Converting AAC to MP3

Q: How can I convert my iTunes AAC files to MP3?

– Anonymous

A: The iTunes “AAC” format, or Advanced Audio Coding, is actually a standard audio format, specifically MPEG-4 part 3. As such, there are a number of software tools-including iTunes-that can convert unprotected AAC files to MP3 or any other audio format.

iTunes’ conversion tool may not be completely obvious. Hidden on the “Advanced” menu is a Convert Selection to… menu option that allows you to convert selected audio files to the default format used in iTunes.

The default format and bit-rate used by iTunes for importing audio CDs and converting audio tracks is set under iTunes Preferences, in the Advanced, Importing tab:

So if this is set to “Import Using MP3 Encoder” iTunes will offer the option to Convert Selection to MP3 on the “Advanced” menu. Other options include AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless and WAV. You can convert to any of these formats, but of course will not gain quality from a lower bit-rate file by converting it to a higher bit-rate (or lossless) format.

To perform the actual conversion, simply select the tracks you would like to convert, and then choose Convert to MP3 from the Advanced menu. iTunes will queue the tracks for conversion, and you will see the queue appear in your source tree, under “Playlists”:


Converting AAC to MP3


Converting AAC to MP3

Note that this conversion process creates a copy of the original track, so following the conversion you will actually have two versions of the track in your library, and will need to go and delete the original track manually. Further, any ratings, play counts, or playlist entries are not transferred from the old track to the converted one. If you’re using a Mac, there are AppleScripts available that can take care of transferring this information onto the new track for you, however. You can find more information on this at Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes and in our own AppleScripts Discussion Forum.

You won’t be able to convert protected iTunes tracks (songs purchased from the iTunes Store) using this method. iTunes allows you to select the Convert to MP3 option from the menu, but if you attempt to do so on a protected file, you’re presented with the following response:


Converting AAC to MP3

Here’s the workaround. Protected iTunes AAC files can be burned to an audio CD in the same way as any other track. Once burned to an audio CD, they are converted to the same CD Digital Audio (CD-DA) standard that commercially purchased audio CDs use, which is basically an uncompressed WAV format. You can then re-rip the CD into MP3s, which is time-consuming, but works.

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