As a twitch streamer, you want to make sure newcomers are having a good experience. First impressions and audio is a part of that. People aren’t going to want to stay if they can’t understand you. Without great sound, your stream will be a disaster, so it’s important to get things right.
A microphone is something that you’ll absolutely need. Your voice and personality is what’s going to separate you from every other streamer out there. Granted, it shouldn’t be the only thing that separates you from the competition, but it’s going to be one of the major things. Therefore, you’ll want a microphone setup that will deliver your voice in crystal clear clarity to your viewing audience.
Types of Microphones
The two most common styles used in vocal work are condensers and dynamics. Each works differently and each has pros and cons.
Condenser microphones are likely the ones you will encounter most frequently. They are built in a way to handle higher frequencies and “faster” sounds (such as snaps/claps/etc.). This makes them more “accurate” but can also lead to them being quite sensitive. Condensers are built with a studio environment or acoustically treated room in mind. It is important to note that if you plan on using an XLR setup, Condenser microphones also require phantom power which is typically in 48V supplied by your Audio Interface or Mixer.
Dynamic microphones (usually) won’t require phantom power and are considered slightly more durable to Condensers. They are not as sensitive as Condensers which makes them ideal for things like drums and electric guitars. This doesn’t mean you cannot use one for voice work. There are many podcasters and twitch streamers that use Dynamic microphones.
Condensers are generally considered to be better suited for in studio vocal work, providing a higher fidelity. They also tend to have a warmer sound. They are a bit more delicate, but if you take care of them (don’t drop them!) they will last a lifetime. As an extra advantage, condenser microphones work well a bit further away from your mouth, which means you can position your mic in a way that doesn’t cover your face on camera.
Microphone Connectors (XLR or USB?)
The choices are USB or XLR. You can use your USB connection to connect your microphone directly to your computer. This is a popular option for simple setups such as small studios or laptops on the go.
An XLR connection is usually used to plug into a mixer or audio interface. A mixer or audio interface can give you more control, allow mixing on the fly, create better sound by boosting power, and allows multiple microphone inputs which can be ideal for in-studio guests.
An audio interface is basically an external sound card for your setup with some added benefits. It takes the analogue signal (your voice) from the microphone and transforms it into a digital signal your computer can use. USB microphones have this essentially built-in which is why quality is generally cheaper as it has to compact everything into one device. However, having a dedicated Audio Interface gives you more control over how you sound.
You only need to worry about Audio Interfaces if you are using an XLR setup:
- It provides the phantom power (+-48v) that your XLR condenser microphone needs.
- They allow you to monitor and adjust your sound levels on the fly, and prevent “clipping”.
- It has quality preamps that take the mic’s signal to a proper line level. Quality preamps are another determining factor of your sound and tend to add a bit of “warmth” to your voice.
- It converts the analog signal into digital so your computer can process it.
- It reduces interference from internal circuitry, preventing signal noise.
- They open up a world of options when it comes to XLR microphones, and allow us to expand later on.
A mixer is used to mix different soundtracks. It has several inputs for different audio signals and offers the possibility to set each of these tracks individually. A mixer creates a mixed signal which is transmitted to the PC via the USB output. Audio interfaces, on the other hand, don’t have so many options and settings, but they can transmit separate signals to the PC which can then be digitally edited with a software. However, most streamers consider an audio interface to be more sufficient than audio mixer. Follow this link to learn more about the best audio mixers fo streaming.
Whether you’re streaming from a PC or console, to get the absolute best quality broadcast you’re probably looking for some great software.
Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is one of the most popular pieces of software. It is a free, open source and available for Windows, Mac and Linux OS. OBS provides the following features:
- High-performance real-time video/audio capturing and mixing.
- Intuitive audio mixer with per-source filters such as noise gate, noise suppression, and gain.
- Powerful and easy to use configuration options.
- Streamlined Settings panel gives you access to a wide array of configuration options to tweak every aspect of your broadcast or recording.
If you’re new to OBS or to streaming in general, it can be a little challenging at first. The software has evolved a great deal over the years and now it’s one of the most powerful tools in a broadcaster’s arsenal.
