On today’s blog we are going to start a new little series relating to streaming and its many different elements. For the first blog in this “series”, I have put a little thought (rare, I know) into what I learned about audio from my first year and a half of streaming, the tools and accessories I needed along the way, and what I could have used early on. This article is assuming you are utilizing a PC for streaming, but the options for consoles are available with most of these if you have a little ingenuity and patience. Please research before purchasing, just in case.
To avoid some of the pitfalls of products that I started with and have outgrown, I am going to recommend a “cheap” option that can get you started, along with a better option for additional cost. Both of these will still be considered cheaper options to most though, as I am entirely too frugal to spend more money when I believe there is a decent alternative for the fraction of the cost. Most of my products did come from Amazon, so I will provide the links to each in the article. Because I believe in transparency, these links are affiliate links that I do receive a percentage of payment from, but are actual items I use and have for months or even years. I always use the 10k minimum 4+ star review filter when deciding my price-per-performance decisions on Amazon purchases.
These options will be broken down into 3 categories: Need, Want, Desire.
The first thing I will emphasize is HOLY CRAP GET A GOOD MIC. I cannot emphasize this enough, having clear and crisp audio is the #1 de facto leader of having a good stream. There are tons of examples of hugely successful streamers who don’t use fancy stream overlays, NO webcam, no gimmicks, and have thousands of daily viewers because they sound great. I have historically struggled with audio issues, and I can tell you first hand, having a good working microphone that is set up properly FOR YOUR SPECIFIC VOICE is enormous. I have just recently after an entire year of shoddy audio in my streams gotten mine dialled in to where I like it… and honestly it could probably still use improvement :shrug:. Constant battle.
I even built a streaming/gaming dual PC setup to maximize my frames/quality of stream, and reverted back to a single PC solely because of audio issues. I was too cheap to purchase the things I needed to have a proper setup (damn you GoXLR!). Think about that…I actually sacrificed an entire computer and it’s MANY graphical and speed improvements just so I could sound better for my viewers. Yes, audio is that important. Do not ignore setting it up properly with filters, software, placement, etc.
Audio “Need” Options:
– Cheap option #1, a headset. Yes, you can use your headphone mic. This is the “let’s test out this streaming thing for a few weeks” option. Audio will be clear-ish, but background noise will be picked up, along with heavy breathing. If you are an excitable player, your screams will kill your audience with the mic so close to your face. There are headset mics out there that do have noise cancelling and noise gate options, but for the price you would pay for something that nice, you could’ve purchased better options IMO. Here is the current headset I use, and my previous headset that I use:
The ROCCAT Elo X headset is a personal choice that I am only recommending because I am posting what I use. Not to say that these aren’t good headphones, but I chose them specifically for comfort and price. The mic is OK and removable, which is nice because I tend to stream with my boom mic close to my face, so it’s not in the way and also doesn’t cause input issues with another mic connecting to the PC. I actually picked the Elo Xs because I have a GIANT head and most headphones just aren’t comfortable, while these were like a cloud. Couple that with with no charging needed, unlike on the Turtle Beach Recons that I had listed next, and I was won over. Plus they are currently (as of July 2021) on sale for a VERY competitive price, and the sound is pretty great considering. But MAN, that cushion on the headband is *chefs kiss*.
Next is Turtle Beach Recons. A staple of the gaming industry for decades, Turtle Beach has long provided a quality product for a reasonable price, and these Recons are no exception. The sound quality is crisp, they have variable mic monitoring with amplifier to help with over-yelling*, PS4/XBOX toggle switch to fit your specific console need (PC you can adjust everything through settings, so just choose one and stick with that), an auto-mute flip up mic arm, and a corded aux cable. I only had the 200 models, but the higher you go, the price goes as well, but also presumably the quality and comfort.
The things I personally disliked about these headphones was the head cushion and the charging. The top head cushion was very thin and I could feel the cable under dig into my head on long streams, but again I have an extremely large head so factor that in. Also, the charging was a mystery to me. I assume it was for the “variable” mic monitoring, but there is nothing worse than a dying headset in the middle of a sweaty battle royale fight. Especially when it is corded into the computer through aux.
