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How to Convert an MP4 Video into an MP3 Audio File

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MP4 is a widely-used video format; you can grab MP4 files off YouTube, Vimeo, and many other online video websites. But what if you have a video of a song you love, and want to extract just the music? Read on to see two different ways to do just that.

The Power-User Way: Using Foobar2000

Foobar2000 is a lean, free and incredibly versatile audio player. Setting it up for audio conversion requires a little bit of work, but this is a one-time operation. Once it’s configured you could use it to convert batches of files very quickly, and fine-tune conversion settings to get the exact results you’re after. If you don’t have Foobar2000, here’s how you set it up:

First, go to the Foobar2000 website, download the application and install it. Don’t forget to make sure the Converter option is checked.

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Next you’re going to need LAME, which a free MP3 encoder. You can get it at RareWares. If you’re not sure what to get, download the first file on the page (Currently LAME 3.98.4). It’s a small ZIP file; once you download it, extract its contents somewhere safe (not in a temporary location). I placed it under Program Files > LAME:

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Next run Foobar2000, and drop a test MP4 on the playlist. When you hit Play you should be able to hear just the music.

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Now right-click the file and select Convert > Convert…

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Foobar2000’s Converter Setup dialog will now open; once you’re comfortable with this tool, you could use it to define any number of conversion presets. Let’s set up our first one.

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Click Output format. From the list, select MP3 (LAME). By default, encoding is done at 190kbps. This should be enough for most people, but if you’re looking for something more specific, you can hit Edit and manually set bitrate and quality.

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Click Back to go back to the Converter Setup dialog. You could configure all sorts of extra options here, such as the destination folder, audio processing, and what to do when the conversion is done. For now, we’re going to leave them all at default. Click Convert.

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Foobar2000 will now pop up an error message, letting you know this operation may result in a loss of quality. That’s a fact of life; click Yes – we’re sure we want to do this.

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You will now be asked where you want to save the resulting MP3; select a filename and click Save. By the way, this isn’t the original Michael Jackson song, but a cover version by Pomplamoose.

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Since this is the first file we’re converting, Foobar2000 will now ask you where lame.exe is. Go to wherever you unzipped the LAME archive and double-click lame.exe.

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You should now see a progress bar running as the conversion takes place.

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That’s it! You’ve just converted your first MP4 to an MP3 using Foobar2000. The next ones are going to be much easier, since everything is set up now. All you have to do with the next file (or batch of files) is just right-click, select Convert and click [Last Used]. You can also create any number of conversion presets, all of which will appear under this menu.

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The Simple Way: Using a Website

If the above seems too much of a hassle, you can always use a website to do the job. There are several websites that provide direct YouTube-to-MP3 conversion services, but one of the simplest is YouTube mp3. It lacks any fine-tuning options and works for just one file at a time, but this makes it  very simple to use.

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Just paste in the video URL, click Convert Video and download the resulting MP3.

A technical writer for Tibbo Technology by day, Erez is obsessed with customizing anything and everything. After years of using Litestep and Blackbox, switching to a custom keyboard layout (Colemak), extending Word and Excel with elaborate VBA, losing weight with an AutoHotkey script he developed and spending countless hours tweaking Foobar2000 to get it to look "just right", Erez decided the time has come to share some of this obsession with the world at large.

  • Published 02/28/11

Comments (14)

  1. Martik

    Too many screenshots!

  2. HermitPete

    I use the free version of Any Video Converter which will convert various video formats to MP3 or simply to other video formats..

  3. Jonathan Michael Reiter

    Same here, although when I try to download certain vid files from Youtube, the sound and pictures aren’t syncrhonised, and the pictures are moving too fast. What’s up with that?

  4. cmcollins001

    If you’re just looking for the mp3 on a video from youtube (or several other sites like that) then atube catcher works great. You can strip the mp3 from the video and download just the song and never worry about messing with encoders.

    You can also download the video if that’s what you want. There are several media formats to choose from. atube catcher is a free program to download and use.

    Other features include stream catcher, screen record which allows you to record your computer screen as you work in it for playback later…great for instructional videos, video converter, dvd/cd creator, and audio recorder wrapped up in a nice neat free little package.

    Of course, everyone has their favorites, this one just happens to be mine.

  5. asdf-chan

    Create lossless content -> compress content for regular formats -> compress content for platform -> download and compress again = FAIL

    Extract (demux) mp4 and mux it in a container. Anything else is stupid

  6. DF

    “Since this is the first file we’re converting, Foobar2000 will now ask you where lame.exe is. Go to wherever you unzipped the LAME archive and double-clock lame.exe.”

    That should be double-click

    #corrections

  7. Erez Zukerman

    Whoops! Good catch, corrected! Thank you.

  8. Fakhar

    Quick Media Converter is free and best.

  9. Elizabeth

    I have used dvdvideosoft to convert mp4 to audio and other formats as well.
    It’s an awesome suite of programs ,,,,free :)

  10. Ole Bill

    I have the dvdvideosoft suite and it is really simple and reliable. And One Step simply copy and past url of item, and it is done.

  11. Faustenberger

    Personally, I recommend using XMedia Recode. It allows you to convert between just about all audio and video codecs, with cusomization options for bitrate, sample rate, volume correction, crop video, buffer area around the screen, and lots more. It’s free, too. The site is in german, but it comes with support for plenty of languages, including english.

  12. Ushindi

    I just tried the second, simple method – worked great. Plenty good enough for my ears (and equipment). Thanks for the tip.

  13. Kevin H

    Any Video Converter is way easier than this

  14. Patrick H

    While that is a difficult way to do it for new people. I personally love this method as it helps when converting files that I have on my computer and to upload to fill file requests on certain torrent sites. Once you have it set up its incredibly easy and can be done on any number of files at once and best of all its totally free and open source =)

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