OBS Audio Settings
Here’s how to set your audio up in OBS:
- Click settings in the main window.
- Select the audio tab from the menu.
- Indicate to the software what your desktop audio devices are (speakers, headphones, etc.) and your microphone or other auxiliary devices. You also have options to enable push to talk or push to mute for any hardware audio device connected to your PC.
You might be better off with Voicemeeter Banana, a free-to-use application for Windows that simulates a mixing deck within the confines of your PC. This audio mixer software allows you to take input from up to 3 hardware devices and 2 software applications and mix them together, sending that output to up to 3 hardware devices and 2 software devices while also having recording functionality. Using a mixer for streaming should meet just about anyone’s audio needs. Beyond that, the software also allows for patching the inputs through VST instrument and effect plugins for even more control over the way your audio sounds.
Some streamers prefer using Voicemeeter as it’s easier to manage on the fly and you only need to set up a single audio device in OBS. In this case, you set the microphone to your Voicemeeter output and disable everything else.
Levels can be managed from the mixer in the main OBS window. If you’re using a console it’s important to remember that the audio for this will be a source of its own (even if you’re using Voicemeeter) and you’ll have to manage it within OBS.
- Download the application, but make sure you get the Voicemeeter Banana app, not the regular Voicemeeter.
- You should also download a free virtual audio cable (you’re allowed one for free.)
- Before you go tinkering with it, you need to set Voicemeeter Banana as your default audio device for Windows 10. That way everything will be funneled through the app.
- Click on the speaker icon in the bottom-right corner and select Voicemeeter Input (VB-Audio Voicemeeter VAIO).
Voicemeeter Banana OBS Settings
- Go to settings in OBS.
- Select audio.
- Set mic/auxiliary audio device to Voicemeeter Aux Output (VB-Audio Voicemeeter Aux VAIO).
- Disable all other audio devices.
Now everything you send to the B2 channel in Voicemeeter Banana will be pulled into OBS, while everything attached to the PC is muted so you don’t end up with any doubling up or echoes.
Voicemeeter Banana is one of those pieces of software you didn’t know you needed, but then you can’t live without. It’s elegantly designed, and once you figure out the basics, it’s not particularly difficult to use.
Read the full guide on how to setup Voicemeeter Banana.
How to Improve Sound Quality of Streaming Services?
1. Never use Wi-Fi
Wireless connection while very convenient is not desired in a hi-end audio system. It adds latency, often leads to dropouts or stuttering, but most importantly it never sounds as good as a wired Ethernet connection.
2. Limit network traffic
Whenever you listen to music online, try avoiding excessive network activity. Browsing web might be ok, but heavy downloads will definitely downgrade playback quality.
3. Use a high-end network adapter & switch
These are the most effective hardware tweaks that will bring the sound quality of network audio to a completely new dimension.
4. Upgrade your router
How good your router is, it will affect the overall performance of your streaming setup. Get a wired only router and an external independent WIFI access point.
5. Replace generic Ethernet patch cords with audio grade LAN cables
Try a good LAN cable. The truth is that Ethernet cables are today’s digital audio interconnects that can transform the sound of your computer audio system dramatically (in a good way) or kill it if you stick with generic cables.
Here are some important accessories to consider purchasing with your new microphone:
- Pop Filter. If you are planning on recording with the microphone closer to your mouth, a pop filter is necessary. It helps deal with the “Plosives” of speech which are things such as your P, T, and B sounds. It stops the air made from those sounds from hitting the microphone.
- Mic Arm/Stand. Since you will likely be having movement on the desk from typing or moving the mouse, an arm or stand will help with vibrations getting to the microphone. It can also help in positioning the microphone to fit your setup.
- Acoustic Foam Panels. If you have many hard surfaces around you, foam panels will help reduce the “echo” that comes from your voice bouncing around. Even a few of these placed around you room can help immensely.
If you are serious about your twitch streaming, audio should not be an overthought. Things don’t have to sound like a professional studio but viewers should be able to understand you with as few problems as possible. There’s a lot that goes into making a quality stream grow and audio is half the battle. If you want your stream to grow, it might be wise to invest in a dedicated microphone setup.