Jeez - that's what the L A M E TLA stands for, "Lame Ain't a Mp3 Encoder", in the same tongue-in-cheek spirit as GNU is "Gnu's Not Unix". There was also some, again tongue-in-cheek, legal component to that name because the Fraunhofer folks have the patent on MP3 encoders.
Despite that acronym, it is THE mp3 encoder, trust me. Read some of the history at
Finally my advice is, after you get the LAME going, use your experience and install (it's most likely already there) ogg-vorbis. If you get third-party MP3's, well, that's what they are, but since you encode yourself anyway, you have the choice to use ogg to encode. The improvement in sound quality will blow you away. And it's (as far as the encoding technology is concerned), totally free as in free beer and free speech.