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Here’s how to convert your MP4 files to old-school MP3s

Brandon Widder

While MP4s are absolutely fantastic when taking family road trips through the vast expanses of nothingness that litter the sprawling void that is the Midwest — believe me, we know — they’re also not the most conducive to portability and storage, especially if you merely want to listen to the audio from a particular file. And although most smartphones and dedicated music players can handle MP4s, it’s often far easier to convert the files to MP3 to lighten their footprint and grant them greater versatility.

Related: Play any video on any device with seven of our favorite (free) video converters

Luckily, there is a host of free file converters you can download for your desktop or use directly within your browser to strip the sound from your favorite videos. Below are our two our favorites, along with instructions for using each to convert your MP4.

Using Any Video Converter (free) — Windows and MacOS

Any Video Converter is a convenient little tool that allows you to extract MP4 audio and convert it directly into MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG or Wave format for use on a variety of mobile devices. The audio and video quality is exceptional for a free program, as is the lightning-quick conversion speed, and the resulting audio is supported on everything from Apple to Android devices and the diverse bulk of media players in between. Plus, the third-party utility houses basic options for trimming, cropping, and layering various audio effects within an easy-to-use interface.

Step 1: Download and install Any Video Converter

Navigate to the AVC website or the Mac App Store to grab the latest freemium or lite version of the software, if you haven’t already. If using Windows, click the Free Download button near the middle of the download page and follow the installation instructions as directed.

Step 2: Launch the program

Click the Start button and select AVC from the alphabetical list on the left to launch the program, or click the application in the taskbar if you’ve pinned it there. Similarly on Mac, you can launch the program by searching for it in Spotlight or accessing it through the applications menu, conveniently located within Finder.

Step 3: Select your MP4s

Once opened, you want to select the MP4(s) you wish to convert by clicking the Video(s) button with the addition sign in the upper-left corner of the program. A pop-up window will appear where you can navigate or search for the desired files on your computer. On a Mac, click the Add Video button in the bottom left-hand corner and select the files you wish to convert. Continue adding videos in the same manner until you’re satisfied with your selection. AVC allows you to convert multiple files at a time, so there’s no need to individually convert each video.

Step 4: Select your output preferences

In Windows, click the drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner and select the Common Audio Format option — represented by the black music note — from the resulting list of options. Afterward, select MP3 Audio from the drop-down menu, select your save location for the resulting file(s), and adjust the audio bitrate and sample bitrate under Audio Options in the bottom-right corner. Also, make sure the audio channel is set to “2,” unless you want to go old-school mono.

Sadly, the freemium Mac version of AVC doesn’t offer the same kind of audio output customization as its Windows counterpart, but you can still convert MP4 files to MP3. Simply head to the Profile options on the right side of the program window, choose the headphones icon, and select MP3 Audio from the list.

Step 5: Convert

When you’ve finished setting your output preferences in Windows, click the Convert Now! button at the top of the window, next to the presets option. On a Mac, click the Convert Now button in the bottom right-hand corner to carry out the same action. Although there are options for converting only specified files on your list, the whole batch will be converted by default unless you choose otherwise. The newly-converted files will automatically launch once converted!

Using CloudConvert (free) — web-based

CloudConvert is an intuitive, cloud-based service that provides a standalone option that requires little more than an internet connection and your file. It’s entirely free, requires no additional software to run, and supports quick conversion between more than 100 formats — most notably MP4 to MP3, in our case. While the resulting audio quality is great, as is the conversion speed, a free account can only handle files less than 1GB. Other limits to the free version is a maximum of 25 conversion minutes per day and five concurrent conversions, and free accounts have low priority compared to paid accounts. However, CloudConvert should suite your needs if your only need to convert a few smaller files per day.

Step 1: Head over to the site

Navigate to the Cloud Convert website to utilize the software.

Step 2: Select your MP4s

Click the Select files button in the middle of the page and select the video files you wish to convert to MP3. A pop-up window will appear where you can locate or search for the desired files on your computer. You can also choose a file from a URL, or from your Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or your Box account. Note that you’ll need to sign up for a free CloudConvert account before linking to your cloud storage service. Once found, click the Open button in the lower-right corner to add the file to the conversion queue.

Step 3: Select your output preferences

Click the Select format button that appears after adding your MP4 to the list, then select audio and MP3 from the drop-down list. Click the wrench icon located directly beside the file if you wish to fine tune the audio bit rate (up to 320 kbps), channels, frequency, normalization, or trim the new file to a specified length . The latter is an incredibly handy tool if your video has an introduction or ending with undesired audio. Click the blue Okay button when finished.

Step 4: Select your save options

CloudConvert offers two additional options besides your typical download. Check the top box if you want Cloud Convert to send the resulting MP3s directly to your Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or Box account after the conversion is complete. You can also be notified when the conversion is completed, if desired.

Step 5: Convert

Click the red Start Conversion button on the right side of the page when you’ve finished setting your desired output and save preferences. A gray-and-yellow bar will appear at the top indicating the conversion’s current status, along with a cancellation button should change your mind for whatever reason. Afterward, wait for the conversion to complete.

Step 6: Download

It may take some time, but CloudConvert will notify you when your conversion is complete. Now just click the green Download button and select a save destination for the file. If you chose either of the two save options in Step 4, the resulting MP3 should already be in your Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or Box account. That’s it!