December 17, 2005

Ringtones from your music

Apple | Cool gadgets
Millenium Park, Chicago

It bothers me that the music you legally own, perhaps stored on your computer, is not easy to get on your cell phone and make it available as a ringtone. Moreover, the cell phone companies require you to pay a hefty fee of $2 just to get 30 seconds of a song on your phone. Somehow they make you believe it's something special about their songs, so you have to pay for them.

Now I'm not the kind of person to download ringtones and change them periodically. I'm quite content with the default ones, although I must admit when my wife calls me, the phone's ringtone is AC/DC's Hell's Bells. My daughter however, being the teenager that she is, loves to continually tweak the sounds her phone is making. And the idea of having to pay $2 for a stupid ringtone just drove me nuts, so this evening I investigated a bit what could be done.

It turns out it's fairly easy to install new ringtones on your phone. If your phone has bluetooth, you can pair the phone with the computer and just upload the MP3 with the song on the phone. My Motorola V330 works this way, very easy.

My daughter has a Samsung E315, which has no bluetooth, so the above is not an option. The phone doesn't support MP3, but a format called SMAF/MA-2. In addition, she has a lot of songs bought from the iTunes Music Store, which are of course encrypted. So to get them on the phone is quite challenging. Here are the steps I followed and the programs used to accomplish the task (programs are MacOS X specific, I have no clue about Windows, as I don't run it at home):

  • Get WireTap Pro. This program will record the sound sent to your computer's audio output by various programs, including iTunes. With this program recording, play the portion of song you're interested in in iTunes.
  • When you're done recording, open the resulting .aifc file in QuickTime Pro and convert the file to a .wav file. I used Quicktime Pro version, but you could most likely find a free AIF to WAV converter.
  • Once you have the WAV file, open it up in Audacity and select the exact portion from the song you want to become the ringtone. This allows you to really fine tune how the ringtone will sound. Then save the selection as WAV under a new name.
  • You now need to convert this final WAV file to a SMAF/MA-2 file. Download the Wave to SMAF Converter from Yamaha, and convert the file. You'll end up with a .mmf file. For the file to be recognized by the Samsung E315 phone, I had to rename it to have a .mid extension. Also make sure the file is under 40Kb or so, and it has no more than 20 seconds.

    The WAV->SMAF converter allows you to choose either 4KHz or 8KHz as sampling rate. Both will work on the phone, but the sound for the 4KHz version is just terrible, so I ended up using 8KHz. This reduced in half the length of the ringtone, compared to the 4KHz version.

  • Once you have the .mid file, upload it on a web site in a known location (you do have one, don't you?), and send the phone an SMS message containing the link to the .mid file. For T-Mobile, I just send an email to containing the link.
  • Once you receive the message, follow the link and download the ringtone. If you get error messages like Bad Gateway or something else, the file might be too large, or the song lasts too long. Experiment a bit with the sizes and see which ones work for you.

Using the above, my daughter and I created few ringtones from some of the songs she likes. Needless to say, she was very excited about it! You get the ringtone exactly the way you want them to be, and you don't get stuck with choices made by somebody else. Not to mention I was happy I avoided paying the hefty ringtone tax imposed by the cell phone company.

Posted by ovidiu at December 17, 2005 11:08 PM |

I don't know... I use phone to call and to be called and think that it doesn't matter what kind of ringtone you have... The main thing is to hear when the phone calls ;)

Posted by: Nina on January 23, 2006 11:06 AM

For Windows, you can use Total Recorder as an equivalent of Wiretap.

And if you're not on T-Mobile and need an SMS sent to your US phone, try sending an AIM to +1-xxx-xxx-xxxx

Posted by: Dan Dascalescu on March 16, 2006 02:35 AM
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