The great big, no-nonsense, mostly free audio converter matrix

When trying to solve a music file conundrum I've been presented with via email, I often need to produce an audio file of a specific format. That's because different audio file formats store data (both the audio and the internal metadata) in different ways, and those differences can produce different behaviours and problems.

So the next step is choosing a piece of software to convert some existing music files I have. For some file formats, on some platforms, there are straightforward choices, some even bundled by default with the operating system. But more esoteric file formats require more specialised software.

So, rather than re-think and re-research the same thing over and over again, I decided to collate a matrix of file format conversions, and research software that will perform the conversion in a simple manner.

How did I choose the software?

There's a wealth of software out there to perform audio file conversion. So instead of picking any old codebase and ending up with a morass, I decided to priorise the software by the following criteria (in roughly importance order):

  • Has a GUI (graphical interface).
  • No-nonsense - ideally pre-installed, or otherwise the simplest possible install.
  • Free (as in beer).
  • Has a batch working mode.

Happily this means the set of software involved is much constrained; I've listed the software at the bottom of the article with links to download and find out more.

Audio converters

On with the matrix!

From MP3 MP4
(.mp4, .m4a)
ALAC
(.m4a)
FLAC OGG DSD
(.dsf, .dff)
AIFF WAV
To
MP3 WMP foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 JRiver foobar2000 WMP
SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter DeaDBeeF Audacity SoundConverter
ITunes ITunes XLD XLD XLD ITunes ITunes
MP4 (.mp4, .m4a) foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 JRiver foobar2000 foobar2000
SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter DeaDBeeF Audacity SoundConverter
ITunes ITunes XLD XLD XLD ITunes ITunes
ALAC (.m4a) foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 JRiver foobar2000 foobar2000
SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter DeaDBeeF Audacity SoundConverter
ITunes ITunes XLD XLD XLD ITunes ITunes
FLAC foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 JRiver foobar2000 foobar2000
SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter DeaDBeeF Audacity SoundConverter
XLD XLD XLD XLD XLD XLD XLD
OGG foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 JRiver foobar2000 foobar2000
SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter DeaDBeeF Audacity SoundConverter
XLD XLD XLD XLD XLD XLD XLD
DSD (.dsf, .dff) JRiver JRiver JRiver JRiver JRiver JRiver JRiver
JRiver JRiver JRiver JRiver JRiver JRiver JRiver
XLD XLD XLD XLD XLD XLD XLD
AIFF foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 JRiver foobar2000
Audacity Audacity Audacity Audacity Audacity JRiver Audacity
ITunes ITunes ITunes XLD XLD XLD ITunes
WAV WMP foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 foobar2000 JRiver foobar2000
SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter SoundConverter DeaDBeeF SoundConverter
ITunes ITunes ITunes XLD XLD XLD ITunes

The software

As I wrote above, all software was assessed against four main criteria. The software that tended to "win" at these criteria were:

It goes without saying, but if your criteria are different, you may want to choose different software (but let me know about it in the comments!).


I hope this quick reference is useful. If you have suggestions as to better software or additional file formats to cover, or anything else, let me know in the comments below!

Thanks to Patrick Hendry for the image above.
tags: transcoder music converter

The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.

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