Brian writes, "I have a problem that I need help with. After years of ripping my CDs with Windows Media Player, I recently acquired a new iPhone. From what I can tell, my iPhone will not allow me to play the WMA files created when I used Windows Media Player. Is there anything I can do to convert WMA to MP3 or M4A? I really don't want to have to re-rip more than 600 CDs."
I personally prefer to avoid converting a compressed audio format like WMA to another compressed audio format like MP3, because both formats throw some audio data away when you create the file. When you ripped your CD to WMA format, you lost some of the audio in the process. When you convert an audio file from WMA to MP3, you take a file that already had some missing information, interpret it as a new file format, and potentially lose even more information. In theory, the audio information you lose is inaudible to humans, but sometimes making that generational transition from one format to another causes the changes to be audible. If you have the original CD, you'll get a better sounding MP3 file by re-ripping the tracks. I do understand that ripping 600 CDs (or even 100) sounds like a daunting task best to be avoided. What's the best way to convert WMA files to MP3?
There are two easy, but still time consuming, ways to convert WMA to MP3 files compatible with your new iPhone. iTunes supports importing WMA files, as long as plan to conver them to another format. The other option is to use audio conversion software to convert the files to the format of your choice. Ideally you want to use an application with support for batch conversion so you can point the software at your music collection and leave to do something else until it finishes.
Converting WMA to MP3 with iTunes
The default option in iTunes is to import music as AAC, which is a perfectly acceptable format compatible with both iOS devices and Android phones too. With a simple change to the iTunes configuration settings you can convert WMA files to MP3s using iTunes instead. To change iTunes file conversion setting, open the iTunes Preferences from the Edit menu. On the General tab, click the Import Settings button. Choose MP3 Encoder from the dropdown menu and select a quality setting comparable to the quality of the WMA files you already have. By default, iTunes is set to High Quality (160 kbps).
Once you make the change, simply add your library of WMA files to iTunes and iTunes will automatically import all WMA files as MP3.
Converting WMA to MP3 with WinFF
I find iTunes process to be incredibly slow and prefer to convert files using WinFF, which supports batch conversion. WinFF is free and also works for converting many other audio and video files, so it's a handy solution to keep on hand. Before you can start converting files using this method, you need to WinFF and install the software.
After you install WinFF, launch the application and add WMA files you want to convert to MP3.
Choose MP3 (audio only) in the Convert to option and pick the Output folder. Then hit the Convert button and wander off while the application chugs through all of your WMA files. This option defaults to 160 kbps, but you can configure it for any of the supported MP3 bitrates. 160 kbps is a good choice.
Here's a video stepping you through the process of using WinFF to convert WMA to MP3: