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What is the M4A File Format and How Do You Open and Convert it?

M4A Audio File Format Explained

Last updated on January 23rd, 2024 at 02:18 am

M4A is a MPEG-4 audio file. In other words, it is compressed with a MPEG-4 codec.

The codec used is AAC or Advanced Audio Coding which is lossy in nature.

M4A files may also be compressed with ALAC or Apple Lossless Audio Codec.

Where are M4A Files Used?

A popular platform where audio files are available in the M4A file format is Apple’s iTunes Store.

Over here you’ll often find MPEG-4 audio in the protected mode.

It is called M4P and was available at the Store until 2009.

What’s the Difference Between M4A and MP3?

While MP3 is a popular audio format supported by almost all multimedia devices, it has quality shortcomings.

M4A seeks to improve on MP3 audio quality. It does this by using a more efficient codec to provide audio quality at lower file sizes.

So, an M4A file with a similar bitrate as MP3 offers higher-quality audio.

M4A’s drawback is it’s not compatible with many devices.

MP3 on the other hand is a universal format that has gained acceptance by audio buffs.

What’s the Difference Between M4A and WAV?

As you would have known by now the M4A file format uses lossy M4A compression. WAV is a lossless file format.

Encoding for WAV is through Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) to provide lossless compression.

WAV provides better-quality audio than M4A. However, the drawback is a larger file size.

How to Open an M4A File?

If you have an M4A file, how do you open it? You can’t directly open an M4A file with Windows Media Player. You may do so if you install the necessary codec through a codec pack. A popular codec pack you would want to consider is the K-Lite Codec Pack.

However, if you don’t want to go through the hassle, you may use the VLC Media Player.

This free player supports almost all video and audio formats out there.

Also, if you have any player that supports MP4 playback, then you’ll be able to open an M4A file with it.

How to Convert M4A to MP3

If your media player doesn’t support M4A playback, you can solve the problem by

Chances are you would want to convert M4A to MP3 so that it’s compatible across many devices.

Here are the ways you can convert M4A to MP3


If you bought an M4A file through iTunes, then you may convert M4A to MP3 through the platform.

Check out the video below for guidance.

Use an Existing Video or Audio Editor

Chances are you may already have a video or audio editor. If so, you can import your M4A file and then export it as MP3.

Use an Online Video Converter

Don’t have a video or audio editor? Don’t fancy installing a video converter?

No problem.

You can always use a free online video converter.

Such a service will also undertake the conversion of audio files.

You can easily convert the M4A file format to MP3 or other audio file formats.

online audio converter

Check out some good online video converters that double as audio converters.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Difference Between M4A and MP4?

The similarity between M4A and MP4 is they use the same MPEG-4 codec. The difference is M4A supports only audio. On the other hand, MP4 can store video and audio files.

Is there a Lossless Version of M4A?

Yes, there’s a lossless version of the M4A file format. It doesn’t use the MPEG-4 codec which is lossy in nature. It uses the ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec).

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