Luckily, if you want to customize the sounds for your iPhone, you have some options.
This tutorial explains step-by-step how to create your own custom ring tones and SMS text tones for your iPhone.
As a bonus, given that I’m a gaming nerd in general and how popular new Elder Scrolls game is, I’ve included the audio files you’ll need to create a custom Skyrim Ring Tone and Text Tone. Feel free to download these files and follow along. Just be aware, I take no responsibility for any damage caused by taking a “Thu’um” to the pants pocket.
How to Create a Custom iPhone Ring Tone.
If you want to create your own ring tone for your phone, you’re in luck. Using only iTunes, you can convert just about any audio file into a ring tone that your iPhone will recognize and automatically upload as a custom option. You can then set this tone as your default ring, or a unique ring for one of your favorite contacts.
For Skyrim fans, feel free to preview and download the custom ring tone I’ve created below.
To create your own custom ring tone, follow these steps:
1. Select an audio file that you want to use as a custom ring tone.
2. Add this file to your iTunes library, if you haven’t already.
3. Ring tones are typically no longer than 30 seconds. If your file is longer than 30 seconds, which is likely if you’ve chosen your favourite song, follow all the steps below. If your file is 30 seconds or less, or if you’re using the Skyrim tone I provided, jump down to step 8.
4. To cut down your audio file to 30 seconds, highlight the file in your iTunes, right-click with your mouse (if a PC user) or Ctrl-click (if a Mac user), and select “Get Info” from the menu that appears.
5. Click “Options” from the navigation bar in the Info Menu that you’ve opened.
6. Note the two text boxes that say “Start Time” and “Stop Time”. The simplest method to cut own any audio file to 30 seconds is to simply set your audio file’s Start Time to “0:00″ and Stop Time to “0:30:00″. This will instruct iTunes to begin your audio file at the beginning and abruptly end your file at exactly 30 seconds. If you have a favorite section of your audio file, you can spend more time to specify the exact sound that you want to make up your new ring tone.
For example, let’s say you want to use the “hook” or chorus of your favourite song, and it begins exactly one minute into your song, and lasts a little over 28 seconds. You can set the Start Time to “1:00:00″ and the End Time to “1:28:45″. Note in this case that I specified this selection should end exactly 45 milliseconds past the 1 minute 28 second mark. By clipping your selection down to the millisecond, you can specify your audio file with precision. Play with the times to get the sound you want.
Note: once you have completed adding your new tone, remember to restore your audio file to its original length, otherwise iTunes will continue to start and stop this file at the times you’ve specified. If you’re using a song, you will likely want it to play for its full length when you listen to it normally.
7. Click OK to close the Get Info menu once you’ve selected your 30 second tone.
8. Select “Preferences” from iTunes’ Top Menu. Or press Ctrl-comma (if PC user) or Command-comma (if Mac user).
9. Click “Import Settings” under the General Tab.
10. From the dropdown menu beside “Import Using:”, select the AAC encoder.
11. Click OK and close the Preferences menu.
12. Right click with your mouse (if PC user) or press Ctrl-click (if Mac user) on your shortened 30 second track in iTunes.
13. Select “Create AAC version” from the dropdown menu that appears. iTunes will take a second to perform the operation, then a new, seemingly identical audio file should be added to your iTunes music.
14. Right click with your mouse (if PC user) or press Ctrl-click (if Mac user) on the new AAC audio file, and choose “Show in Windows Explorer” (if PC user) or “Show in Finder” (if Mac user) from the dropdown menu that appears. If you’re not sure which audio file is the new AAC version, remember that you can go into the Get Info menu we opened in step 4. The audio file type is listed under the Summary menu tab.
15. The ring tone you’ve created will be a file ending in an “.m4a” file extension. Rename the file extension “.m4r”. You’ll likely receive a warning from your computer, just click OK. File extensions are often hidden on PCs. If you don’t see your file name ending in .m4a, you’ll have to look up how to display file extensions in your folder options.
16. Add your new .m4r ring tone file to iTunes. You should now be able to find it in the “Tones” section.
17. Connect your iPhone to your computer. If your phone is set to sync everything from your iTunes with your phone, your new ring tone should automatically be added. Otherwise, drag the file to your phone, and it should sync now.
18. Congratulations! You’ve created a custom ring tone for your phone. Choose the new custom tone from the Sounds menu in your iPhone’s settings. Have fun playing your personalized song, sound, or terrorizing villagers as the Dragon Born!
