What is an M4A File?

How to Open, Edit, & Convert M4A Files

Picture of the M4A file icon

A file with the M4A file extension is an MPEG-4 Audio file. They're most often found in Apple's iTunes Store as the format of song downloads.

Many M4A files are encoded with the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) codec in order to reduce the size of the file. Some M4A files may instead use the Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC).

If you're downloading a song through the iTunes Store that is copy protected, it's instead saved with the M4P file extension.

Note: M4A files are similar to MPEG-4 Video files (MP4s) since they both use the MPEG-4 container format. However, M4A files can only hold audio data.

How To Open an M4A File

Lots of programs support the playback of M4A files, including iTunes, QuickTime, Windows Media Player (v11 requires the K-Lite Codec Pack), VLC, Winamp, and very likely some other popular media player applications as well.

Apple's iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch can play M4A files directly from an email or website without needing a special app, regardless of whether or not the file uses AAC or ALAC. Other mobile devices may have native support for M4A playback as well.

Rhythmbox plays M4A files on Linux.

Note: Because the MPEG-4 format is used for both M4A and MP4 files, any video player that supports the playback of one file should also play the other since the two are the exact same file format.

How To Convert an M4A File

While M4A files may be a common file type, they certainly don't trump the MP3 format, which is why you may want to convert M4A to MP3.

You can do this using iTunes (with this or this guide) or with a number of free file converters.

A few free M4A file converters that can convert the format to not only MP3 but others like WAV, M4R, WMA, AIFF, and AC3, include Switch Sound File Converter, Freemake Audio Converter, and MediaHuman Audio Converter.

Another way to convert an M4A file to MP3 or another audio format is to use an online M4A converter like FileZigZag or Zamzar. Upload the M4A file to one of those websites and you'll be given many different output format options, including FLAC, M4R, WAV, OPUS, and OGG, among others.

You might also be able to "convert" the M4A file to text using speech recognition software like Dragon. Programs like this can transcribe live, spoken words into text, and Dragon is one example that can even do it with an audio file. However, you may have to first convert the M4A file to MP3 using one of the converters I just mentioned.

More Information on M4A Files

Some audio book and podcast files use the M4A file extension, but because this format doesn't support bookmarks to save your last accessed place in the file, they are generally saved in the M4B format, which can store this information.

The MPEG-4 Audio format is used by Apple's iPhone in the form of ringtones, but they're saved with the M4R file extension instead of M4A.

More Help With M4A Files

See Get More Help for information about contacting me on social networks or via email, posting on tech support forums, and more. Let me know what kinds of problems you're having with opening or using the M4A file and I'll see what I can do to help.

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