Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds. For Windows users, you can use it as a great alternative to the stock Voice Recorder app. Oh, as a side note, I managed to record system sound in Windows 10 with Audacity that can’t be done using the default sound recorder in Windows.
In Windows 10, the Voice Recorder saves your sound recordings as AAC M4A files. If you like to edit the sound recordings in Audacity or convert voice recordings to MP3 using Audacity on Windows 10 computer, you will find they are not compatible with Audacity. In this article, we will show you how to troubleshoot the issues you might meet in the process.
Importing M4A AAC to Audacity for Windows
Unlike Audacity for Mac that allows users to import M4A files into Audacity on Mac as shipped, Windows users need to download and install the optional FFmpeg library. Without the FFmpeg library, Audacity can’t open M4A files. Instead it throws an error when you importing a voice recording file in M4A format into Audacity, “*.m4a is an Advanced Audio Coding file. Audacity cannot open this type of file. You need to convert it to a supported audio format, such as WAV or AIFF.”
By the way, iPhone also saves voice recordings as M4A files encoded with the AAC codec. You can refer to this guide to convert iPhone voice memos from M4A AAC to MP3 using another great media converter. In this guide, we will focus on the free solution to transcode M4A audios to other formats using Audacity.
Now let’s go to install FFmpeg for Audacity the library needed to add .m4a voice recordings to Audacity. Run the free audio recorder and editor on Windows computer, click Edit and choose Preferences. The Preferences opens in a new window. Choose Libraries from the left panel, you will see a screen like this.
From the above screenshot, you can find the LAME MP3 and FFmpeg libraries you can download. Since I have both libraries installed, you can see the libraries version in the screenshot above. Otherwise it will say the libraries can’t be found. In order to be able to add sound recordings from Windows 10 to Audacity editor, you need to download the FFmpeg library for Audacity. Click the Download button to open the web page in your default web browser. Download the FFmpeg installer in either zip or exe format onto your computer, then install it. We will not show you the details about this part. It is just like how you download and install any other Windows programs from internet. Once you have the required library installed, head to the Edit > Preferences > Libraries again. This time, hit the Locate button in the FFmpeg section, Audacity may tell you it has found the FFmpeg library, or you can choose to manually locate the library.
Audacity has automatically detected valid FFmpeg libraries. Do you still want to locate them manually?
You can just click No and let Audacity locate the installed library for you. After that the library version displays above the Locate button and now you can go to import sound recordings in M4A format to Audacity in Windows 10.
Converting M4A AAC to MP3 using Audacity for Windows
Converting audio files from one format to another in Audacity is easy. Adding the source audio file to the editor, go to File menu, choose Export Audio, then select the target file format, and save. You can convert sound recordings from M4A to WAV, Ogg, FLAC, AIFF. Since you have the FFmpeg library installed, you have more output options, such as M4A(AAC), AC3, AMR.
If you need to convert M4A or AAC to MP3 in Audacity, you will need to install the LAME MP3 library for Audacity. Follow this guide to convert audios to MP3 in Audacity for the details. The process is just like how we enabled the FFmpeg library for Audacity above. (Update July 2020: The software patent on LAME encoding library has expired, so now the LAME library for MP3 export is built-in with Audacity for Windows and Mac.)