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LAME (Lame Ain't an MP3 Encoder) is the recommended encoder. It has been developed by the open-source community since 1998, and has become the highest quality MP3 encoder for most purposes.

Some benefits for using LAME:


LAME development began around mid-1998. Mike Cheng started it as a patch against the 8hz-MP3 encoder sources. After some quality concerns raised by others, he decided to start from scratch based on the dist10 sources. That branch (a patch against the reference sources) became LAME 2.0, and only on LAME 3.81 they got rid of all dist10 code, making LAME a completely new program-not a mere patch of an existing encoder.

The project quickly became a team effort. Mike Cheng eventually left leadership and started working on tooLAME, an MP2 encoder. Mark Taylor became leader and released version 3.0 featuring gpsycho, a new psychoacoustic model developed by him.

Nowadays LAME is considered the best MP3 encoder at mid-high bitrates and features the best VBR model among MP3 implementations, mostly thanks to the dedicated work of talented developers like Takehiro Tominaga, Naoki Shibata, Darin Morrison, Gabriel Bouvigne, Robert Hegemann, etc. And development is still going on...

VBR (Variable bitrate) settings

VBR: variable bitrate mode. Use variable bitrate modes when the goal is to achieve a fixed level of quality using the lowest possible bitrate.

VBR is best used to target a specific quality level, instead of a specific bitrate. The final file size of a VBR encode is less predictable than with ABR, but the quality is usually better.

-V(number) where number is 0-9, 0 being highest quality, 9 being the lowest.

List of recommended settings
Switch Preset Target Kbit/s Bitrate range kbit/s
-b 320 --preset insane 320 320 CBR
-V 0 --vbr-new --preset fast extreme 245 220...260
-V 0 --preset extreme 245 220...260
-V 1 --vbr-new 225 200...250
-V 1 225 200...250
-V 2 --vbr-new --preset fast standard 190 170...210
-V 2 --preset standard 190 170...210
-V 3 --vbr-new 175 155...195
-V 3 175 155...195
-V 4 --vbr-new --preset fast medium 165 145...185
-V 4 --preset medium 165 145...185
-V 5 --vbr-new 130 110...150
-V 5 130 110...150
-V 6 --vbr-new 115 95...135
-V 6 115 95...135
-V 7 --vbr-new 100 80...120
-V 7 100 80...120
-V 8 --vbr-new 85 65...105
-V 8 85 65...105
-V 9 --vbr-new 65 45...85
-V 9 65 45...85

If you need a predictable bitrate (in a streaming application, for example), use ABR or CBR modes, described below.