Best Free Audio-Video Format Conversion Program

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Introduction

There are many different audio and video formats out there, and most devices (such as the iPod) and programs (such as Windows Media Player) are only compatible with a few specific formats. An AVI or WMV movie will not play on an iPod, for example, without being converted into an MP4 file first.

There are quite a few programs that will do this for free, with more popping up all the time.  They tend to fall into a few general categories:

  • If you want to convert audio & video easily, with a polished interface, support for virtually all file types including online video websites, and an integrated precision video editor, I recommend that you try our Top Pick.
     
  • If you want to convert without fiddling with any settings, using as few clicks as possible, try our Device-Specific Picks, which are especially suited to quickly setting up a conversion for a portable device.
     
  • If you want to have control over basic settings (such as framerate, frame size, and bitrate), yet still experience a quick, low-frustration conversion where most of the guesswork is done for you and you don't need to be an expert to get the job done, try our General Converter Picks.  Our Top Pick is in this category.
     
  • If you want complete control over every detail of your conversion task, where you have the ability to fine-tune your output using settings that most of us, including the Reviewer, don't even understand, then you may be interested in looking at our Custom-Oriented Picks.
     
  • If you only want to convert audio files, yet you want more audio-specific functionality, then try our Audio-Only Picks.
     
  • And lastly, if you're looking to convert a wide range of file types, from video to audio to documents to images, and you want to do it on the fly, you might want to check out an Online Conversion Website service.  There are sometimes file-size restrictions with these services, but they offer the convenience of being accessible from any browser.

While some are better than others overall, which one is best for you will depend on what sort of program you need.

Note:  If you want to rip video directly from a DVD, click here to view the Best Free DVD Ripper page..

 
Discussion

Device-Specific Picks

Pazera Video Converters Suite Pazera Converter Screenshot is really a package of several separate device converters with a common launcher. Each converter is powerful, with several presets for device, custom tweaking/profiles, multiple-file support, all in a simple text-based interface. If you don't mind the launcher, you could effectively use it as a hybrid converter.

 

Miro ImageFor even easier device conversion, there is Miro Video Converter. With just a dozen device presets and support for only one file at a time, it may not be the best choice for power users. However, its simple interface is 'newbie-proof', and conversion quality is on a par with other programs.

 

Also recommended:

  • XMedia Recode: Like Miro but with a less polished UI.  It supports multiple simultaneous files and more devices.
  • DVDVideoSoft Free: Pazera without custom tweaks; has neat tricks like Youtube downloading and video tweaking. This product is bundled with OpenCandy. See this article for more information. It will also attempt to install a toolbar which you may not want.
  • Handbrake:  A long-time favorite of mine, when I need to convert from just about any format to a nice, no-nonsense iPod/iPhone compatible video (encoded in H.264).  It has a queue, and supports multiple Apple presets including Apple TV.
 
 

General Converter Picks

Freemake Video Converter is the new Top Pick.  The interface is about as polished as it gets, and the code behind the interface is stable, flexible, and powerful.  Using Freemake is a linear, seamless experience with no frustration.

What I do find frustrating, however, is that the developer has now added OpenCandy to their installer.  For more information about this bundled software, I recommend you read this article.  Please see the last paragraph of this review for information on how you can opt out of this.

Now, back to the awesome stuff.  With Freemake, you can convert most any format of video or audio with this handy piece of freeware, along with DVD's, photos, and even web embedded media from sites like YouTube, Google, and Vimeo.  There are lots of presets and quite a few options, giving the software best-in-class capabilities.  The visual cues are easy to follow, pretty much guiding you from start to finish on any conversion task and providing a more user-friendly experience than most other software.

This software can make use of DXVA and CUDA (two methods of hardware accelerated encoding) to boost speeds.  I was only able to use DXVA on my test computer, so you may get faster encodes with your machine.  On my laptop, I had an NVidia card, and Freemake actually displayed a message recommending that I update my video card drivers to make use of CUDA acceleration.  Freemake took 39 minutes to produce its output using an Auto Bitrate setting, with a two-pass encode.  It took under 15 minutes to do a one-pass encode.  Handbrake took 33 minutes using a Constant Quality RF:20 setting.  The quality of all three test encodes was excellent, with no apparent difference from the original.  You won't find advanced encoding settings anywhere in this interface, so if you're looking to fine-tune your output, I recommend moving on to something like Handbrake, Format Factory, or FFCoder.

