The Complete Guide to Converting MP3 to M4R for iPhone Ringtones

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Do you want to set a custom ringtone on your iPhone using your favorite songs? If so, you’ll need to convert the audio file from MP3 format to M4R format. MP3 files won’t work directly as iPhone ringtones – they must be converted first.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about converting MP3 to M4R for iPhone ringtones.

Key Takeaways

  • M4R is the required audio format for iPhone ringtones
  • You can’t use MP3 files directly as ringtones on an iPhone
  • To set a custom song excerpt as your ringtone, convert the MP3 to M4R
  • Use iTunes, online audio converters, or desktop apps to convert MP3 to M4R
  • Trim your audio clip to 30 seconds or less for best results
  • Change the file extension from .mp3 to .m4r after converting
  • Sync your new .m4r file to your iPhone to use it as a ringtone

Why Convert MP3 to M4R for iPhone Ringtones?

The iPhone uses the M4R audio format for its ringtones. M4R stands for “MPEG-4 audio ringtone” and is based on the AAC audio codec.

MP3 files, which use the MPEG-1/2 audio codec, are a common audio format – but they won’t work directly as ringtones on an iPhone. If you want to use an MP3 song or audio clip as a custom ringtone, you’ll need to convert it first.

Here’s why converting to M4R is required:

  • Format compatibility – The iPhone OS only supports AAC-encoded M4R files for ringtones.
  • Metadata – M4R files contain special metadata tags that identify them as ringtones.
  • Length – M4R ringtones are limited to 30 seconds maximum. The conversion process allows you to trim longer audio.
  • DRM – Apple uses DRM copy protection on iTunes Store ringtones. Converting to M4R strips any DRM.

By converting MP3 to M4R, you can use nearly any audio file as a ringtone on your iPhone.

Step-by-Step Guide to Converting MP3 to M4R

There are a few different methods you can use to convert MP3 files to M4R format. Here are step-by-step instructions for each approach:

Using iTunes

iTunes has a built-in option to convert songs to AAC format. You can then change the file extension to convert it to M4R.

make ringtones create aac version
  1. Add the MP3 file to your iTunes library if needed
  2. Right-click the song and select Create AAC Version
  3. In Finder or Explorer, change the .m4a extension to .m4r
  4. Delete the original MP3 and AAC versions in iTunes
  5. Sync the .m4r file to your iPhone

Using Online Audio Converters

Several free online tools allow you to upload an MP3 and download the converted M4R version:

Just upload your MP3, select MP3 to M4R as the output format, and download the converted file.

Using Desktop Apps

For more control and batch converting, use a desktop app like:

These tools allow you to trim audio clips, tweak encoding settings, and convert multiple files at once.

Steps to Convert MP3 to M4R using UniConverter:

Step 1: Download the Application

Firstly, you must download the application and install the same on your system. Then, click on the tab “Convert,” and the option “Add Files” to add your favorite MP3 songs to your computer.

add mp3 files
Step 2: Select the Format

After choosing the files, you need to click on the drop-down list present next to the option “Convert all tasks to” and select the format “M4R” and quality from the tab “Audio.”

choose output format as m4r
Step 3: Convert the File

Now, click on “Convert All” to complete the conversion process. You can manage and check the same in the tab “Converted.”

convert mp3 to m4r with uniconverter
converted m4r files

You can use the free version of this software and for other additional features, go for the premium one.

Tips for Converting MP3 to M4R

Follow these tips when converting MP3 files to M4R format:

  • Trim the length – M4R ringtones can only be up to 30 seconds long. Trim your audio clip accordingly.
  • Adjust volume – Use normalization to even out the volume level if needed.
  • Simplify metadata – Remove ID3 tags and other metadata to reduce file size.
  • Use joint stereo – Joint stereo encoding saves space without losing too much quality.
  • Pick a high bitrate – Use a high bitrate like 256 kbps for the best audio quality.
  • Change the extension – Rename the file extension from .mp3 or .m4a to .m4r after converting.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about converting MP3 to M4R:

How do I get the converted M4R file onto my iPhone?

Use iTunes to sync the M4R file to your iPhone after converting it. Click on your iPhone, go to the Tones section, and add the M4R file.

What apps can play M4R files?

The native Music app on iPhone can play M4R files. On other platforms, apps like VLC media player and Foobar2000 support M4R playback.

Is converting MP3 to M4R free?

Yes, there are several free online converters and open-source desktop tools like Audacity you can use. Paid programs offer more features.

What is the best MP3 to M4R converter?

For a simple online tool, Online UniConverter works great. For more advanced batch conversion and editing, Audacity or Wondershare UniConverter are excellent.

How do I convert M4R files back to MP3?

Use a converter tool like Audacity or FFmpeg to re-encode your M4R file back into the MP3 format if needed. The process is similar.

Can I use ALAC instead of AAC when converting?

Yes, you can convert your MP3 to Apple Lossless (ALAC) and change the extension to M4R. ALAC is less compressed than AAC.

How long does MP3 to M4R conversion take?

It’s nearly instant with online converters. With desktop tools it depends on your computer speed, but is usually under a minute for a 3-4 minute MP3 clip.

What bitrate should I use for M4R files?

128 or 256 kbps are recommended. Lower bitrates will reduce audio quality. Higher provides minimal gains past 256 kbps.

Can I set a song as my ringtone without converting to M4R?

Unfortunately no – the iPhone only supports M4R format ringtones. An MP3 song must be converted first.

PS: Here, you will learn more about how to transfer and make your iPhone ringtones for your reference.

Final Tips

  • Test your new ringtone on the iPhone before deleting the original MP3 file
  • You can pay to have ringtones professionally mastered for optimal quality
  • Set unique ringtones for your VIP contacts to identify them quickly
  • Avoid distortion – trim loudpassages and lower gain if needed
  • On Mac, GarageBand provides advanced audio editing features

Converting MP3 to M4R for iPhone ringtones only takes a few steps. With this guide, you now have all the knowledge to create custom ringtones from your favorite songs and audio clips. Experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you.


Skilled software testing specialist with expertise in comparisons and research, passionate about blogging, reviews, and creating video tutorials.

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