I just discovered an excellent freeware converter for audio files: NCH's Switch. (Tip: it's a free download and is billed as being freeware, but seems to try to "update" itself after a while, to a different version which expires! - so don't let it automatically update itself over the Net (stop it with your firewall if it tries to update or contact anything over the internet), and then it will stay as a free version.)
There is a pro version too, but the free version is pretty comprehensive. It can convert the following filetypes:
.WAV, .MP3, .OGG, .WMA, .AIF, .AIFF, .AU, .RA, .RAM, .RM, .RMJ, .FLAC, .GSM, .AAC, .M4A, .VOX, .RAW, .DCT, .ASF (Non-streaming), .CDA (and yes, that means if you point it to a CD in your CD drive it can pick up tracks from there and convert them into MP3 etc too, so it's a basic CD ripper too)
into the following filetypes:
.WAV, .MP3, .AU, .AIFF, .GSM, .VOX, .RAW.
The interface for this sound file conversion software is beautifully clean, simple and intuitive, and you can convert a whole bunch of files with different formats into the same new format in one go.
Just add the files you want to convert (or even an entire folder), choose the output folder into which you want the converted files to be saved, choose the output format (e.g. MP3), and hit the Convert button. If you forget to select particular files in the list before you hit Convert, it just converts all the files in the list as is logical, instead of throwing up an error message as many less intelligently-written programs might do. There's a Remove button to get rid of any files you've inadvertently added, before conversion.
Yet power users are given decent control over some of the more detailed settings behind the scenes too, e.g. via the Encoder Settings button for the selected output file type (e.g. bitrate, stereo or mono, etc). And they provide keyboard shortcuts too, yay! (I love keyboard shortcuts, myself, and for me they even make the difference between software being usable or not.)
Plus they seem to provide decent support e.g. FAQ, support page, even a discussion forum.
I've tried out various free tools to convert sound files before, but nothing else I've found is as easy or handles so many filetypes for free. And the conversion is quick too. This is what freeware (indeed any software) should be like - intuitive and userfriendly even for beginners, yet with more advanced features for those who need them, readily accessible and not buried away behind incomprehensibly titled settings. Granted, this software doesn't need to do a huge variety of things, but what it does it does superbly well.
There's even a Play button to hear files before you convert them. If your existing music player can't handle certain filetypes like the open source OGG Vorbis, you can just add the file to Switch and play it there. And as mentioned earlier, it rips tracks from CD to a variety of sound formats too.
The paid for Plus version can handle more esoteric filetypes (.DSS, .SRI, .ACT, .RCD, .REC, .SHN), and will convert sound files into .OGG, .AAC, .M4A and .FLAC as well as the list above, or (with a plugin) into MSV and .DVF. The only other differences I can see is that with the Plus version you can also control how you convert CD tracks e.g. to a folder named "Artist - Album - Genre", with filenames structured as "Tracknumber. Trackname - Year" (or whatever), and use a command-line tool which can e.g. enable other software to convert files with Switch or to automate batch conversion. The features of the Plus version are accessible free for 14 days, and, the first time you try to convert to one of the Plus filetypes, you'll need to ensure you're connected to the Net and that your firewall will let switch.exe through to ftp.audiochannel.net to download the plugins it needs for those filetypes.
This is just the thing for producing MP3s from the various AAC ringtones that came with my Nokia 7710 smartphone (the Gmail settings for which I've blogged about before).
NCH also provide other free audio software which I've downloaded but not tried properly yet - Express Rip (ripping tracks from CD to WAV or MP3), Express Burn (to create audio or data CDs) and Wavepad audio editor (with support for a broad range of file types, like Switch has). If they're anything like Switch, I look forward to using them.
(Tip: the NHC Switch software is free to download and is billed as being freeware, but it seems to try to "update" itself after a while, to a different version which expires! - so don't let it automatically update itself over the Net (stop it with your firewall if it tries to update or contact anything over the internet), and then it will stay as a free version.)
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