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Best Audio Converter Software 2020

Best Audio Converter Software 2020
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Having the best audio converter software on your PC or Mac is an extremely useful tool. If you love music, work in video creation, or you're looking to digitize physical media like CDs and DVDs, audio converters are essential. What they do is take one audio track, and record it to create another - usually an MP3, WMA, or other commonly used audio format file. Many will optimize the audio too, and let you cut or combine tracks as you need, splitting your audio exactly how you need it. Most will even label it and add extra metadata too, fully preparing the audio file for whatever device you're going to use it on.

Editor's Choice: Switch Audio Converter

Switch can convert between more than 40 file formats and is available on Windows and Mac. This software can batch-convert thousands of files faster than any converter we tested.VIEW DEAL ON NCH Software

Our reviews of the best audio converter software packages include free and paid options, and we've chosen them to suit almost every need. If you're just looking to convert a bunch of CDs or older music files to MP3, so you can listen on your smartphone, there are several options for you. If you're digging deeper and want to become a Spotify power user, and to mix new audio in video projects, there are converters that offer extra features to help you on your way.

When evaluating audio converter software we considered several factors. Almost all have support for the major audio file formats, so we looked at the speed of conversion, the quality and reliability of the final product, the value (if it's a paid-for app), and the extra features on offer. All audio converters are relatively easy to use, but we also took this into account too. Switch Audio Converter has been our top pick for several years, and remains so, but others - like Audials - have seriously upped their offering recently, so are excellent alternatives.

Below are the best audio converters for 2020. If you need more, we also have a guide to the best video editing software and the best voice recording software too.

1. Switch Audio Converter: Best audio converter software overall

Switch Audio Converter: Best audio converter software overall

(Image credit: NCH Software)

Switch Audio Converter Plus

Our top pick overall, thanks to speed, ease of use, and price

Fast audio conversion
Can record audio from streaming services
User interface looks outdated

Switch Audio Converter Plus has been our top audio software for several years running. While not the most feature-rich, it's fast, simple to use, and has all the tools you need to batch-convert audio files effectively. It has wide support for all the major audio file types: in total, it's compatible with 40 audio formats that can be converted to 26 output formats. Not only can this software convert audio from larger lossless formats to smaller formats to save space, it can extract the audio from DVD and other popular video formats like AVI, MOV and MPEG.

If you're converting from older formats, Switch has audio normalization, which will enhance the quality of the recording, and eliminate some of the noise. While this is all done automatically, you can also adjust levels and clip your audio files manually, to retain total control. What's more this is done fast, and Switch is the quickest of all the converters we tested, making it ideal if you have large batches of files that need converting in a single session.

There is a free version of Switch, but it has limited features and will only convert batches of five audio files at a time. It's perfect for testing out the software, though, so you should at least give the free trial a go. Upgrading is less than $25, and you do get good value with the 'Plus' version. Overall, Switch Audio Converter does everything you need it to reliably and efficiently, which is why it's our top pick.

2. Audials Music: Best for features

Audials Music: Best for features

(Image credit: Audials)

Audials Music

The most feature-packed converter ever

Perfect for Spotify users
Very quick conversion
Loads of extra features
Quite expensive
No Mac version

Audials Music is the latest version of Audials Tunebite, and it's a big step-up from the previous versions. This software is absolutely packed with features, making it a little more complicated to use than other converters, but what you get is tremendous. When you convert to any of the large range of audio file formats supported by Audials it will do all the extra work for you, including labelling and adding meta data to your songs. 

Because it integrates so well with Spotify there are extra options for anyone looking to take tracks from the streaming service and listen to them offline. Not only will it pull individual songs from playlists on both the premium and free versions of Spotify, but you can also use it to download charts and specific genres, letting you discover new music easily. You can easily order the tracks you download into new playlists and upload back to Spotify.

Conversion itself is lightning quick, only matched by Switch, and is again optimized for Spotify, it'll convert playlists in minutes. There's even an option to convert audiobooks at 10x speed, which is handy considering most of these are 10+ hours long. Yes, Audials Music is relatively expensive but, if you use all the features, it's a fantastic tool for far more than audio conversion.

