Converting music file formats in Linux - Tutorial


Updated: August 30, 2008

Converting music file formats may not be your top priority. But consider this: What if you wanted to create a so-called 'car' CD - a disk with lots of good music for the road? Most likely your car music system will support only a limited number of formats. Or what if you wanted to pack your music onto a portable device that supports only certain file formats, like mp3?

Another option is ripping CDs (legally, of course - your own property, bought with hard earned money). You may end up with music files in curious formats that you may not want - or be able to able on your own machine, let alone some nebulous car stereo.

This article will show you how to easily switch between music file formats, be they wav, mpc, mp3, ogg, or any other, so you can enjoy them anywhere, anyhow and any which way you want.

On a side note, I do not condone any illegal or improper use of any property. So please use this article in good faith - do not email me with questions how to circumvent copyright protection or anything alike.

Let's begin.

We'll use the uber-friendly Ubuntu through the article. I will show you a number of different ways of converting file formats, all with pretty much the same results. Most importantly, all of the procedures are extremely simple - and almost exclusively done using GUI. We will barely touch the command line.

Searching for the right application

Let's say you have a number of files you wish to convert. But you do not know what program can do it. If you're a fresh Linux user, this might be the case. Don't worry.

Even without anyone's help, you can get by on your own. You have the rich Synaptic Package Manager and the Add/Remove Applications to help you locate desired programs. Lastly, Google is your friend. A simple search along the lines 'music mp3 wav ogg convert ubuntu linux' will yield the desired results.

Synaptic Package Manager

If you know what you're looking for, it's the matter of seconds to get the program installed. Even if you don't, Synaptic is a good place to start. For instance, if you search for 'sound converter' - you'll end up with soundconverter, a program that converts audio files into other formats!

audio conversion Synaptic

Add/Remove Applications

Another handy tool is the Add/Remove Applications utility. Like Synaptic, it provides a range of recommended programs, searchable by category. Furthermore, in addition to a solid description, you'll get the program's Popularity index, roughly telling you how good it is.

audio conversion add/remove

Please note the Search field. We didn't know which program to look for, but a general 'sound convert' search yielded the desired results.

Now that we know what to do, let's review three programs that will get us going.

audioKonverter

audio conversion audioKonverter

audioKonverter is a simple, solid choice. The usage is rather self-explanatory. Don't get surprised by single-click options inside the program's menus; it is built for the KDE desktop - the K in the name rather betrays it.

SoundConverter

This is another great choice. The GUI is minimalistic - but it's exactly what we need. Load the files you want and convert them to mp3. You can also mass-convert files by selecting folders.

audio conversion SoundConverter

audio conversion SoundConverter working

audio-convert

This program is a simple yet powerful script that will convert between file formats. The only tricky thing in its usage is that you'll have to manually download and install it.

You can download the files from freshmeat.net.

You have the choice between the .deb package or tar-ed archives. New and inexperienced Linux users will probably prefer to install the package. Either way will work. If you choose the latter, you'll have to dabble a little with the command line.

Once you get the script installed, it is invoked by right-clicking on any music file, choosing Scripts > audio-convert. See image below:

audio conversion audio-convert script right click

A simple wizard will guide you through:

audio conversion audio-convert wizard 1

audio conversion audio-convert wizard 2

You will see a progress bar indicating the time left to finish the task.

audio conversion audio-convert wizard 3

After the file is converted, you'll be bidden fare well - and you can start a new conversion.

audio conversion audio-convert wizard 4

The script is by far the 'most complicated' of the three, but it is very handy, since it can be invoked by right-clicking on a file.

Codecs

You may or may need codecs to be able to convert music files. Your system will have to support the desired formats.

We have seen how to obtain codecs in ... article. Additionally, if you require codecs, you can use Synaptic to look for them. Using file format names (ogg, flac, mp3) will usually get the desired results. Additionally, you should focus on gstreamer plugins (including the good, the bad and the ugly - I'm not joking!).

Conclusion

That's it. Piece of cake - and lots of good job done! You now have all the necessary tools to comfortably enjoy all your music files, without unnecessarily restricting yourself. For example, once you would not even consider having certain music file formats, because they were too difficult to get working properly. There's no need to impair your flexibility.

Or fear migrating to Linux. If music playability is one of your major concerns, you can put it to rest.

Enjoy!

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