I would have loved to give this software 10/10 stars, however there was one negative aspect to Freemake Video Converter: the bundled Freemake Toolbar and OpenCandy softwares.  The toolbar is set to install by default unless you choose otherwise on the first page of the install wizard.  To their credit, the Privacy Policies and/or EULA's are easily available for all bundled software. OpenCandy, on the other hand, does not have a checkbox to toggle its install.  Instead, you'll have to roll up your sleeves and install from the command-line if you want to opt out of it.  Here's how:  Hit Start, then 'Run' the install file with the /nocandy switch.  It will still show you the EULA for it, however there will be an option at the very end of the install to 'not install' the software OpenCandy recommends for you.  Even without the /nocandy switch, you can still uncheck the box, but for some reason the switch will trade in the check-box for 2 separate radio button choices (Yes or No).  It's a lot to worry about and go through, but this software really is top-notch in most other ways.

Although their website defaults to an "online installer", they do host offline installers, available here.

 

When iWisoft Free Video Converter starts, it automatically launches your browser for an upgrade check and displays a web page, which I found annoying.  Aside from this, I didn't find much else to complain about.  Its interface is extremely clean, well organized, and easy to use. It has a complete and well-organized collection of presets, and supports making and saving basic tweaks, too. It even has a few pleasant surprises, such as a basic built-in editing suite, with features like cropping, splitting, joining, and watermarking.  In short, this program is an outstanding choice for most device conversions.

 

FormatFactory ScreenShotAnother excellent choice (especially for old phones and DVD ripping) is Format Factory. It has presets for over 100 devices, converts to and from dozens of formats, and allows for advanced tweaking and custom profiles. On the downside, the sidebar-and-popup interface does not provide a linear experience.  You'll find that you can not drag'n'drop into the windows that look like you should be able to, and you have to open & close a couple of windows in order to end up back at the starting screen, where you finally get to hit START.  This being said, once you learn the interface, you'll find it responsive, stable, and easy to drill down to the exact settings you are looking for. Overall, this program is a good choice for power or device users who find iwiSoft lacking.

NOTE:  When installing Format Factory, watch out for the bundled toolbar.  It is installed by default if you don't uncheck the box on the first screen of the installer package.

A portable version of this software is also available at LiberKey, which is a superb portable application manager.

 

 

Also recommended:

  • Ultimate Video Converter: Only handles single files, but simplest converter with both iPod and custom settings
  • SGI's Video Converter: More cluttered than the top two, but has "flatter" interface and more conversion options for power users.
  • YouTube Downloader HD:  This program is a gem in the world of YouTube ripping.  It allows you to copy/paste a YouTube link, choose your video quality, and download it to your computer for future viewing.  In the latest version, you can now choose to have it automatically convert the .FLV file to an iPod/iPhone compatible .MP4 file, or an XViD .AVI for playback on many devices.
 
 

Custom-Oriented Picks

If you need to make complex, custom jobs, FFCoder is the standout choice for its coherence. Like most programs in this review, it has an excellent device preset list, the ability to convert multiple files at once, and a simple, sleek interface. Where FFCoder stands out is its support of highly advanced configuration for each of the dozens of video formats and codecs, down to lighting and rendering settings. Despite a few dependencies (listed below) and a steep learning curve for any tweaks past the presets, this is the best converter for almost any power user, device owner or not.

One of my favorite FFCoder features is the Directory Watch.  You can setup FFCoder so that it monitors a folder for files matching a filename pattern, which will be automatically converted using the selected settings.  It can be a bit confusing to set up, however I found I got the best results when setting the wildcard filename pattern to something other than *.* (such as *.avi).

There were two things I didn't like about FFCoder.  The first is that is always creates Start Menu entries in the Administrator account, regardless of which non-admin account is being used to install it.  This is fairly minor though, contrasted with all the powerful features.  The second drawback is that it seems to be less stable on 64-bit Windows systems every now and again.  I ran into .DLL errors and missing presets, which strangely were intermittent problems.  I've spoken with the author and it looks like many of these bugs will be worked out in the next release.

