It's a measure of the power of teen priorities on the web that Google responds to a keyword search for "make own" with "make own ringtone" followed by "make own myspace profile". So the person who figured that "makeownringtone.com" would be a winning address was onto a pretty safe deal. And what could have been yet another ad-driven, popup-ridden heap of tackiness developed for the sole purpose of relieving teenagers of their parents' cash is surprisingly not only useful, but free.
The site's core engine is straightforward: user uploads an audio file of their choice, in one of a range of several popular formats, from their computer; they are shown a graphical image of the audio as a standard time/volume envelope, and they can use the dynamic controls on the page to find a section they like and mark that as their ringtone. The resulting file is converted to the right format, if necessary, and may then be downloaded to either their computer, or their cell phone, or even to their email account.
The learning curve, then, depends on whether the user has seen audio represented this way before, and can quickly grasp the idea of moving start and end markers around within that image. The controls are more than adequate, but a bit of background in simple sound editing is going to help a lot.
Once the user has made the selection, there are three options for further file modification: easy mode, advanced mode, and experienced mode. Easy mode is going to work for many users, but even here, there are options to select bitrate, and fade at start or end or both, and normalization. Fortunately, if the user doesn't know what bitrate their file is, the site will tell them - but only if they get it wrong the first time. This could probably be improved, though I get the impression that the site designers have erred on the side of intelligent complexity rather than dumbing down, and that's rare enough that I'm not sure I'd entirely welcome the change.
Moving on to Advanced and then Experienced modes, the user is given increasingly interesting options to mess around with, up to adding multiple special effects to their file, changing the speed, stretching the file out, altering EQ and more. There's even a single-band filter to cut specific frequencies from the sample. This is all very cool, though I can't imagine that any phone exists which can reproduce all the effects and modifications here with accuracy. Mind you, since I rarely use any hardware which is under five years old, cell phone included, things might have moved on a bit since I last looked.
I suspect that most users will at least initially stumble over descriptions such as "band-reject filter with central frequency (in Hz) frequency, and (3db-point) band width dispersion in Hz", or the amazing detail of the Flanger effect, which has a whole ten user-adjustable parameters. And I might know what a two-pole shelving filter is, but frankly who needs to know, when they just want to turn the bass up?
This is an astonishing piece of audio editing software, running dynamically in a browser in true Ajax style, as a desktop application. It is utterly, totally, over the top for creating a ringtone but my goodness, it's awesome in its range of options. And it manages up- and downloading files with smooth efficiency and in a range of formats and it converts, too. According to some of the user comments onsite, it doesn't always work perfectly, though the trial I gave it went off without a hitch. And Google Chrome users, at the time of writing, are going to be stumped - the controls do not appear, and there is no Upload button.
I could imagine a number of uses for this application, beyond messing with ringtones, though the most obviously missing feature, being able to cut-and-paste samples together, would require the service to be able to store files very considerably longer than they need to handle now. That may not be practical in terms of storage or bandwidth costs, but if it is, this may be a groundbreaking concept.
Kids and teens who just want to make simple ringtones without the science would probably benefit from something even simpler than "easy mode", since it's not really all that easy, and some more obvious and less highbrow instructions and descriptions. But anyone enthusiastic about overcoming the limitations of their cell phone's sound reproduction, and who is willing to put a little time into mastering the many controls and options, is going to have serious fun here.
