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Create Your MP3 File

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Once your audio has been recorded and edited, one of the steps to publishing is to convert it from a wave file to an MP3 file. There are several ways to do this. Which method is best? This is being debated, and will likely continue to be debated for quite some time. For this reason, I will not endorse one specific method. Instead, I will discuss several solutions to this.

This post assumes the following:

  • You spent some time planning your content.
  • You purchased all equipment.
  • You made at least one test recording and you’re happy with your sound.
  • You recorded your content.
  • You edited the content.

Note: software-related instructions given in this post are written from a Windows user’s perspective.

some definitions


In the world of digital media, size is measured in kilobits per second, or “kbps”. This is different from kilobytes (KB). There are eight bits in one byte. The default MP3 encoding setting is at the rate of 128 kbps.

Some say that for audio podcasts, 96 kbps is the best balance between quality and file size. That said, my recommendation, regardless of which encoder is used, is either 128 or 192, [at least that’s what I do for my clients]. For some, 64 kbps can be a more practical (if lower quality) choice. People using LibSyn and other hosts that charge based on “monthly storage” often encode at a lower bitrate to meet hosting limitations. Podcasts with listeners in the millions often encode at 64 kbps to save money.

Mono or stereo?

Choose carefully whether you want to release your podcast episodes as stereo or mono. Stereo takes up double the space of an equal-quality mono file, because it has twice the tracks/channels. Please do not split your cohosts into left and right in your audio, unless you’re doing a special dramatization that requires positional audio. Even then, the best place for voices is right in the middle: mono or balanced in stereo.

In Audacity, encoding a mono file at a bitrate of 128 kbps means the second channel will get 128 kilobits per second to capture the details of its audio. But a stereo file at the same bitrate will split the 128 kbps between the left and right channels, thus equaling the quality of 64 kbps audio.

In iTunes, you get the same final quality regardless of choosing stereo or mono. If you select 128 kbps stereo, it gives both channels 64 kbps. If you chose 128 kbps on a mono file, it gives the single channel still 64 kbps.

Variable bitrate (VBR) versus constant bitrate (CBR)

When you select 128 kbps with constant bitrate (CBR), the MP3 encoder will use 128 kbps to digital “describe” the audio no matter what is happening. But if you switch to variable bitrate (VBR), which I suggest, then the encoder will work within a range to use more space when the audio is more complex or us less space when the audio is less complex.


Codec is short from compression/decompression. It’s the way a computer compresses an audio or video file to make it smaller and thus easier to transfer

The two MP3 encoders you might hear about are Fraunhofer and LAME. As for which is better, some say that the Fraunhofer encoder has a slight quality edge on LAME at typical podcast bitrates (64 and 96 kbps). LAME is the best VBR encoder. It was designed to encode music at a variable bitrate and it performs this better than any other popular encoder at the same quality (even Ogg Vorbis in most cases). Fraunhofer is the best CBR encoder. It was designed to encode audio at a constant bitrate and it performs this with better-sounding quality than LAME.

Commercial software programs, such as ITunes and Adobe Audition, generally include a licensed Fraunhofer encoder. Open source software programs, such as Audacity and Hindenberg, generally use the LAME encoder, although it typically needs to be installed separately.

Creating The MP3

With the definitions provided, here’s how to create your MP3 with various tools.

Use iTunes,

These instructions are based on ITunes

Step one: Set preferences.
  1. Go to Preferences and click the Import Settings button in the General tab. Preferences can be found in the edit menu.
  2. Set the encoder to MP3 and set the quality to 128 KBPS.
  3. Choose the OK button.
Steps Two and Three

Once your encoding preferences are set, your next two steps are:

  • Step two: Set ITunes to music by pressing Control-1
  • Step three: make sure you’re able to see a list of songs in your playlist. To do this, press Control-J, then tab to a list of options available within the music part of ITunes. One of the options is songs. That’s the option you want.
Step Four: Open the File

select your uncompressed source file. If you know how to open a file in Word, then this is easy. One tip I will provide is this: When you find the file you want to convert to MP3 format, copy the filename minus the file extension. For example, if the filename is test.wav, the part you should copy is test.

Remember that bit of text I advised you to copy? Paste it into the search box and press enter. Now, the file you want to convert should be the only file shown.

Step six: Make the MP3 file easier to locate when conversion is done

Locate the file and play a few seconds of it. This puts a playing status marker next to it. This will come in handy later.

Step seven: Convert

Go to the context menu with Shift-F10. From this menu, choose Create MP3 Version.

When the conversion is complete, you wil see, what would’ve been, your file listed twice. The file without the play status marker is the MP3 version.

Move the MP3 file

Move to the MP3 version of your file, go back to the context menu, and choose Show in Windows Explorer. Here, you might want to cut the file from that locationand paste it in a more convenient place.

Using Audacity

To create an MP3 file in Audacity, do the following:

  1. Go to the file menu and choose Export Audio.
  2. In the Save As Type portion of the dialog, choose MP3 files.
  3. Press the tab key three times to locate another list of options. Choose Variable.
  4. Tab once to move to the Quality setting. Set this to 5.
  5. For Variable Speed, choose Standard.
  6. In the next set of options, select Joint Stereo.
  7. The rest of the options for saving a file are standard.
  8. Auphonic

    Auphonic is an online tool for converting, tagging, and audio processing. Today, I will only discuss the file conversion part.

  1. 1. Open your favorite web browser and go to
  2. 2. iIf you don’t already have an account, sign up for one. If you have an account, log in.
  3. 3. Choose New Production, then select Show All Fields.
  4. 4. Choose the file you want to upload and convert.
  5. 5. Where asked, what type of file you want to create, choose MP3.
  6. 6. Where asked for the desired bit rate, select 192 KBPS.
  7. 7. Choose Start Production.
  8. 8. Do not close the browser window until you see a waiting page. This will likely take several minutes.


You can download Audacity by choosing this link.

Click here to download ITunes.

Here is a link to Auphonic.

Click here to check out hindenburg.

This post provided guidance on how to create an MP3. If this is too much detail for you,

Hire me.