How can I make iTunes burn music into MP3s?
June 3, 2007 8:55 AM   Subscribe

I am having difficulty making my laptop burn songs as MP3s - iTunes keeps burning them as other format called .m4a. How can I fix this?

Please excuse my lack of technical nous. I am clearly a buffoon.

Anyway, here's what happens: if I burn music to my laptop from a CD using iTunes, the file ends up as an .m4a file. This is fine for playing on my own computer, but if tricky if I want to send it friends. Can I make iTunes burn songs as MP3s? And how can I turn these .m4a files into .mp3s? This ought to be simple, but I can't for the life of me figure it out.
posted by hot soup girl to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Preferences->Advanced>Importing. Change to "Import Using mp3 Encoder".
posted by one_bean at 9:02 AM on June 3, 2007

Are you on a Windows-based machine?
- Go to: Edit --> Preferences. This opens the Preferences window.
- There are eight tabs across the top and the seventh is labelled "Advanced." Select it.
- In this Advanced section, there are three sub-tabs and the second is "Importing." Select it.
- The second form field is a drop-down menu. Right now, it is probably set to "AAC Encoder." Click the drop-down and select "MP3 Encoder" instead. That done, click "OK" at the bottom of the window.

Now you're importing/ripping songs from CD as MP3s instead of M4As.
posted by grabbingsand at 9:04 AM on June 3, 2007

This can be modified by going to iTunes Preferences>advanced>Importing>Import using... and select MP3

Is this still fails to burn a data disk for you containing MP3 files, then get an app called Toast Titanium. iTunes is an online music store masquerading as a bloated MP3 utility.
Toast OTOH, can do this for you rather intuitively.
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:07 AM on June 3, 2007

When you've done that then select the songs you want to convert, go to advanced/convert selection to mp3
posted by muteh at 9:07 AM on June 3, 2007

To turn AAC-Encoded songs into MP3s, right-click (in Windows) on the file and select "Convert Selection to MP3."

Note that this right-click conversion is driven by the Importing preference in my previous comment. If Importing is set to AAC or AIFF or some other format, then the right-click option will be "Convert Selection to [format from preferences]."
posted by grabbingsand at 9:10 AM on June 3, 2007

I believe you want to ask about "ripping" songs, not "burning" them, as well. I've noticed the terminology gets fairly mixed among friends for whom iTunes is a newer thing. Ripping songs would be copying them from a CD to your computer. Burning is a euphemism for putting music back on a CD, since the laser in a CD writer ("burner") burns data on to a disc.

Mostly nitpicking, but the common terminology makes it a little easier to understand.
posted by mikeh at 9:12 AM on June 3, 2007

If you're ripping songs from your own CD's, then the M4A-type files will not have the kind of copy protection on them that M4A's from the ITunes store do - I find that programs other than iTunes, such as Winamp, actually can play m4a's made from my own CD's. And you also can ask if the friends you're sharing with use iTunes. (I'm just trying to suggest that you may not need to re-rip everything you've done so far, cuz I know that's a pain to do.)

Also, to my ears, the MP3's iTunes makes sound a little less good than the M4A's at the same bit rate. So if you've been ripping M4A's at 128kps, you may want to up that rate a bit when making MP3s. (You change the bit rate in the same window you change the format type: Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced -> Importing.)
posted by dnash at 9:14 AM on June 3, 2007

If you find you DO need to convert them, I've used a PC program called "Free Mp3 WMA Converter," which apparently can be found here. It'll let you convert your m4a (aac) to mp3 without re-ripping all of them.
posted by JMOZ at 9:18 AM on June 3, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all so much! That did the trick perfectly, and was exactly as easy as I suspected it would be. You are all ace.
posted by hot soup girl at 11:42 AM on June 3, 2007

Peripherally related: Just as an aside, you don't need to convert songs to MP3 if you just want to burn mix CDs of them. iTunes will burn an Audio CD of your music quite happily, whether you ripped it to MP3, AAC (those .m4a files), AIFF, WAV, or Apple Lossless.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:53 PM on June 3, 2007

If you find you DO need to convert them, I've used a PC program called "Free Mp3 WMA Converter," which apparently can be found here. It'll let you convert your m4a (aac) to mp3 without re-ripping all of them.

We know she's using iTunes, and that has no trouble converting the files by itself. In iTunes, just highlight the songs (m4as) you want to become mp3s, right-click, and choose "Convert Selection to MP3."
posted by booksandlibretti at 10:57 AM on June 4, 2007

itunes' MP3 encoder sucks - it's state of the art... for 1998. You want to make MP3s, use a ripper/encoder that supports a recent LAME version. and encode as VBR-style MP3s using one of these presets.

The resulting MP3s sound much better than what itunes makes - in blind tests they usually score as well or higher in "fidelity" to the original material than AACs of similar, middling bitrates. The mp3s are fully compatible with itunes and you can import them into your library afterwards, and also send your friends.

Because different formats such as wma, aac, and mp3 use different strategies to "blur" the original sound to reduce its size, converting between these "lossy" formats will result in files that sound worse than any of them individually. You should try to avoid this.
posted by meehawl at 12:22 PM on June 5, 2007

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