Customer Questions & Answers
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The instructions on this site, such as they are, are accurate, but poor. Like saying, to drive a car, you make the wheels go round and then make it go faster or slower and go round corners. Accurate as far as it goes, but not that helpful. Here are some basics: 1) Find a track you'd like to make a ringtone from and store it somewhere on your computer where you can find it (In Windows, My Music is as good as anywhere). 2) On the web page, click the Upload button and wait for a selection box to open on screen. Navigate to your file, select it and click Open. Go to step (3). If you don't have an Upload button, which should be at the far left of the screen directly above the word "EASY", then either you are running Google Chrome, which doesn't seem to be compatible yet, or you have some other issue with the Adobe Flash Player plugin for your browser. IE8 seems to work OK and for a change, better than Firefox, which crashed twice on my PC when I tried to use it with this. 3) An upload box will appear, and your file will be uploaded to the site. Be patient as depending on your connection speed, it could take a couple of minutes or more. You can watch the progress bar while you wait. Note, if the box is labeled "Downloading File" instead of "Uploading File" the upload may fail - I've had this bug. Best to close your browser and start over. 4) You should now see that the long grey window in the center of the page, which was previously empty, contains a dark grey and fuzzy-looking shape that runs from left to right, one end to the other. This is your track, turned into a graphic. The height of the shape is the volume, and the length is the time taken to play the track. You'll see that the volume is constantly changing, which is why the top and bottom of the shape are fuzzy looking. You'll also see that this window is now marked off in 15 second intervals. 5) If you're seeing what I'm describing, make sure you have your sound on and press Play to be sure you've uploaded the correct track. You'll see a red marker appear and make its way from the start of the track, moving from left to right. This is marking the place in the track that you are currently at. Then press Stop once you're ten or fifteen seconds in, the track will stop playing and that red marker will disappear. 6) You might want to get a piece of paper and a pen right now. Start the track playing, and make a note of the approximate place where you want the ringtone to start, and likewise very roughly where you want it to end. 7) Now put the mouse cursor over the sound image, near to where you want your ringtone to start, and click once. A vertical line or marker, with a little green downward-pointing arrow at the center, should appear where you clicked. If this doesn't happen and you can't make a marker appear anywhere by clicking on the sound, you've got a bug. Refresh your browser and start your upload again. You have to be able to see the markers, for this to work. Note, the editing markers are different from the red line, which just shows you where you are in the track when it's playing. 8) Now put your mouse cursor roughly where you think you want the ringtone to end, and click once. This time a marker with a little black arrow pointing up in the center should appear, and the space between the markers should turn grey. This selection is your first attempt at chopping a ringtone out of your track. 9) Now you can fine-tune this by moving the markers around, putting your mouse cursor on the little arrows, holding the left button down, and dragging the markers to the left or right. As you do this, you'll see the "selected duration" and "selected portion" figures change. They aren't really important but you might like to know them anyway. Take your time, you can make as many changes as you like. 10) Each time you move a marker, press the "Selected" button and you'll hear the part you've selected. The "Undo" and "Redo" buttons are self-explanatory. The "Repeat" button is a toggle which makes your selection loop around until you click on the button again. 11) When you are happy with your selection, make a note of those figures showing the duration and position. You won't need them this time, but they may come in very useful another time. Now move down the page. Firstly select the file type you need, my phone uses MP3, some others use other formats, you need to know or get it from your user manual. Then select the "bitrate" you want - the lower, the poorer the quality of the sound but the smaller the file. 96 is portable radio quality, 160 is fairly good, 320 is excellent. If you choose a bitrate higher than the track you uploaded was made with, you'll get an error message later and you can simply pick a lower figure. I'd pick 160 to start with and see how it goes, and if you're happy with that quality on your phone. 12) Choose whether you want the file sent to your computer, your cell, or your email. I've only used the first option, pick one of the others and you're on your own until someone else posts here and tells us whether they work OK. 13) Leave the "Normalize" box ticked for now. Most people will find this works as it is. 14) Leave the "Fade" box unchecked for now. If you select this, you can play around with fading the start of the ringtone in, and fading it our again at the end, but let's get a basic ringtone that works, first. We can play later. 15) Click the Make A Ringtone button. The screen will darken for a moment or two, then you should get a "Success" window telling you that the ringtone is ready. And there will be a player there too so you can listen to it. At the bottom of that window is a standard text link, which you'll use to download the ringtone file to your computer in the same way you'd download any other kind of file from the web. If you don't like what you hear, you can close this window with the ESC button on your keyboard, and you'll still have the page there and you can go back and mess with your track again. The way you install a ringtone on your phone depends on your phone. I just drop an MP3 into a "ringtones" folder of my Sony Walkman phone, and I'm done. You need to check your phone manual. Perhaps anyone else using this service will be kind enough to let us know how to install the files on their phones. That should get you a basic ringtone, but if you want to start experimenting with the advanced, or expert features some other time, you can upload the ringtone you've just made and mess around with it to your heart's content. Or if you have to upload the whole track again, the figures you wrote down earlier will show you exactly where you cut the ringtone from. Of the "advanced" options, I'd go for playing with the bass and treble to start with. Unless you understand them, ignore the technical texts. Even the language of the drop-down menus could be a little more user friendly, but you can get the drift and play around. And if you want, you can then change the speed of the track, or play it in reverse if that seems like something you'd enjoy as a ringtone. Don't forget that all the edits and effects are non-destructive, which means that your original file is still saved exactly as you uploaded it. If you get in a total mess with the Advanced or Expert options, hit "RESET" and you should get your original file back. The Expert options are mainly special effects, which are going to be very much a matter of personal choice. If you don't know what the titles mean, just play with the effects and see what they do. In most situations, you aren't going to use a single one of these, but they can be fun.
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