Tutorial - Exporting to Apple Music/iTunes

From Audacity Development Manual
Jump to: navigation, search
Before exporting audio for use in Apple Music/iTunes it is important to consider which audio file format you want to use. WAV and AIFF files produce high quality lossless audio files but consume a lot of disk space. MP3 and AAC files are compressed so they occupy less disk space, but audio damage may result as a result of the compression especially when using low bit rates.
Advice Please be aware that there is a bug in Audacity whereby the bit rate setting that you make in an AAC export is not honored by Audacity. See this logged bug.
  • The strongly recommended workaround is to export as uncompressed WAV or AIFF and use iTunes/Apple Music, where you have greater control of the settings, to make the AAC conversion.
Submitting a podcast to the Apple Store is a different process than exporting an Audacity file to an Apple Music/iTunes library. See our Tutorial on Tutorial - Mixing a Narration With Background Music for more help with creating and publishing a podcast.


  1. Exporting audio for loading into Apple Music/iTunes - a quick overview
  2. Set export location
  3. Export to other Formats using Apple Music/iTunes
  4. What format should I export to?
    1. WAV or AIFF - universal support, lossless, large files, best for CD burning, not ideal for iTunes
    2. MP3 - universal support, small files, lossy
    3. AAC - Apple's proprietary format, small files, lossy
    4. Apple Lossless - Apple's proprietary format, lossless, size compressed

Exporting audio for loading into Apple Music/iTunes

Follow the below steps to export audio for adding to Apple Music/iTunes.

  1. Use the File > Export Audio command in Audacity.
  2. Choose the export format in the Export dialog, to export the particular format you want your file(s) to be in (the best choices are WAV, AIFF, MP3 or AAC).
  3. Copy the file(s) into iTunes from the location you exported it to:
    • in iTunes use the File > Add File to Library (or File > Add Folder to Library) command
    • in Apple Music use the File > Import command.
    • in either you can drag&drop an audio file into Apple Music/iTunes
  4. Or you can set the file location on export from Audacity to auto-import into Apple Music/iTunes
You may also want to read this workflow tutorial Sample workflow for exporting to Apple Music/iTunes.
Advice there is a bug in Audacity whereby the bit rate setting that you make in an AAC export is not honored by Audacity.

You may wish to export as uncompressed WAV or AIFF and use iTunes to make the AAC conversion, see below on this page. Or the workflow tutorial for more details Sample workflow for exporting to Apple Music/iTunes.

Set export location

You can choose any location for the export such as a "Music" folder on your Desktop or even the Apple Music/iTunes "Music" folder if you have one. However you must still import this file from the exported location into the Apple Music/iTunes Library.

There are two ways to import your exported audio files into Apple Music/iTunes:

  • Use the File > Add File to Library or File > Add Folder to Library command from within iTunes, or File > Import in Apple Music, to add a single audio file or a folder of audio files.
  • Select Songs in Apple Music/iTunes and drag the file from the location you exported it to, into the Apple Music/iTunes window.

You can export files from Audacity directly to your Apple Music/iTunes library. Exporting a file to the following locations will cause Apple Music/iTunes to automatically place it in the Music section of your library. You can then play the audio on your computer with iTunes or add it to your iPhone, iPad or iPod

Set the destination folder as:

  • Windows: C:\Users\<user name>\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Automatically Add to iTunes
  • Mac: ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Automatically Add to iTunes or ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Automatically Add to Music.
Advice By default Apple Music/iTunes is a "virtual" Library containing no actual files but only links to them.

To avoid losing your files, do *not* delete the exported files from the location you exported them to, unless you have already gone to Edit > Preferences > Advanced in iTunes, or Preferences > Files in Apple Music. and enabled the "Copy files to iTunes/Music Media folder when adding to library" option.

It is strongly recommended that you make this setting in Apple Music/iTunes.

Export to other Formats using Apple Music/iTunes

Alternatively you can export to WAV or AIFF and convert to MP3, AAC or Apple Lossless in Apple Music/iTunes:

  1. Click Edit > Preferences (or Music > Preferences on macOS Catalina or later)
  2. Click on the "General" tab in iTunes - or the "Files" tab in Apple Music
  3. Click the Import Settings button
  4. In the "Import Using" dropdown, choose "MP3 Encoder", "AAC Encoder" or "Apple Lossless Encoder" as required
  5. Click OK and OK
  6. Select the file to be converted, then use File > Convert and choose "Create MP3 Version", "Create AAC Version" or "Create Apple Lossless Version" as appropriate.

After creating the MP3, AAC or Apple Lossless version you should delete the original WAV or AIFF files to save disk space, as Apple Music/iTunes does not do this for you automatically.

What format should I export to?

