I really only make videos so I can hear what I sound like--kinda like a golfer who films his swing in order to correct flaws and improve his game.  But the built in mic on my laptop sounds pretty terrible.

I'm not smart enough to understand advanced audio engineering concepts and I'm also cheap. So how can I make my audio sound a little better without spending a bunch of dough?  

Right now I'm just using the webcam and built in mic on my old HP Pavilion laptop.  

Will an external microphone improve the sound quality?  What type of mic?  And will a mic also require software?  I have a micro cube and a pignose, both have a line out socket--could either or preferably both be connected to my computer?

I'm also not opposed to buying a camera and an external mic, since I can use it for more than recording my woodshedding. But again, I'm pretty cheap.

Anybody have any (cheap) solutions?

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An audio interface device?  

I saw something called the Lexicon Alpha (cost about $50).  You plug your guitar or amp and a microphone in to it, then it plugs into the computer via usb.

So, will something like this sych with my webcam video?

Yes. Your webcam should have audio input options that allow you to choose your input device.

My brother uses the Lexicon do do his recording. It works quite well. It will require that you load some drivers to start with, but its no big deal. 

I use a couple of simple line in mics with my web cam to record. The sound is better than the camera quality.

Thanks Blues Frog!

Using Windows Live Movie Maker, can I use TWO USB microphones?  Do you think I could mic my guitar amp and use a vocal mic simultaneously?  I presume that I'll be able to adjust levels independently from the control panel on my laptop. Maybe? Possibly?  Doubtful?

Whaddayathink?

can't say for certain. He uses Cakewalk for recording. Like most recording systems, people usually do one track at a time, but it depends on your recording software. 

Cakewalk does alllow for more than one track at a time, and the Lexicon allows for the tracks to be recorded at the same time, but not sure if you can seperate them during simultaneously recording. If you have two mics, then you should be able to.

Experiment and see what happens.

Hi Roy, I'm no expert but I recently ran into a challenge that I'll share with you.

I had a couple cheap mics. One with an 1/8" plug, the other with a 1/4". They both work great with a little handheld recorder. But plugged into my laptop, I get almost no input signal.

It turns out I needed to learn about impedance. Cheaper mics have very high output impedance. Whatever they plug into need to have even higher input impedance ratings. Standard laptop line input jacks are too low to effectively 'hear' the mic.

My options seemed to be:

  • buying a pre-amp designed for high impedance mics,
  • buying one of the new USB mics, which are designed to plug into computers
  • or getting a better mic/setup.

Eventually, I spent $40 on a lower impedance mic (600ohms) and $60 (sale price) on a PreSonus AudioBox iOne preamp. I justified the preamp purchase because I can use it for vocals and instruments, even live.

I've had great luck swapping out my video camera's audio track. How simple this is accomplished depends on your video editing software. FWIW, I use PowerDirector.

I hope this helps a little.

That's very helpful.  Thanks Robert!

A USB mic plugs directly into any usb port on your computer. You don't need an interface. Most will sound way better than the cheezy mics that come built in. I use a Samson QU2. 

Ebay usb mics

As long as your video program lets you choose an audio input your good to go. 

Thanks Blue Rat!

I'll ask you the same question I asked Blues Frog:

Using Windows Live Movie Maker, is it possible to use two USB microphones?  Do you think I could mic my guitar amp AND use a vocal mic simultaneously?  I presume that I'll be able to adjust levels independently from the control panel on my laptop.

Or will I have to use only ONE microphone?

Whaddayathink?

I don't have windows. But would think you'll only be able to use one mic at a time. You could do a separate recording on a DAW like Audacity or other freeware. Then lip sink on vid. 

Thank you all for the replies!  

Based on your input and a very brief amount of googling, my options seem to be:

1.  Adding a low impedance USB microphone.  This seems the simplest, cheapest (probably, maybe?) and most straight forward solution.  I'm using Windows Llive Movie Maker and my 5 minute google search on that subject seems to indicate that this is doable.  Plus, I think I'm looking to improve my "live" sound as opposed to crating a "studio" sound.  I guess the drawback is in making sure the guitar amp doesn't drown out the vocals since I don't really play acoustic cbg.

2.  The Lexicon Alpha or similar audio interface device. I don't think I'm ready to create a home recording studio.  I guess it's possible to use a mic for voice and also a mic for the guitar amp to get (I assume) that same live sound.  I'm worried that this option, with multiple components and unfamiliar software, might require more "tech savvy" than I have to offer or even aspire to.  And I'll have to buy 2 microphones in addition to the audio interface device and possibly a preamp.  And I'm cheap.  Also lazy.  And frankly, not a good enough musician to justify this option, most likely.  

3.  A new camera with a good microphone.  The only way to justify this option is the fact that I don't currently have a camera other than my [cough] flip phone.  Anybody used a Zoom QH3? (http://test.zoom.co.jp/products/q3hd)  Yes, it's $350.  Any cheaper alternatives that combine point and shoot, video and, presumably, excellent audio?

Again, thank's y'all for your input!

This may be over the top but you can pickup Behringer 4 or 8 channel mixers or any brand for that matter relatively cheap off ebay (I'm assuming you're in the USA) that would suit your needs and give you a little extra to boot, just plug it in from the out to the line in on your PC then plug your CBG in to the mixer - just make sure to disable the mic on the webcam.
Granted I have a decent soundcard in my PC but I run 2 Moog's a Korg MS2000 and a Roland RS9 along with mic's and the occasional guitar through my 1804 and the sound is fine. Not full blown studio quality as I can't play and adjust at the same time - but if I want that I'll go to the studio :-)

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