Convert Audio to M4A in Mac OS X
One of the many understated features in Mac OS X is the ability to natively convert audio to m4a directly in the OS X Finder – without any additional downloads or add-ons. Yes, an MPEG audio encoder is built directly into Mac OS X since versions 10.7 and 10.8, 10.9, 10.10 (and beyond of course), meaning you can convert audio directly on your desktop without using any other apps, and without buying anything else, because the encoder is free and bundled in Mac OS.
The OS X audio encoder is confirmed to support AIFF, AIFC, Sd2f, CAFF, and WAV files, but other formats are likely supported for m4a conversion as well. It also happens to be very fast and produce high quality audio output, so let’s dive in and start converting some audio.
Note: If you do not see the Encode options in the right-click menu, you may find the encoder must be enabled manually before it becomes visible on the Mac. That is a simple process and only takes a few moments to enable through OS X System Preference options.
How to Convert Audio to M4A with Mac OS X Built-In Encoder
Here is how to use the audio conversion utilities built into OS X:
- Locate the source audio file(s) that you want to convert
- Right-click on the audio input file and choose “Encode Selected Audio Files”
- Select the Encoder Quality you wish to use, the menu translates as follows:
- High-Quality is 128 kbps
- iTunes Plus is 256 kbps
- Apple Lossless is lossless
- Spoken Podcast is 64 kbps
- Specify the Destination, otherwise it will default to the same location as the source file
- Click on “Continue” to start the conversion
The audio encoder is very fast and within just a few seconds you will have an m4a file ready to import into iTunes or elsewhere. You can also batch process a group of audio files to convert them to m4a using this tool, to do that just select a group of files instead of one and then in a group select the “Encode Selected Files” option.
Recalling that m4a files are basically the same thing as the m4r ringtone and text tone files that are compatible with iPhone, if you are looking to import them into an iPhone all you will need to do is change the .m4a extension to .m4r before importing it back into iTunes.
The same encoder engine in Mac OS X also includes the ability to convert video files directly from the Finder too, making this utility even more powerful. A nice trick with that is to strip video and wind up with a simple audio track too.