Tutorial - Exporting to iTunes

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Before exporting audio for use in iTunes it is important to consider which audio file format you want to use. WAV and AIFF files produce high quality lossless audio files but consume a lot of disk space. MP3 and AAC files are compressed so they occupy less disk space, but audio damage may result as a result of the compression especially when using low bitrates.
Submitting a podcast to the iTunes Store is a different process than exporting an Audacity file to an iTunes library. See our Tutorial on Tutorial - Mixing a Narration With Background Music and our Wiki page on How to publish a Podcast for more help with creating and publishing a podcast.


  1. Exporting audio for loading into iTunes - a quick overview
  2. Set export location
  3. Export to other Formats using iTunes
  4. What format should I export to?
    1. WAV or AIFF - universal support, lossless, large files, best for CD burning
    2. MP3 - universal support, small files, lossy
    3. AAC - Apple's proprietary format, small files, lossy
    4. Apple Lossless - Apple's proprietary format, lossless, size compressed

Exporting audio for loading into iTunes

Follow the below steps to export audio for adding to iTunes.

  1. Use the File > Export > Export Audio... command or in Audacity (or File > Export > Export Multiple...).
  2. Choose the export format in the Export dialog, to export the particular format you want your file(s) to be in (the best choices are WAV, AIFF, MP3 or AAC).
  3. Copy the file(s) into iTunes from the location you exported it to, using the iTunes File > Add File to Library... (or File > Add Folder to Library...) command.
  4. Or you can set the file location on export from Audacity to auto-import into iTunes
You may also want to read this workflow tutorial Sample workflow for exporting to iTunes.

Set export location

You can choose any location for the export such as a "Music" folder on your Desktop or even the iTunes "Music" folder if you have one. However you must still import this file from the exported location into the iTunes Library (which makes it visible in Library > Music on the left hand panel of iTunes).

There are two ways to import your exported audio files into iTunes:

  • Use the File > Add File to Library... or File > Add Folder to Library... command from within iTunes, to add a single audio file or a folder of audio files.
  • Select Library > Songs in iTunes and drag the file from the location you exported it to, into the iTunes window. If you just want to burn the files to CD, it's best to drag them directly into an iTunes Playlist in the left-hand panel.

You can export files from Audacity directly to your iTunes library. Exporting a file to the following locations will cause iTunes to automatically place it in the Music section of your library. You can then play the audio on your computer with iTunes or add it to your iPod, iPhone or iPad.

Set the destination folder as:

  • Windows: C:\Users\<user name>\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Automatically Add to iTunes
  • Mac: ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Automatically Add to iTunes.
Warning icon By default iTunes is a "virtual" Library containing no actual files but only links to them. To avoid losing your files, do *not* delete the exported files from the location you exported them to, unless you have already gone to Edit > Preferences > Advanced in iTunes and enabled the "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library" option.

It is strongly recommended that you make this setting in iTunes.

Export to other Formats using iTunes

Alternatively you can export to WAV or AIFF and convert to MP3, AAC or Apple Lossless in iTunes:

  1. Click Edit > Preferences (or iTunes > Preferences on Mac)
  2. Click on the leftmost "General" tab
  3. Click the Import Settings... button
  4. In the "Import Using" dropdown, choose "MP3 Encoder", "AAC Encoder" or "Apple Lossless Encoder" as required
  5. Click OK and OK
  6. Select the file to be converted, then use File > Convert and choose "Create MP3 Version", "Create AAC Version" or "Create Apple Lossless Version" as appropriate.

After creating the MP3, AAC or Apple Lossless version you should delete the original WAV or AIFF files to save disk space, as iTunes does not do this for you automatically.

Some export formats are described below.

What format should I export to?

AAC is the default format set in iTunes and the format Apple uses for audio files sold from the iTunes Store, so is the most obvious choice if you solely use Apple products. MP3 should be considered if you think that in the future you may wish to switch to an alternative portable music player or phone. If you have plenty of storage space on your device or a relatively small music library you may wish to consider the larger lossless WAV or AIFF formats.

There are several advantages to using a compressed format on iPods and iPhones. The two main benefits are that you can fit many more songs into the device (for 256 kbps files you can fit about 10 times as many songs) and compressed files improve battery life, because disk reads are relatively heavy on battery power.

