Audacity Tutorial: How to Convert WAV to MP3 Using LAME

Audacity Main Screen
Mark Harris

If you've got a collection of WAV files on your computer then you'll already know how much hard drive space these uncompressed audio files can eat. If you're looking to save space by converting to a lossy format (i.e not a bit-perfect conversion), then one of the most popular solutions is to turn them into MP3s. However, if you've never done this before then one of the hurdles you'll face is choosing the right software tool for the job.

There are countless MP3 converters on the Internet that all boast how many formats they support, but the quality of the MP3s they produce can vary considerably. One of the best solutions to use is a combination of the following:

  • Audacity This is a free audio editor which has an impressive amount of features, yet is easy to use. It is also available for several operating systems -- Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • LAME A well-respected MP3 encoder that produces high-quality conversions. This can be used with Audacity as a plugin.

Don't Have Audacity or LAME?

  1. If you haven't already got Audacity, then the first thing to do is install it on your computer. You can get the latest release for your operating system from the Audacity website.
  2. LAME doesn't come with Audacity so you'll also need to download the binary files. A useful list of links can be found on the LAME binaries webpage. Just choose the right section for your operating system.

If you're confused on which LAME package you should install then here are some quick instructions:

  • Windows Download the LAME encoder executable package (download page) from Buanzo's website. Double-click to install the downloaded file and accept the default file destination path.
  • Mac OS Download the LAME library dmg package (download page) from Buanzo's website. Extract the contents of the downloaded dmg file. Double-click the .pkg file and install the libmp3lame.dylib dynamic library to /usr/local/lib/audacity.

Converting WAV to MP3

Now that you've installed Audacity and have the LAME binaries it's now time to start converting from WAV to MP3.

  1. Run Audacity and click File > Open.
  2. Choose the WAV file you want to convert and then click the Open button.
  3. When the file has loaded into Audacity, click File > Export Audio.
  4. Click the Save As Type drop-down menu and choose the MP3 Files option.
  5. Click Options (near the cancel button) to get to the MP3 settings screen.
  6. Choose a bitrate mode. For the very best conversion, choose Preset mode and select the Insane 320 Kbps quality setting. If you want the best file size to quality ratio then choose Variable bitrate mode with a quality setting of 0.
  7. Click OK > Save.
  8. Edit any metadata you need to and then click OK.
  9. Audacity should now begin converting the audio to MP3.

Audacity Can't Find The LAME Encoder!

If Audacity asks for the location of the LAME encoder library when you try to export then do the following:

  1. Use the browse button to navigate to the folder where you extracted the LAME binaries. This will be lame_enc.dll for Windows and libmp3lame.dylib for Mac.
  2. Click the .dll or .dylib file with your mouse followed by the Open button.

Alternatively, you can click Edit > Preferences > Libraries in Audacity and use the Locate button to point to where the LAME plugin is.

  • Default location in Windows is c:\program files\LAME For Audacity\
  • For MAC OS the plugin is found in /usr/local/lib/audacity/