The purpose of LAME MP3 encoders is to convert audio files to the MP3 format for storing and playing on electronic and portable devices. The actual purpose of the LAME project is to promote the open source concept in the development of quality audio encoders. LAME is an acronym that stands for “LAME Ain’t an MP3 Encoder,” although its name has become synonymous with the encoders produced by the project. Other MP3 encoders are the Xing, Blade and Fraunhofer encoders.
The purpose of any encoder is to convert audio signals from one format to another. A typical CD does not play in a computer or portable device in its native format. Examining the tracks reveals files with CDA or CD–Audio extensions. Audio encoders such as LAME convert this format into one that can be played on electronic devices such as laptops, MP3 players and smartphones. MP3 is one of the most popular formats, but others, such as Apple’s AAC and the lossless FLAC formats, are also popular.
Encoded files are generally compressed to save disk space. "Lossless" encoders do this without eliminating audio data but produce relatively large file sizes. MP3 and "lossy" encoders eliminate undetectable frequencies in the audio signal and produce smaller file sizes. The sound quality of the trimmed and compressed audio deteriorates with smaller file sizes.
MP3 encoders incorporate sophisticated algorithms into their compression schemes to compensate for the loss of audio and produce small file sizes with above-average sound quality. Users have the ability to choose from three conversion methods and a variety of quality levels within each method. For this reason, LAME is regarded as one of the superior lossy MP3 encoders as of 2015.