AAC vs M4A | What is the Difference in 2023?

AAC and M4A are often thought as the same audio file format. This is not the case. In this article you will learn the difference between these file formats plus how you can convert between them.

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Sofia Albert

Updated on Aug 22, 2023

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AAC and M4A are standard audio file formats. You may have several music tracks in your library with any of these formats, and you never noticed before. The problem is that people tend to mix these two formats. Nevertheless, there are differences. AAC is an encoding mechanism that creates an enhanced audio experience with a minimal footprint. The M4A file extension is combined with AAC to represent audio files stored on this encoding system.

m4a vs aac

The main difference between AAC and M4A is that the former is the encoding system used to compress audio files, and the latter refers to the file extension format itself. So, while there may be other extensions used in AAC format, M4A is one of the most widely used, especially on popular platforms like iTunes. In this AAC vs M4A guide, you will learn more information. 

AAC vs. M4A - What's the Difference?

AAC, an abbreviation for Advanced Audio Coding, is an alternative to MP3s due to its improved sound quality. Unlike MP3s, which have the uniform ".mp3" extension, AAC-encoded audio files can have different extensions, such as ".aac" or ".m4a". You can gather that AAC is an audio encoding scheme and M4A is just a file extension. 

The confusion between these two formats' extensions stems from the belief that different extensions mean different codecs. This mainly applies to other formats, but that's not the case for AAC and M4A.

Here you have some of the most common differences:

System type: AAC is an encoding system that mainly operates to code audio data in lossy compression. On the other hand, M4A is a file type extension that is frequently used with AAC files.

Related Article>> M4A vs MP3

Codec: AAC is a codec that reduces the size of an audio file without compromising its quality. However, sometimes, you may witness some data loss during the compression. Also, M4A is not a codec, so it is simply a file container commonly used with the AAC codec. So it can be used to store AAC audio tracks. 

Related Article>> MOV vs MP4 

Quality: AAC has an excellent quality when used for lossy compression code. M4A is a bit more refined, and it has an excellent quality when used with either a lossy compression or a lossless compression.

Related Article>>AAC vs MP3

Compatibility: AAC is used by Apple devices mainly so it is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Macbook. Also, you can download AAC tracks from iTunes. You can play M4A files with various audio players, including Microsoft Music, Apple Music, Microsoft Windows Media.

Related Article>>MKV vs MP4

Conclusion: After viewing AAC vs M4A, you can use any of these file formats to store your audio tracks. As you can tell, both of them have excellent quality audio. What might help you determine your choice as AAC is not as compatible with devices and OS as M4A. 

Convert AAC to M4A or vice versa

There are several free Windows converters that you can use to convert AAC to M4A or vice versa. If you want a converter that doesn't reduce file quality, try EaseUS Video Converter as it is specialized in making fast yet precise conversions which is ideal for AAC to M4A conversions. This powerful software can be used to convert, compress, or edit audio files.

Likewise, this best free audio converter is simple to use. There is no tutorial required to complete the conversion process. You can also convert multiple audio files at once to save time. Also, you can extract audio from your favorite videos. 


  • Batch conversion is possible
  • Convert between 500+ audio file formats
  • Preview music tracks before conversion
  • Excellent user experience with an intuitive interface

How to convert audio to AAC on Windows 10:

Step 1. Download this converter on your computer and launch it. Go to the "Audio Converter," and you can import the audio you want to convert by clicking on the "Choose Files" button.

audio conversion

Step 2. Click on the "Settings" icon, and you will see a "More Options" window. There is a format list on the window, and you need to select AAC as the output format.

select aac format

Step 3. Customize the save path. Then, click on the "Convert" button to process the audio you imported. There is also a "Convert All" button for batch conversion.

convert audio to aac

Step 4. The converted AAC audio file can be found in the "Finished" tab, and you can preview it with a built-in player.

save converted aac audio

What is AAC?

Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is an audio file format introduced in 1997 to be a successor to the MP3 format. Several companies created the AAC like Sony, Nokia, AT&T, and Bell Labs. AAC claims to offer improved sound quality at existing mp3 bitrates. AAC is part of the MPEG2 and MPEG4 specifications. The AAC sampling frequency ranges from 8kHz to 96kHz and is much broader than the previous model. 

This coding system is what is called an irreversible file format. It provides a rich audio experience by effectively removing extra data from files without compromising audio quality. AAC is a widespread audio file format used on many platforms, including popular forums like iTunes and PlayStation 3. 

What is M4A?

M4A stands for MPEG4 Audio File Extension. This is a widely used file extension format in AAC codec. Lossy AAC compression technology is used to reduce this file's size while maintaining a good soundscape. The ".m4a" format is often used to store such compressed files.

Due to the widespread use of the AAC format in iTunes, the M4A file extension format is also used on the same platform. A differentiator of the M4A file extension is that it can be used to store both lossy and lossless compression formats. You may need to rename the file in order to access it because a particular platform may not support the specified file extension format. Audio files with the M4A file extension can be successfully used like with Windows Media Player, Quicktime, VLC, etc.

FAQs About AAC vs M4A

Explore more useful information in this part. 

1. Is AAC better than M4A?

You may be wondering whether to choose M4A or AAC. AAC is a codec system that encodes audio data, and M4A is not a codec; it's just a file container. Therefore, if you need a codec, you can choose AAC. The M4A can be used with either a lossy compression codec or a lossy compression codec. AAC is a lossy compression codec, so you can choose M4A to compress lossy files. Overall, the choice between AAC and M4A depends on your needs.

2. Which quality is better (AAC vs. M4A)?

There are significant differences between AAC and M4A in operating system specifications, types, and features. But when it comes to audio quality, the two are often used together. Since AAC is essentially a coding system, its compression codec takes up less space and maintains sound quality. 

3. Can M4A play on Android?

Many Android devices may not play M4A directly unless the device's operating system itself supports it. The best way to avoid this is to use a third-party audio player to play M4A format. The most common options are VLC and Google Play Music apps.

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