Why there is no MP3 export in Kvlt

Today a fellow developer asked me about the details of why we don’t support MP3 export in Kvlt. And as we get many requests from people asking exactly the same thing I feel it’s time for an explanation.

When we designed Kvlt we had a sound recorder in mind that would be like the hypothetical sound recorder Apple would ship with OS X: beautiful, useful and not complicated.

Then we had to think about the price. Ideally the price would be free. But free is something you can’t buy food for or pay your rent from. So we had to offset the expenses that went into development. Developing Kvlt would mean 2+ months without other income so at least the app would have to pay for rent + pizza for 2 people. After some thinking we decided to try $9.99 as the long term price.

$9.99 is a huge contrast to the other available recording solutions which usually start at $80. And $9.99 should be enough to at least offset a little of the time we spent on Kvlt and provide us with enough funds to work on updates and support.

And everything would be so wonderful … if there weren’t the people who complain that there’s no MP3 export in Kvlt. We understand that MP3 is still important to most people and we try to somehow include MP3 export but there’s a huge problem:

It’s really expensive. MP3 is a patented technology and everyone who wants to encode MP3 in his/her software has to pay licensing fees. If we went with the least expensive licensing option we’d have to pay $2.50 per sold Kvlt license to Frauenhofer. Oh, and the minimum fee is $15,000 which had to be paid regardless of how many units we sell.

We would have to add those $2.50 onto the price of Kvlt. For a feature which the majority of users won’t need this doesn’t sound like a good deal.

Now what are our options? There aren’t many. We either don’t include MP3 support or we use LAME – which is very user un-friendly. LAME is a source code only distribution of an MP3 encoder which is protected by free speech (there sure was some creative lawyering involved in that). But the user has to download and compile the source code himself as we cannot redistribute LAME with Kvlt.

So for now: If you need MP3 export Kvlt is not the right tool for you. (Or you’ll have export as AIFF/WAVE and encode to MP3 with a dedicated encoder/audio converter.)

But we’re working on a solution.