 

Also recommended:

  • SUPER:  Great for small, obscure tweaks. Has a simple but annoying interface. This program is bundled with OpenCandy. See this article for more information.
  • XVID4PSP: Supports very many tweaks. Impossibly fragmented interface. Solid AviSynth support.
 
 

Audio-Only Picks

Pazera Free Audio Extractor is the audio-only program in the above-mentioned Pazera Video Converters Suite. It supports both video and audio input and output to many formats, and is slightly simpler than some of its sibling programs. Otherwise, it is perfectly identical.

 

 

Online Conversion Websites

Video to Mp3 I was asked to checkout a web site converter for Youtube and Dailymotion videos. This site is set up to convert video to four set formats Mp3(128 kbt/s & 256 kbit/s ), flv, mp4 and 3gp.

This is a wonderful idea, but does it work lets see....

I started the test with an Mp3 convert and WOW finished in a matter of seconds and my result was ready to download. Ok lets check out some of these other bad boy options. Next I selected the Mp4 option and clicked the convert button and nothing. EMMM I thought well it is a video conversion so it will take more time. I waited until the next day nothing. After a full 24 hours still nothing. I reloaded the page and recopied the URL started a new convert. After 6 hours nothing and then my browser crashed ooops. I started a third again after 24 hours nothing. I am not saying it wont work for you as different configurations of bandwidth, browsers etc may be different but don't get your hopes up.

Next up the flv now I was thinking that a lot of Youtube video is in format flv so this should be quick but again after 3 days and 3 tests I had 0 results. At least this time my browser did not crash lol. So without much Enthusiasm I tried the 3gp option and hey what you know it worked first time and quite quickly about 30 minutes.

Having said all this if anyone wants a Youtube video in basic no frills mp3 audio from a Youtube video then this is a viable option and simple to use just copy and paste a Youtube URL into box, choice format and click convert and when it is ready download finished product, easy.

 

 

Zamzar is an excellent website when you're on the run.  It doesn't allow you to customize the encoding settings, however it makes up for that somewhat with its portability and flexibility.  If you have a browser with internet access, you have Zamzar.  If you have any file, you can convert it to any other type of file in the same class.  For example, you can convert video files, audio files, photos (ex: .JPG to .PNG), archives (ex: .RAR to .ZIP), documents (ex: .PDF to .DOC), and eBooks (ex: .LIT to .EPUB).  You can even paste a URL (ex: YouTube) and it'll download the embedded video for you and convert it.  Once the conversion is done, they email you a link to download the finished product.

This email-based file retrieval can be either a pro or a con depending on how you look at it.  It's more fuss than there really needs to be in the process, however it gives you the flexibility of converting a Youtube video from a computer where you can't download the content, such as when at work behind a proxy or at a public library.  When you get home, you can then download the finished conversion immediately using the email link.  I first used Zamzar over a year ago, and to this day I have never received unsolicited email from them.

There is a 100MB file limit for free use, but you can upgrade that to 200MB and get about 5GB of online storage if you want to pay their fairly steep monthly prices.  For most users, the free services are more than adequate.

 

 

Tested and not recommended:


To Be Reviewed:

  • Avanti
  • DVDVideoSoft (re-review)
  • Miksoft Mobile Media Converter
  • Mediacoder
  • Motion Man by Blink Solution
  • MeGUI
 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

Freemake Video Converter
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Great interface, very flexible, support for almost every type of conversion, easy to use
Bundled toolbar (you can opt out, but it's a multi-click process) Bundled OpenCandy
http://www.freemake.com
4.1.2
1.21 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP/Vista/7, .NET Framework
Pazera Video Converters Suite
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Excellent presets, easy to use, custom profiles
Looks intimidating, separate programs for each output type, no advanced tweaks. Contains unwanted bundled components. Take care to avoid these during the install process.
1.7
21.3 MB
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
NT/98/Me/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7
Miro Video Converter
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Brutally easy-to-use device conversion
Only one file at a time, no profile or generic tweaking, only MP4
3.0
425.09 KB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows and Mac OSX
iWisoft Free Video Converter
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Simple polished interface, file and preset editing allowed, many device presets
Checks for updates and launches the browser on startup, requires Windows Media Player
1.2.0
8.7 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
NT/2000/XP/Vista/7

Portable version available here.

