When you have a large physical musical collection, audio converting software can be a godsend. It will not only make your music digital and more accessible on the go, but it will protect your music library from the ravages of CD rot. The best audio converter software will provide you with an easy way to upload your music into a computer format, while giving you a lot of options around file format, music quality and storage space. There has never been a better time to update your collection to the digital age.
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
We researched and evaluated 15 audio converter software options that range in price from free to $39 – narrowing that list down to the best audio conversion software available.
We tested the software the conversion speed of the audio files, the ease of use for each converter, and the unit’s features. While we were conducting our examination we noted down the most basic features - even the free audio converting software should include. We thought by noting the common features the greatest converter software have in common, we could provide you advice that would let you find an awesome program that suits your needs.
We have reviewed a wide range of audio converting software, so whether you are just converting some old lecture recordings to share with students, updating your law dictation notes for a remote secretary or converting two decades worth of music, our reviews will have the ideal software for you.
We believe Switch Plus Edition is the best audio converter for most people because it has all the major import and export formats, and it can convert faster than any software we tested.
If you need to convert a large number of files quickly, this is the best option.
Switch is the fastest audio converter software we tested. To test the speed of each converter software, we timed how long it took to convert a 625MB WAV file to a 26MB MP3 file.
This converter took just 40 seconds to compress that file, which is 23 seconds faster than the second-fastest time we clocked. Speed of conversion may not be important if you need to convert only a couple of files, but if you want to convert your entire music library, a fast converter could save you hours. Switch has a batch-converter feature that allows you to put thousands of files in a queue and let the software do its job without monitoring.
This converter software, which can be purchased for Windows and Mac computers, is 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.
Switch has a feature that allows you to record audio from popular streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. The Audio Stream Wizard can convert a radio playlist to MP3 so you can upload it on your phone and listen whenever you want without using cellular data or Wi-Fi.
The best free program... and it's mostly free too
Freemake is the easiest audio converter software available. To convert a file, you simply choose the file you’d like to convert, choose the output format and click the convert button.
It supports more than 50 import formats and can convert to eight output formats, including lossless formats like OGG and FLAC, and lossy formats like MP3 and AAC. The import list is on par with the best converter software we tested, but it’s missing a few of the lesser-known export formats.
The most glaring inefficiency of free audio converter software is the time it takes to convert a file. Freemake took four times as long as the fastest converter in our comparison – Switch – to convert a 625MB WAV file to MP3. That may not seem like a big deal if you have only a couple files to convert, but if you are converting a large library of music, it will take much longer. Freemake does have a batch-convert feature that allows you to put multiple files in a conversion queue so you can leave the software to do its job and focus your attention on something else.
We were hesitant to recommend free converter software because of the malware and adware normally associated with free software. Freemake downloaded on our test computer without packaging any unwanted software and showed no signs of corrupting the hard drive with malicious add-ons. Make sure to download the program directly from the vendor; avoid third-party download sites.
Best for Recording Streaming Services
Audials Tunebite Platinum is the most expensive audio converter software in our comparison, but this software has the most comprehensive feature set of all the converters we tested.
It can convert more than 40 import formats to 11 output formats. That covers all the major files types you’ll need to quickly compress your music library and play it back on any music player or mobile device. Unfortunately, this software isn’t compatible with Mac operating systems, but you can use it with Windows 10, 8 and 7.
The streaming content recorder is the most impressive feature of this converter software. It can record audio from your favorite streaming services, like Pandora or Spotify. Not only does it record the audio, but it also separates each song and organizes by artist and song title. You can record an online radio station and convert the files to smaller MP3 files, or if you have a lossless streaming service, like Tidal, Audials will keep the files lossless and convert them to FLAC.
We focused our testing efforts on the quality and speed of audio conversion, but Audials can also convert 45 video formats to 11 output formats. You can extract audio from video files, or record a video from streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video and save it on a computer or mobile device in a smaller format so you can watch it later without using cellular data or Wi-Fi.
Xilisoft Audio Converter has an intuitive layout and imports and exports in all the important audio formats.