3. Freemake Audio Converter: Best free converter

Freemake Audio Converter: Best free converter

(Image credit: Freemake)

Freemake Audio Converter

The best free program... and it's mostly free too

It’s free (ish)
User-friendly interface
Pay to convert longer audio tracks
It's quite slow

Freemake is (mostly) free audio converter software. We say 'mostly' because although it is indeed free to download, this version only lets you convert audio into files of three minutes or less. So, if you're converting audio to MP3 to listen to music on your smartphone, this isn't suitable for the majority of tracks you'll be converting. If you want the full feature set you need to pay to upgrade. Freemake also tries to download an extra program to your PC when you download the Audio Converter, so you need to opt out of that.

Aside from this, however, it's a decent piece of audio converter software, especially as it's free. While conversion of files is slow compared to Switch and Audials Music, Freemake can handle batch conversion and will optimize audio for you to a decent degree. It's easy to use, and won't take up much space or resources on your computer. 

What's impressive here is the list of supported audio files - at 50+ it's one of the broadest and most extensive programs we reviewed. Freemake can also convert video to pure audio tracks too, much like all other audio converters. 

4. Stellar Audio Converter: Very simple to use

Stellar Audio Converter: Very simple to use

(Image credit: Stellar)

Stellar Audio Converter

An easy to use option, with built-in video editing tools

Very simple layout
Has video editing tools
Fewer audio features

Stellar Audio Converter is a mid-range tool with a very easy-to-understand interface. If you need a reliable program that is very basic to use, this is a good option. It's a solid performer that doesn't really do anything better or worse than the other packages in this guide. It's mid-priced, mid-speed, and has limited (but not totally sparse) features.

However, a bit advantage here is that Stellar has a built-in video editor, which makes it a one-stop software for anyone converting audio to add to their video projects. You can make all kinds of videos, adding in converted audio as you choose, whether that's the same format, cut down, or stitched together with other files. You can even use this to make gifs too.

On the downside, Stellar struggles with normalization, and doesn't bring as many audio editing options as other apps. If you're converting from streaming services, for example, you're better off looking elsewhere.

5. Xilisoft Audio Converter: Good for older audio

Xilisoft Audio Converter: An easy to use option

(Image credit: Xilisoft)

If simplicity is the most important factor, then Xilisoft Audio Converter is a good option. It's fully compatible with Mac and PC, and is easy to use on both formats, especially if you're looking to convert audio in single files or small batches. The normalization here is particularly good, so is a good software to pair with any kind of audio conversion from cassettes or older LP records.

There are downsides, however. The price is one - this software costs as much as Switch, but is much slower in its audio conversions, so if you're doing larger batches of files we really can't recommend it. It has all the same compatibilities as other software, which is good, and it can also be used to take audio from video formats.

Xilisoft also has basic audio editing tools built in, but nowhere near as many as more specialized programs like Stellar. If you want to do limited manipulation of your audio files, and are looking to bring over a handful from older formats, this could be the converter for you.

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Why convert audio at all?

Now that CDs have traveled down the same road to obsolescence as cassette and eight-track tapes, the ability to effectively archive your music library in the digital realm has become a valuable commodity. We tested all the features of free and for-pay audio converter software to make sure we recommend a product that can handle all your audio manipulation needs for current and future music formats.

Although there are free software options, like iTunes, that can extract audio from a CD and convert it to smaller and more manageable file size, we found through our testing process that you can spend less than $30 on a good audio converter software and future-proof your ability to gather, archive and share music efficiently. We also recognize that you may have a temporary need to convert a few files, so we tested the best free audio converters so we could recommend a product that won’t introduce adware and spyware on your computer.

We also spoke to Ben Westgarth, senior audio software engineer at NCH Software, about the best lossy audio formats for archiving a music collection. He told me there is a contentious debate about the topic among industry professionals and casual users, but there is a clear winner in terms of file size to sound quality ratio. “It is widely considered that AAC is a superior format - it can compress to a smaller size for the same quality when compared to MP3.”

