Under The Microscope

Creating iPhone Ringtones With Fission

Because Fission can losslessly edit AAC and MP3 files, it’s always been great for creating ringtones. Using Fission, you can crop audio down to your desired snippet, fade the ends in and out, and save, all in just a few clicks. Add the files to any phone that accepts MP3 or AAC audio files for ringtones, and you’re all set.

Sadly, Apple’s iPhone didn’t accept custom ringtones for the first two months of its life. Apple shipped the iPhone with a nice selection of built-in ringtones, but unless you were willing to use one of the assortment of unsupported third-party hacks, the iPhone wouldn’t accept other files as ringtones.

Since iTunes 7.4 last week, the iPhone has allowed the use custom ringtones, purchasable from the Apple store. These ringtones are purchased on top of the audio file, for $1.98 total – no small price.

However, it’s also possible to make your own home brew ringtones. iTunes 7.4 accepted files with the extension .m4r as ringtones, a trick I first saw all this reported on The Unofficial Apple Weblog. Version 7.4.1 broke this, but this workaround performs just fine. In short, any AAC file can be an iPhone-compatible ringtone, and Fission can help you edit those AAC files.

Using Fission 1.5.1 To Create A Ringtone From An AAC File

Creating a ringtone from an AAC file is quite simple with Fission. Just follow along with these steps (click thumbnails for full-sized screenshots):

Step 1: Open and zoom in

To start, I rip an AAC file of the song Sam’s Town from the latest Killers CD. The first 30-60 seconds of the song features a nice intro, so I open it in Fission and zoom in to the first minute.

Step 2: Cut down the audio

I play to where I want the ringtone to end (where the vocals come in at around 45 seconds), pause playback and set a split point (with command-T for Split at Playhead). I then select the second clip (representing the rest of the song) and remove it with the Remove button.

Step 3: Audio adjustments (Fades and gain adjust)

My file’s now down to where I want it lengthwise, so it’s time for some audio adjustments. Thanks to the loudness war, I need to decrease the gain, so I select the clip by clicking it and use the Gain Adjustment slider to make the song quieter.

The audio already fades in nicely with a drum roll, but I want to fade out the end, so I select the last few seconds and click Fade Out.

Step 4: Save the file

My audio is all set, so I click the Save button and save out my AAC file. I’ve got my ringtone!

Step 1: Opened and zoomed in
Step 2: Cutting down the audio
Step 3a: Adjusting audio adjustments
Step 3b: Fading out the end
Step 4: Saving the file

Getting Ringtones Into iTunes 7.4.1 (And Onto The iPhone)

Update (9/11/07 2:00 PM): We heard from people that this part was a pain in the butt, and we realized we could make it better. You can skip all the steps below by using our MakeiPhoneRingtone freebie.

I’ve got my ringtone file, but I still need to get it into iTunes and onto the iPhone. To do this, I’ll follow the aforementioned workaround.

Step 1: Change the file’s extension
To start, I select the file in the Finder and choose Get Info from the File menu, then change the extension there to .m4r.

Step 2: Approve the change
I’ve got to approve this change in the Finder warning by clicking “Use .m4r”.

Step 3: Add the file to iTunes
I drag and drop the file to the iTunes Library, and it copies it to a “Ringtones” folder at the Artist level. The file isn’t visible anywhere in the iTunes Library but it does show up in the iPhone’s Ringtones tab – we’re getting somewhere!

Step 4:Turn on the ringtone
Now I can turn on the ringtone in the iPhone Ringtones tab. With iTunes 7.4, I’m all set. However, with iTunes 7.4.1, I’ll get an error when I sync saying that the file can’t be played by the iPhone.

Step 5 (iTunes 7.4.1 only): Rename the file (again)

To avoid this, I need to change the file’s extension back to .m4a. It’s absurd, but it works. To do this, I go to my Ringtones (in my Home folder -> Music -> iTunes -> iTunes Music, by default). I find “Sam’s Town.m4r”, and rename it back to “Sam’s Town.m4a” in the Get Info window.

Just as before, I need to approve this change, this time by clicking “Use .m4a” in the resulting dialog.

Once I do this and sync again, the ringtone shows up on my iPhone – huzzah! It may seem like a lot of work, but the combination of editing the file and getting it onto the iPhone really only took a couple minutes. In far less time than it took to read this post, you’ll be able to edit ringtones in Fission and get them synced to the iPhone. Enjoy!

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