We counted how many steps each program took to complete a variety of tasks and found that Xilisoft makes converting audio files simple and straightforward. It extracts audio from a wide range of video files, including MPEG WMV and MP4. The conversion and extraction process take a bit longer than the best programs we tested, which isn’t great for converting multiple large files.
This program has a batch processing feature that allows you to convert multiple files with one click of the mouse. You can add effects like echo and chorus and normalize volume, which is helpful for coverting files taken from vinyl recordings or cassette.
Stellar is one of the most cost-effective conversion programs we tested. It has an easy-to-use interface and batch converts and exports in most of the popular formats, like MP3, WAV, ACC and FLAC.
Stellar is also one of the fastest programs we tested. It converted a 625 MB WAV file to a 26 MB MP3 in less than two minutes. There aren’t any hidden windows or menus to navigate and the software walks you through the conversion process step-by-step.
Stellar also converts and edits video files. Use it to add a watermark or modify the brightness, contrast and saturation of a wide range of video formats, including MP4, AVI and WMV. It doesn’t have a volume normalization tool, but it can change a stereo track to mono and adjust the bitrate and sample rate.
Why Trust Us?
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.
I have been using file compression and music archiving software since the popular music fire sale that came along with file-sharing sites like Napster in the mid-’90s. That phenomenon taught me an important lesson about the value of high-quality music playback versus having enough music on a device to last through retirement. I found myself buying CDs even though I had the same album in a compressed digital format because I knew the CD would sound better. The technology advancements in audio converter software now afford us the ability to extract high-quality audio from CDs or streaming services, and duplicate those files and convert them to lossy formats, like MP3, to make the files smaller and playable on mobile devices.
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 $40 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.
In addition to our hands-on testing and research, we contact industry professionals to stay current on all the latest news and product information. I 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!”
How We Tested
If for-pay audio converter software is to compete with free converter software, it must be fast and easy to use. To test conversion speed, we timed how long each product took to convert a 625MB WAV file to a 25MB MP3 file. We used those file formats because they are the most common among digital music users.
We tested the ease of use for every product in our comparison by taking note of how easy the software was to install and, once the software was installed, how many clicks of the mouse it took to convert a file. We report our conversion speed and ease-of-use testing results in each product’s review.
How Much Should I Spend on Audio Conversion Software?
If you only have a few small files to convert, we recommend using one of the free programs we reviewed. The benefit of spending $30 on audio conversion software is the ability to convert a large number of files quickly. Audials Tunebite is $40, which is the most expensive software we tested, but it can record streaming audio and video services and converts more than 40 import formats.
Video Converter Software
We only tested audio converter software compatible with the most popular video formats. However, if you plan to use conversion software primarily for converting video files and only occasionally for converting audio, buy video converter software instead. In addition to video format compatibility, the best video converter programs are also compatible with popular audio formats. Here are a couple of our favorites.
Wondershare Video Converter
Wondershare was the best performer in our ease-of-use, video quality and audio quality tests. It’s compatible with 24 video formats and 18 popular audio formats, and it also includes disc burning tools. This software optimizes video for playback on more than 150 devices, including smartphones, tablets and video game consoles. It also has a comprehensive list of video editing tools that allow you to add effects and trim files.
Aimersoft Video Converter
If you need to convert a large number of video files in a timely fashion, Aimersoft is your best bet. This conversion software clocked the fastest conversion times among the products we tested, and it includes editing tools that add watermarks, filters and other effects. Aimersoft isn’t compatible with as many video and audio formats as Wondershare, but it covers all the popular file types. This software also lets you burn converted files to DVDs, complete with menus, to archive physical copies of your files.
Leawo Video Converter
This is the most cost-effective video converter we tested. The user interface is easy to use and includes a great selection of editing tools and effects. Leawo is compatible with 25 output formats and has more than 100 device optimization profiles. The conversion speed was average for our test group, but the video converter module didn’t include disc burning tools or online video downloads. Those tools are included in the more expensive Total Media Converter suite. The user-friendly interface and modest price tag make Leawo a great option for first-time users.
WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe
This conversion software has more than 400 conversion profiles that optimize videos for playback on almost any mobile or desktop device. The user interface looks different than most programs we tested, but once you upload the file, the software prompts you to choose a conversion profile and WinX does the rest. This is one of the slowest video converters we tested, so if you have multiple large files to convert, there are better options. WinX has some simple editing tools to trim and crop files, but doesn’t include the effects and filters found in some of the programs we tested.
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.
How to Convert Audio Files Using iTunes
iTunes isn't compatible with as many file types and doesn't convert as fast as the best products we tested. However, if you want to import lossless files to iTunes as lossy files to save disk space, there’s no reason to use another program. iTunes converts to only four file formats: MP3, Apple Lossless Encoder, AIFF and WAV. Also, if the file you are converting has DRM (Digital Rights Management), iTunes can’t convert it because doing so would remove the DRM.
To convert songs currently in your iTunes library, open the software and find the Preferences menu from the iTunes dropdown on a Mac or Edit dropdown on a Windows computer. Next, click the General tab, then find the Import Settings in the lower section of the Preferences window. After that, click the dropdown next to Import Using, choose the format and click OK to save that import format as the default setting. iTunes allows for batch converting, so the final step is to select all the files you want to convert, click the File menu, then select Convert and click on Create MP3 Version. If you chose a different output format, it displays that format rather than MP3.
To convert audio files that aren’t saved in an iTunes library, follow the same steps as above to set the default import format, hold the Option key (Mac) or Shift key (Windows), and click on File > Convert > Convert to MP3. Then, select the songs from a folder or drive that contains them – iTunes will convert all the files and import them.
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 Tunebite, are a legal solution for playing DRM-protected audio or video files on any device. Instead of removing the DRM encryption, Tunebite 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.
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.
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.
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 Pandora, 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 Wi-Fi. 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, a 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.
Online Audio Converter
If you need to convert a few small files and don’t want to download software on your computer, an online converter is an option. Online file converters are significantly slower than most of the software we tested, and some store a copy of your file after it’s converted, which is a security concern. We tested more than 10 online converters – here are our favorites:
This online conversion tool is compatible with a great list of input and output formats and doesn’t require a software download. You are limited to 50 conversions in a 24-hour period and only five conversions per browser session, but the interface is simple and has fewer annoying ads than other free online converters we tested. It also limits the size of the source file to 50 MB, but that’s a larger than average audio file size. Zamzar works on any web browser for Windows and Mac computers and converts files on your hard drive or online audio files.
123Apps Audio Converter
This conversion tool displays more ads than others we tested, but it is faster than Zamzar and can open files directly from a Google Drive or Dropbox account. The interface is easy to use and includes advanced settings for adding fade in or fade out, reversing the playback or removing a voice from a recording. This online tool supports batch conversion and saves files in a ZIP archive to speed up the download process. 123Apps also promises to automatically delete your files from the server a few hours after you finish converting them.
This online conversion tool is compatible with all the popular audio and video formats, including MP3, WAV, MOV and MP4. The homepage lets you download the software on a Mac or Windows computer, free of charge, or simply add a file to the conversion tool, choose the output format and convert the file without downloading any software. The online tool doesn’t support batch conversion, it only converts one file at a time, but the process is simple and faster than most of the online converters we tested.
Aconvert is a simple and free online file converter that includes simple editing features for audio, video, image and document files. Once you upload the audio file you want to convert, choose an export format, select the bitrate, select the sample rate and toggle the Convert Now button. This online tool also includes a compression feature if you need to archive a large file without changing the original format. It’s compatible with popular compression formats like ZIP, 7Z, TAR and WIM.
Some of the audio converter programs we tested, like Audials Tunebite, capture audio from streaming sites such as YouTube and Spotify and convert the file to a compatible format to play on your phone. If you're looking for a free solution for converting YouTube videos to MP3 files, check out some of our favorite programs below. However, note that these programs are slower and buggier than the best paid converter programs we tested.