The primary concern with converting to AAC instead of MP3 is compatibility with media players. AAC was developed by a group of companies, including Nokia, Dolby and Sony. It’s promoted as a successor to the MP3 file format and is used by huge streaming platforms such as Apple and YouTube. However, it still can’t match the ubiquitous device support that MP3 offers. Although AAC is a better lossy format in terms of audio quality, Westgarth strongly suggests against converting MP3 files to AAC. “In this scenario you are taking one lossy format and re-compressing it into another, and it will only reduce the quality of your audio - not improve it!”

(Image credit: NCH Software)

Important Audio Formats for Uploading Music to Streaming Sites

It is important for audio converter software to work quickly and efficiently as well as to have a wide variety of file format options, including lossy and lossless formats. Each music streaming service has a preferred format for streaming and archiving music – unfortunately, not every service uses the same format. WAV is an acceptable lossless format for most services. However, depending on the service, that file might be converted and compressed to a different format. MP3 files can be uploaded to all the popular streaming services, but there’s no reason to convert a lossless file format, such as WAV, to MP3 if you don’t have to.

Spotify uses the lossy Ogg Vorbis (OGG) format to stream music through its desktop and mobile apps, and you can convert a WAV file to OGG using a trusted audio converter software, instead of relying on Spotify to make the conversion for you. Apple Music uses a format called AAC, and Amazon Music uses MP3. Tidal and Deezer stream music at the highest quality using the FLAC format.

Allowing the streaming service to compress and convert your audio files doesn’t necessarily mean the quality will degrade, but some compression algorithms boost peak signals enough that the audio can sound distorted. When you use a trusted program to convert your files to the proper format for each platform, you can listen to each one to get a good idea of what it will sound like once it’s published.

Play DRM-Encrypted Files on Multiple Devices  

Large-scale digital media distributors, such as Apple and Amazon, use DRM (Digital Rights Management) encryption for copyright protection and to authenticate the media player you authorize to play the encrypted files. When you buy an album or song from iTunes, the DRM-protected file can only play on an Apple device that is associated with your Apple ID. If you want to play that song or album on an Android phone or tablet, you need to use a copy of the file that doesn’t have DRM encryption. You can tell if a file is encrypted or protected by right-clicking on it and consulting its properties.

Audio converter programs, like Audials Music, are a legal solution for playing DRM-protected audio or video files on any device. Instead of removing the DRM encryption, Music records the audio or video file and converts it to a format you can use on any media player. If you legally purchase movies, music, audio books and podcasts, making DRM-free copies for personal use on multiple devices is legal. However, if you decide to share the unencrypted file on a file sharing platform or distribute the file with the intent of making money, you cross the legal boundary. Carefully read the terms of service for the platform you use to purchase digital media before you use audio converter software to make copies of DRM-protected files because each country’s copyright laws are different. 

(Image credit: Audials)

Important Attributes of Audio Converter Software 

Import and Export Formats
It is important for an audio converter to be capable of importing all available audio formats and converting them to a format you can use. There are more than 50 audio file types in use today, and the best converter software programs can work with all of them. The free converters we tested can import the popular lossless formats, like WAV and FLAC, and convert them to popular lossy formats, like MP3 and AAC, but the best for-pay converters can also import lesser-known formats, including proprietary audio formats from companies like Sony, Microsoft and Yamaha.

Conversion Speed
Speed may not be an important consideration if you need to convert just a few files. However, a fast converter software could save you hours if you have a lot of files to convert, or find yourself converting files often. Slow conversion speed is the biggest downside when using free converter software.

Extraction Capabilities
The best audio converter software programs can not only convert and compress files, but they can also extract audio from video files, streaming services and CDs. If you use streaming services like Spotify or Amazon Music, some of the audio converters we tested can record a playlist and convert the songs to small files so you can upload them on a mobile device and listen without using cellular data or WiFi. One of the converters we tested can also record streaming video from services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

The Audio Home Recording Act explains the legalities involved with recording audio from streaming services. Basically, it’s legal to record a streaming service if it’s done at your home and for non-commercial use. This article summarizes the law’s definition and what it means for someone who buys audio converter software for that purpose. 

