I’ve been experimenting with a new field recording technique lately: recording four audio tracks to a MixPre-6 with a bonus summed stereo mix paired with a few handheld portable recorders thrown in as backup. The result of these multi-channel field recording sessions? My external hard drive is running out of space.
It’s true storage is pretty cheap. Just the same, I like getting a lot of mileage from of my terabytes. That’s why I make a backup of my raw field recordings in the space-saving FLAC format as soon as I return to the studio.
Earlier this week I converted some WAVs to FLAC and archived them to cloud storage. As I watched them upload, I began to think: what other reasons do people use these apps? What’s the best sound file conversion app? Will free sound file converters work well or is it better to pay for apps? Which allow batching and what file formats do they support?
So, to answer those questions, today’s post is dedicated to exploring sound file converter apps for MacOS and Windows.
Please note: I am very detailed. This article should take you about 11 minutes to read. Click the button below to email the article to yourself to read later.
Audio File Conversion for Sound Pros
Why use sound conversion software?
- Make MP3- or streamable-quality duplicates for sound library audio previews or SoundCloud, etc.
- Export clips to match a client’s delivery specifications.
- Process the file with plug-ins, normalizing, fades, and more.
- File manipulation: trim clips, extract portions, join many clips.
- Create a space-saving lossless version for backup or archives.
Of course, there are dozens of other ways a sound designer may need to change a file. However these are the most common for field recordists, sound effects mastering techs, and library curators.
Sound File Converter Features
What do these apps do to get the job done? What features do the best sound file converters have?
Serious sound fx curation work requires these options:
- Format. Change from WAV to AIF from MP3 to FLAC and back again in a wide variety of formats. More is better.
- Sampling rate and bit depth. Down- or up-sample sound file fidelity. Pro options will offer 96 kHz, 24-bit or higher.
- Batch conversion. Need to alter file format, sample rate, and bit depth for 1,000 sounds? No one wants to change one clip at a time. Batch sound file converters allow users to set destination formats for entire folders of sound fx. They then grind out the conversion all at once. The best software allows applying changes to many at once while keeping the source folder structure intact.
Many apps offer other features. They are typically used only for specialized tasks, or are “nice to have”:
- MP3 conversion. Useful for creating email-ready low resolution draft files for clients. Some apps even allow specifying MP3 ID3 field text entry.
- Channel changes. Interleave discrete clips, split them, or extract one mono channel from multi-channel files.
- Multi-channel. Supports files with 3+ channels.
- Normalize/gain. Raise the level of a sound to a fixed point, or a increase it a specified amount of decibels.
- Add fades. Gradually increase the level at the beginning of the file, and diminish it at the end. Some apps allow modifying the speed of the level increase or the slope of this change.
- Add plug-ins. Add third-party reverb, compression, or other Audio Unit (AU) or VST plug-in settings to all files being converted. Some apps have their own native plug-ins that can be applied.
- Trim clips. Some apps can apply changes to a specified span of audio, and save just that portion of the sound into a new file. They’ll extract and create a new file from just that portion.
- Gate. An option to “trim silence” from clips and convert only audio data and avoid empty space at the beginning or end of files.
- Rename. Apply a new naming scheme to converted files.
- Join. Combine all files end-to-end one after another into a single, long sound.
As you can see, that’s a lot of variety. Let’s see how the apps compare.
Sound File Conversion App Comparison Chart
What apps are on the market to do this work? Let’s begin by looking at a chart of apps. It lists all the apps, their price, and what features they offer.
View the chart in Google Sheets for best results, or download a copy from the list below:
I drew the info from the apps, their websites, and their manuals. The info wasn’t always clear. So, if you have updates, please email me so we can build a community resource together.
- Blank entries means the option isn’t offered, or isn’t applicable.
- Question marks (“?”) means the information wasn’t available.
The Variety of Audio Conversion Apps
There are four broad categories of sound file converter apps:
- Standalone. An app solely designed to convert audio formats.
- Online. A sound file converter that works only online in a Web browser.
- Metadata apps. Sound-browsing software is designed to search, find, and apply metadata to sound files. (See a list of metadata apps in an earlier post.) In addition, many offer a valuable feature to convert sound files to an external folder (in addition to transferring them an editing app), too.
- Editing apps. Although primarily designed to cut or repair audio, some apps also batch export sound files from a timeline as well.
Let’s see how they stack up.
Comparison of Audio Conversion Apps
Here are all the major apps available for MacOS and Windows. Do you know one I’ve missed? Do you have a favourite you want to share? Email me or comment below.
- Standalone apps.
