|Many cell phones can be customised with the user's own ring and answer tones. This tutorial will help you to prepare suitable sound files.
Choose the ringtone source
Alternatively you can play any audio file on your computer (including purchased files), or a CD, or any other sound on your computer including sounds playing over the internet, and record it. This is not the highest quality way to grab the sound from a CD or from a purchased file, but it is probably OK for making a ringtone, as quality often needs to be compromised in a ringtone to make the file size smaller. But if you want to grab a perfect digital copy of the CD track, or you cannot record it easily, extract it digitally to WAV or .AIFF as described at How to import CDs. Or to make a perfect copy of a purchased file, burn it to an audio CD in the application licensed to play it, then extract the CD track in the same way.
Edit your ringtone
1) Click(or in Audacity Beta) and import your source file. This can be any MP3, WAV, AIFF, OGG or FLAC file that Audacity can open.
2) Select the portion of audio you want to use for your ringtone (say 15-20 seconds). To do this, click in the audio track and drag a selection area to left or right with your mouse - you can see the length of the selected audio in the timeline above the track. Many phones will loop the ringtone automatically (repeat it over and over), so choose your selection area with that in mind. To hear your selection play looped in Audacity, type L on the keyboard or hold down SHIFT while clicking the green Play button. To stop the playback, hit spacebar or click the yellow Stop button.
3) Click. This will remove the rest of the file, leaving only the section you selected. If you want to use the whole file, then skip this step.
4) Add any effects you may want to the ringtone, by clicking in the Track Panel where the mute/solo buttons are to select all the track, then click the Effect menu. Be sparing with effects, but two you may want to consider are:
- Equalization. Many phone speakers cannot reproduce very low frequencies so consider attenuating them, especially if you are making a ringtone from an original high quality music file. On openingyou'll notice a horizontal line at 0 dB, meaning that at that position, no changes are made to the volume of any frequencies. A curve can be created using the mouse, clicking at various points above or below the line. For our purpose, bring the line down to -24 dB on the vertical axis for the low frequencies from 30-300 Hz on the horizontal axis. You may want to increase the lower frequencies from 300 Hz to say 600 Hz by dragging them above 0 dB, then reduce the highest frequencies above say 10 000 Hz. This should make the sound somewhat richer and less "tinny" on a small cellphone speaker, by emphasizing the frequency range it can reproduce best.
You can view the amount of energy in the different frequency bands in your ringtone by clicking. Here is an example spectrum plot from Audacity 1.3.8 Beta for the Nokia original ringtone Hummingbird.aac (47 kbps, 22050Hz, SBR+PS, Mono) converted to WAV (Mono, 22050Hz, 16 bits). This ringtone is quite acute so you can hear the phone from far, something that is essential for a well-made ringtone.
- Compressor (which will reduce the difference between loud and soft and so make the ringtone sound louder). This will again suit a small cellphone speaker which may not be able to handle large changes in dynamic range. The terms of the compressor effect are as follows:
- Threshold is the volume level at which compression starts to be applied. The further right the slider, the louder the input has to be before compression is applied.
- Ratio - the further the slider is to right, the stronger is the compression applied
- Attack time - amount of time compressor waits to respond after the Threshold is reached
- If the "Normalize" box is checked then after compression the audio will be set to maximum possible amplification without adding distortion. This may be a bad idea on cellphone speakers which can give distortions before the maximum possible level is reached. Instead use Effect > Amplify after compression and choose a new Peak Amplitude (dB) of -3 dB.
Or instead of Compressor, consider using the Hard Limiter from the LAPSDA plug-in package which will also restrict the maximum volume to -3 dB. "Wet" and "dry" refer to the strength of an effect, with 1 being full effect and 0 representing no effect. Set the Hard Limiter to a dB limit of -3 dB, Wet Level to 1.0 and Residue Level to 0.0. Now, just the same as when you amplify to -3 dB after compression, you will get no signal above -3 dB, but you will also get a very sharp reduction in dynamic range which will be more extreme than that you get with the compressor.
If after Compressor or Hard Limiter your ringtone does not sound quite loud enough on the phone, you could try setting the Peak Amplitude or dB limit to -2 dB or -1 dB instead.
What type of file does your phone require?
You need to check what type of file format your phone requires for its ringtones, and whether the file needs to be mono or stereo.
There are many different ringtone formats in existence, but they fall into three main categories:
- Monophonic - just one note at a time, usually RTTL format. If you want a ringtone in this format, it's often easiest to simply key it into your phone if it supports that.
- Polyphonic - multiple notes at a time. Some phones can play true MIDI files, others rely on sp-midi or .mmf formats
- Music ring tones - actual digitally sampled music files including MP3 and WAV supported by Audacity, plus other formats like AMR and QCP.
Most new phones will support polyphonic ringtones. Phones supporting music ringtones tend to be more expensive models, or PDA phones combining a handheld computer.
