Ringer for OS X Sets Just the Right Ringtone
Ringer for OS X lets iPhone and iPad users break out of iOS' limited library of built-in ringtones and alerts. The app lets you take just about any sound file on your computer and turn it into a ringtone up to 30 seconds in length, along with fade-ins and fade-outs. Then it automatically puts it neatly into place in iTunes, where it's ready to go into whatever iDevice you have in mind.
Jun 5, 2012 5:00 AM PT
Tone overlap syndrome can be a stressful affliction, and it seems to affect iPhone users on a regular basis. It's a phenomenon in which someone with whom you live or work has the same kind of phone you do and they use one or more of the same built-in tones you use on yours.
Left unchecked, tone overlap can lead to annoyance, acute irritation, and eventually madness. Every time this other person gets a message, you think it's your phone, and vice-versa. It's bad enough when it's just between two people, but consider the poor souls who work in cubicles within earshot of five or six other iPhone users. What if they all want "Glass" to be their tone for text or email or reminders? Productivity would grind to a halt under a barrage of ding-ding-dinging.
Compromises might be made, but so many of the other tones that come bundled in iOS are pretty goofy. Is someone in the group really going to have to use "Robot?" Or "Boing?" Well, you can be my guest, but I'm not touching them.
This used to be an even worse problem before iOS 5 came along and allowed users to set a different email notification tone. That situation has been remedied, but iOS' built-in tone library is still small.
iPhone users who want unique sounds for their devices will find plenty to like in Ringer -- Ringtone Maker for OS X.
No Trouble Tones
Apparently Apple's stance on ringtones evolved while I wasn't looking. Years ago, iPhone users looking for new ringtones had to buy a song on iTunes and then pay extra to have a snippet of the tune converted into a phone chirp. Meanwhile, various shareware apps offered to convert any MP3 to a usable iPhone ringtone. Sometimes they delivered.
Now, though, I can't seem to find the ringtone option anywhere in iTunes, and in Apple's other online store, the Mac App Store, there are several applications that will turn any sound file into a ringtone for no extra fee other than the price of the app.
The clumsily named Ringer -- Ringtone Maker (let's just call it "Ringer" from here on out) does this very well. Pixel Research Labs also makes a version for iPhone, but I tried out the OS X version.
The layout of the desktop app looks almost like iTunes. Down the left column is a selector for finding a song by title, artist or album or playlist. These selections draw from your iTunes library, and they're not limited to tracks you buy from Apple. MP3s dating from over a decade ago import to Ringer just as well as garden-fresh iTunes purchases.
Ringer also comes with a handful of pre-made ringtones and alert tones, though I didn't find these to be much more compelling than the ones that come packaged with iOS.
Anyway, the real reason to check out Ringer is to create your own tones out of any song on your computer. A little creativity and some clever editing could even let you turn a sound from a movie or TV show into a ringtone. Or fire up Garage Band and compose one yourself, if you really desire to put that much effort into the noises your phone emits.
Once you have that music file in your iTunes library, select it via Ringer's interface and it will load into the main panel. You won't have quite as much editing mobility as you'd find in a more sophisticated consumer sound application like Garage Band or Audacity. Moving around is sometimes a little creaky.
But your main objective is to get the portion of sound you want to be your ringtone inside the blue highlighted area. You're limited to 35 seconds. Click Preview for a quick listen and adjust accordingly.
Visually, each second of your track will be given about an inch and a half of space horizontally. This is enough room to make a somewhat precise cut, though you won't be able to zoom in. If you absolutely must have more accuracy, you might try using Garage Band first and then running the finish product through Ringer.
Ringer also presents a few options for polishing the finished product up a little. You can fade in and/or out in increments between 1/2 second and five seconds. You can also adjust how quickly the tone repeats itself if used as a ringtone rather than an alert or notification sound.
Once you're finished, hitting Create will put the tone directly into your iTunes library, and from there you can throw it into your iPhone or iPad.
Ringer opens up a huge realm of possibilities for the creation of unique tones that will keep you from mistaking someone else's generic ringtone for your own, and vice versa. You could even give everyone in your contacts list their own personalized sound, if you want to go that far.
And thanks to Ringer's integration with iTunes, fixing up a new sound is a snap. Just find the song, find the phrase you want to use, hit Create, and it's sitting in iTunes.