Save Money on iPhone Ringtones

Create ringtones using iTunes or find tones on the web

Free iPhone Ringtones
Source: Pixabay

Ringtones let you customize your iPhone with tunes and sounds you like, even allowing you to assign specific ringtones to individual contacts in your phone. But where do you get ringtones for the iPhone? Can you use a piece of a song already in your iTunes library used as a ringtone?

The easiest way to add a ringtone to your iPhone is to buy it on the iTunes Store, usually for either 99¢ or $1.29. Of course that would the easy way, but who wants to spend money for a ringtone of a song you already own?

You can, however, create your own ringtones using songs you own without spending money—and you can even use iTunes to help you do it—but it does require some extra effort.

Make Ringtones From Songs You Own With iTunes

It's not exactly easy to create a new ringtone from a song you own that's in your iTunes library, but it can be done in a few steps. Songs you want to use must be ones you owned and saved on your local hard drive (i.e., they can't be in the cloud or streamed from the internet).

You cannot create ringtones from songs in your library that you downloaded with Apple Music; you must have either bought them from iTunes or imported them from a CD you own.

  1. Find the song you want to create a ringtone from in iTunes and select it.

    The maximum length of a ringtone is 40 seconds, and for text message tones the maximum length is 30 seconds.

  2. Mac users: Click iTunes > Preferences > General.

    Windows users: Click Edit > Preferences > General.

    At the bottom of the window, click Import Settings.

    iTunes preferences general settings
  3. In the Import Settings window, click the Setting dropdown. (Note which setting is currently selected so you can go back at the end of this and restore it to your original choice.)

    Select High Quality (128 kbps) from the menu.

    Click OK.

    iTunes import quality settings
  4. Locate your song in your iTunes library. Listen to it and note the start and end times of the clip you want to make into a ringtone.

  5. Right-click the song and select Song Info.

    iTunes song info
  6. Click the Options tab. Enter the start and the stop times you noted in the available fields.

    Click OK.

    iTunes song info, start and stop times
  7. In the iTunes menu, click File > Convert > Create AAC version. This will create a new file that is only the clip between the start and stop times you set.

    iTunes converting a song clip to AAC
  8. Find the newly created music clip file in iTunes (it'll have the same name as the original song but will have a short time length). Right-click on the new file and click Show in Finder.

    Remove Clip From iTunes Library

    You won't need the clip in your iTunes library, so you can remove it.

    1. When the Finder window opens to show the new file, in iTunes right-click the new file name again and select Delete from Library.
    2. When asked if you want to delete this song from your iTunes library, click Delete Song.
    3. When asked if you want to move the song to the Trash, click Keep File.
  9. In the Finder window, right-click the new file and select Rename. Change the extension from m4a to m4r (m4r is the file extension for ringtones) and press Enter.

When you are finished creating your ringtone, don't forget to go back and restore the changes to your import settings and remove the start and stop times on that original song.

Reset Start and Stop Times on Original Song File

In your iTunes library, select the original song file. Right-click the song and select Song Info. Click the Options tab and uncheck the boxes next to start and stop.

Click OK.

Reset Import Settings

Click iTunes (on a Mac) or Edit (on a Windows PC) > Preferences > General. Click Import Settings.

Click the Setting dropdown and select your original setting.

Add the Ringtone to Your iPhone

Now that you've created your ringtone file, you need to add it to your iPhone so it's available to assign.

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer. Unlock your iPhone if prompted. At the top of the iTunes window, select your iPhone

    If the left sidebar is not visible in iTunes, click View > Show Sidebar.

  2. In the left sidebar, under On My Device, click Tones.

    Tones in the iTunes app
  3. From the Finder window with the new m4r ringtone file you created, drag the ringtone file to iTunes and drop it in the Tones folder.

  4. At the bottom of the iTunes window, click Sync. When syncing is finished, you will be able to find the ringtone among your other ringtones on your iPhone.

Websites That Offer Free and Legal Ringtones

If you want to venture beyond your music library and iTunes, then a good source of ringtones are websites that allow you to download them for free. Often, though, the problem here is that finding ones that are both free and legal (i.e., not restricted for use by copyright).

You may have already visited countless websites that offer "free" tones, only to discover they're not truly free when you try to download them. You might be required to pay a subscription fee, or the site might redirect you to another unrelated site full of advertisements but no ringtone.

There are websites that do offer legitimately free tones, however. Here are a few, some of which also offer other content such as videos, games, apps, wallpapers, and more.

Zedge

The Zedge app offers ringtones of a wide range, though they aren't going to be clips of hot current songs. Some are pleasant tones, some are voice tones of varying quality (some are pretty hokey), and some are other random sounds and effects.

Zedge app screens

The interface is not great. If you want to browse what's available, you'll have to scroll through an interminable list—though there's a categories header under search, there are no actual categories to choose from.

Tones7

Tones7 has a nice range of ringtone types, and a sizable list of categories to make browsing for that perfect ringtone easier. These are also not going to be top Billboard hits.

Tones7 ringtones website

Notification Sounds

Notification Sounds provides ringtones that are created on synthesizers. If you're looking for bleeps, twoops, and martian ray guns, you'll find these here.

Notification Sounds ringtone website

When downloading files from any website, do keep in mind the legal considerations. The content itself usually provides clues: If a site hosts free ringtones from the latest chart-topping songs, then it's probably best to keep well away.

Creating Ringtones Using Audio-Editing Software/Apps

You can use audio-editing software to make ringtones. These apps can seem complicated at first, but all you really need to do is import a song from your library and then export a 30-second audio loop.

For example, using Audacity to create free ringtones is fairly easy. It's among the most popular apps for this purpose, but you can choose from many other free audio editors, too. It's just a matter of finding one you feel comfortable with.