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MacOS X – Use MP3 or Movie audio as a ringtone on your iPhone

MacOS X – Use MP3 or Movie audio as a ringtone on your iPhone

Creating a ringtone, back in the day, from an existing MP3 for my good old cellphone(s) was relatively easy. Trim the MP3 and copy it to your phone, either directly or by email.

These days however, with these “wonderful” smartphones like the iPhone, using an MP3 as a ringtone seems more complicated than ever.

In this guide I’ll show you how to quick and easy create and install a MP3 ringtone under MacOS X. The source can be basically any audio or video file with the trick we show here.

MP3 or Movie Audio as Ringtones for your iPhone

Audio and music files are widely available:

These Audio files (MP3 songs for example) however, are often longer than desired so they would need some trimming.

For the quick transfer for to our iPhone, we will utilize iTools, a free and must have tool for iPhone users.

iTools can be download from Tweaking4All, but as usual we highly recommend going to the developers’ website for the most recent version. The version we offer here works just fine with iOS 7 (older version are supported as well).

Download it and install it.

Download - iTools (MacOS X) 

Filename:  iTools-MacOSX.dmg
Platform:  Apple macOS
Version:  2.4.6
File size:  2.9 MB
Date:  2015-02-11
 Download Now  Send me a cup of Coffee    

Trimming your a Ringtone

While I originally started this article having MP3’s in mind, I quickly found out that other audio and even video formats do work with this trick as well. As long as you can play the audio or video file with QuickTime, which standard comes with your Mac and can be found in the “Applications” folder.

NoteVery good and more capable alternatives to Quicktime, both free as well, are:

– Audacity

Is Trimming Needed? 

Trimming your Audio file is optional: if your file is already at the desired length then you can skip this step – for example when you downloaded a ringtone from Zedge. The file format doesn’t matter.

Trimming your Video or Movie however is needed since we need to extract the Audio before we can use it as a ringtone, not to mention that most movies are much too long for a ringtone. If you’d like to use the Audio of a DVD then you’ll have to convert it first with an application like Handbrake.

Audio and Video Codecs? 

The following trick will work with all files that can be opened with Quicktime, including movies! This means that you can use a movie audio fragment as a ringtone as well!

QuickTime however does not by default support the more common formats seen on the Windows platform like AVI, DIVX and WMV.
For those files you’ll need to install extra QuickTime codecs. Perian used to be the holy grail and even though still available, development has stopped. Alternatives can be found on the Apple Support Page.

Step 1 – Open a copy of the Audio or Video file with QuickTime

First make a copy of the file you’d like to use, just to make sure we don’t damage the original by accident (right click the file and choose “Duplicate“). This is highly recommended but optional of course. If you follow the steps correctly, the original file should not be damaged.

As we might not have QuickTime as our default playback application for the Audio or Video file:
Right click the file and choose “Open With QuickTime Player“.

Open Audio of Video File with QuickTime

Open Audio of Video File with QuickTime

Step 2 – Make a trim selection of the Audio or Video file

This is one of those hidden gems in QuickTime – Trimming a file so we can make a ringtone for the iPhone..
Either press COMMAND+T or select “Trim…” from the “Edit” menu.

You’ll see the window change: the sound wave or video thumbnails are made visible surrounded by a yellow box and yellow sliders left and right of the timeline. In the illustration below we show both scenario’s: Open a Video/Movie file, or open an Audio file.

QuickTime - Trim Audio or Video

QuickTime – Trim Audio or Video

In the following steps we will continue with Audio only, but the steps are the same for the situations where you’d like to do this with Video.

To trim the file, we use the sliders (A and B). By moving them right (A) or left (B) to the desired positions we will make our selection. Of course, the “resolution” of what we see is limited which we can enhance by enlarging the QuickTime window, which unfortunately is not always good enough. To test your selection press the play button (C) every now and then until you’ve found the desired selection.

Tips to find the proper positions:
– The “gaps” you see in the audio track indicate a less loud moment in the music or song.
– During playback a tiny vertical red line will move along indicating the position in the song.
– During playback you can drag the slider on the left (A) and QuickTime will right away start playback from there.

Trim selection with Quicktime

Trim selection with Quicktime

Step 3 – Saving your selection

Once you’ve determined your selection, click the “Trim” button (on the right).


Instead, select from the “File” menu, the “Export” option.

In the field “Export As:” enter the desired filename, set “Format” to “Audio Only” and click “Export“.
Again: This works for both Audio and Video files the same way.

Now you that we’re done with QuickTime and you can close it, but it will ask if you’d like to save the file – choose “Don’t Save” so the original will not be modified.

QuickTime - Export Audio as M4A

QuickTime – Export Audio as M4A

Installing a Ringtone on your iPhone

The following method supports quite a few different audio formats. All these formats (M4A, MP3, etc) will automatically be converted to the M4R format used by your iPhone. This conversion however will only work for Audio files!

To install our ringtone, we’ll be using iTools, as mentioned before. Connect your phone with the USB cable to your computer and start iTools.

You should see your iPhone on the left hand side with the item “Music” underneath it (1). Click “Music“.

On the right hand side (2) you’ll now see a list called “Media types” where we select “Ringtones” after which a list of ringtones will appear (which of course could be empty).

The file(s) you just created can now be dropped on the list (3) so iTools will install them on your iPhone.

iTools - Uploading Ringtones

iTools – Uploading Ringtones

Since QuickTime does not have the ability to save an Audio file as a M4R (ringtone format used by your iPhone), iTools will notify you that it needs to convert the file. Click the “Start Conversion” button (miss spelled ).

The conversion is very fast and after conversion the files will automatically be uploaded to your iPhone.

iTools - Convert Audio file to M4R (iPhone Ringtone)

iTools – Convert Audio file to M4R (iPhone Ringtone)

On your iPhone go to “Settings” – “Sounds” where you can change the ringtones for calls, text messages, emails, etc.
In the list of available ringtones you’ll now see your newly made ringtone(s):

Your new Ringtone on your iPhone

Your new Ringtone on your iPhone

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