I tried every possible configuration and ripped my CD collection over and over with different settings. After all this years I suddenly became aware that LAME is very easy to configure:
lame -V2 input.wav output.mp3
That's it. "-V2" produces ˜190 kbs with so much quality that its impossible to tell input from output. This is tantamount to Banshee's quality setting VBR 7.