Sunday, 6 November 2005

Free audio file converter: NHC Switch

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 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.)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Anonymous said...

Bless you for finding this program. I have been searching/installing/uninstalling far and wide, many converters. All of which don't convert more than 30 minutes of a piece.

Improbulus said...

You're very welcome Anon. I love it too - and it took me a while to find it myself, so I thought I'd spread the news!

Anonymous said...

I also found Switch and Wavepad useful and more importantly easy and fun to use.. but it is not freeas I thought.. after the trial's all gone.. bummer..

Improbulus said...

Wheelie, that's odd - I have the free basic version of Switch and it still works fine. Wavepad does expire after a certain time though. Are you sure you've downloaded the free version of Switch?

Anonymous said...

We're an audio recording studio.

I've done extensive searching (and trying of) for conversion programs that will do .aiff. We get requests for .aiff from mac users.
Also need .wav and mp-3. And a program that works as a converter and a ripper.

I was blown away when I first ran accross "Switch". I downloaded the trial Plus version. BUT was dissappointed that with the .aiff, you cannot specify bit & sample rate. It simply makes the file at the same rates as the source. (cda audio at 44,100kh becomes .aiff at 44,100. The mac video producers wnat 48k. I could make a .wav at 48 and then convert that to .aif.

Do you know why there's no controlling the .aif specs?

Also any conversion to mp-3 I do, either from another file or from ripping a CD, the mp-3 doesn't exist. It's nowhere to be found. I'm assuming the mp-3 part of it just doesn't work..

Also tried it on the plain and simple FREE version. Am I missing something?

Thanks much,

Bob Abella
Abella Audio

Improbulus said...

Bob I'd suggest you ask NHC themselves at their forum. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Thanx for finding this mate i need a php file converted to mp3,so i hope it works..

Improbulus said...

Thanks for the comment. PHP? Not an audio file format, could be that a PHP page takes you to the underlying audio file. Sometimes you can find the file by looking at your browser history or in the cache, and most likely then you won't even need to convert it. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

For those of you that loose Switch after the trial period, uninstall it (from "add or remove programs" for windows). Then, reinstall it online. IT WORKS!!!