It takes 10 seconds for someone to come to your stream and have a complete opinion of you.
It sounds unfair, but that’s the reality of the world that we live in with people having the attention spans of goldfish.
There are key components to a live stream – video and audio.
If you’re falling behind with poor audio then you are going to struggle as a live streamer.
In this article we’re going to show you step-by-step how to get the best sounding audio for your stream.
Let’s start with why good audio is important.
Why Audio Is Important
Who is your favourite live streamer? I bet you look at their setup with envy and wonder how they get the production value the way they do.
I can say that my favourite streamer is TimTheTatMan (many will disagree but stay with me).
Listen to 15 seconds of the clip above and you might have an indication to why he has over a million YouTube subscribers, 3,264,106 Twitch followers and over 115,000,000 channel views.
It has a lot to do with quality.
While just having a good looking and sounds stream won’t make you the next Ninja, it’s a massive component to maintaining viewer retention.
A great audio setup is something that is going to cost you a few dollars but it will have a massive effect on the long term performance of your streams.
Examples of Good Audio
Before we dive into all the nitty-gritties of having great audio, let’s go through some examples of great audio!
Now audio just isn’t used for streaming – it’s used for high production content such as TV and radio.
With today’s technology it’s not difficult to get an audio setup that sounds just as good as the professionals for not a lot of money.
Let’s take one of the greatest radio hosts of all time – Howard Stern.
He uses a Neumann TLM 103 Microphone which is something that you can buy right. Have a listen to it and see what you think.
While that microphone is pricey for the average streamer we can replicate the sounds pretty great with some less expensive, professional devices.
Some of the microphones that are used by some of the big-time streamers (in case you’re interested)
As you can see these are relatively cheaper microphones to those that are used by professional radio hosts and output A+ audio.
Let’s get into a basic audio setup that is going to get you on par with these top streamers.
The Basic Setup
We’re going to cover the different aspects of a complete audio setup so that you know what to look for when shopping for your own.
XLR vs USB
There are basically two types of connections that you are able to get for your microphones – XLR and USB connections.
USB microphones are great for their simplicity and ease of use as you don’t need any other hardware to process the audio, although, they do not always output the best quality.
Often the integrated amps in these microphones are lower quality which brings down the audio quality and sometimes cause electrical sounds to be in the output.
Don’t get me wrong, some USB microphones can sound just as good as XLR microphones although you are limited by the mixing capabilities.
XLR setups are what are used in professional audio setups – such as the Howard Stern mic as mentioned above along with all of the other streamers.
To have an XLR setup, you will need an audio interface which you will plug your microphone into and then plug the interface into your computer.
The audio interface is often a mixing board or mixer – this converts analogue sounds into digital and usually connect via USB.
Consider it the ‘control center’ of your audio.
These will also give you the greatest control of the sounds of your audio and looks something like this.
This will allow you to equalize, control sounds ceiling and mix the bass/treble/gain/sensitivity of your microphone and usually plug in multiple mics into the single interface (this is handy if you’re streaming with more than just yourself and have 2 microphones).
Just having the XLR connection does not automatically mean that it is going to sounds better than a USB microphone – you’ll need to buy a great microphone to create a better sounds than a USB microphone.
Having a XLR connection will also allow you to upgrade and replace components of your audio setup at a later time whereas if you had a USB microphone you would just replace the entire device.
Audio Interfaces & Mixers
Now that we’ve established that XLR connections will provide you with superior audio quality to that of a USB microphone – which audio interface do you use?
An audio interface is what will convert the analogue single that comes from your microphone with an XLR connection to a digital signal which will them plug into your computer, usually through USB.
A mixer is what takes different audio inputs (microphones, music, PC, game sounds, consoles ect) and mixes them together to give you a final output. This can also have a USB output as well.
For the purposes of streaming, you will not need a mixer – you’re just going to be speaking over the top of game play sound and music, not doing professional voice overs. Don’t overkill it for no reason.
To prevent compatibility issues with Windows 10 drivers, I suggest that you you recieve the audio into your PC via a blue link in jack.
The back of your PC will most likely have a green, pink and blue 3.5mm jack input that looks like this.
Plugging in the audio into this jack will prevent issues with OBS Studio.
You may still run into different noise interferences but that is entire different subject with the countless methods of troubleshooting audio devices.
