How to Use Audacity to Convert WAV to MP3

You need to download the LAME MP3 encoder to convert to MP3

Audacity Main Screen
Mark Harris

Audacity is one of the best ways to edit audio files, so it's only natural to want to convert files with the program too. However, when you need to export an audio file in a format like WAV to MP3, you'll quickly learn that, by default, you can't do it—unless you tell Audacity where to find the LAME MP3 encoder.

When you use the LAME MP3 encoder in Audacity, you can reduce the space that the audio files are using on your hard drive because MP3 is a lossy format (i.e., not a bit-perfect conversion) that saves the audio to a compressed format.

While lots of MP3 converters are available, Audacity is one that boasts an impressive number of features but remains easy to use. Plus, it works in Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Don't Have Audacity or LAME?

  1. Download Audacity if you don't already have it.

  2. Download the LAME file that corresponds with your operating system.

If you're confused about which LAME package you should install, some quick instructions are as follows:

Convert WAV to MP3 With Audacity

With Audacity installed and the proper LAME files ready to go, you can now convert from WAV to MP3.

  1. Go to File > Open in Audacity.

    Screenshot of the Open option in Audacity
    Jon Fisher
  2. Select the WAV file you want to convert to MP3, and click Open.

    Screenshot showing how to open a WAV file in Audacity
    Jon Fisher 
  3. Go to File > Export > Export as MP3.

    Screenshot of the Export to MP3 option in Audacity
    Jon Fisher 
  4. Find and select a folder where you want to save the MP3. You can also change the name of the file there if you want.

    Click Save.

    Optionally, before saving, you can edit the bit rate mode, quality, variable speed, and other settings for the MP3. These options are at the bottom of the Export Audio window.

    Screenshot showing how to save WAV to MP3 in Audacity
    Jon Fisher 
  5. Edit the metadata tags if you want something else to be included there. You can edit the artist name, track title, genre, and more.

    Click OK.

    Screenshot of the metadata tags options in Audacity
    Jon Fisher
  6. Audacity converts the file to MP3 in the folder you chose above. You'll know the conversion has finished when the conversion window goes away and you're left with the original WAV file you opened in Audacity.

Audacity Can't Find the LAME Encoder

Screenshot of a LAME error in Audacity
Jon Fisher

If you get a lame_enc.dll error or a similar message about how Audacity can't convert to MP3, you need to tell the program where it can find the LAME encoder library.

  1. Click Browse.

  2. Locate the folder where you extracted the LAME binaries, and click Open.

    The file is called lame_enc.dll in Windows and libmp3lame.dylib in macOS.

    Screenshot showing how to find the lame_enc.dll file in Windows
    Jon Fisher 
  3. Click OK on the Locate LAME window.

    Screenshot showing how to import the lame_enc.dll file to Audacity in Windows
    Jon Fisher 
  4. Audacity then continues with the conversion.

Alternatively, you can go to Edit > Preferences > Libraries and click Locate... to select the LAME plugin. In Windows, you can expect to find the file in "C:\Program Files (x86)\Lame For Audacity;" Mac users should look in "/usr/local/lib/audacity/."