A list of Apple Music Audio Formats


Apple Music have already been closely related to our lives. We purchased and download songs from Apple Music Store then we enjoy them on our iPhone, iPod, iPad devices. However, you may have notice that the extension name of songs you download from iTunes or Apple Music Store are .m4a, .m4p, or .aiff and .alac. Therefore, you may wonder what these formats are and if they are different from MP3. You will know something about these formats after you finish the text below.

M4A File

M4A stands for MPEG 4 Audio and is a filename extension used to represent audio files. M4A and MP4 files are quite similar, being both based on the MPEG-4 codec. However, M4A is a file comprising solely of audio, whereas MP4 may also contain video. The M4A file uses Apple’s codec and resides within the MPEG-4 container. he audio files you downloaded from iTunes are sorted into two kinds, .m4a (copy-free) and .m4p (copy-protected). Apple has used the .m4a designation for several of the low-loss audio formats.

M4P File

M4P is a file extension for a protected audio file encoded with advanced audio codec (AAC), which is a lossy compression. M4P stands for MPEG 4 Protected (audio). The M4P file extension is seen in an Apple iTunes purchased song which uses Apples “Fairplay” DRM (digital rights management). Unprotected AAC files have an M4A extension. Therefore, it is difficult or even impossible for you to play M4P audio file on other unauthorized devices.


About AIFF and ALAC

ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) is an lossless audio compression encoding format developed by Apple Incorporation. It is able to squeeze uncompressed audio format (WMV, AIFF) into 60% or 40% of their original size. Because of the lossless compression codec, the compressed audio is no different with the original audio in terms of quality.

AIFF (Apple Interchange File Format) is an audio file format standard used for storing sound data for personal computers and other electronic audio devices. The format was developed by Apple Inc. This format is mostly used on OS X system by Apple Incorporation.

Compared with ALAC, .aiff requires less system resources to decode, occupying less CPU resource. But .aiff files are slightly larger than ALAC in terms of file size. another advantage of .aiff file is that it takes you less time to convert APE, FLAC, CD to AIFF.

M4A to MP3

All in all, these four extension are created and mainly used by Apple Incorporation. Therefore, it is difficult for user to play them on other unauthorized devices directly except .m4a files. But M4A file are only a literally small part of them(mostly the files are M4P format). Therefore, if you want to play songs downloaded from Apple Music or iTunes you will have to do something. With the help of Apple Music Converter you can  easily remove the DRM protection of songs you downloaded from Apple Music or iTunes. Besites, you can also convert them to MP3, a universal recognizable audio formats, without causing quality loss.

If you are curious about how to make this happen. You can read the tutorials below.

M4P Player: How to Open M4P Files Freely
DRM Audio Converter: Break DRM on Protected Audio & Enjoy Them Anywhere
How to Play iTunes Music M4P on Any Android Phone & Tablet
[Resolved] Is It Possible for Me to Convert Protected M4P to MP3