Our Recommendation – Behringer XENYX X1832
While this is an area where you can write an entire novel on which mixer you can use, we’ll make a simple recommendation that will have you set for all your streaming needs, for now and in the future.
This mixer comes with
- 6 studio compressors
- 18 inputs
- 3-Band EQs
- 24-bit multi-FX processor
- XLR input and output
- Connects to your computer via USB or line outs
- Rack mounts
Types Of Microphones
Now that we have the audio interface it’s time to pick a microphone which is going to plug into the mixer!
There is an entire industry that is dedicated to the perfection of audio quality although as a Twitch streamer you don’t really need to worry about it too much.
Just for a quick overview there are dynamic microphones and condenser microphones.
A dynamic microphone works with 3 main components – diaphragm, voice coil and magnet.
When sound waves hit the diaphragm it vibrates the voice coil. When the voice coil vibrates within the magnetic field, the audio signals are then converted into electrical signals – these are interpreted by the audio interface.
These are the microphones that you hear most radio hosts using – they have that ‘radio host’ sound to them.
A condenser microphone also has 3 components although these are – a back plate, diaphragm and diaphragm case.
When sound waves hit the diaphragm it moves back and forth towards and away from the back plate which then translates the sound signals into electrical signals – these are also translated by your audio interface.
These microphones will pick up sound from wherever you are standing in front of the mic.
Dynamic mics will only sound clear if you are directly in front of them.
Our Recommendation – Shure SM7B
This is a dynamic microphone which is going to better for you as a streamer because:
- It is durable
- It’s great at drowning out background noise
- It can handle very loud noises (which most streamers make)
- Sounds professional for that ‘radio host’ sound
This is the microphone that Shroud uses for his live streams and sounds great! Have a listen.
You’ve probably seen those black foam looking things in front of stream’s microphones – these are pop filters.
They’re used to prevent air hitting the microphone when you speak.
A type of these often come on gaming headset mics and are used for the same reason, so you’re breathing doesn’t come through Xbox party chat.
If you didn’t use one of these you would constantly hear popping and booming sounds from when you pronounce difference words starting with ‘p’ or ‘f.
These aren’t expensive at all and any pop filter will increase your audio output significantly.
This is an accessory that is extremely handy and makes holding the microphone in place much simpler.
It is going to suspend your microphone from whatever you hand it off so that it isn’t directly on your desk.
This is great because you don’t want to be hunched over your desk trying to get close enough to your microphone so you can hear it – this will make it so your microphone sits in front of your face.
These are fair cheap and will improve your streaming experience ten fold.
The one that I use is the Neewer Advanced NW-35 which does just the job!
It’s compatible with almost all microphones – just double check that it will connect to yours.
One end of the device will clamp to your desk which then rotates and swings around – the other side has another clap that connects your microphone to the stand.
This isn’t an essential tool to but it just makes life that much easier and you’ll thank yourself later for snatching it up.
If you don’t want a swinging boom arm then I suggest just a simple desk stand.
They’re not as expensive and allows you to get your mic off the desk and into something secure.
For this we recommend that you get the Neewer Microphone Desk Stand.
It’ll run you about $25 and clamps onto your desk.
It’s great because of how mobile it is and hooks up to all microphones – XLR and USB microphones.
Shock mounts are used to reduce unwanted sounds from your microphone moving.
If you’re constantly moving around while you’re streaming then you’re going to bump your microphone here and there.
With a shock mount you will significantly reduce the feedback when the mic is touched, moved or bumped.
Whether you’re swinging your boom arm away from you to get up or accidently bump your entire desk, this is a great way to reduce unwanted sounds.
It connects to a desk stand or a boom arm at the end where the microphone connects to the device.
Once you set it up, if you bump the desk or stand by accident there will be almost no feedback.
If you have had experience with audio you may have found that echo and reverb can be a big problem.
This is due to sound waves bouncing of nearby surfaces.
To fix this you need to fill your recording space with different things to absorb the sound waves.
The easiest thing for this would be to have more furniture in the room.
If you already have a complete studio then add rugs and curtains which can prevent echoing.
To complete the set up – add acoustic foam to your walls which do not have anything on them.
You would have seen these in other people’s streaming setups which are usually placed behind your gaming monitor (in front of you).
The reason for this is that by putting acoustic foam in the direction that you are speaking, it will absorb the sound waves instead of bouncing off the wall.
These are also relatively cheap from Amazon or eBay.