Any Video Converter Free
This free converter software is compatible with more than 100 input and output audio and video formats. It allows you to download videos and music from popular streaming services such as YouTube, Vevo, SoundCloud and Facebook and convert them to a lossless format, like MP3 or AAC, to play on mobile devices. The download includes some extra software, so work through the download-and-installation process slowly to make sure you get exactly what you want. The Premium version costs $50 and adds batch conversion and DRM protection removal for iTunes content.
This is the most user-friendly option for converting a YouTube video to an MP3. Simply copy a YouTube URL to the clipboard, and this software will automatically ask if you want to download the video. ClipGrab also lets you extract only the audio from the video. It has only five output formats, but they include MP3, MPEG4 and WMV. It's compatible only with Windows computers, but it's free. The download includes a browser software called Opera, but you can easily skip that step during the installation process if you don’t want it.
Conversion Software vs. Compression Software
Converting a lossless audio file, like WAV or FLAC, to a lossy format, like MP3 or AAC, results in a loss of fidelity. If you need to send a lossless audio file to an email account with file size restrictions and you're worried about sending sensitive material using a cloud service, like Dropbox or Google Drive, a file compression software is a good option. Here are some of our favorite file compression programs.
This file compression software doesn’t have a visually attractive user interface, but it’s free and has some impressive security features. PeaZip is compatible with more than 180 archive formats, including ZIP and 7Z, and has some simple conversion features. It can create encrypted archive files using two-factor authentication, which makes it almost impossible for malicious software to crack into the archived file. PeaZip is available for Windows and Linux machines, but unfortunately you can’t use it on a Mac.
Hamster Zip Archiver
Hamster is the most user-friendly file compression software available. The interface is easy to navigate, and you simply drag and drop files to compress and decompress. It is compatible with all the popular compressed formats and allows you to create a shareable link or upload files to cloud-based services like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive. If you are nervous about learning a new software interface in order to compress and send files, Hamster is a great option because it makes the process as easy as possible.
This is a free, open source compression software that uses its own file format, 7z, to compress gigantic files. The developers claim 7-Zip provides a compression ratio that outperforms WinZip by more than 5 percent. In addition to packing and unpacking the proprietary 7z format, this program is compatible with other popular formats, including ZIP and RAR. The interface isn’t attractive, but it’s easy to use and works with every version of Windows dating back to 2000. Simply right-click on a ZIP or 7z file, and the software will unpack the folder and save it to a destination of your choice.
Most file compression software can unpack RAR files, but WinRAR is the only one that creates them. RARlab offers a free 30-day trial, and if you use the program frequently, a perpetual license starts at $30 and is discounted for commercial use. WinRAR has an easy-to-use companion app for Android devices you can use to compress and unpack compressed email attachments as well as send password-encrypted files from your phone or tablet. This software is available for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows computers in more than 40 languages.
Is File Conversion Software Safe?
The short answer is yes, if it’s done by a reputable service provider. There are two primary safety concerns to keep in mind before you use file conversion software. The first is the safety of your computer. Most online file converters require you to upload the file to a server. Then the service, in most cases, sends you an email with an executable file attached. Once you download and run an executable file, there’s a chance it could carry a virus or malware. The same pitfalls exist for a desktop conversion software that requires you to download the application. If the software developer doesn’t have contact forms or a reputable About Us page, be wary.
The other important safety concern is data privacy. We don’t recommend using online applications to convert sensitive material like bank records or confidential files. Even if the service promises to delete and destroy all records of your file, there is still a gray area. Once your file is uploaded to a developer’s cloud or server, the service can crawl that file for data to store or sell to the highest bidder. Although audio files are less susceptible to data breach than image or document files, there is still a chance that a copy of your file could be stored elsewhere.
We strongly recommend using the downloadable audio converter programs in our comparison, like Switch or Audials Tunebite, to ensure your files aren’t at risk. Using a desktop application completely removes the concern of data privacy because the file never leaves your computer until you want it to. We downloaded every program we tested and saw no signs of adware or additional malicious software in the downloaded file.
Free vs For-Pay 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.