Glad you got this resolved. In case this is of use to you later...if you can play something in VLC, then there may be a good chance that VLC can convert it, too. It has the ability to transcode/convert audio (or video). Basically, you choose the source file, the options for the conversion, and the destination, and VLC generates a new file in the selected format.

I'm not familiar with the OS X menu for VLC, but here's the process in VLC 1.1.4 for Linux and Windows -- hopefully it's similar enough to follow along on Mac:

1. Select "Media" from the menu, then choose the "Advanced Open File" or "Convert / Save" option.
2. In the File tab, add in the source file.
3. Select the "Show more options" checkbox if you want to experiment with some...other options.
4. At the bottom of the File tab, there's a button that might be labeled "Play" or "Convert / Save" (depending on the menu option chosen from step 1): click on the button's adjacent arrow to expand a dropdown menu, and choose "Convert" to launch the conversion window.
5. Input your destination folder and filename.
6. Select the Profile you want -- e.g. "Audio - CD" generates a WAV in Linux or Windows. There are also existing profiles for AAC, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, and MP3. (Click on the adjacent tools button to verify the codec and change other options.)
7. Click "Start" and then VLC will process and generate the new file (reflected via the player's progress bar).
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 10:43 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

here's the process in VLC 1.1.4 for Linux and Windows

Whoops, I meant to add in the VLC version that I use for Windows, so that should say "VLC 1.1.4 for Linux and VLC 1.1.11 for Windows" instead.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 10:50 PM on March 9, 2012

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