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Apple Audio Format: What is M4A, M4B, M4R and M4P

Roger W.
BY Roger W.   
LAST UPDATED: Oct. 30, 2016

If you are an Apple device or Apple product user, you may once have seen the audio files which have the following extension: .aac, .m4a, .m4b, .m4p, .m4r. Do you know what are they? You may be familiar with AAC, but how about M4A, M4B, M4R and M4P?

Actually, AAC is a patented audio-format that has higher capabilities as compared to MP3. AAC is currently one of the highest quality lossy encoding algorithms. A file encoded with AAC can have the following extensions: .aac, .mp4, .m4a, .m4b, .m4p, .m4r.

Now, let's elaborate on M4P, M4R, M4B and M4A.

Part 1 What is M4A, M4B, M4R and M4P?

What is M4P?

M4P stands for MPEG 4 Protected (audio). It is a file extension for a protected audio file encoded with advanced audio codec (AAC). 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.

M4P files can be opened with Apple's iTunes. However, the computer you're using iTunes on must be authorized in order to play the M4P file, which is done by logging in to iTunes under the same account that was used to download the audio file.

What is M4A?

A file with the M4A file extension is an MPEG-4 Audio file. They're most often found in Apple's iTunes Store as the format of song downloads.

Many M4A files are encoded with the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) codec in order to reduce the size of the file. Some M4A files may instead use the Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC).

If you're downloading a song through the iTunes Store that is copy protected, it's instead saved with the M4P file extension.

Lots of programs support the playback of M4A files, including iTunes, QuickTime, Windows Media Player VLC, Winamp and so on.

Note: Since the MPEG-4 format is used for both M4A and MP4 files, any video player that supports the playback of one file should also play the other since the two are the exact same file format.

What is M4B?

A file with the M4B file extension is an MPEG-4 Audio Book file. They're often seen used by iTunes to store audio books. An M4B file is very similar to an M4A file but specified for audio books.

M4B files support metadata for chapters and bookmarking on supporting players and most commonly uses AAC (Advanced Audio Codec).

The Apple iTunes software can be used to download these M4B audio books from the Apple iTunes store. The FairPlay encryption technology was developed by Apple and may be integrated into certain M4B audio books to secure its content and only allow users with authorized iPods, iPhone, iPad and computers to view the content of the M4B audio book.

What is M4R?

A file with the M4R file extension is an iTunes Ringtone file. They can be created and transferred to an iPhone in order to use custom ringtone sounds.

Custom iTunes Ringtone files in the M4R format are actually just .M4A files that have been renamed to .M4R. The file extensions are different only to differentiate their purposes.

M4R Ringtone

Part 2Difference Between M4A and M4B Audio





M4A is encoded with Advanced Audio Coding, or AAC,   or Apple Lossless Audio Codec

The M4B format is only encoded with AAC encoding.


M4A format is used for storing and encoding audio and is also used   for distributing music through the iTunes store.

M4B format is used mainly for audiobooks from the iTunes store.



Copy-protected M4A files from the iTunes store have   a .M4P extension

The copy-protected M4B audiobooks downloaded from the   iTunes store use Apple's FairPlay DRM



ITunes, Winamp, Windows Media Player, VLC player, Apple's iPhone,   iPad, iPod, etc.

ITunes, Winamp, Windows Media Player, VLC player, Apple's iPhone,   iPad, iPod, etc.

Part 3How to Convert M4P/M4B/M4A/M4R

Now, you know that M4P, M4A and M4b may have DRM protection which is an obstacle for us to play them on any device. To solve the problem, many people want to convert M4P to MP3, convert M4B to MP3 and so on.

If you want to do the same thing, Apple Music Converter will give you a hand.Apple Music Converter is a program that can help you convert DRM-protected Apple Music, iTunes M4P songs, M4B Audiobooks and even Audible AA/AAX files to plain MP3, AC3, M4A, M4R, etc. with DRM removed. Followings are detailed guide.



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