Getting M4R ringtones to work on the iPhone with Music

Using Audacity 2.4.2 and have recently upgraded to MacOS 11.0.1. This question is not about Big Sur compatibility specifically.

I used to make ringtones following the process (…AAC encoding to M4R…) and through iTunes it would load to the iPhone and work. Then, with Catalina and migration of iTunes to Music, it stopped working. I tried to do the LAME/FFMpeg update per the user manual, but I think I must have been doing something wrong because I couldn’t get it to work.

Can anybody provide guidance on how I would make sure I’m doing the update right? Do ringtones on the iPhone work–or am I wasting my time?



I think I must have been doing something wrong because I couldn’t get it to work.

What’s not working? Are you having trouble making the file or trouble loading it into the phone.

…I’ve never heard of M4R but the Internet says it’s simply a renamed AAC (MP4/M4A) file. What format is the file now?

Do ringtones on the iPhone work–or am I wasting my time?

I don’t have an iPhone, but they can do “everything”. :stuck_out_tongue:

The ringtone audio file is not the issue… sort of. That is, I can create the AAC audio file out of Audacity. The way to make it a “ringtone” for iPhone used to be to change the suffix of the AAC file from the default of .M4A to .M4R. iTunes would load the file to the iPhone and it would be recognized and usable by the iPhone. But Apple made all that change, I think with the change from iTunes to Music.

Audacity’s manual refers to the LAME/FFmpeg (CODEC?) conversion code needing to be updated. I thought I did that. But nothing changed. Still won’t load to iPhone. So, I’m wondering if actually got the update correctly installed…


If you can export as AAC, then FFmpeg is working correctly.
If FFmpeg is not installed correctly, then attempting to export as AAC will fail and you will see an error message saying that FFmpeg is required.

The software patent on LAME encoding library has expired, so now the LAME library for MP3 export is built-in with Audacity for Windows and Mac. Linux users will still need to download and install the free and recommended LAME third-party encoder to export MP3 files from Audacity.

So it is a little easier now.

I ran through these steps and was successful at creating a ringtone on my iPhone:
(Windows 10, Audacity 2.4.2, iTunes (These steps should work on Mac, too)

  1. in Audacity, loaded .aup file containing music.
  2. Trimed it down to 30 seconds
  3. Export > Export Audio > M4A (AAC) Files (FFmpeg) [default 160kbp] to xxx.m4a (xxx is my song name)
  4. in Windows, renamed xxx.m4a to xxx.m4r (no AAC needed)
  5. In iTunes, clicked on phone icon
  6. dragged xxx.m4r from Windows to iTunes - On My Device - Tones
  7. on iPhone, Settings > Sounds > Ringtone
  8. click on xxx
  9. xxx plays on iPhone

macOS no longer has iTunes.
I assume that there is some new way to transfer ringtones to an iphone, but I don’t know what it is.

Thanks, Steve. From various web sources, the following steps (unverified as I don’t have a Mac) should work on Catalina or Big Sur:

From Create and manage ringtones - Apple Community

  1. Connect your device to your Mac, and open the general tab for it in Finder.
  2. Drag and drop your .m4r file from another open Finder window to the General tab for your device.

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