Convert stereo to mono
Irrespective of the required file format, many phones will want mono ringtone files. So if the track you are editing is stereo, the next step is to convert it to mono.
- Click on the name of the song (in the Track Panel to left of the waveform, where the downward pointing arrow is). This brings down a selection menu.
- Select the option.
- Click on the name of one of the resulting tracks then on "mono" using the same menu
- Close the other track by clicking on [X] on the Track Panel.
The remaining track will now only have the contents from one of the stereo channels you had before. If you want information from both channels in your ringtone, do this:
- Choose as in steps 1) and 2) above
- Click on the name of both tracks in turn and make each mono as in step 3) above
- Select both tracks by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL + A (CMND + A on a Mac) and play them, and look at the green VU playback meter (the left-hand meter in the Meter Toolbar):
If the meter is not visible, enable it on the by checking . All you have to do is make sure the red hold lights to right of the green bars are not showing, which indicates the combined volume of the two tracks is too loud and will distort. In the image above, you can see the left-hand channel had distorted at one point and brought on the red light. If any hold lights are showing, move the -....+ gain sliders (below the mute/solo buttons) on each Track Panel to left by the same amount until the green bars are well over to the right, but no longer bringing the red lights on. Then click .
Export the file from Audacity
The following instructions show you how to export your edited (and mono if needs be) ringtone from Audacity as a WAV or MP3. If your 'phone needs a ringtone to be in some other format, skip to here.
Phones requiring WAV files
If your phone requires an MP3 file, skip to here.
As an example of exporting a WAV file specific to a particular type of phone, consider the following Motorola Sprint Nextel cellphones:
i265, i275, i405, i450, i560, i710, 730, 750, 760, 830, i833, i836 ,850, 860, i870, i930
These require ringtones to be in the following format:
- WAV (Microsoft); Bit depth: 8 bits; Sample Rate: 8 000Hz; Channels: 1 (mono).
If your phone has the same requirements as this, the instructions below should work for your phone. If the only information you have is that the WAV needs to have a bit rate of 64 kbps, these instructions will also probably work for your phone, because in a WAV file the bit rate is always the (bit depth) multiplied by the (sample rate), multiplied by the (number of channels). So the WAV in our example is (8 * 8 * 1) = 64 kbps.
If your phone requires WAV files with slightly different characteristics than these, you can adjust the instructions below appropriately. It's assumed you've already made the track mono as per the instructions above.
- Look at the Project Rate button at bottom left of the screen. If it is already showing "8000", skip to Step 2 below. Otherwise, click on the button and select the "8000" option. If there isn't an 8 000 Hz option, select "Other ..." and type 8000 in the box that pops up (or in Audacity Beta, select and type over one of the values).
- In 1.2 versions of Audacity: Click ( on a Mac) and then the tab. In the "Uncompressed Export Format" dropdown, select "WAV (Microsoft 8 bit PCM)" and click OK. Then click on , select a file name to export your WAV file to and hit .
- In Audacity Beta: Click and in the "Export File" dialogue, choose "other uncompressed files" in the file types dropdown, then a file name to export to. Click and in the "Format" dropdown, select "WAV (Microsoft 8 bit PCM)". Click OK then . If the Metadata Editor pops up at any stage, click OK. Metadata tags are not needed for WAV files in mobile 'phones.
Phones requiring MP3 files
As an example of a phone requiring an MP3 ringtone, the Motorola i580 requires MP3 files at:
- Bit Rate: 32 kbps; Sample Rate: 8 000 Hz; Channels: 1 (mono).
If your phone has the same requirements then it should also work for you. If your phone requires MP3 files with slightly different characteristics you can adjust the tutorial instructions below appropriately. It's assumed you've already made the file mono as per the instructions above.
- If you have not already done so, download the LAME MP3 encoder to your computer and tell Audacity where to find it. Instructions on doing this are here.
- Look at the Project Rate button at bottom left of the screen. If it is already showing "8000", skip to Step 3 below. Otherwise, click on the button and select the "8000" option. If there isn't an 8 000 Hz option, select "Other ..." and type 8000 in the box that pops up (in Audacity Beta, select and type over one of the values).
- In 1.2 versions of Audacity: Click ( on a Mac) and then the tab. In the section near the bottom, in the "Bit Rate" dropdown, select "32" and click OK. Then click on , select a file name to export your MP3 file to and hit .
- In Audacity Beta: Click and in the "Export File" dialogue, choose "MP3 Files" in the file types dropdown, then a file name to export to. Click . In the "Quality" dropdown, select "32 kbps", and in "Bit Rate Mode", select the "Constant" radio button. Leave "Channel Mode" at "Stereo" - a single-channel (mono) file will still be produced if your Audacity track is stereo. Click OK then .
Phones requiring other formats
If your phone requires files in other than WAV and MP3 format, the best course after editing the file is to export it as a mono, 44 100 Hz 16-bit PCM WAV file, then convert that WAV to the required format with an appropriate conversion program below.
