Can I directly download audio from a YouTube video instead of first downloading audio+video and then extracting the audio?

  • 7
    I don't think its a duplicate because that question clearly required the search facility. This question does not. I have also mentioned that in the answer. This question is useflu to people who already know what has to be downloaded.
    – DK Bose
    Feb 22, 2014 at 4:45
  • The same answer there is applicable her
    – Maythux
    Feb 22, 2014 at 4:46
  • 3
    That answer has to download the video first. This question and answer (1) does not want downloading of the video (2) does not want to search YouTube. I hope you understand.
    – DK Bose
    Feb 22, 2014 at 5:35
  • 3
    That does not use youtube-dl. It uses another program called mps-youtube. Correct? This question is about using youtube-dl and not about using mps-youtube. I always try my answers myself before posting. If I don't, I will make it clear that it is only a suggestion :)
    – DK Bose
    Feb 22, 2014 at 5:58
  • 4
    This is not a duplicate. You can use youtube-dl to do this, but I can't answer this question because people have marked this as a duplicate.
    – palswim
    Sep 8, 2016 at 22:12

3 Answers 3


Here is a recent article in webupd8.org that explains how to use youtube-dl to directly download audio instead of first downloading video+audio and then extracting audio using -x. Unfortunately, the search facility that Maythux asked for here isn't offered. But it is still worth a look:
Video Downloader youtube-dl Gets Support For Separate Audio And Video YouTube DASH Streams

Basically, download the latest version of youtube-dl from source or from the ppa offered in the link above but not from the Software Center.

Then, if you already have the video link ...

Run, as example:

youtube-dl -F 'http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRIF4_WzU1w'

This will list the various download formats available for this url (audio and video).

$ youtube-dl -F 'http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRIF4_WzU1w'
[youtube] Setting language
[youtube] HRIF4_WzU1w: Downloading webpage
[youtube] HRIF4_WzU1w: Downloading video info webpage
[youtube] HRIF4_WzU1w: Extracting video information
[info] Available formats for HRIF4_WzU1w:
format code extension resolution  note 
171         webm      audio only  DASH webm audio , audio@ 48k (worst)
140         m4a       audio only  DASH audio , audio@128k
160         mp4       192p        DASH video 
133         mp4       240p        DASH video 
134         mp4       360p        DASH video 
135         mp4       480p        DASH video 
17          3gp       176x144     
36          3gp       320x240     
5           flv       400x240     
43          webm      640x360     
18          mp4       640x360     (best)

Now, choose desired audio format. I went for 140


youtube-dl -f 140 'http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRIF4_WzU1w'

$ youtube-dl -f 140 'http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRIF4_WzU1w'
[youtube] Setting language
[youtube] HRIF4_WzU1w: Downloading webpage
[youtube] HRIF4_WzU1w: Downloading video info webpage
[youtube] HRIF4_WzU1w: Extracting video information
[download] Destination: Martin Luther King - I Have a Dream on August 28, 1963 [Sous-titres & Subtitles] [FULL SPEECH]-HRIF4_WzU1w.m4a
[download] 100% of 15.19MiB in 00:04

That's it.

  • 6
    Some audio players do not support DASH audio. For m4a, I had to demux it to make it a 'regular' m4a using ffmpeg. For example: ffmpeg -i input.m4a -vn -c:a copy output.m4a
    – Sun
    Nov 7, 2014 at 8:14
  • 13
    @sunk818 and just a public announcement that: youtube-dl 2015.01.23.4 and newer will automatically correct the header of the m4a file if ffmpeg is present on the system. So, if ffmpeg is installed before youtube-dl is called now it will automatically fix the DASH container and you won't need to run sunk818's fix.
    – tsujp
    Apr 21, 2015 at 16:15
  • 39
    youtube-dl -f bestaudio http://... if you don't want to select best audio manually. Nov 19, 2015 at 13:27
  • 17
    be careful with -f bestaudio as best audio could be .webm and not .m4a Use -f m4a if you want best m4a quality audio.
    – Sun
    Apr 13, 2016 at 23:31
  • 28
    youtube-dl -f 'bestaudio[ext=m4a]' "http://youtu.be/hTvJoYnpeRQ"
    – xiota
    May 9, 2018 at 8:19

From @xiota's comment, to download the best audio in m4a format:

$ youtube-dl -f 'bestaudio[ext=m4a]' 'http://youtu.be/hTvJoYnpeRQ'

I've missed it on the first reading, so I've decided to post the comment as an answer to make it more visible.

  • 1
    This gives 2 errors, one for format not available and the other for failing to parse the url, Oct 24, 2018 at 19:08
  • 1
    @AtteJuvonen the command works as is.
    – jfs
    Oct 24, 2018 at 19:25
  • 1
    No it doesn't. WARNING: The url doesn't specify the protocol, trying with http ... Warning: Could not send HEAD request to http://'youtu.be/hTvJoYnpeRQ'. If I fix the url by removing the ' characters, then it gives ERROR: requested format not available. Nov 21, 2018 at 21:42
  • 1
    @AtteJuvonen try to copy the command as is If it is still failing for you, provide your OS, youtube-dl version.
    – jfs
    Nov 22, 2018 at 4:33
  • 14
    @AtteJuvonen the site is "Ask Ubuntu". I tested the command on Ubuntu. Ubuntu is different from Windows. The command in the answer expects a bash-like shell. On Windows, for cmd.exe you could try to replace single quotes with doubles quotes (there could be other Windows related issues).
    – jfs
    Nov 23, 2018 at 16:34

This alias let me easily download any audio with better filenames:

$ alias | grep audio

alias yt-dl-audio='yt-dlp --ignore-errors --output "%(title)s.%(ext)s" --extract-audio --audio-format mp3'

I switched from youtube-dl to yt-dlp. Works faster and includes things like --split-chapters. Most things are equivalent.

About audio quality: From the documentation: "By default yt-dlp/youtube-dl tries to download the best available quality, i.e., if you want the best quality you don't need to pass any special options, yt-dlp will guess it for you by default.". So there's no need for --audio-quality 0 or -f bestaudio.

About Updates: Download last version of yt-dlp. Avoid repo, PPA version or pip/pipx so you can upgrade with yt-dlp -U (necessary quite often).

To install it right away for all UNIX users (Linux, OS X, etc.), type:

sudo curl -L https://github.com/yt-dlp/yt-dlp/releases/latest/download/yt-dlp -o /usr/local/bin/yt-dlp
sudo chmod a+rx /usr/local/bin/yt-dlp  # Make executable

Albums (or compilations, mashups, etc.): You can split the file into chunks/tracks with mp3split. To generate the playlist timestamps (like the ones found on YouTube comments) and track count:

ffmpeg -i input.mp3 -af silencedetect=n=-40dB:d=2.7 -f null - |& awk '/silence_end/ {print $4,$5}' | awk '{S=$2;printf "%d:%02d:%02d\n",S/(60*60),S%(60*60)/60,S%60}' | tee >(wc -l)  # Play with tolerance (n/noise threshold level) and duration on silencedetect. More: `ffmpeg -h filter=silencedetect`.

Please leave a comment if you found a better approach, maybe something using MusicBrainz.

Common problems

Alternatives and other notes

  • ytmdl: A simple script to get songs from YouTube in mp3 format with all tags from iTunes.

  • To download in batch from a plain text, here.

  • MP3 Tagging: I’m still trying to find a reliable CLI tool to fix and tag all the generated mp3:


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