How to Convert AAC to MP3 With iTunes

If you prefer MP3s, iTunes can deliver them for DRM-free tracks

iTunes window with iTunes logo

 Apple, inc.

Songs from the iTunes Store and Apple Music use the AAC digital audio format. AAC generally offers better sound quality and smaller files than MP3, but some people still prefer MP3. If you're one of them, you may want to convert your music from AAC to MP3.

Lots of programs offer this feature, but you don't need to download anything new — and you definitely don't need to pay for anything. Just use iTunes. There's an audio file converter built into iTunes that you can use to convert AACs to MP3s.

You can only convert songs from AAC to MP3 if they are DRM-free. If a song has DRM (Digital Rights Management), it can't be converted, since conversion could remove the DRM. 

Change iTunes Settings to Create MP3s

The first thing you need to do is make sure iTunes' file conversion feature is set to create MP3 files. It can produce many kinds of files, including AAC, MP3, and Apple Lossless. To do this:

  1. Launch iTunes.

  2. Open Preferences. On Windows, do this by going to Edit > Preferences. On a Mac, go to iTunes > Preferences.

    Preferences menu item in iTunes
  3. On the General tab, click Import Settings toward the bottom.

    Import Settings button in iTunes preferences
  4. Choose MP3 Encoder from the Import Using drop-down menu.

    MP3 Encoder in iTunes Import Settings
  5. You should also make a choice in the Setting drop-down. The higher the quality setting, the better the converted song sounds, although the file is bigger, too. Choose either the Higher Quality setting, which is 192 kbps or choose Custom and select 256 kbps. Never use anything lower than the current bit rate of the AAC file you're converting. If you don't know it, find it in the song's ID3 tags. Pick your setting and click OK

  6. Click OK in the Preferences window to close it.

How to Convert AAC to MP3 Using iTunes

With that setting changed, you're ready to convert files. Just follow these steps:

  1. In iTunes, find the song or songs you want to convert to MP3. You can select songs one at a time or in a group of noncontiguous files by holding down Control on Windows or Command on Mac while you click each file.

  2. When you've selected all the files you want to convert, choose the File menu in iTunes.

  3. Select Convert.

  4. Press or click Create MP3 Version.

    Create MP3 Version menu item in iTunes

    ITunes notifies you if any of the songs you choose cannot be converted due to DRM restrictions. Deselect those songs to proceed.

    The file conversion begins. How long the conversion takes depends on how many songs you're converting and the quality settings.

  5. When the conversion from AAC to MP3 is complete, you have one copy of the song in each format. You may want to hold onto both copies, but if you want to delete one, you need to know which is which. Select one file and press the keyboard combination Control + I on Windows or Command + I on a Mac. This pops up the song's information window. Click the File tab. The Kind field tells you whether the song is an AAC or MP3.

  6. Delete the song you want to get rid of in the usual way that you delete files from iTunes.

How to Get the Best Sound Quality for Converted Files

Converting a song from AAC to MP3 (or vice versa) can result in a slight loss of sound quality for the converted file. That's because both formats keep file size small by using compression technologies that reduce some sound quality at high and low frequencies. Most people don't notice this compression.

This means that AAC and MP3 files are already compressed when you get them. Converting the song to a new format further compresses it. You may not notice this difference in audio quality, but if you have great ears or great audio equipment, you might.

You can ensure the best audio quality for your files by converting from a high-quality original, rather than a compressed file. For example, ripping a song from CD to MP3 is better than ripping it to AAC and then converting to MP3. If you don't have a CD, perhaps you can find a lossless version of the original song to convert.