I use SoundKonverter to accomplish all my ripping and trans-coding tasks. It's something of a front-end for all the command-line apps and is a serious time saver.
I am a big fan of VirtualDub. While my systems usually have the LAME encoder installed, this system (laptop, not mine) didn't. So, when I opened up the VirtualDub audio compression panel, I found that the maximum compression for the mp3 codec was limited to 56 Kbps. With the advent of VideoLAN etc., I've tried to keep separate codec installations to a minimum.