Audio content has become very much popular in recent days. With internet technology and the vast emergence of online streaming platforms, access to audio content such as music, podcast, and audiobook has become easier. Today, you can listen to your favorite music playlist or podcast on literally any modern device, including your laptop, smartphone, or gaming console. But how often do you ponder the audio format of your songs?
Most of us are not well aware of the different audio formats. In fact, most people think that all music or rather audio content comes in the famous MP3 format. That is entirely untrue as there are tens of different audio file formats, including WAV, AAC, FLAC, and M4A. However, this article will focus on the two most popular audio file formats, i.e., MP3 and M4A. We will furnish you with all there is to know about MP3 and M4A- the benefits, differences, and a guide on converting M4A to MP3 format.
Arguably, the MP3 format is the most popular audio format. MP3 is a popular coding format for digital audio developed by the German Fraunhofer Society in collaboration with digital scientists from the United States. The invention came forth as a necessity to resolve a 90s audio sharing dilemma. Ideally, sharing audio in the '90s via slow internet was almost possible. Hence, MP3 came as an audio compression technology that allowed music lovers to share and store their playlists in small sizes. Often MP3 is referred to as MPEG -1 Audio Layer III or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III.
The MP3 format is one pioneer compression audio file format that quickly became a favorite for music lovers. Usually, CD tracks can be compressed to nearly a tenth of the original size while at the same time maintaining playback quality. Besides reduced sizes, the MP3 music format is compatible with most devices and media-playing applications. We could literally refer to it as a universal audio file format. It also has an extended form, also referred to as MP2.
a. What are the Benefits of Using MP3?
Obviously, the MP3 file format is popular for one reason- it serves the purpose with almost zero limitations. Below are some of the benefits of using the MP3 file format.
1. Sharable: The fact that it was impossible to share music via the internet in the '90s was the main reason behind the development of the MP3 format. With its lossless compression technology, the file format is small-sized and easy to share with friends over the internet and devices.
2. Compatibility: It is a stronghold for this format. Unlike most audio formats, the MP3 format is supported by most media playing devices and applications.
3. Small-sized: After conversion, MP3 file formats are almost a tenth of the original file format. That means the audio file will only occupy a small space on your hard drive.
b. What are the Disadvantages of Using MP3?
1. Low quality: The MP3 format allows for the compression of large audio files while at the same time deferring the quality of the audio file. Compared to M4A, MP3 files have relatively low quality.
2. Vulnerable: Being one of the most popular audio file formats, MP3 is super susceptible to virus and malware attacks.
M4A is also often referred to as MPEG-4. Basically, the M4A file can simply be defined as an MP4 that contains audio. In itself, M4A is technically not an audio format. Instead, it is a container that uses either lossless ALAC or AAC compression codec. The M4A format was first developed by Apple Inc. and is believed to be a close replacement for MP3 format. The format employs lossless compression, which maybe half the original file's size, while the lossy compression can be smaller than 10% of the original file size.
Apple uses the M4A file format for unprotected iTunes songs while the DRM-protected ones are encoded in M4P format. Typically, the M4A format is mainly used or compatible with Mac, iOS devices/ applications, Nintendo, and Sony PlayStation.
The M4A file format has been predicted to be the next best replacement for the MP3 file format. Below are some of its notable benefits.
1. Small-sized: Like MP3 file format, M4A are generally small-sized, and hence you can store many M4A files on a standard disk drive.
2. Allows encryption: The M4A file formats are easy to encrypt, after which they adopt the M4P extension.
3. High-quality: The M4A container offers ALAC lossless compression, which guarantees high music/ sound compared to most audio formats.
4. Ringtone: Unlike M4P, it is very easy for smartphone users to set M4A music files as their ringtone on their phones.
And while M4A remains a top- preferred audio format, it still has its fair share of drawbacks which include the following;
1. Rare: Typically, M4A audio files are very to come across. In fact, they are mostly iTunes songs, podcasts, and audiobooks.
Before we edge on the differences between the two audio formats, it is essential to point out that both aim to enhance the audio-only music experience for users. Each of the formats has its own ups and downs, and in this section, we will explore the diversity between M4A and MP3 formats using the features-based comparison approach.
The M4A container offers both lossless ALAC codec which has the best original audio quality. Besides, it offers AAC lossy compression, which yields high-quality audio output compared to MP3.
For starters, the MP3 format is the most compatible audio format today. MP3 audio content can be played on any device. On the contrary, M4A are incompatible with most devices. To be more specific, the M4A is mainly compatible with Apple devices and applications.
3. File size
Usually, the bitrate is directly proportional to the audio file size. The larger the bitrate, the larger the audio file and vice versa. In that context, the M4A offers 192kps, which equals 256kps under the MP3 encoding. Therefore, you are more likely to achieve even smaller audio files with M4A than MP3.
4. Industry support
The MP3 has been around for close to three decades now. It is a somewhat prominent audio format that is playable on any device and application. On the other hand, M4A is a growing and promising audio file format courtesy of internet music streaming.
As earlier mentioned, most M4A are iTunes songs, and as we know, iTunes music content is only playable on Apple devices such as iPods and iPhone and applications. That means, if you are a non-Apple device user, it is impossible to play our iTunes playlist unless you convert it to MP3 format.
And while there is a variety of converter software, it is essential that you find the best, and here we recommend that you try the Audcope Apple Music Converter. It is a top professional software designed to remove DRM protection from M4P Apple music and convert M4A iTunes songs to supported audio formats such as MP3, AC3, AAC, AIFF, etc. Besides, the software guarantees high-quality output quality and is available for Mac and Windows, making it a convenient option.
Key Features of iTunes Audio Converter:
Guide: How to Convert M4A iTunes to MP3 with Apple Music Converter
Step 1: Launch and register Apple Music Converter
After installing the Ondesoft Apple Music Converter application, launch the application on your computer. Next, hit the Key icon and enter the license code you purchased to complete the registration process.
Step 2: Sign in and change the output format
Hit the sign-in button and enter your Apple ID to access your iTunes account. Then, go to the Settings menu and select your preferred output file format. In this case, select MP3 as your output format. There are also options to customize music ID3 tags and parameters such as title, artist, album, etc.
Step 3: Select and convert iTunes songs
Follow the screen instruction to add the iTunes songs for conversion. Click on " Add Songs" and select the songs you want to convert. Finally, click on the "Convert" button to initiate the download and conversion process. After the conversion is complete, click on the folder icon to locate the converter MP3 iTunes songs.
Now, the songs are ready to be transferred to Non-Apple devices for offline music playback.
From our review, it is pretty clear that M4A audio files are better than MP3 files in terms of quality. However, the case is different it comes to compatibility. M4A files are less compatible with Non-Apple devices and applications. In that case, the only reasonable way to get your M4A iTunes playlist to play on any device is by converting to MP3 format. For that reason, we have featured a top M4A converter solution – the Apple Music Converter Windows/Mac. The tool downloads and converts iTunes music to supported formats, resolving your M4A incompatibility issue. Download the application and enjoy a lifetime of free iTunes music playback on any device!