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What is an M4A File
What is an M4A File

What is an M4A File

by Alexa Davis
26 Jun 2023
546 views

If you're familiar with audio files, chances are you've heard of the term "m4a". But what is an M4A file?

In this article, we'll find out how it differs from other types of audio files and why it can be a smart choice for your needs. We'll also be providing resources on how to convert to and from the M4A format if you need them. Let's take a closer look at the details of M4A files now!

What Is an M4A File?

M4A is a digital audio file format developed by Apple in 2004. It is most commonly used for music files and audio recordings, but can also be applied for other forms of video and track playback. M4A stands for MPEG 4 Audio and is a type of audio file that uses advanced audio coding (AAC) compression which reduces the size of the file without compromising the sound quality. This makes it superior to other audio file formats such as MP3s which offer worse sound quality even at higher bitrates.

M4A files are highly sought after due to their smaller size and outstanding sound quality, making them perfect for streaming services like Spotify. They are also widely used in video production and playback, suitable for storage on both hard drives and mobile devices.

M4A File Format Specification

M4A files typically contain audio data that has been encoded with either Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) or Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC). These two codecs offer higher quality audio at lower bit rates which result in smaller file sizes.

One of the great things about M4A file type is that it is versatile. They can be utilized for external playback devices like iPods and iPhones, as well as stored on a computer hard drive, CD, or DVD. Additionally, they feature digitally extracted metadata tags for song info like artist name, album title, and genre.

Although M4A files are great for storing music and podcasts because of their high quality and small size, they are unfortunately not compatible with some other media players and web browsers. For these devices, you may need to convert M4A file into an MP3.

Comparing M4A With MP3

M4A and MP3 are two popular audio formats. Both have their pros and cons, so let’s take a detailed look at each format to determine which is best for you.

M4A formatMP3 format
The M4A format is usually encoded using the AAC algorithm, which ensures the highest sound quality for a given file size. This makes it an ideal format for streaming music and podcasting.The MP3 format was one of the first digital audio formats, still in use today due to its wide compatibility among devices and programs.
It allows users to get higher-quality sound with less data usage than an MP3 file.It was created using the MPEG-1 Layer 3 encoding algorithm, which is not as efficient as that used by M4A files; therefore resulting in larger file sizes for MP3s without any increase in audio quality.
Besides, M4A files support both tags and metadata (i.e. album art, track information, etc.)Over and above that, while certain variations of MP3 do support tags/metadata, only a limited type of information is supported.

Contrasting M4A With WAV

When it comes to music, it can be challenging to select the best file format. WAV is another widely-used audio format, but what sets it apart from others?

M4AWAV
As for M4A files, they are basically an evolution of the popular MP3 format, but with improved audio quality and higher compression. Because M4A files are compressed, they take up less space on your hard drive and can be easily shared online.WAV (or Waveform Audio File Format) is an uncompressed audio format developed by Microsoft and IBM for Windows. Compared to M4A files, WAVs have much larger file sizes but they also maintain the highest level of sound quality possible from digital recordings.

How to Open M4A?

The main difference between how Windows and Mac computers open M4A files is that Apple devices are optimized for playing M4A out of the box. While Windows devices require a third-party app to be downloaded and installed in order to play the file.

Open the M4A File on Windows

To easily open M4A files on Windows devices, you first need to download an M4A-compatible media player. It may be iTunes, VLC, or Windows Media Player. After downloading and installing the program of your choice, hover over the M4A file and right-click. Then select "Open With -> [any media player]". The program will then open the file for playback.

Open M4A File on Mac

Opening M4A files on Mac computers is even easier than on a Windows device! Apple made sure that any its device is capable of playing M4A files without any additional programs. All you need to do is double-click on the M4A file and it'll automatically open in iTunes. In case you don't have iTunes installed, QuickTime player is likely your default audio player and will open the file anyway. Enjoy listening to your audio!

How to Convert M4A to MP3 or other formats

M4A files may be incompatible with many devices or media players. To make them compatible, you may need to transform them to a more universally accepted format like MP3.

If you've ever searched for ways to turn M4A into MP3 files, you know that desktop software can be hard to find and even harder to use. But there are simpler solutions available! Online tools like Video Candy provide an easy-to-use platform for converting audio formats in just a few clicks. Plus, they don't require downloading any special software!

Here's how it works:

  1. Open the M4A to MP3 online converter in your browser.
  2. Select the M4A file you wish to convert from your computer’s or smartphone's storage. Or drag and drop it into the browser tab.
  3. The conversion process will start automatically.
  4. Press on the "Download" button next to your file and save it on your computer.

And... Voilà! You have just converted M4A to MP3 with a convenient online service!

Advantages:

  • It works with the most popular operating systems: Windows 11 and 10 and earlier, MacOS and Linux;
  • User-friendly interface and powerful tools make shooting and editing easy;
  • Supported file formats include MKV, MP4, MOV, WEBM, AVI, etc;
  • Capture video from multiple sources (workstation, laptop or mobile device);
  • Web and TV quality output.

Why should I convert M4A?

One reason you would want to convert an M4A to MP3 is so you can stream your music on various platforms and devices. Some streaming services don't support M4A audio files, and many car stereos don't handle the format either. Transforming the audio to MP3 ensures that it will be compatible with these systems.

If you have songs or other audio stored in other formats, like MP3 or WAV, you may want to consider converting them to M4A. This will give you the highest quality audio at a fraction of the size of the original file. Changing your audio files into M4A will also make them easier to share with others, as the files will be smaller and easier to download.

In addition, many mobile devices are optimized for M4A, allowing you to listen to your music without using too much battery power. This is perfect for listening on the go!

Furthermore, turning M4A into MP3 is often beneficial for reducing the size of the files. That makes them faster and easier to transfer to different systems, upload online, or send via email.

What is an M4A file: Final words

In conclusion, the M4A audio format is becoming increasingly popular due to its excellent quality and impressive storage efficiency. But it is worth noting that its compatibility is still limited. If the device or software you are using only supports MP3, M4A files may not be playable. That said: M4A is generally preferred for both streaming and premium audio playback. The reason for this is its superior sound recording quality and remarkable memory efficiency. Therefore, it is vital to consider the platform working on, the level of quality you require. And the amount of storage space you have available when choosing the audio format that best suits your needs.

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