AAC is the default format set in Apple Music/iTunes and the format Apple uses for audio files sold from the Apple Music/iTunes Store, so is the most obvious choice if you solely use Apple products. MP3 should be considered if you think that in the future you may wish to switch to an alternative portable music player or phone. If you have plenty of storage space on your device or a relatively small music library you may wish to consider the larger lossless WAV or AIFF formats.

There are several advantages to using a compressed format on iPods and iPhones. The two main benefits are that you can fit many more songs into the device (for 256 kbps files you can fit about 10 times as many songs) and compressed files improve battery life, because disk reads are relatively heavy on battery power.

If you choose lossy formats (MP3 or AAC) the minimum bit rate setting you should use for music is 160 kbps, though 256 kbps is probably to be preferred - and in use on an iPod is unlikely to be distinguishable from WAV or AIFF (or Apple Lossless). For speech 128 kbps or even 64 kbps can be used as the bit rate if preferred.

Apple does not officially support Ogg Vorbis (a lossy, compressed format similar to MP3/compressed AAC) and has no support at all for FLAC (a lossless, compressed format smaller than WAV but larger than MP3/compressed AAC). If you really want to export to OGG for Apple Music/iTunes. iPods, iPads and iPhones cannot play OGG files.

WAV or AIFF (universal support, lossless, best for CD burning)

If you want a perfect lossless copy of your audio, or to burn it in Apple Music/iTunes to an audio CD for playing on any CD player, you should choose WAV or AIFF. It is strongly recommended you export a standard "CD quality" 44100 Hz, 16-bit stereo WAV or AIFF to make sure Apple Music/iTunes understands the file. This means:

  • Select File > Export Audio. then select "WAV (Microsoft) signed 16-bit PCM" or "AIFF (Apple) signed 16-bit PCM" in the export window
  • Ensure that the Sample Rate in the export dialog is set to 44100 Hz
  • If you want a stereo export but your Project does not already contain a stereo track, click Tracks > Add New > Stereo Track.

See Burning music files to a CD if you are only interested in burning a CD.

An advantage of exporting to AIFF is that lyrics or album art can be added to the file in Apple Music/iTunes, which is not possible with WAV files.

MP3 (universal support, small files, lossy)

If you want to distribute your files on the Internet (for example as a podcast), you should choose MP3 as the Format in the Export dialog, as this is a space-saving (although slightly lossy) format that anyone should be able to play.

If you want to put the files on an iPod, or simply store them in Apple Music/iTunes in a compact form, MP3 is also a good choice. However, there are some reports that when run on battery, recent iPods can struggle or crash when playing MP3s created in applications other than Apple Music/iTunes. So you may want to export as WAV or AIFF from Audacity and convert the files to MP3 in Apple Music/iTunes instead.

AAC (Apple proprietary, small files, lossy)

Apple's proprietary format produces lossy, small, files similar to MP3, they are approximately the same quality as MP3 for a slightly smaller file size. The files are created with the .m4a extension.

AAC is useful for iPhone/iPod or storage in Apple Music/iTunes due to its small file size and reduced disk occupancy, particularly if you have an iPhone or iPod with a small disk. The minimum bit rate setting you should use for music is 160 kpbs though 256 kbps is probably to be preferred and in use on an iPhone or iPod is unlikely to be distinguishable from WAV or AIFF (or Apple Lossless).

Audacity can export directly to AAC if you install the optional FFmpeg library. To export to AAC choose M4A (AAC) Files (FFmpeg) in the Export Audio window then type the file name.

Tip If you are exporting an AAC file for mobile devices, you can add the M4R (ringtone) or 3GP extension after the file name and dot as required by the device.

Apple Lossless (Apple proprietary, lossless, smaller than WAV/AIFF)

Apple Lossless Encoding (sometimes referred to as ALAC - Apple Lossless Audio Codec) is also an Apple proprietary format. Apple Lossless is, as the name suggests, Apple's size-compressed lossless codec. Like AAC it also uses files with the M4A extension.

Apple Lossless Encoder is quite similar to FLAC, producing larger files than AAC or MP3 but smaller than WAV. Typically an Apple Lossless file is around half the size of an equivalent WAV file and more than three times the size of an equivalent AAC 256 kbps file.

You cannot export directly to Apple Lossless from the Export Audio dialog. Instead, on Windows and Linux, install the optional FFmpeg library. On Mac, search for and download a standalone "ffmpeg" binary online. Then export using the (external program) choice. Click the Options button, then enter the following command:

ffmpeg -i - -acodec alac "%f"

On Mac, you must give the full path to ffmpeg enclosed in quotes, instead of just "ffmpeg".

Finally in the Export Audio dialog, add the M4A extension after the file name and dot. See Exporting using an external encoder program for more help.