Best Audio Converter Software of 2018

Billy Bommer ·
Audio & Travel Writer
Updated
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We researched and evaluated 15 audio converter software options that range in price from free to $39 – narrowing that list down to the best choices available. We tested the conversion speed and ease of use for each converter, and examined each unit’s features. 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.  

Best Overall
Switch
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 on NCH Software
$29.99@NCH Software
Best Overall
Switch
Best Free
Freemake Audio Converter
Freemake has a limited number of export formats, and it is slow. However, the user interface is easy to navigate and you can download the full version for free.
View on Freemake
Best for Recording Streaming Services
Audials Tunebite Platinum
Audials Tunebite Platinum is compatible with 40 import formats and can convert to 11 output formats. It isn’t as fast as Switch, but its streaming content recorder is the most impressive.
View on Audials
Best Overall
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.
Pros
  • Fast conversion
  • Impressive import and export format list
  • It can record audio from streaming services
Cons
  • More expensive than the average converter software
  • The user interface looks outdated
  • It can’t record streaming video
$29.99NCH Software
Read the full review
Best Free
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.
Pros
  • It’s free
  • User-friendly interface
  • It can import all the necessary audio formats
Cons
  • Slow conversion
  • You must download a separate program to convert video files
  • It can’t record audio or video from streaming services
FreeFreemake
Read the full review
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.
Pros
  • It can record audio and video from popular streaming services
  • It covers all important import and export formats
  • Fast and organized conversion
Cons
  • It isn’t compatible with Mac
  • Expensive
  • The user-interface is intimidating at first glance
$39.90Audials
Read the full review
Most User-Friendly
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.
Pros
  • Intuitive interface
Cons
  • Slow
$29.95Xilisoft
Read the full review
Best Value
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.
Pros
  • Fast and simple conversion
Cons
  • No volume normalization
$24.99Stellar
Read the full review

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.

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 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.

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 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 and 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.    

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