How to Create a Custom iPhone SMS or Text Message Tone
Adding a custom SMS or text message tone to your phone is a more advanced technique. It requires a few more advanced steps, such as jailbreaking your phone, creating a custom tone and altering some of your phone’s root sound files.
This is an interesting tutorial for those who really want to customize their phones because so far Apple does not allow you to modify the text message tones that come burned into your phone by default. This is the natural next step for anyone to really wants to turn their iPhone into a personalized piece of hardware.
For gaming and Skyrim nerds out there like myself, I’ve included a “Fus Ro Dah!” text message tone below. Feel free to download it and use it for the tutorial. Just be careful to aim your phone away from you whenever you receive a text message.
To add a custom text message tone to your phone, follow these steps.
1. Jailbreak your phone. Nope, no arguments. You can’t get around this one. The last step of this tutorial is to alter some of your phone’s root files, and you can’t get at those without a jailbroken phone.
This is not a tutorial on jailbreaking phones. If your phone isn’t jailbroken already, I recommend heading over to iphonehacks.com or the developer blogs for redsn0w or sn0wbreeze. For those interested, I’ve had good luck jailbreaking, unlocking and updating basebands using a combination of redsn0w, ultrasn0w and snowbreeze for a variety of phones, but I do not claim to be an expert on the subject.
2. Select the sound that you want to use from your computer and add it to your iTunes library. Text message tones are usually 2 – 5 seconds long. If your audio file is that length, or if you’re using the Fus Ro Dah! text tone I provided, continue on to step 3. Otherwise, you can follow steps 4 – 7 from the section above to cut your audio file down to the time required using iTunes.
3. Once you have your file, you need to convert it to the proper format. Go to the top menu bar and select “Preferences”. Or press Ctrl-comma (if PC user) or Command-comma (if Mac user).
4. Click “Import Settings” under the General Tab in the Preferences menu.
5. From the dropdown menu beside “Import Using:”, select the AIFF encoder.
6. Click OK and close the open menu.
7. Right click with your mouse (if PC user) or Ctrl-click (if Mac user) on your tone in iTunes.
8. Select “Create AIFF version” from the dropdown menu that appears. iTunes will take a second to perform the operation, then a new, seemingly identical audio file should be added to our iTunes music.
9. Right click with your mouse (if PC user) or press Ctrl-click (if Mac user) on the new AIFF audio file, and choose “Show in Windows Explorer” (if PC user) or “Show in Finder” (if Mac user) from the dropdown menu that appears. If you’re not sure which audio file is the new AIFF version, remember that you can go into the Get Info menu. The audio file type is listed under the “Summary” menu tab.
10. In order to add your custom text message tone, you need to replace one of the existing tones on your phone by overwriting it. To do so, you have to rename your text tone the same as one of Apple’s 6 default tones. Rename your audio file exactly as follows: “sms-received1.caf“. Note that you can replace the “1″ in your file name with any of the digits 1 – 6.
The digit you replace in your file name corresponds to which of the 6 basic text tones you’re going to replace: 1. Tri-Tone 2. Chime 3. Glass 4. Horn 5. Bell 6. Electronic.
11. To overwrite the text message tone on your phone, you need to modify the sounds in the Root folder of your phone. The easiest way to do this is to download DiskAid. This program lets you modify all of the files on your phone. Once downloaded, simply connect your iPhone to you computer to explore its contents.
12. Using Diskaid, navigate to this section of your phone: Root > System > Library > Audio > ULsounds. This folder contains all of your phone’s basic sounds.
13. Copy your new, customized, renamed text tone to this folder, or click and drag the file from your computer into this folder. If you named your file properly, you will be prompted by your computer to confirm whether you want to overwrite the existing file of the same name.
14. Click “OK” to overwrite.
15. Restart your phone. Select the tone name that corresponds to the one you replaced from your phone settings.
16. Congratulations! Your phone should now have a customized SMS tone.
Note: Upon further research, I’ve found that you can preserve your phone’s default tones, and load multiple custom text tones by adding your new tones as a theme, then using Winterboard to rotate between the various themes you’ve loaded onto your phone. If you’re interested in pushing your phone to its full potential, you may be interested in reading Part 2 in this tutorial.
*Disclaimer: Note that the steps in this tutorial applied to iTunes version 10, and my iPhone running iOS version 3. While there may be come differences in your experience if you’re using different releases of any of the programs referenced in this tutorial, it should be roughly the same regardless of what your personal set-up is.