How to import songs into iTunes using the LAME mp3 encoder


Introducing LAME! 

Lame is an mp3 encoder that is open source, which means rather than being developed commercially, it was developed by unpaid programmers sharing together. It was originally not as good as the commercial mp3 encoders.  Slowly as many people worked on LAME it actually overtook the original mp3 encoder. Some people now claim it is the best mp3 encoder available. They have a pretty lame logo (see above) probably because they are unpaid programmers not graphic artists.

It runs from within iTunes, via a drop down script menu.

STEP 1. Download the iTunes LAME Encoder.

Download the iTunes-LAME Encoder from here (I have a local copy here in case that link changes) and unzip it.

Download the Import with LAME script from here and unzip it.

STEP 2. Copy both these files into your ~Library/iTunes/Scripts folder.

To do this in the finder select ‘Go’ , ‘Go to Folder’ from the top menu and type in ~/Library/iTunes

The creat a new folder (if it doesn’t already exist) called ‘Scripts’

Copy the two LAME files into this scripts folder.


In iTunes there should me a new menu item between window and help. (It may take a long while to open the first time you run it).

Step 3. Import a CD.

Open iTunes and insert a CD into your computer. Make sure the CD is selected in iTunes.

Select the new iTunes menu item Import with LAME…

A new iTunes-LAME window will appear that looks like this:


In the window type in –alt-preset insane as you can see above. Select prefs and select ‘cache tracks to hard drive’ also in prefs make sure destination is set to iTunes Music Library.
Click import, you will have a great quality CD in iTunes, in a playlist called imported from LAME.

What are the best settings to use in LAME?

There are literally hundreds of possible settings to use with LAME. It can be optimised for speech, music, portable devices and so on. It is more customisable (and therefore complicated)  than other mp3 encoders, but there are some preset settings to help you out.

To read more about the different LAME settings have a look here.

If you are after the best possible quality compressed file I suggest the ‘insane’ preset which produces files of approx. 320kbps.

I have re-imported all my CD collection using the LAME encoder set to the insane setting. It sounds much better – I now cannot tell the difference between the compressed files and the originals. I am importing all my new CDs as Apple Lossless but personally I find the difference so small I’m not going to re-encode my old CDs to Lossless as LAME insane is pretty good.


Here are some LAME setting examples to get you started…

Best quality: -b 320

Variable bitrate High quality: -V2

Variable Bitrate low quality: -V6

Good for spoken word: --preset voice

Very low bitrate eg. for low quality voice etc.: –abr 24 -q 0  -m m

(abr 24 means a bitrate of 24kbps, -q 0 means best quality available at that bitrate, -m m means mono.)




6 responses to “How to import songs into iTunes using the LAME mp3 encoder”

  1. jesse weller

    i have a sony mps player. Can i burn from my computerto my sony mp3 and if so ,how? If not what do i do to burn to my mp3 from my apple mac. thanks jesse

    1. To make an MP3 file just right click on the song in iTunes and select the option to create an MP3 version. Then drag the songs onto a thumb drive or whatever it is that your Sony device takes.

  2. jesse weller

    How do i burn from my apple mac to a mp3?

    1. make a playlist, right click on the playlist and select from the menu ‘Burn playlist to disk’

  3. David Drake

    Addendum to my previous remarks: keeping open source projects, such as LAME and FFMPEG, up-to-date is a major headache through the years. I just installed Fink to help make that process easier. Fink is absolutely wonderful, but it does take a couple hours at the command line. The walk-through instructions are pretty good. Once installed, hundreds of open source unix apps can be installed with simple language such as “fink install lame”.

  4. echosend

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! I missed having this facility on Itunes!

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