Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express: Convert MP3 and AAC audio files for compatibility before importing

This document explains how to import MP3 and AAC-encoded audio files into Final Cut Pro 3, Final Cut Pro 4, and Final Cut Express.

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Both MP3 and AAC are "lossy" compressed audio formats. They lack the sound quality of the original, uncompressed audio, even if you convert them back to AIFF (uncompressed format). Because of this, use the original audio, whether it's on an audio CD, part of a digital sequencing project, or even tape or vinyl. For information on importing audio tracks from an audio CD, see technical document "Final Cut Pro: How to Import Audio CD Tracks."

The information below is intended for the worst-case scenario, when only the compressed MP3 or AAC file is available.

MP3 and AAC audio files should be converted to uncompressed AIFF files that match the sample rate of the audio in your sequence. Follow one of the procedures below to convert and import the audio into Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express:

You will need QuickTime Pro to complete these steps. Final Cut Pro 3 and 4 include a QuickTime Pro key. It is printed on the installation guide.

Note: Songs purchased from the iTunes Store cannot be converted to other formats.

Important: This software may be used to reproduce materials. It is licensed to you only for reproduction of non-copyrighted materials, materials in which you own the copyright, or materials you are authorized or legally permitted to reproduce. If you are uncertain about your right to copy any material you should contact your legal advisor.

Using QuickTime Player

  1. Determine the audio sample rate of your Final Cut Pro or Final Cut Express sequence by selecting the sequence in the Browser and then choose Edit > Item Properties. The audio sample rate appears in the Item Properties window. The default DV preset uses 48 kHz audio.
  2. Locate the MP3 or AAC audio file in the Finder. If the song is in iTunes, you can choose File > Show Song File to locate the song in the Finder (or use the steps below). AAC song files have a filename extension of .m4a.
  3. Drag the song file onto the QuickTime Player application icon.
  4. Choose File > Export.
  5. In the Save dialog, navigate to your media folder. This is where the AIFF file will be saved.
  6. Choose "Sound to AIF" from the Export pop-up menu.
  7. Click the Options button.
  8. In the Sound Settings window, set the Compressor to None and the Rate to the sample rate of your sequence. Also choose Stereo unless this is a mono audio file.
  9. Click OK to dismiss the Sound Settings window.
  10. Click the Save button.
  11. Import the AIFF file into your Final Cut Pro or Final Cut Express project as you would with any other media file. You can drag the file from the Finder directly into the Browser window or choose File > Import > Files.

Using iTunes

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Choose iTunes > Preferences.
  3. Click the Importing icon at the top of the Preferences window. (See Note 1.)
  4. Select AIFF (See Note 2) encoder instead of MP3 or AAC encoders (See Note 3).
  5. Click the button next to Setting (it should be set to Automatic by default).
  6. Select Custom.
  7. Select 16 bit Sample Size
  8. Select Stereo Channels (or Mono if your files are monaural).
  9. Select 48 kHz. This is the standard sample rate for DV (See Note 4).
  10. Click OK.
  11. Click OK again (See Note 5).

All audio files will now be ready for importing into Final Cut Pro and will not require rendering. To listen and encode MP3 or AAC files in iTunes, change the Importing preference back to the MP3 or AAC encoder.


  1. By default iTunes is set to import using the AAC (See Note 3) encoder at 128 kbit/s.
  2. Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) sound files are the standard file format defined by Apple and several third-party developers for sampled (digitized) sound. These files are uncompressed (PCM) audio files.
  3. Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) was developed by the MPEG group. The AAC codec in QuickTime 6 builds upon state-of-the art signal processing technology from Dolby Laboratories and brings true variable bit rate (VBR) audio encoding to QuickTime. The MP3 codec uses constant bit rate (CBR) or variable bit rate (VBR) audio encoding in QuickTime, depending on which you choose. These files are compressed audio files.
  4. By default, CD audio is recorded at 16 bit stereo with a sample rate of 44.1 kHz. This is not the DV standard, and you may experience popping on playback with these files if they are not converted to 48 kHz prior to importing into Final Cut Pro.
  5. By default iTunes saves all imported audio files into the iTunes Music folder ( ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music). You may want to change this location for your uncompressed AIFF files to enable a better workflow. You may do this before clicking 'OK' in step 11 by clicking on the Advanced icon in the iTunes Preferences window. There, you will see the iTunes Music Folder Location. You can then click Change and click the button next to 'From' in the dialog box that appears. Select the Desktop or another location to isolate the uncompressed AIFF files. Select New Folder if applicable and name it accordingly. To get back to the default location (for MP3s and other compressed audio files) of the iTunes Music folder, go back to the Advanced tab in the iTunes Preferences window. Click Reset.
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