Is the iTunes MP3 encoder LAME or just flat out lame? Definitely just lame. Has anyone else noticed how crappy mp3's sound after you rip a cd? I never really noticed until I ripped one of my discs from a different application. What a friggin world of difference!! Now I have to re-rip all my effing discs again using LAME instead. I decided to run a quick test. I ripped a cd using the the iTunes encoder and then the same disc again using LAME. When played through iTunes, you really can't notice a difference. That is probably why I never paid much attention to it. It wasn't until I started mixing some of my older rips using another tool with the stuff I let iTunes import on my iPod that I noticed something screwy. My older stuff sounded much clearer and the tonal range much better. Not to mention that the overall sound wasn't anywhere as muted. Maybe I should say that they were also louder ... better word? For a while it was driving me up a wall trying to find a different mp3 encoder to use since I was on a mac. I didn't want to abandon my iTunes since I DO really like it. I didn't have much luck finding anything that integrated nicely with iTunes. That was until I was trying to update my Quicksilver version. I noticed that the folks over at Blacktree made a nice little iTunes LAME encoder. Enter iTunes-LAME. This little application is da bomb. It gives me everything that I'm looking for. The ability to use my iTunes and have a LAME encoder all at the same time. The downside that it does take a lot longer to rip a disc using this tool than the iTunes import ... but I don't care at this point. Check it out if iTunes mp3 encoder bugs the crap out of you too.
So I suppose it is a little unfair of me to not include some way of doing this in windows as well. Really, it is as simple as using your CD ripper of choice (hopefully one with LAME support) and then using a neat little app that "watches" a folder where you are ripping to and syncing that with your iTunes folder. Check out iTunes Folder Watch. It has 2 modes. One is an automatic mode (so anything that you rip automatically syncs to iTunes) ... or the manual mode (which syncs at your request). Now have at it and stop using iTunes to rip your crap to MP3.