If you choose lossy formats (MP3 or AAC) the minimum bitrate setting you should use for music is 160 kbps, though 256 kbps is probably to be preferred - and in use on an iPod is unlikely to be distinguishable from WAV or AIFF (or Apple Lossless). For speech 128 kbps or even 64 kbps can be used as the bitrate if preferred.

Apple does not officially support Ogg Vorbis (a lossy, compressed format similar to MP3/compressed AAC) and has no support at all for FLAC (a lossless, compressed format smaller than WAV but larger than MP3/compressed AAC). If you really want to export to OGG for iTunes, see OGG usage in iTunes and QuickTime. iPods, iPads and iPhones cannot play OGG files.

WAV or AIFF (universal support, lossless, best for CD burning)

If you want a perfect lossless copy of your audio, or to burn it in iTunes to an audio CD for playing on any CD player, you should choose WAV or AIFF. It is strongly recommended you export a standard "CD quality" 44100 Hz, 16-bit stereo WAV or AIFF to make sure iTunes understands the file. This means:

  1. Ensure Project Rate at the bottom left of the Audacity project window is set to "44100" Hz.
  2. Select File > Export > Export Audio... (or File > Export > Export Multiple...) then select "WAV (Microsoft) signed 16-bit PCM" or "AIFF (Apple) signed 16-bit PCM" in the export window
    • If you want a stereo export but your Project does not already contain a stereo track, click Tracks > Add New > Stereo Track.

See Burning music files to a CD if you are only interested in burning a CD.

An advantage of exporting to AIFF is that lyrics or album art can be added to the file in iTunes, which is not possible with WAV files.

MP3 (universal support, small files, lossy)

If you want to distribute your files on the internet (for example as a podcast), you should choose MP3 as the Format in the Export dialog, as this is a space-saving (although slightly lossy) format that anyone should be able to play. To export as MP3 from Audacity you need first to download the LAME encoder and point Audacity to it (see Lame Installation).

If you want to put the files on an iPod, or simply store them in iTunes in a compact form, MP3 is also a good choice. However, there are some reports that when run on battery, recent iPods can struggle or crash when playing MP3s created in applications other than iTunes. So you may want to export as WAV or AIFF from Audacity and convert the files to MP3 in iTunes instead.

AAC (Apple proprietary, small files, lossy)

Apple's proprietary format produces lossy, small, files similar to MP3, they are approximately the same quality as MP3 for a slightly smaller file size. The files are created with the .m4a extension.

AAC is useful for iPod or storage in iTunes due to its small file size and reduced disk occupancy, particularly if you have an iPod with a small disk. The minimum bitrate setting you should use for music is 160 kpbs though 256 kbps is probably to be preferred and in use on an iPod is unlikely to be distinguishable from WAV or AIFF (or Apple Lossless).

Audacity can export directly to AAC if you install the optional FFmpeg library. To export to AAC choose M4A (AAC) Files (FFmpeg) in the Export Audio window then type the file name. If you are exporting an AAC file for mobile devices, you can add the M4R (ringtone) or 3GP extension after the file name and dot as required by the device.

Apple Lossless (Apple proprietary, lossless, smaller than WAV/AIFF)

Apple Lossless Encoding (sometimes referred to as ALAC - Apple Lossless Audio Codec) is also an Apple proprietary format. Apple Lossless is, as the name suggests, Apple's size-compressed lossless codec. Like AAC it also uses files with the M4A extension.

Apple Lossless Encoder is quite similar to FLAC, producing larger files than AAC or MP3 but smaller than WAV. Typically an Apple Lossless file is around half the size of an equivalent WAV file and more than three times the size of an equivalent AAC 256 kbps file.

You cannot export directly to Apple Lossless from the Export Audio dialog. Instead, on Windows and Linux, install the optional FFmpeg library. On Mac, search for and download a standalone "ffmpeg" binary online. Then export using the (external program) choice. Click the Options... button, then enter the following command:

ffmpeg -i - -acodec alac "%f"

On Mac, you must give the full path to ffmpeg enclosed in quotes, instead of just "ffmpeg".

Finally in the Export Audio dialog, add the M4A extension after the file name and dot. See Exporting to an External Program for more help.