- Select the required sample rate in the Project Rate button at bottom left of the screen.
- Click File > Export.
- Enter and OK any metadata required.
- Choose the format in the file types dropdown.
- If required, click to set the AAC bit rate, then OK
To export to 44 100 Hz 16-bit PCM WAV:
- If required, convert the stereo track to mono.
- Look at the Project Rate button at bottom left of the screen. If it is already showing "44100", skip to Step 2 below. Otherwise, click on the button and select the "44100" option. If there isn't a 44 100 Hz option, select "Other ..." and type 44 100 in the box that pops up (in Audacity Beta, select and type over one of the values).
- In 1.2 versions of Audacity: Click ( on a Mac) and then the tab. In the "Uncompressed Export Format" dropdown, select "WAV (Microsoft 16 bit PCM)" and click OK. Then click on , select a file name to export your WAV file to and hit .
- In Audacity Beta, click and in the "Export File" dialogue, choose "WAV (Microsoft) signed 16 bit PCM" in the file types dropdown, then a file name to export to. Click OK then . If the Metadata Editor pops up at any stage, click OK. Metadata tags are not needed for WAV files in mobile 'phones.
Here is a selected list of programs to convert your exported WAV to the format your phone requires:
- SuperPlayer for Windows: from WAV, MP3 and most formats to 3GP, AMR, MMF
- ffmpegX for OS X: WAV, MP3 and most formats to AMR
- AMR Player for Windows: WAV, MP3 to AMR (also AMR NB and AMR WB (AWB) to WAV or MP3)
- mplayer for Linux (command line tool) and Windows/OS X (interface versions) : from WAV, MP3 and most formats to AMR
- Mobile Ringtone Converter for Windows: from WAV, MP3, OGG, AMR to AMR, MMF, WAV. Free conversion limited to maximum 4 seconds, and no more than 1/3rd of a file
- Midi Music Polyphonic for Windows: from WAV, MP3, MIDI to MMF
- PV Converter for Windows: from mono WAV to QCP (also from QCP to 8 KHz 16-bit mono WAV). It is a command line program but you can drag the file you want to convert onto pvconv.exe and the converted file is then created in the directory from which the original file was dragged.
- QCP Converter for Windows (trialware): WAV, MP3, WMA, OGG, AAC, Real Audio and Audio CD to QCP
- WaveToMidi for Windows and Linux (shareware): from WAV and MP3 to MIDI
- AudiotoMidi for Windows (shareware): from WAV, MP3 and Audio CD to MIDI
- Widisoft various products for Windows and OS X: from MP3 and WAV to MIDI (shareware)
Uploading your ringtone to your phone
Once you have exported your file to the hard drive and converted it to another format if necessary, typically you would transfer the file to your cellphone in one of the following ways:
- via a USB cable
- via a wireless Bluetooth connection
- connect a Card Reader (typically USB connected) to your computer then write the ringtone to flash memory storage, for example to a Secure Digital (SD) card which can be used in the phone
- upload it via the internet (e.g. to a web site, from which you can then download it to your phone). There is a free web service here that allows you to upload MP3, WAV, M4A or WMA files to their site. They then send a text message to your phone with a link to the ringtone, and you download it from the link using your phone's browser.
As another alternative, Mobile Ringtone Converter for Windows includes a Web and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) server to which you connect with your phone's browser.
Note that some cellphones and mobile service providers do not allow the user to download customised free ringtones to the phone. See this page for guidance. If in doubt, always look at the manual for your phone for advice on downloading ringtones to it.
If you find you can't upload custom ringtones to your phone, one solution is to use Sharetones for Windows by DJ Nitrogen. This is free software based on the Audacity engine and licensed under the GPL. Sharetones allows you to make MP3 ringtones from MP3 or AAC files on your computer, and upload them directly to your phone provided you use a supported phone service provider or an Apple iPhone.
The SMS version of Sharetones supports most of the major U.S. providers including AT&T/Cingular, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint/Nextel. Monthly and annual unlimited ringtone plans are available. The separate iPhone version is available as a pay-once, unlimited ringtone product. This version will work with any version of the Apple iPhone regardless of software version, country or carrier. A free version of Sharetones for iPhone is available to Audacity users.
Ringtones you produce are synchronized with DJ Nitrogen's online database of ringtones called "Ringtone Recipes". Users with music files matching existing ringtone recipes can send these directly to their phone or use the audio editor to modify the recipe.
To make a ringtone, the source file must be DRM-free MP3 or AAC, and your phone must be able to accept the 24 KHz, 64 kbps stereo MP3 ringtones that Nitrogen produces. There is a free online tool to test phone compatibility on the DJ Nitrogen website. The software automatically applies a fade-in and fade-out to the ringtone, though you can also use some of the other effects familiar to Audacity users. By default, the ringtone produced is 20 seconds long, but you can choose up to 30 seconds for your tone.