Improve Audio Recordings on a Laptop With a Limited Budget

I just received a note from someone asking advice on how to improve the audio on his videos and podcasts, which are produced on his laptop.  He has very little money to spend and had been told that he needed an external sound card.

Since there are lots of people in the same boat, I thought I’d share my reply back to him.

BTW, since this post was written, I created a 6-part article series called Improve The Quality Of The Audio You Record At Home. 5 of the 6 tips show you how to improve your sound without having to buy or build anything.


Hi, thanks for all the great information – I really appreciate it.

Here’s a question : I have a website that teaches English for free, and would like to do more of my own videos and podcasts instead of just embedding other people’s youtube videos. The sound quality of my recordings has prevented me from doing more (the ones that are online are just terrible).

However, I only have a laptop and have been told that I would need an external sound card to make decent recordings.

Any advice? I’m on a limited budget as my site doesn’t make much money!

Thanks a lot,

PS your Helplessly Hoping video is wonderful – better than the original – a spine-tingling moment!


About the sound quality thing, an external sound card/interface would give you good quality audio, but that isn’t the cheapest way to go, especially as you would also have to get a decent mic along with it. 

On a limited budget like yours, I would recommend getting a USB mic – but NOT the kind on a headset.  I recommend something with a larger capsule like the Samson Q2U (about $59) or the Samson CO1U (~$90), both of which you can get at most Best Buy stores and certainly at a local music store.  Just plug them into your laptop and you’re off to the races.  You’ll get much better quality audio than you can get from the on-board sound card.

Good luck and I hope that helps!


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