Developer(s)LAME Developers
Initial release1998; 26 years ago (1998)
Stable release
3.100[1] / 13 October 2017; 6 years ago (13 October 2017)
Operating systemCross-platform
LicenseGNU Lesser General Public License[2]

LAME is a software encoder that converts digital audio into the MP3 audio coding format. LAME is a free software project that was first released in 1998 and has incorporated many improvements since then, including an improved psychoacoustic model. The LAME encoder outperforms early encoders like L3enc[3] and possibly the "gold standard encoder" MP3enc, both marketed by Fraunhofer.[4]

LAME was required by some programs released as free software in which LAME was linked for MP3 support. This avoided including LAME itself, which used patented techniques, and so required patent licenses in some countries. All relevant patents have since expired, and LAME is now bundled with Audacity.[5]


The name LAME is a recursive acronym for "LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder".[6]

Around mid-1998, Mike Cheng created LAME 1.0 as a set of modifications against the "8Hz-MP3" encoder source code. 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).[7]

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. A few key improvements since LAME 3.x, in chronological order:[7]

Patents and legal issues

Like all MP3 encoders, LAME implemented techniques covered by patents owned by the Fraunhofer Society and others. The developers of LAME did not license the technology described by these patents. Distributing compiled binaries of LAME, its libraries, or programs that derive from LAME in countries where those patents have been granted may have constituted infringement, but since 23 April 2017, all of these patents have expired.[8][9]

The LAME developers stated that, since their code was only released in source code form, it should only be considered as an educational description of an MP3 encoder, and thus did not infringe any patent in itself. They also advised users to obtain relevant patent licenses before including a compiled version of the encoder in a product.[10] Some software was released using this strategy: companies used the LAME library, but obtained patent licenses.

In the course of the 2005 Sony BMG copy protection rootkit scandal, there were reports that the Extended Copy Protection rootkit included on some Sony compact discs had portions of the LAME library without complying with the terms of the LGPL.[11][12][13]

See also


  1. ^ "History". Archived from the original on 15 October 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  2. ^ "CVS Info for project lame".
  3. ^ "Opus FAQ". This is what made it possible for modern MP3 encoders (e.g. LAME) to improve far beyond the original L3enc and dist10 reference implementations.
  4. ^ "LAME MP3 Encoder :: Related Links". LAME Team. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  5. ^ Lendino, Jamie (27 September 2019), "Audacity Review", PC Magazine
  6. ^ "LAME MP3 Encoder :: About". Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  7. ^ a b "LAME Changelog".
  8. ^ "mp3". Fraunhofer IIS. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Alive and Kicking: MP3 software, patents and licenses (Fraunhofer Audio Blog)". Fraunhofer Audio Blog. Fraunhofer IIS. 18 May 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2017. The licensing program coming to an end is due to the fact that the last patent included in the program expired. The page's later caution about third-party implementation–specific patents is not about LAME's implementation. [citation needed]
  10. ^ Taylor, Mark (June 2000). "LAME Technical FAQ". Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
  11. ^ "Sony BMG Software May Contain Open-Source Code". Fox News. Reuters. 21 November 2005. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  12. ^ "Is Sony in violation of the LGPL?". Archived from the original on 24 January 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  13. ^ "Sony's XCP DRM". Archived from the original on 24 November 2005.