Sound Advice: Audio Conversion Software for Multimedia

Now that you're fully involved in your career training program in multimedia, you'll be exposed to a wide variety of editing tools. Unfortunately, not all software has the same interoperability. A file that you create in one tool may not play clearly (or at all) in another recorder, viewer, or editor. Do your online courses show you how to create work-around scenarios in audio editing?

Most college degree multimedia programs grant students access to industry-standard sound and video editing software. While some only support Mac platforms, others offer multi-platform training in animation, video, and audio tool kits. Getting those tools to shake hands can often be a nightmare. Fortunately, there's a variety of inexpensive audio conversion software programs that allow you to move your files into MP3 players, computers, and DVD screeners.

How to Evaluate Converters

Before buying any audio conversion software, take stock of your goals. You'll need a feature set that enables you to rip files for batch conversions, cutting down on time to presentation. The software must allow you to transfer tags and edit listings. Can you control bit rates, set the sample frequency, and normalize levels?

Study the software's listings of exported audio formats. Can you copy and convert files that will play in the file type of your choice? Not every version of software can scratch your itch. But it's a good idea to have one that imports MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, AIFF, OGG, FLAC, and M4A formats--and exports to that same range of extensions.

The more robust programs support RAW, SHN, DSS, AU, MPGA, VOX, MID, GSM, and AMR file formats in addition to the ones listed above. You'll also need to check for the operating system supported by the conversion software. Very few are created for the Mac.

Doing Your Homework

Read product reviews and packaging boxes carefully. What levels of technical support are available for the software programs? Three or four manufacturers offer live telephone support, and most take email enquiries. Several products come with user guides and their manufacturers host online technical support forums.

How about pricing? Many software companies offer student discounts or drop the cost for multiple seats of their products. Check with your college office to see whether you can apply for discounts or put together a buyer group from class members. Even without discounts, the conversion programs won't break you. Most run between $19.95 and $35. On the high end, one manufacturer charges $65.