For installation just use 2 sided velcro – as they are light they will easily attach to these.
Budget Microphones For Streamers
If you’re not quite ready to commit to a professional audio setup then we have provided some great alternatives to get you started for a much more reasonable price.
You can pick this up for about $10 and is a condenser microphone. It uses a 3.5mm jack and comes with small stand to hold it into place. It’s super portable and plug n’ play if you’re often on the move.
For $20 you can get yourself a studio microphone. It uses a XLR to 3.5mm connection, a foam cover and shock mount. It’s even gold plated!
At the $30 mark we recommend this condenser microphone. It also uses a XLR to 3.5mm audio jack, shock mount and windscreen.
Blue Snowball iCE
If you have $50 this microphone is great. It has to be the most famous affordable mic. It connects to your computer via PC and after testing it I’ll say that it’s pretty good but not amazing. It comes with a tripod which is a bonus.
This is a lav mic so will act a bit different as it will connect to your shirt (or hold it) and connects via 3.5mm audio jack. It’s a decent price for what it is and also can connect to your phone, if that interests you.
Connect your microphone to your PC and boot up OBS – before we start make sure that you have your microphone selected in OBS – you will be able to tell as the Mic/Aux bar will fill with green when you make sound.
To selected the correct microphone click the gear icon next to Mic/Aux under Mixer > Properties and then select your device.
This will prevent your microphone from picking up background noise that you don’t want to come through.
This is especially helpful if you have a lot of street noise or fan noise coming from your PC.
To toggle this click the gear icon next to the Mic/Aux under Mixer > Filters. A new window will pop up.
If you haven’t toggled anything on this screen just yet then this will have nothing in it.
In the bottom left hand corner click the + icon and select Noise Suppression.
Add a name and click OK.
There are now default noise suppression settings applied to your microphone -30dB.
You will need to adjust this according to your microphone. Every’s mic is different so it may take some playing around with.
Noise gate will make it so that your microphone doesn’t take in any sound while you aren’t speaking.
This is done by setting a minimum sound level that needs to be made in order for your microphone to playback a sound.
This means that there will be complete silence from your microphone while you aren’t speaking.
Again, click the + in the bottom left hand corner of the Filters window and select Noise Gate.
Name the filter and select OK – you will have the default settings applied to your microphone straight away.
In the window you will see all of the settings that you can toggle for this filter.
Close Threshold (dB): the level at which your microphone will mute itself – if the noise level gets below this your mic will not playback sound.
Open Threshold (dB): this is the level at which your microphone will be unmuted – you will playback sound fi the noise goes above this threshold.
Attack Time (milliseconds): the amount of time needed for a noise to be active in order for the microphone to start taking in sound.
Hold Time (milliseconds): the amount of time that the microphone will stay active after you stop speaking.
Release time (milliseconds): the amount of time that the OBS filter takes to mute your microphone – makes the transition between active and muted mics sound more natural.
To configure these correctly you want to look at your Mixer on the OBS home dashboard and talk into your microphone. Get a rough idea of at what dB your voice makes when you’re talking.
You;ll want to set the close threshold above the noise volume and the oen threshold just below your voice level.
If you find that you’re not outputting sound while you’re talking then you will need to lower the open threshold.
If your microphone isn’t going silent when you stop speaking then you will need to increase the close threshold.
Playaround with these until you find a sweet spot.
While you are toggling these settings, speak at the level that you normally speak when you stream.
The compressor will turn down the input volume for those times where the volume is raised (eg. screaming cause you just got a 360 no scope). It will prevent distortion and save your viewer’s eardrums if they are wearing headphones.
Again, in the Filter window go to the + in the bottom left hand corner and select Compressor.
These settings are highly dependent of your setup, voice, microphone, environment ect.
Ratio (x:1): the amount of compression to apply when the volume limit is set.
Threshold (dB): the threshold at which the compression will begin to work.
Attack (ms): how quickly the compressor will take effect once it does detect high volumes.
Release (ms): how quickly the compressor volume will return back to normal once volume goes below the threshold.
To best test this out – raise the volume of your voice to what you might think it could be while streaming.
This does take a while to setup but is a must!
This will allow you to boost the volume of your microphone.
To add a gain filter click the + in the bottom left hand corner of the Filters window and select Gain.
Name the filter and select OK.
Toggle this to your liking – don’t increase it too much as I found it often distorts the output.