Reader Question: How to Convert Downloaded Music to MP3

A reader asks, "I buy a lot of music from the iTunes Store and want to put the music on a non-Apple MP3 player for my boat. What software can I buy to convert the files to MP3?"

As the reader suggests, there are lots of apps available that will allow you to convert your audio content to a more open MP3 format. Doing this will allow you to play the music on any standard MP3 player, not just Apple devices. However, purchasing such software isn't required. In fact, I would recommend not buying or using a 3rd-party app. Instead, I will show you how to use iTunes to do this... for free!

The very first thing we want to do is review (and possibly adjust) your import settings. When you rip a CD, it will look at these settings and convert the music to the format specified here. If you have it set to use AAC, it will import as AAC files. If you have it set to use MP3... you get the idea. The reason I tell you this is because converting songs purchased from the iTunes Store looks at the same settings when you convert the track. To review your settings, go to iTunes > Preferences... From here, click on the "General" tab, then click on the "Import Settings..." button near the bottom.

At this point, you will have the option to choose from 5 different formats:

Although I won't go into details on the differences between the formats here, I will suggest that you do a little research to see which format best suites your needs. Without argument, MP3 is the most common format, but it also uses a significant amount of compression to reduce file size.

After you have chosen the format you want to use, you can also choose the level of quality below. The higher the quality, the better the music will sound (but that also means slightly larger file sizes).

When we're done, hit "OK" and "OK" again to go back to your iTunes library.

Now it's time to convert a track from Apple's format (AAC) to our desired format (MP3). To do this, we simply right-click on the track we want to convert, then choose the "Create MP3 Version" option.

When the conversion is complete (which will take just a few seconds), you will be left with a second file with the same name. Now, the question is how to determine which one is the original AAC file, and which is the newly-created MP3 file.

To determine which is which, highlight one of the files and press Command + I (or right-click on the file and choose "Get Info"). A new window will appear with information related to that track (length, name, etc). What you will want to focus on is the format.

As you can see, this is the MP3-formatted version of the track ("MPEG-1, Layer 3"). From here, we can simply drag the file on to our Desktop and then import into any other system you want.

Posted on July 29, 2014 and filed under How To, Mac.