A Guide to Audio for Twitch Streamers
I’ll be honest… if your microphone or desktop audio is poor quality, nobody is going to stick around and watch your stream on Twitch. While you don’t need a brilliant 4k detailed webcam or even a webcam at all, *cough Lirik*; bad sound on your stream is going to get that person to click the back button quicker than you can say “wow you can barely hear what they are even saying”.
Personally, I’ve been producing music since I was 15 & decided I could definitely make better music than Basshunter’s “Now You’re Gone”. I always secretly wanted to be in an emo band… so when it comes to audio, I am both reasonably skilled AND massively picky with sound.
Simply put, you want your voice and desktop sound to be sitting in the high green and yellow section of your Mixer. Anything else and you are at risk of going distorted and sounding like you are trying to impersonate an angry robot.
You can monitor this via the Mixer that exists across all streaming tools like OBS and Streamlabs OBS (SLOBS).
Consider how loud the game sound (or background music) is compared to your voice. You don’t want it drowning out you so nobody can hear you, but in most games, the audio is incredibly important and therefore your viewers should be able to hear it!
If you are IRL streaming, the background music is going to be your best friend. Make sure you aren’t breaking the law though! Playing Music on Twitch: What Are The Rules?
Filters on OBS — why should you care?
Be careful with this section, it can allow you to either totally improve your audio, or ruin it. You can find your filters by right-clicking on the audio channel and selecting ‘filters’. You’ll find a list of built-in OBS tools, and the option to add your own via VST Plug-ins.
A compressor essentially acts by squishing the audio on both the loud and quiet parts, then making the whole thing louder. You don’t want to squash your audio too much as then it will lose any natural volume differences with your own voice and feel unnatural.
Play with the settings and what sounds right to your ears.
If your audio is incredibly quiet, you can use ‘Gain’ to boost the audio to a happy level. Be careful not to overdo this!
Are you looking to reduce background noise while streaming? Then the noise gate is going to be your best friend. Think of it as a window, blocking sound from coming through. When the window is ‘closed’, there is no sound, and when it is ‘open’ there is. A noise gate allows you to stop your audio coming through when it is at a certain threshold (e.g. quiet outside sounds or your computer fan buzzing away) and start playing a sound when you are talking.
You may see it as a graph or many, many buttons, but an EQ works the same in whatever format it looks like. Everything on the left is the lowest, bass frequency sounds while everything on the right is your squeaky high-frequency sounds. Everything in the middle covers your voice and the majority of sounds you can hear.
The best way to learn how to EQ is to remove certain frequencies and see what it sounds like. If you remove everything at the top end of the scale, you’ve removed all the treble and it’ll sound muddy and damp. While if you remove all the bass, it’ll sound tinny and thin.
One rule of EQ is to very rarely add frequencies. It is always best to remove compared to adding. If you must do so, make sure it is gentle and smooth otherwise it’ll sound bad to your viewers.
Remember that everybody’s ears are different, and everybody’s devices and speakers are different, so what you hear will be different from everybody else. This is why most audio changes tend to be gentle differences rather than drastic changes.
Random other audio things
In my own Twitch setup, I’ve got a creative and added reverb and autotune VST to my OBS filters, this allows me to be creative during any Just Chatting streams or moments in between the gameplay (for example a loading screen).
Advanced Audio Properties on OBS
The advanced audio properties on OBS give you another chance to control the master volume of your microphone and other audio sources, it also allows you to fix a couple of common errors with audio on Twitch streaming.
For example, if your audio is only playing out one ear, it’s likely your microphone is a stereo mic and is set to record for only one side. A quick fix for this is to ‘downmix to mono’ which will allow the audio to be played on both the left and right sides.
Another common mistake is that the audio is not in sync with what you are seeing on your screen or what your viewers are hearing in the stream. This can be fixed by adding a ‘sync offset’ in milliseconds to adjust when the audio is sent to OBS. This is a tricky test-and-listen process so keep trying until it sounds perfect!
If you can hear yourself talking through your microphone while streaming, you’ve left your ‘audio monitoring’ on. Make sure it is set to ‘Monitor Off’ to remove this. (You can use the audio monitoring to test your audio before you go live)
Using a DAW (such as Reaper) as your audio
Significantly more complicated, but giving you a lot more control, using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) will allow you to edit, mix and manipulate your audio when live streaming (or when editing content such as voiceovers afterwards). A simple-to-use DAW (and one that will use the least CPU) is Reaper.
With 60 days free usage before you need to pay, 2 months is a good amount of time to teach yourself how to use and get the most out of it before you consider paying the license fee. Reaper comes with a bunch of instantly useful plugins that will improve your audio and microphone quality significantly (if used right!)
You can download some of the plugins that Reaper uses for completely free and use on the likes of OBS right here if you want: REAPER
Elgato’s Stream Deck’s is a fantastic piece of hardware that allows you to not only do simple things like starting your stream, mute it, and easily post emotes, but it can also be used as a soundboard.
Whether this is for intro, interlude and outro music, or for playing random sounds during your stream, I highly recommend using something like the Stream Deck as you’ll find your streams a lot smoother to run and significantly more engaging to viewers.
There is a 15 key or 6 key versions, but you can add multiple folders within each button allowing there to be near-unlimited choices for you.
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