Format Factory
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Stable with many device presets. Supports all video file formats. Rips DVD's & Music CD's. Very powerful software.
Installer is bundled with a toolbar (you are able to opt out), interface is non-linear and somewhat confusing.
3.2.1.0
58.88 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 and 8 (NET Framework)
FFCoder
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Solid preset list, highly advanced tweaks, sleek interface
Dependencies, no installer
1.3.0.3
38 MB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
2000/XP/2003 Server/Vista/7
Pazera Free Audio Extractor
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Great presets, supports many input and output formats, easy to use, custom profiles
No advanced tweaks. Contains unwanted bundled components. Take care to avoid these during the install process.
2.8
8.4MB
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
NT/98/Me/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7
Handbrake
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Cross-platform, simple interface, good presets, complete features, video quality is excellent, DVD ripping, subtitle support
No preview window in the Windows version, slow encoding (based on settings chosen), output formats limited to MPEG-4 and H.264
http://handbrake.fr/
0.9.9
13.63 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Open source freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
MacOS 32/64-bit, Windows XP/Vista/7 32-bit, Fedora 15 32/64-bit, Ubuntu

 
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Tags
free audio converter, free video converter, best audio video converter, top audio video conversion program, free av converter, free av conversion.

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Comments

by Anonymous on 17. January 2009 - 9:48  (14064)

I would have to say, I have tried most of these programs, the best I have found is not on this list and is called Handbrake. By far the easiest user interface I have seen, and available on all OS too.

by Anonymous on 18. January 2009 - 4:21  (14131)

Before I read the reviews I had downloaded, installed and used MediaCoder. I had some flv files and wanted them converted to mp3. I expected to get thoroughly beat up trying to do this but the software worked very well and was relatively easy to use.

by Anonymous on 19. January 2009 - 8:02  (14186)

I second that opinion. Handbrake has created flawless conversions (DVD to encoded video) time and time again - it also converts to mkv (with chapters) effortlessly. This is coming from someone who is not a video conversion guru.

While Super seems great in screen shots, it has failed to deliver acceptable results time and time again (agian, this coming from someone who is not a video conversion guru).

by Anonymous on 25. January 2009 - 6:24  (14644)

I was thoroughly disappointed-was required to download firefox and even then got errors and couldn't figure out how to convert mp4 to mp3.

by Anonymous on 25. January 2009 - 6:25  (14645)

It's only a video, not an audio converter, right?

by Anonymous on 25. January 2009 - 6:26  (14646)

Thanks for that comment. I won't even go there. Having enough trouble as it is.

by Anonymous on 7. February 2009 - 20:04  (15570)

The latest version of Super is considered a threat by AntiVir whilst the previous versions didn't have the same problem.
So, I uninstalled it and tried FormatFactory which is MUCH simpler and with a very nice interface. Cheers.

by mr6n8 on 7. February 2009 - 20:20  (15572)
by Anonymous on 8. February 2009 - 18:08  (15604)

Doesn't do video, but RentASoft Image Converter is an excellent image converter....even does Icon files.

by freeconverter on 18. February 2009 - 10:57  (16260)

All these freeware are nice, but can not convert some kinds of FLV videos. As I know, Leawo free FLV Converter can perfectly convert all FLV videos downloaded from most video sites.

by Anonymous on 19. February 2009 - 20:27  (16377)

I'm just starting out with this stuff so the article and comments are very useful, thanks. I spent all last night sifting through various websites and forums and came across some interesting posts about Super. Seems it probably isn't malware but there are lingering doubts, see http://www.malwarebytes.org/forums/index.php?s=&showtopic=3556

There's also some interesting comments at http://www.videohelp.com/tools/SUPER It does seem that Super is a nightmare to uninstall cleanly. I'll have a look at the others mentioned and would like to add WinFF, a very easy to use freebie which, like Super, is a front end/GUI for ffmpeg
http://winff.org/html/

by ernestoch on 20. February 2009 - 4:13  (16402)

Both FF and Mediacoder can convert FLV files. No need for a specialist.

by Anonymous on 20. February 2009 - 4:34  (16404)

Just tried FormatFactory and I'm impressed. Converted a .vob file to .swf - which WinFF can't do - in a few minutes. Didn't seem to be doing anything at first then jumped from 0% to Completed. Quality seems fine. Thanks for the tip.

by Anonymous on 20. February 2009 - 10:40  (16411)

