The MP3 dynasty has extended beyond the most somber predictions. The majority of the "Nostradamuses" out there thought that once the hard disk space problem is solved, other formats will get their piece of fame. But MP3 continued to be exploited and new technologies have developed around it, like MP3 players or DVD MP3 players.
So this isn't yet the time to throw away the audio format standard from 1991, although new lossless audio formats like FLAC have made their way on the market. Despite the large hard disks available in hardware depots, we are still making the compromise between quality and size.
Although alternatives to MP3 are available, most users continue to encode their tracks in MP3. OGG is another option. Some say that it is actually a bit better than MP3 while others say it is exactly the same. After seeing some results in a studio, I have to admit that OGG audio format is indeed better than MP3 when it comes to sound quality, but the difference between the two are insignificant for the human ear and there is no way to choose between the two the natural way.
Just like there are alternatives to old standards so there are options for the audio encoders providing the standards. At the beginning, for MP3 there was Fraunhofner MP3-encoding engine. After some time, an "adversary" appeared under the form of source code. It is named LAME and starting with 2004, the audiophile community agrees that LAME produces the highest quality MP3 for variable bitrates of at least 128 kbps.
As I mentioned before, LAME comes in the form of a source code as the legal issues regarding the patents for certain technologies owned by Fraunhofner have not yet been resolved. But that does not mean that certain developers cannot give the encoder a face and a frontend.
LameXP is one of the best front-ends for the code and there are few issues to be discussed. The interface is equipped with all needed to convert an audio file into MP3 or OGG format. The application reached maturity and the latest version brings new improvements to the software. Minor glitches are still available, but nothing's perfect.
The software's face is compiled of five main
tabs, each of them containing a set of options for configuring the end results of the conversion process. First of all, LameXP now supports drag and drop of multiple wave audio files. Of course, the classic way of appending files is also available. Additional options available in this window allow you to remove the items one by one, move them up and down in the desired order of encoding. Edit Title option will write the title of the song in the ID3 tag. The output result should be visible only when the song is played. The filename as stored on the computer will not be affected in any other way.
When getting to the output location of the results, things go from easy to super-easy. You can browse the partitions and create new folders directly from LameXP. Quick links to Desktop and Home (Documents and Settings/Users folder) are also available so there is no way for you to misplace the audio files after encoding.
LameXp features two audio encoders, both absolutely free. One is the famous Lame and the other is OGG Vorbis, a very good alternative to the MP3 audio format. You have to choose between one of these and proceed to the compression settings. The three compression methods allow you to control the quality of the resulting file. The bitrate slider goes up to 320 kbps so there is nothing to worry about the quality of the sound. However, if you want smaller sized files you can take the quality down a little.
Additional options permit adding metadata to the results. Thus, you can "mark" them with your own comments or append information like the artist's and album's name, genre and release year of the songs. For adding the songs quickly to a player, you can enable creating a playlist as well. The .m3u file will be stored with all the items.
Configuring Lame encoder is piece of cake. The options are few and understanding what they refer to is practically a walk in the park. All you have to do is choose the right compromise between speed and quality of the sound (faster conversions will take from quality) or decide whether you want bitrate restrictions applied (for better quality leave the option unchecked).
Sample rate goes all the way to 48 000 and choosing the channel mode completes the configuration of the encoder. If you are a "set it and forget it" kind of guy than you will definitely appreciate the auto-select option for the sample rate. This way you don't have to come to the "engine room" and change the setting at every encoding.The Good
Turning wave audio to MP3 has never been easier and with better results. LameXP handles the processing like a pro thanks to the Lame encoder it is using.
Working with the application showed its flexibility in choosing an output folder, adding files to be converted, setting the compression parameters and configuring the encoder. Also, the conversions are speedy and 100% dependent on the CPU, but generally, the conversions are fast enough.
As the software does not install on the computer, there will be less leftovers in the registry and you will not have problems with incomplete uninstalls. Simply delete the archive containing the executable and off it goes.The Bad
There are two output choices (MP3 and OGG) but only one type of file input: wave audio. This means that for ripping an Audio CD the user has to employ a different software. LameXP can convert only WAV files. That's the major flaw of the application.
The spelling mistakes of the previous version have not yet been corrected and proof is to be found in the Compression window of the application.The Truth
If you already have some good quality WAVs to turn into MP3, then LameXP is the choice. Although it is just a frontend for Lame encoder, I really think that adding a more varied palette of audio formats to convert from would be a great idea.Read version 1.0.1 reviewHere are some snapshots of the application in action: