Update: Howto make your own custom Ringtones for iPhone 2.0 (3G)

I’ve already posted one tutorial on how to make a custom ringtone for the iPhone, but looking back at it, I find it’s a bit of a mess with all the edits and reviews. That’s why I decided to post an updated version that’s a bit cleaner if possibly more complicated. The steps are the same, but I’ve added notes, suggestions, and requirements for each step where needed.

Let me start off by saying, you don’t have to do this by hand if you don’t want to. Anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable doing things that require a bit of technical know-how can easily go to places like Audiko.net and have the entire process done for you. Let me point out though that you  have to upload your file to them or link it from a webserver. Personally, I don’t feel comfortable with this. This tutorial is for those people who are like me and want to do things on their own.

To start, let me tell you what you are going to need upfront before going into what the actual steps are.

  • Audio source file – Doesn’t have to be music, can be anything you want as long as it’s an audio file. (Sorry, I don’t know an easy way how to pull from videos.)
  • Audio editing software – If you don’t have one, try the free version of Wavepad by NCH Software.
  • Audio converter – Some Audio editors (like WavePad) can do it, but I use the free Switch from NCH Software because it can do conversions in bulk. There are also multiple online file converters. A good list is over on MakeUseOf.

Now that you have your tools together, what do you actually do with them?

  1. Edit your clip.
    • Most audio files start out with a blank second or so to make the transitions between songs less jarring. If you are taking just the beginning of a song, be sure to remove that empty space.
    • You want to make sure your ringtone is somewhere between 20-35 seconds long. If it’s too short you could miss it as I don’t think the iphone loops ringtones. If it’s too long the phone will not see it at all.
    • Another thing you want to do is make sure the audio balance is not too low. If it is, the clip will be rather quiet even if your phone volume is on max. If you make it too high you run into the problem of ‘clipping’ and it can sound rather unpleasant.
    • One suggestion is to make a copy of your source file to work with, that way you are not likely to destroy your original file. Remember, once saved editing can not be undone.
  2. Save Clip as MPEG-4 Audio (.m4a).
    • There are many ways to do this, depending on your program. With WavePad you can simply go under File/Save File As… then name it a short title you will recognize it by and then in the drop down menu pick MPEG-4 Audio (.m4a).
    • Do NOT simply save it as MP3 or whatever format it is already in and then change the filename. That will NOT work.
    • If you are planning on making a lot of ringtones at once, you CAN save it in it’s original format and use a batch converter like Switch to change all of them at once.
    • One caution: be sure not to over-write your original audio file because there is no way to undo the editing.
  3. Change extension to M4R.
    • Before you do this, make sure your OS is set to show file extensions. By default, Windows Vista has these hidden and protects them. To check if your file extensions are hidden, look at the file name. If it appears as filename.m4a you are fine. If it appears as simply filename then extensions are hidden. Renaming from filename to filename.m4r will result in filename.m4r.m4a which will not work.
        To change extensions in XP
        1. Open a folder or open explorer
        2. Click the Tools menu at the top
        3. Click Folder Options
        4. Click the View tab
        5. Uncheck Hide extensions for known file types
        6. Click OK

        To change extensions in Vista
        1. Open a folder or open explorer
        2. Click the Layout button (to the left of the Views button)
        3. Click Folder Options
        4. Click the View tab
        5. Uncheck Hide extensions for known file types
        6. Click OK

  4. Drag your new Ringtone(s) into iTunes, making sure it appears in the Ringtones Library.
  5. Connect your iPhone then click on it in iTunes. On that default page there are many tabs up at the top. Click on the “Ringtones” tab and make sure it is set to sync the ringtones.
  6. Sync your iPhone.

Your ringtones should now appear in the Settings/Sounds/Ringtone menu on your iPhone. If they do not, the two most common errors are the file extension and length requirements.

  • Problem: Ringtone imports to Music Library not Ringtones Library.
    Solution: Ringtone was not properly labeled as M4R. Check to make sure file was converted to M4A format properly. If it was, then make sure your OS is not hiding file extensions.
  • Problem: Ringtone appearing in Ringtones Library but unable to sync to iPhone.
    Solution: Ringtone is too long. Testing found anything over 40 seconds was too long. I suggest no more than 35 seconds to be on the safe side.

I hope this has been helpful, probably more helpful than the older version of the tutorial. Readers have mentioned websites like MakeYourOwnRingtone.com which is perfect for people looking to get that right snippit made. The problem with these websites is that most will only make MP3 clips, some even WAV files. You will still need a program to convert them to M4A then rename to M4R before importing into iTunes.

For those who want to rip a clip from a video on the web, you can use websites like VidToMP3.com which will pull from any video posted on the internet including YouTube and MegaVideo. You can take the resulting MP3 and then follow all the directions posted above.

This wraps up this tutorial. Please comment as you wish with any problems, corrections, or suggestions.

5 thoughts on “Update: Howto make your own custom Ringtones for iPhone 2.0 (3G)

  1. […] Tutorials } { Tags: iphone, music, software } Update: I’ve redone this entire tutorial. Please check the new one as it’s far better than this one. Yesterday I purchased my new 16gig iphone and was very […]

  2. strategos6 says:


    Seriously, haha. Good stuff, thanks again!

  3. jackthesmack says:

    Sick! Thanks, telling all my iPhone using friends. Wish my dad was alive to hear about this though, a few weeks before he died he talked about hating to spend money for every ringtone.

  4. milgat says:

    THANK YOU! After long searching and reading every other article, yours was the best!

  5. nutmegmommy says:

    OK – I am still unable to add more than one custom ringtone. I know the clips aren’t too long – I’ve never made any longer than 30 seconds – and this last one, I dropped it to 29 and it still won’t show up on my phone. It IS in my ringtones in iTunes though…I just can’t seem to get it to show up under “custom” in my ringtones on my iPhone…I’m going CRAZY here!!!! UGH!!!

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