The place to be for this, is probably www.hydrogenaudio.org - if a codec matters, it’s probably got a dedicated forum there.
MP3 survives for the same reason as ZIP - it ain’t great, but everyone knows it.
Fraunhofer is better (though MP3 is a poor choice) at low bitrates, while LAME tends to be better at mid-high bitrate - alt-preset-standard (often shortened to APS in discussion) is a highly tested and tuned VBR preset, that should average 220k and be transparent (not possible to distiguish from original) on all but the most demanding of material and exeptional ears - alt-preset-extreme is the next step above that.
If I understand it correctly, the audio part of Mpeg4 is AAC, and the encoder in Nero seems to do quite well.
Others favour a move away from patented/proprietary codecs, and champion OGG Vorbis or MPC.
MP3Pro does better than plain MP3, and WindowsMedia (WMA) also wipes the floor with MP3 at low bitrates - a recent HA test was the “dialup streaming” test, at 32k, had LAME MP3 as the low anchor, and it certainly sank.
If I remenber the scale, 5 is perfect, 4 is defects found when trying, 3 is defects audible, 2, is defects disturbing, and 1 is - completely unlistenable - well something like that.
My ears must be pretty wrecked, as 32k MP3 sounds ok to me - mind you, that is 32k MONO, so a bit less demanding than stereo, even with JS.
My guess was right, Nero AAC did pretty well!
The 128k MP3 results, other than a drop on the odd sample, LAME pretty well sweeps the board
But in this 128k multiformat test, the honours go to Vorbis AoTuv - a low bitrate tuning of the VORBIS open source codec.
A few more
MPC wins another of them