Adding Custom iPhone Ringtones with iTunes 10

With most of my old cell phones there was some way of adding a custom ringtone you wanted to play rather than some creepy jazz song standardized by mobile phone companies. Some of mine would play mp3s, others I would hold the phone up to my speakers and use a voice recording. Those sounded especially bad. But how do you do it with an iPhone?

Apple made an update to iTunes 9 long ago that allowed you to make a custom ringtone of an mp3 you purchased for iTunes. Ok, but the word “purchased” makes me queazy. So when I hooked up my iPhone 3G today (yes, I need an upgrade) the option was not available for any other song I had in my iTunes Library. But this is easily remedied by some engineering know-how and only a matter of minutes. It is possible to get any song you want to be a ringtone on your iPhone! For free!

Now, before I begin, this specific tutorial works best with Mac OSX Lion. You may use other additional software to get it to work, but I am only using the OS itself to make it work.

There was a song from a video game I wanted to use as my ringtone. Just a series of beeps that made me chuckle. I had that song in my iTunes 10 Library and need to do a couple things first. Right-click the song and select Get Info. Click the Options tab and change the start and stop time to equal 30 seconds, whatever 30 seconds of the song you want. Click OK.

Right-click the song again and select Make WAV version. After a moment, you will hear a chime and the duplicate is made. Right-click the duplicate copy and choose Show in Finder. When the song appears in the Finder window, right-click the file and click the option at the very bottom that says Encode Selected Audio Files. This pops up a small dialog that is a new feature of OSX Lion. The option you want to pick is iTunes Plus, from the drop down, and save it wherever you want.

When the file is created, only a few seconds later, find it, and rename the suffix from “.m4a” to “.m4r” and tell the next dialog to change the file name. M4A is a format Apple likes for its audio files, but M4R is a ringtone file specifically for iOS. You can even preview the file and hear that it works.

Now, take your newly birthed and named .m4r and double click it to open it in iTunes 10. A new Category will appear on the left pane called Tones, unless you already purchased some, and that is where you’ll find your ringtone. Last thing to do is drop the tone into your iPhone, sync, and disconnect, and voila! Your new free, custom ringtone is on your iPhone ready to alert you with an incoming call!

Credit must be given where credit is due. The iTunes process must be credited to Simon over at His post shows you his step by step. I found the shortcut for OSX Lion users.

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