What Is an AMR File & How Do I Open It? 

The AMR (.amr) file type was developed by Ericsson, the once popular mobile phone manufacturer, and is now used by Android phones. It was created and optimized for cellphone voice recordings and is a popular format for voice memo apps. Because the AMR file type was specifically developed to record speech, phones and apps that record audio using this format are not ideal for recording more dynamic sources like natural sound and musical instruments. There are a couple popular video players that can open and play AMR files without installing a codec pack on your PC, like VLC Player and QuickTime. However, most media players, like Windows Media Player and iPhones, require a conversion.

If you have an AMR file you want to open with an iPhone or other mobile device, convert it to a more universal audio format like MP3 using any of the converter programs we tested. Because AMR is a compressed audio format, you don’t risk losing fidelity when you convert it to another lossy format. However, don’t expect the audio quality to improve when you convert the file. If you only need to convert a small number of files that are less than one minute long, we recommend a free program like Freemake. However, if you have multiple files that you need to convert and edit, we suggest using a more robust converter like Switch or Audials because they are significantly faster and make it easier to batch convert several files at once. The best for-pay audio conversion software we tested also includes simple editing tools you use to trim unwanted pauses and portions of the recording you don’t need.

Audio Converter Mobile Apps  

Audio converter mobile apps are much slower than the best programs we tested, and even the best crash occasionally. However, if you need to convert an audio file using your phone, these are the best options.

Switch Audio File Converter
Switch is our favorite audio converter software, and it’s also available as a mobile app for Android devices. It is compatible with more than 40 input and output file types and has a batch conversion feature that runs in the background while you use other apps. It allows you to preview tracks before you convert them, and all the music tags are preserved in the conversion process.

The Audio Converter
This app is only available for iPhone and iPad, but the user interface is clean and easy to navigate. It imports more than 30 file types, including popular video formats, and exports to 10 of the most popular audio formats. The input and output file types aren’t as comprehensive as the Switch app, but this app has a more user-friendly interface. There’s a file browser feature that makes it easy to find the audio file you want to convert and share your converted file across popular social media platforms directly from the app.

Audio MP3 Cutter Mix Converter
This audio converter mobile app is only available for Android devices, but it’s free and has an impressive toolbox to convert and manipulate audio files. It supports all the popular audio formats, including MP3, WAV and AAC, and has an extensive list of features for editing and merging audio files once they’re converted. The audio editing tool is easy to use and allows you to zoom in on a portion of the audio file, trim the clip and set it as a ringtone or notification tone. This app also has a feature that merges multiple songs together to make a custom remix.

iConverter is a free mobile app for iPhone and iPad. It has a good selection of audio input and output file types in addition to its exhaustive list of supported document and video file types. This conversion app works seamlessly with the File app and allows you to drag and drop files in split-screen tasks. iConverter has a simple audio editing tool and supports the most popular compression formats to help send large folders via email or text.

(Image credit: Freemake)

Free vs Paid audio converter software 

The most glaring and important difference between free and for-pay software is speed of conversion. During testing, Freemake, the best free audio converter software, took four times as long as the fastest program, Switch, to convert a 625MB WAV file to MP3. The other free converter we tested, File ZigZag, is an online converter tool that was 30 times slower than Switch at converting our test file. It also limits you to one file over 180MB per day and 2GB or smaller files. If you need to frequently convert files or a large number of files at once, we recommend spending between $20 and $30 on a program that doesn’t crash often and can batch convert multiple files at once.

I talked to the senior audio software engineer in charge of Switch and asked him why you should pay for conversion software. He told me, “Reliability, stability and quality.” He pointed out that NCH Software has constantly updated and improved Switch for more than 20 years, and every time a new version is released, it “passes through a wide range of intensive internal testing procedures.” If you are serious about the quality of your music collection and other audio files, it’s worth spending a few bucks to ensure the software doesn’t impart unwanted artifacts or noise during the conversion process.