How To Convert, Create and Find New iPhone Ringtones

The ringtones that come bundled with your iPhone are great, but what if you want something a little more unique? Today I’ll be looking at a number of different sources for high-quality iPhone ringtones, along with offering some advice about how you can create your own for free!

We’ll be looking at using iTunes and GarageBand for converting your existing music into an iTunes ringtone, how to purchase ringtones through the iTunes Store, and a few third party applications to help you out.

How iPhone Ringtones Work

Ringtones are simply a certain type of audio file added to iTunes. Once copied into iTunes, rather than displaying in your “Music” section, they show up in “Ringtones”. They have the file ending of “.m4r”, rather than the usual “.mp3” or “.m4a”. Because ringtones are essentially high-quality MP3 files, it’s possible to use any type of audio – a song, jingle, or spoken word.

Before embarking on any of the below steps, it’s worth checking that you have ringtones enabled in iTunes. Go to iTunes > Preferences, and ensure that “Ringtones” is checked.

iTunes Ringtones – The Official Method

We’ll start with the official procedure for adding new ringtones – converting a track directly within iTunes. The first thing to note is that this can only be done with tracks purchased from the iTunes Store. Trying to do so with other music pops up the following dialog:

iTunes Store Only!

iTunes Store Only!

Right click a file you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store, and select “Create Ringtone”. Apple then provide a handy interface for trimming the selected piece of audio down to a suitable snippet:

iTunes Ringtone Converter

iTunes Ringtone Converter

We think that this process is something of a rip-off, and slightly unnecessary for those of you with large imported music libraries. There are several other options that don’t require you to purchase from the iTunes Store.

iTunes Ringtones – The Sneaky Method

There’s another quick way to get any ringtone converted into an iTunes Ringtone, that just requires a little more work than the above method.

To create custom ringtones using only iTunes:

  1. Right click one of your (DRM free) songs and select “Get Info”
  2. Assign a “Start Time” and “Stop Time” to bring the song time down to less than 30 seconds
  3. Click OK, then right-click the track and select “Create AAC Version” (or similar)
  4. Drag the new resulting file to your desktop (it should be a clipped version of the original song)
  5. Delete the converted file in iTunes (this is important)
  6. Change the extension of the file on your desktop from .m4a to .m4r
  7. Double click the file to add it to iTunes as a ringtone!

This is a simple way to complete the whole process using only iTunes. If you’d like a little more control over how the ringtone repeats and is clipped, you’ll need to follow our next solution…

Converting Ringtones with GarageBand

A completely different tactic is to use GarageBand for editing and converting an audio file into a ringtone. This is fully supported by Apple, and lets you use any MP3 track from your hard drive. Here’s our step-by-step walkthrough:

Create a New iPhone Ringtone Project

Start a new project, and select “iPhone Ringtone”. I’d recommend going for the “Loops” option. Proceed to give it a name that you’d like to appear on your iPhone:

Creating a New Project

Creating a New Project

Drag and Drop Your Music File

First, you’ll need to delete the tracks and audio currently present in the example file. After doing that, drag and drop the MP3 you’d like to use in to GarageBand. This will appear as a new track after importing.

Manipulate the Yellow Bar

See the yellow bar across the top of the screen? That represents what will be exported as your ring tone. You can move it around, or drag the ends to lengthen/shorten the snippet to cut out of the audio track.

Adjusting the Clip

Adjusting the Clip

Export to iTunes

When you’re happy with the clip, just click Share > Send Ringtone to iTunes. You’ll then see the conversion magically happen, and your new ringtone will start playing in iTunes. Next time you sync your iPhone, be sure to select to sync “All Ringtones”. Done!

Use a Third Party Application

As you’d expect with the vibrant Mac developer community, several applications have sprung up that make it even easier to produce an iTunes compatible ringtone with little to no technical expertise. A few of these worth considering are:

  • Ringtones ($12.95) – A wonderful application that makes the whole process hassle-free.
  • iRing (Free) – A pre-packaged AppleScript that claims to automate the process of converting AAC files into ringtones for the iPhone.

Where to Find Ringtones

Using a song from your iTunes library is great, but where can you find other snappy jingles and more traditional “ringtones”? Here is a collection of links that prove useful for this very purpose:

  • MacMost Ringtones – These are all completely free to use, and fall into a range of different styles.
  • Outer Space Ringtones – Some unusual, some slightly more traditional, and some based on popular songs. All free.
  • ExecTones – A paid collection of “professional” ringtones (anything you’d be happy to have go off in a meeting)
  • Articles 360 – A slightly messy layout, but this site contains lots of pre-uploaded tones and a converter to make your own online.

These are just a few suggestions. I’m sure there are plenty more websites out there offering ringtones, and I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!