LAME is an open source application used to encode audio into the MP3 file format. The name LAME is a recursive acronym for LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder, reflecting LAME's early history when it was not actually an encoder, but merely a set of patches against the freely available ISO demonstration source code.
At one time, LAME was simply a set of patches against the separately distributed ISO demonstration source, hence the claim that it "is not an encoder". The ISO code had a restrictive license but was available without charge.
In May 2000, the LAME project reimplemented the last of the ISO source code, and thus LAME was then a totally new implementation — compiling recent versions of LAME no longer requires the ISO source code.
As recent LAME releases are no longer a patch against ISO encoder code, LAME is now itself an MP3 encoder; the LAME acronym has become a misnomer.
History and development
LAME development started around mid-1998. Mike Cheng started it as a set of modifications against the "8Hz-MP3" encoder sources, creating LAME 1.0. After some quality concerns raised by others, he decided to start again from scratch based on the "dist10" MPEG reference software sources. His goal was only to speed up the dist10 sources, and leave its quality untouched. That branch (a patch against the reference sources) became Lame 2.0. The project quickly became a team project. Mike Cheng eventually left leadership and started working on tooLAME
(an MP2 encoder).
Mark Taylor then started pursuing increased quality in addition to better speed, and released version 3.0 featuring gpsycho, a new psychoacoustic model he developed. This marked the beginning of the development toward quality.
A few key improvements, in chronological order:
- May 1999: a new psychoacoustic model (gpsycho) is released along with LAME 3.0
- June 1999: The first variable bitrate implementation is released. Soon after this, LAME also became able to target lower sampling frequencies from MPEG-2
- November 1999: LAME switches from a GPL license to an LGPL license, allowing it to be used within closed-source applications.
- May 2000: the last pieces of the original ISO demonstration code are removed. LAME is not a patch anymore, but a full encoder.
- December 2003: substantial improvement to default settings, along with improved speed. LAME no longer requires user to use complicated parameters to produce good results
- May 2007: default variable bitrate encoding speed is vastly improved
Patents and legal issues
Like all MP3 encoders, LAME implements some technology covered by patents
owned by the Fraunhofer Society
and other entities. The developers of LAME do not license themselves the technology described by these patents. Distributing compiled binaries of LAME, its libraries, or programs which are derivative works of LAME in countries which recognize those patents, may be considered infringing on the relevant patents.
The LAME developers state that since their code is only released in source code form, it should only be considered as a description of an MP3 encoder, and thus does not infringe any patent by itself when released as source code only. At the same time, they advise obtaining a patent license for any relevant technologies that LAME may implement before including a compiled version of the encoder into a product. Some software is released using this strategy; companies use the LAME library, but obtain patent licenses.
In November 2005, there were reports that the Extended Copy Protection software included on some Sony Compact Discs utilized portions of the LAME library without complying with the terms of the LGPL.
- ALL2LAME - A minimalist frontend for LAME that allows piping from commandline decoders of other formats, such as FLAC and Monkey's Audio.
- BonkEnc is a CD ripper, audio encoder and converter for various formats.
- Burrrn - a simple Cdrdao-based gapless audio CD burning utility that uses LAME in decoding mode to maximize audio quality.
- CDex, Windows CD audio extractor
- dbPowerAMP Music Converter
- Easy CD-DA Extractor
- Exact Audio Copy (EAC), Windows audio grabber for CD-ROM drives
- foobar2000, an audio player that supports transcoding to LAME
- J. River Media Center - A media player/manager which supports transcoding to LAME
- Lamedrop - easy to use front-end in Windows, similar to oggdrop
- Quintessential Player
- RazorLame - a Microsoft Windows front-end user interface for the commandline LAME Encoder executable.
- SynthFont - a freeware MIDI file player SoundFont synthesizer which can use LAME to export an audio file in mp3 format.
- Zortam Mp3 Media Studio - a front end that integrates LAME with Zortam Mp3 Media Studio on Windows.
Mac OS X
- iTunes-LAME - a front end that integrates LAME with iTunes on Mac OS X.
- LameBrain - Free LAME-based mp3 encoder with drag-and-drop batch file processing, CD ripping with FreeDB support, and saving of encoding "profiles" (note: uses the obsolete LAME 3.95).
- Max is an application for creating high-quality audio files in LAME or various other formats, from compact discs or files.
- BarbaBatch is an audio file format converter using LAME for mp3 encoding.
- iLAS - simple application that allows you to import a CD or encode a playlist in iTunes using Lame.
Unix-like operating systems
- Grip, a front-end for use with GNOME
- SoundJuicer, part of the GNOME desktop
- KAudioCreator, part of the KDE desktop
- K3b, KDE's CD-R and DVD authoring software can rip audio CDs as well
- jRipper - a Java-based frontend for LAME which includes Windows and GNU/Linux binaries.
- Audacity, an audio recording, editing and transforming program, available for Windows, Linux, BSD, and Macintosh.
- Stickloader is another Java-based Lame frontend allowing files to be encoded easily via drag-and-drop.
- LAMEOnJ - open source Java API wrapping the LAME API exported by native binaries (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris supported).
- Rubyripper, a secure audiodisc ripper for Linux and OS X