SUPER makes my Avira go crazy.
Is it safe.

by Anonymous on 24. February 2009 - 14:26  (16729)

Does anyone know of a program that will allow me to play this sort of file: an AVI file from Australia that when played with the site-recommended player comes up as being country protected ("Your country is incompatible with this video"). Anything that will convert this and strip the protection in the process? Thanks!

by Anonymous on 5. March 2009 - 3:13  (17245)

does anyone know any freeware video splitters ? I got a big video I want to split up and post up onto youtube...

by mjt328 on 5. March 2009 - 3:35  (17249)

I've recently found GSplit (home page is at http://www.gdgsoft.com/gsplit/) and used it to split and then reassemble several large files (including videos). It worked flawlessly right across the board. Definitely worth a look.

by Anonymous on 19. March 2009 - 5:57  (18150)

has anyone considered Switch? by NCH.

http://www.nch.com.au/switch/index.html

by davezn on 23. March 2009 - 5:27  (18355)

Hi
Tried FORMAT FACTORY and found it to be easy use, conversions were excellent, all in all a great programme.

by Anonymous on 23. March 2009 - 14:59  (18396)

Also have a look at DVD Flick http://www.dvdflick.net/

by Anonymous on 23. March 2009 - 20:01  (18426)

Agree! The best all in one so far.

BTW, the new version (v1.80) has just been released.

by Anonymous on 29. March 2009 - 16:51  (18871)

For me the best is XMedia Recode. It's portable, only 7 MB when extracted (just one exe)and multilang. Also it alows you video editing, like cutting, croping, color correction ...

by Anonymous on 29. March 2009 - 20:28  (18876)

Hey guys you sound really smart so I was wondering if you can help me find a freeware video converter easy to use and that supports VTS format. I want to keep the good quality of the original files. I already tried some of the ones discussed here but they are kind of complicated to figure out and some give bad quality outputs.Thank you.

by Anonymous on 2. April 2009 - 6:18  (19083)

MediaCoder worked great for me to resample MP3 files without losing tag information. Now I've got twice as many tunes on my MP3 player and the sound quality is still decent. MediaCoder worked better and faster than several shareware programs I tried, some costing as much as $50.

by tony on 3. April 2009 - 17:42  (19219)

I have just been going through all the formats to get a YouTube vidoe to play onto a DVD and without success and yes I have used the above, but did download a software that worked well and free.
http://www.koyotesoft.com/indexEn.html

So well I have been asked to make more for a person who has a lot of pain and these are help videos. So I am glad I could be of help and thanks to koyotesoft.

Tony

by Anonymous on 4. April 2009 - 11:42  (19260)

I second the recommendation of Koyotesoft (above) an EXCELLENT program.
Does stuff the others do not and its totally free (base model)
The interface is a bit crude but straightforward.

Also to convert SHN or MKV formats to WAV or MP? I use MKW conversion tool.
A nifty little free straightforward program. http://etree.org/mkw.html

Thank You!

by Anonymous on 4. April 2009 - 21:18  (19298)

yeah..Switch is good but only base conversions (Mp3/WAV) etc with the Free version.
You have to upgrade to paid, in order to get full conversion capabilities.

by Anonymous on 11. April 2009 - 21:58  (19706)

Sorru but I tried this and it's crap.
It's so slow it's untrue, and the quakity is nothing better than I've seen before.
I'd recommend auto-gordian knot, handbrake or DVD flick over Super any day of the week.

by Anonymous on 11. April 2009 - 22:02  (19707)

I'd best qualify that too, by saying I don't think it's easy to use at all.
Drop the file here instead of browse? Pft.
All those options, what if it's a beginner?
It might have some use for the odd weird format, but I tried to convert a copy of Terminator. 51 mins with DVD flick, almost 3 hours with super, and the quality was no different.
For the first time ever I give a very certain thumbs down to a Gizmo review.

by Anonymous on 13. April 2009 - 20:10  (19808)

Hi
Not been through all the comments, and apologies if this has already been noted.
Just downloaded FormatFactory on the strength of its reported ability to flip and rotate videos. However having tried it, it is clear it will only rotate or flip pictures, not videos, and on more careful reading that is all the home page claims to do also. It will NOT rotate videos.

Your review seems to imply that it does, and you may wish to correct that.

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