- FMJSoft Awave Studio
- Audio Ease Barbabatch
- Digital Brain Instruments Batch Pro
- Faasoft Audio Converter
- Monkey Tools Sound Grinder
- Digital Wave Freemake Audio Converter
- tmkk X Lossless Decoder (XLD)
- Poikosoft EZ CD Audio Converter
- DVDVideoSoft Free Audio Converter
- Media Human Audio Converter
- Online sound converters.
- Online Audio Converter
- Metadata apps.
- Soundminer v4.5 Pro
- BaseHead Ultra 4.x
- Monkey Tools Library Monkey and Library Monkey Pro
- Apple iTunes
- Editing apps.
- HairerSoft Amadeus Pro
- Rogue Amoeba Fission
- Twisted Wave
- Cockos Reaper
- Steinberg WaveLab Pro
- Avid Pro Tools
- iZotope RX
Let’s learn more.
1. Standalone Sound File Conversion Apps
These apps function as standalone software that has a single purpose: to process and convert sound files. They are more focused, and don’t require hardware to work (unlike some metadata apps or editing apps).
FMJSoft AWave Studio, $89 (MacOS 10.6+, Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP)
This app supports the most file formats in this list: a massive 300+. It also offers a variety of bonus sound processing tools: normalize, fades, strip silence, trim, and more. It’s natively a Windows app, with the MacOS version running under Wine. I used this for years and there truly wasn’t a file format it could not handle.
Audio Ease Barbabatch, $395 (MacOS)
Dutch publisher Audio Ease is well known for their Altiverb convolution reverb plug-in. Their Barbabatch audio conversion app shares the same thoughtful design. It converts 50+ formats in a simplified 3-pane interface. It has been years since this app has been updated though, and it lacks multi-channel support and other features more current apps offer.
Digital Brain Instruments Batch Pro, €49 (MacOS 10.7+, Windows 7+)
Batch Pro’s power is hidden behind a simple and modern one-window interface. The app allows standard options like sample rate, bit depth, and file type conversions. It also allows processing via 4 AU or VST plug-ins, as well as some rare features: pitch, pan, and filtering.
Faasoft Audio Converter, $25 (Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP)
This Windows-only app outputs conversions to 14+ file formats, while supporting a mini sound editor, too. Designed mostly for recreational music conversions, the interface is basic but pleasing. The simple app hides a valuable, rare batch converter feature, too: it can join many sounds into one long sound, even inserting a bit of dead air between them.
Monkey Tools Sound Grinder and Sound Grinder Pro, $39 and $349 (MacOS 10.5+)
The Sound Grinder suite of batch audio conversion apps support from 11-14 formats, each with numerous sub-formats. The Pro version adds additional processing options, such as multi-channel support, gain, fades, trim, renaming, and AU and VST plug-in support.
Fre:AC, free (MacOS, Windows, Linux)
The first of a quartet of rival free offerings, Fre:AC wins points for support for multiple operating systems. It’s designed to manage recreational music libraries, so Fre:AC lacks some of the pro features of other apps, and it is limited to 48 kHz conversions and 8 file formats. It does however have an intriguing, rare features: high and low pass filters.
Freemake Audio Converter
Digital Wave Freemake Audio Converter, free (Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista)
Often seen as comparable to Fre:AC, Freemake offers conversions in more than 50 file formats. As an Windows-only app, I wasn’t able to test it thoroughly, but I did notice it offers the valuable option to join clips together.
X Lossless Decoder
tmkk X Lossless Decoder (XLD), free (MacOS 10.4+)
A simple app that works with 8+ file formats. Limited to 48 kHz/32-bit conversions.
SoX, free (MacOS, Windows, Linux)
Willing to get your hands dirty converting convert audio without a clickable interface? Not intimated by command-line input? Then SoX is the app for you.
This cross-platform software converts some pretty obscure file formats from its list of 30+ types. It also is able to apply gain, fades, trim clips, and strip silence.
EZ CD Audio Converter
Poikosoft EZ CD Audio Converter, $29.95 (Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP (32-bit only))
As the name would suggest, EZ CD and the next two apps are designed to work with consumer music libraries. Just the same, this software converts between 53 formats up to 192 kHz/64-bit! It also has multi-channel support.
Free Audio Converter
DVDVideoSoft Free Audio Converter, free (Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP SP3)
A simple converter with support for 14 file formats.
Media Human Audio Converter, free (MacOS 10.6+, Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, 2003, XP)
Another free music-centric app with support for 11 file formats up to 192 kHz.
