Convert Plugin

The convert plugin lets you convert parts of your collection to a directory of your choice, transcoding audio and embedding album art along the way. It can transcode to and from any format using a configurable command line.


To use the convert plugin, first enable it in your configuration (see Using Plugins). By default, the plugin depends on FFmpeg to transcode the audio, so you might want to install it.


To convert a part of your collection, run beet convert QUERY. The command will transcode all the files matching the query to the destination directory given by the -d (--dest) option or the dest configuration. The path layout mirrors that of your library, but it may be customized through the paths configuration.

The plugin uses a command-line program to transcode the audio. With the -f (--format) option you can choose the transcoding command and customize the available commands through the configuration.

Unless the -y (--yes) flag is set, the command will list all the items to be converted and ask for your confirmation.

The -a (or --album) option causes the command to match albums instead of tracks.

By default, the command places converted files into the destination directory and leaves your library pristine. To instead back up your original files into the destination directory and keep converted files in your library, use the -k (or --keep-new) option.

To test your configuration without taking any actions, use the --pretend flag. The plugin will print out the commands it will run instead of executing them.


To configure the plugin, make a convert: section in your configuration file. The available options are:

  • auto: Import transcoded versions of your files automatically during imports. With this option enabled, the importer will transcode all (in the default configuration) non-MP3 files over the maximum bitrate before adding them to your library. Default: no.
  • tmpdir: The directory where temporary files will be stored during import. Default: none (system default),
  • copy_album_art: Copy album art when copying or transcoding albums matched using the -a option. Default: no.
  • album_art_maxwidth: Downscale album art if it’s too big. The resize operation reduces image width to at most maxwidth pixels while preserving the aspect ratio.
  • dest: The directory where the files will be converted (or copied) to. Default: none.
  • embed: Embed album art in converted items. Default: yes.
  • max_bitrate: All lossy files with a higher bitrate will be transcoded and those with a lower bitrate will simply be copied. Note that this does not guarantee that all converted files will have a lower bitrate—that depends on the encoder and its configuration. Default: none.
  • never_convert_lossy_files: Cross-conversions between lossy codecs—such as mp3, ogg vorbis, etc.—makes little sense as they will decrease quality even further. If set to yes, lossy files are always copied. Default: no.
  • paths: The directory structure and naming scheme for the converted files. Uses the same format as the top-level paths section (see Path Format Configuration). Default: Reuse your top-level path format settings.
  • quiet: Prevent the plugin from announcing every file it processes. Default: false.
  • threads: The number of threads to use for parallel encoding. By default, the plugin will detect the number of processors available and use them all.

You can also configure the format to use for transcoding (see the next section):

  • format: The name of the format to transcode to when none is specified on the command line. Default: mp3.
  • formats: A set of formats and associated command lines for transcoding each.

Configuring the transcoding command

You can customize the transcoding command through the formats map and select a command with the --format command-line option or the format configuration.

    format: speex
            command: ffmpeg -i $source -y -acodec speex $dest
            extension: spx
        wav: ffmpeg -i $source -y -acodec pcm_s16le $dest

In this example beet convert will use the speex command by default. To convert the audio to wav, run beet convert -f wav. This will also use the format key (wav) as the file extension.

Each entry in the formats map consists of a key (the name of the format) as well as the command and optionally the file extension. extension is the filename extension to be used for newly transcoded files. If only the command is given as a string or the extension is not provided, the file extension defaults to the format’s name. command is the command to use to transcode audio. The tokens $source and $dest in the command are replaced with the paths to the existing and new file.

The plugin in comes with default commands for the most common audio formats: mp3, alac, flac, aac, opus, ogg, wmv. For details have a look at the output of beet config -d.

For a one-command-fits-all solution use the convert.command and convert.extension options. If these are set, the formats are ignored and the given command is used for all conversions.

    command: ffmpeg -i $source -y -vn -aq 2 $dest
    extension: mp3

Gapless MP3 encoding

While FFmpeg cannot produce “gapless” MP3s by itself, you can create them by using LAME directly. Use a shell script like this to pipe the output of FFmpeg into the LAME tool:

ffmpeg -i "$1" -f wav - | lame -V 2 --noreplaygain - "$2"

Then configure the convert plugin to use the script:

    command: /path/to/ $source $dest
    extension: mp3

This strategy configures FFmpeg to produce a WAV file with an accurate length header for LAME to use. Using --noreplaygain disables gain analysis; you can use the ReplayGain Plugin to do this analysis. See the LAME documentation and the HydrogenAudio wiki for other LAME configuration options and a thorough discussion of MP3 encoding.