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M3U Playlist: What is an M3U File & How to Play M3U Files?
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M3U Playlist: What is an M3U File & How to Play M3U Files?

Author by Rocabella

Update at Apr 28, 2018

A file with the M3U file extension is just represented M3U playlist file, so it is not the actual audio file. If you still don’t have a clear understanding of the concept of M3U file, and have no idea about how to play the downloaded M3U files. Be patient, this article will tell you answers.

M3U Playlist: What is an M3U File?

If you have ever downloaded M3U files, you may have noticed that the M3U files are very small, so where are the songs and videos stored? This leads many users to wonder how can I play M3U files, or is there an M3U converter that can convert M3U to MP3, M4A, MP4, AVI and other well-known audio/video formats?

Picture of Playlist M3U Picture of Playlist M3U

M3U is misunderstood in the sense that it is actually just a computer file in the format of a text file that stores a multimedia playlist or a simple URL to the actual audio/video content, usually is used for streaming music/video on the internet.

The M3U file offers the index entries to each music, but it’s not a real audio file.

All M3U files have similarities, but also differences. The number following the “#EXTINF” section is the audio length in seconds. If the audio is being streamed online and no length is set, then you will see -1 here as the pictures shows. And the M3U URL like “http://ip.fannan.se:8000/live/332/332/7934.ts” is the relative path of M3U file.

Tips: Why do I tell you how to recognize the relative path of M3U file? Because you just need to copy & paste the URL, and then you can be free to share video/audio with others. And even if you change the computer, the relative path can be identified, but the absolute path (for an example: C:/Files/My Music/Example.mp3) is not. This works so long as the media files and M3U file are kept in the same folder just as they were on the originating computer.

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How to Play M3U Files with VLC?

M3U File Download and Copy M3U URLM3U File Download and Copy M3U URL

VLC is my favorite free media player because of its support for a huge variety of audio and video formats. Then how does it play M3U files?

Step 1: M3U File Download and Copy M3U Playlist URL

First, download a completed M3U list and open the list. Choose one M3U playlist URL and copy it. M3U files can be opened with any text editor since the files are text-based.

How to Play M3U Files with VLCHow to Play M3U Files with VLC

Step 2: Import M3U URL to VLC

Click “Open Network Stream” under the media button, and then a new window will pop up. Choose “Network” and paste your M3U URL into the box. Finally, click “play” to play M3U files.

Another easier way: If you just drag the full file into the player, then all the audio or video will be played automatically. So you don’t need to copy and paste each URL.

Warming tips: Play M3U files in this way requires a stable network, the viewing effect depends on the speed of the internet connection.

How to Play M3U Playlist with iTunes

iTunes is also often used to play M3U, so you can simply import the M3U directly to iTunes. It is a popular way to start the audio playback through streaming media. It may take some time to start loading if the network connection is lagging. Next, let’s go to how to play M3U file in iTunes. Take http://media-ice.musicradio.com/ClassicFMMP3.m3u as an example.

How to Play M3U Audio on iTunesHow to Play M3U Audio on iTunes

Step 1: Open iTunes and click “Open Stream” under the File.

Step 2: Copy the downloaded M3U audio URL and paste it into the pop window.

Step 3: Play the audio in the “Internet Songs” section of library.

Once you open the M3U in iTunes, even if M3U is a podcast or not music, they will be categorized in the “Internet Songs” section.

However, if we directly save M3U files into iTunes, we must ensure that the network is unblocked, because once the network is disconnected or the server is out of reach, then it won’t be available when we access the audio.

Now, you’ve got the basics of the M3U and two ways to play the M3U, but sometimes the players may not be able to understand the M3U playlist file, so, when you don't know what to do, it is also a very sensible to use an export tool like M3UExportTool (https://sourceforge.net/projects/m3uexporttool/).

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