2. Online Sound File Conversion Apps
Far from home without your work computer? Need to convert some files? This is where online file conversion can help. As long as you have an internet connection and Web browser, these specialized websites can convert audio for you.
Online Audio Converter
Online Audio Converter, free (Browser)
Allows uploading files from the desktop, or importing from Google Drive, Dropbox, and a URL link. Supports 8 file formats up to 96 kHz and can apply fades, too!
3. Metadata Apps
We explored a list of metadata apps a few years ago. Which of these can batch convert files in addition to their searching and metadata writing tools?
NOTE: for this purpose, the list chooses apps that can convert selections from a list of search results to a distinct folder not associated with any destination app. That means these choices convert without transferring to an editing app, first.
Soundminer, from $199.00 to $899.00 (MacOS 10.7 – 10.12 and Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 10)
Soundminer’s powerful “Mirror” function converts even multi-channel files to 5 formats while performing extensive renaming. It’s also possible to convert folders and apply VST and AU plug-ins, although that uses a different technique. Can batch convert to 96 kHz lossless FLAC files to save nearly 50% of space, all while retaining the source folder structure.
BaseHead v4.x Ultra, $549 (MacOS 10.8 – 10.12, Vista, 7, 8, 10)
BaseHead performs swift, smooth transfers on batches of files with the option to apply plug-ins, rename, and transfer BWAV metadata, too. Like Soundminer, it is one of the few that supports multi-channel files and channel conversions.
The Library Monkey app is an enhanced version of their Sound Grinder software. Both apps offer powerful conversion features that the vanilla version of SoundGrinder lacks: gain, trim, renaming – and with the pro version – plug-in support.
Apple iTunes, free (MacOS 10.10+, Windows 7+)
Apple’s music jukebox software can perform lightning fast file conversions. It supports 5 formats and transfers up to 48 kHz/24-bit and is completely free.
4. Editing Apps
Editing apps are usually the last choice for audio file conversion software. Why? Well, most require all clips to be in a timeline before transferring them. That adds an extra step, and makes them less useful. Just the same, many have powerful features you can use if you already need an app to cut sound.
HairerSoft Amadeus Pro, $59.99 (MacOS 10.8+)
Amadeus is a streamlined sound editor with strong batch conversion features. It converts to 12 formats and is able to rename clips, apply gain, add fades, trim, and process sound with plug-ins.
Rogue Amoeba Fission, $29 (MacOS 10.10+)
Fission boasts the highest sampling rate support in this list: a lofty 358.2 kHz at a 32-bit depth. It transfers to 6 file formats while applying gain and fades, and the rare “file join” feature.
Twisted Wave, $79.90 (MacOS 10.6+)
Similar to Fission and Amadeus Pro, Twisted Wave is a combo lightweight editor/file processor. It batch converts multi-channel clips into 19+ formats up 192 kHz/32-bit. In addition to processing with plug-ins, the software can apply gain, fades, and strip silence.
Cockos Reaper, $60+ (MacOS 10.5+, Windows XP-10)
Reaper is the first sample full-featured editing app in this list. It has special built-in batch processing features that allow converting multi-channel files while applying plug-ins and performing powerful renaming actions. The app can also trim, strip silence, and normalize, but not while batch exporting or rendering.
Steinberg WaveLab Pro, €99.99 (MacOS 10.10+, Window 10, 8, 7)
WaveLab Pro is primarily an editing app. However, similar to Reaper, it has a dedicated batch function that supports conversions to 19 formats of multi-channel files while applying fades, plug-ins, and exceptionally granular renaming formulas. It also has the cool ability to “watch” a folder and convert new files as they are added.
Avid Pro Tools, $599.00 (MacOS 10.8.5+, Windows 10, 8, 7)
The editing heavyweight Pro Tools is able to rapidly convert multiple clips to an external folder via its “Bounce to Disk” or “Export Clips as Files…” options. While it lacks normalizing, trimming, and so on, it can join files using the “Bounce to Disk” option.
iZotope RX, $1,199 (MacOS 10.8+, Windows 10, 8, 7)
Hidden away in this popular de-noising app is a powerful batch conversion feature. RX’s modules can be “stacked” or added in sequence to perform multiple changes. Typical sample rate conversion can be done in its “Resample” module. Levels can be adjusted in the “Normalize” and “Gain” panel, and channels in the “Channel Ops” module. Third-party AU and VST plug-ins can be applied, too. So, while not as intuitive to set up as the first options in this list, with a bit of tweaking, RX can perform elaborate conversions when time is taken to set up batch conversions.
Do you have any suggestions for sound file conversion or processing software? Share your ideas in the comments below.