Custom alert sounds without Winterboard

Most jailbreakers will be familiar with Winterboard: the Cydia-installed package that allows you to theme your iPhone with custom springboard pictures, icons, sounds, etc.

But what if you only want to customize some of your alert sounds without the RAM overhead of Winterboard, which some have reported is considerable?

It is easy enough to simply replace any of the default alert sounds.  If you Google for “iPhone custom sounds” you will find a number of forum postings that describe how to do this.  Unfortunately most of those postings are very partial.  So here is a summary of what I’ve learned while doing this, along with a download for a nice set of replacements for new sms, new mail, and new voicemail that I converted from iRing Pro’s Zen Collection.

Step-By-Step Guide

  1. Create custom .caf files or download some (See below.)
  2. All of the default alert sounds are located at /System/Library/Audio/UISounds/
  3. Since they are small files, backup the entire contents of that folder to your local hard drive. (Just download with Cyberduck.)
  4. Rename a copy of each of your custom sounds to the corresponding iPhone sound filename, exactly. (See below.)
  5. Replace originals by uploading with Cyberduck.
  6. Ownership and permissions are root/wheel 644. (May or may not be necessary to set those permissions for replaced files. Use the Get Info button in Cyberduck after replacing.)
  7. Reboot phone.
  8. Turn on your ringer. 😉
  9. Reset iPhone Sound settings as appropriate.

Converting audio files to .caf

  1. Replaced files must be in AIFF format. (Try Switch to convert to .m4r or .mp3 to AIFF.)
  2. They must be in stereo 16 bit 44 khz sample rate. (These are default AIFF options in Switch.)
  3. They must be 5 seconds or less.  Trim AIFF files with Amadeus, or Quicktime Pro and export to AIFF.
  4. File extensions must be changed from .aiff or .aif to .caf.  (For batch rename, try A Better Finder Rename.)

Notes on default audio file names

  1. Most of the sounds you can change are obvious by their file names, but note the following clarifications:
  2. ReceivedMessage.caf and SentMessage.caf apply to the internal tuh-dum sounds in the SMS application. (Not “New Text Message” SMS notifications or sent mail.)
  3. The “New Text Message” SMS notifications are named by number as sms-received#.caf.  The # corresponds to the sound choices in the iPhone Sound Settings for “New Text Message”, in the order listed.  So sms-received1.caf is “Tri-Tone” and sms-received4.caf is “Horn”.  Since Horn is the most annoying, most forum postings will suggest replacing sms-received4.caf.  Then in iPhone Sound Settings you must select the corresponding sound, ie “Horn” in this case. (But do this after reboot when finished, as in step 9, above.)
  4. The other sounds you most likely might want to replace are new-mail.caf and Voicemail.caf.

Download my modified Zen Collection sounds

These are the sounds I converted to .caf formatted and trimmed for length:

Voicemail.caf (Tokyo Station)
sms-received4.caf (Kyoto Station)
new-mail.caf (Zen Lo)

Also included is a .caf file for “Zen Fade” but I didn’t end up using it.

Download them here.


6 Responses to “Custom alert sounds without Winterboard”

  1. custom sounds on iphone 3g Says:

    […] Please see: Custom alert sounds without Winterboard Box of Clams […]

  2. Nubmer Says:


  3. Shanna Hilliard Says:

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  4. A Rocky Road to iOS 5 Untethered « Box of Clams Says:

    […] iOS 5 now has the ability to set some alert sounds to ringtones.  This makes the tweak I described here mostly unnecessary, though there may still be sounds I want to […]

  5. Perla Pascal Says:

    I cannot thank you enough for the article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Wonderful.

  6. Emilia Ebershoff Says:

    iPhone 3 is beautiful works perfectly. Just got new protector. Wonderful information!

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