LAME Encoder vs Fraunhofer: Is There a Difference?

Podcasters and musicians know there is a difference between the LAME Encoder utilized by Audacity's recording software and the Fraunhofer codec used by iTunes.

When listening to spoken word recordings, such as a podcast episode, does the audience know the difference?

Most will not. After all, they are listening in a noisy car or through tiny earbuds while jogging.

While superior audio quality isn't necessary for podcasts, there is one step I recommend you take that could improve the overall quality of your production:

Convert your files to MP3 using iTunes on your computer.


Audacity's LAME Encoder (LAME is a real name)

I'm a HUGE fan of Audacity. I even created a course to help frustrated podcasters learn how to use Audacity more efficiently with Tips and Tricks I've used for almost 15 years.

Audacity requires the use of a 3rd party option called the LAME Encoder.


Once installed, you are able to export your Audacity project as an MP3
However, Audacity makes LOUSY sounding MP3 files for podcasters. Maybe I am an audio snob but there are some shows where you can tell the sound is a little “off”.


Fraunhofer: A Superior Codec

Fraunhofer IIS practically invented the MP3 standard that we use every single day – whether as a podcast produce or a listener.

How do you get the Fraunhofer converter? Simply install iTunes on your PC or use it on your Mac. iTunes is a free program for PC or Mac – and it comes with the Fraunhofer codec built in!

I have used iTunes to convert recordings from CDs and old vinyl for many years and found the sound quality to be superior to Audacity and Windows Media Player.


How to use iTunes to make an MP3

These first few steps demonstrate how to set your preferences inside iTunes (the desktop software for PC or Mac).

Once completed, the settings are saved and will be used every time going forward.

Note: The screenshots below are for Mac users


Set Your Import Settings in iTunes:

First, click on Preferences (PC users will find this under the Edit menu / Mac users find it under iTunes in the menu bar).

Next, click on Import Settings



From here you can set the file type (ie: MP3) and overall quality of your conversion (Good Quality 128 kbps).


Most podcasters like yourself will choose between 128kbps to 192kbps mono or joint stereo.



You could dive deeper into the settings by selecting Custom and changing the bit rate, sample rate, channels, etc.


Below are my settings: 



I used to convert to 192kbps mono but found little difference in using 128kbps mono – except the file size was 30% smaller!


How to Convert Your Podcast Recording in iTunes:

I export my Audacity project as a WAV file and keep an original copy – just in case.

Then I drag the WAV file into iTunes. Don't worry if it shows up as a music file – you aren't keeping it in iTunes for long.


Simply right-click the file and select “Create MP3 Version”.


A copy will be made in an MP3 format.


From there you can Right-click > Get Info to tag the file title, add artwork, etc.

Voila! You have a file ready to upload to your media server (I use libsyn).


Test the difference for yourself

If you want to hear the difference, if any, follow these steps:

  1. Find a WAV recording on your computer (or create one to test)
  2. Open the WAV file in Audacity, then export it as an MP3
  3. Take the same WAV file and drag it into iTunes (the desktop program on your computer)
  4. Export the WAV in iTunes as MP3 (Edit > Preferences > General Tab – Import Settings button > Import Using: MP3 Encoder, Settings: Good Quality (128 kbps) > OK button)
Finally, put in a set of earbuds and listen to the two MP3s back-to-back. Let me know if you hear a difference.



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