– Cheap option #2 is a standing mic. You go with the tripod or table stand and save $20-$30+ on boom arms, filters, shock mounts and other accessories. This is what I ran for the longest time, with an overpriced IMHO mic that I didn’t research and bought from Walmart. (cough Samson Go Mic). Granted, I just plugged it in and ran with it, and it is more for an interview style with low background noise and omni-directional focused. Again, RESEARCH your options and take the time to PROPERLY SET UP the filters and software you are using to stream. I AM USING CAPS FOR A REASON.
I recommend these two mics to give you a starting point of excellent products that do not break the bank, hovering around the $30-40ish range. They do not require any other accessories or audio mixers (like a GoXLR) other than what you will use natively to stream with (OBS/SLOBS/Stream Elements/GoStreamLight etc). These two come with USB plug-ins for easy connection to PC, not hogging up an audio jack that you can then use for headsets and speakers.
Blue has many options from their snowball, sherpa, and yeti lines. All well reviewed, tried and true.
FiFine was a risk for me. Research said otherwise and trusting my Amazon 10k comment, 4+star review technique, it paid off big time.
FiFine and Blue are both very reputable budget mic companies that also offer more quality products that can compete with the big boys. Both these mics offer unidirectional, cardioid patterns for less background noise and high-quality condensers for that crisp audio we all love. You set it up near your voice direction on the desk, plug it into a USB on your computer, and go!
I personally have this exact FiFine mic with the boom-arm package listed below, and even with the fumbling through audio settings that my idiot brain can never get right, I think my audio sounds pretty good. You be the judge, check out the YouTube or Twitch and criticize criticize criticize :).
Audio “Want” Option:
Most “decent and up” priced mics on Amazon usually come with a upgradeable scissor “boom” arm adjustable mic stand with shock mount, pop filter, and desk clamp package for a ~$30 increase on price. I do recommend this because it usually ships with the correct adapter for your mic, and if you stream long enough, you will more than likely make this move anyway. It allows you to dial in your compressor, noise gate, dampening etc even better for a much higher audio quality because you are able to get the mic closer to the source (your mouth) and can move it with you as your navigate your around your desk or lean back to talk with chat. This is the exact one I purchased and I love it!
Another seemingly trivial item is an aux extension cable. Trust me, these headsets nowadays come with little mini baby cords and if you’re like me, an animated guy who moves around, stands a lot and leans back, there is nothing worse than having your decapitated by a headset ripping because a cable is too short. They are one of the cheapest things you can buy, and a big comfort item that I highly recommend if the budget allows. This 6ft option is plenty for most setups and under 10$:
Audio “Desire” Option:
Clearly if you are reading this, you are new to the streaming world, so for any of these desires I list throughout this article, I advise EXTREME caution on splurging for these items. Streaming might seem like the best job and money maker ever, but trust me, it can become more of a chore than any 9-5 and honestly ruin gaming for you if you aren’t careful. Do not spend money you do not have on these desires. Focus on the basic needs first, save your money on the desires until you really see a community growth option. Please!
The GoXLR fits the desire/want areas quite well. While it makes audio settings and issues a breeze with its beautiful and simple designing and ease of use, it’s simply not needed with most USB connected mics on a single gaming/streaming PC and it saves you a TON of money by not purchasing one. These things are pricey and require a high-end studio microphone to capture most of the benefits of it. Think of it as cutting your own grass vs. Paying someone to do it. You have your own lawnmower, but man it’s nice to just pay a guy to do it!
While theirs a ton of low-priced audio interfaces on Amazon for you to choose from, the GoXLR is the only one I have had personal interaction with and most of these low-priced alternatives do not fit my rating requirements so I cannot in good faith suggest them. Here is the Mini and Full versions of the GoXLR if you’re on a “budget”….lmaooooo.
These are just some further suggestions I would consider, and tend to fit the broader theme of streaming as we go deeper into these blogs, but they fit the audio theme so I’ll include them really quick.
Try to avoid items that need batteries, charging, or Bluetooth. It’s just an annoyance thing mostly, having something die on stream can really kill the vibe and I tend to avoid it as I have had these happen to me (looking at you, Turtle Beach). Also, while Bluetooth is extremely convenient, just go corded if you can. It reduces latency and interference, and Bluetooth can be fickle sometimes. You don’t want to be trying to game, work a streaming audience, and also be troubleshooting why your device wont pair, all at the same time. Max. Anxiety.
One other thing is, if you have the means, have a 2nd device (not chrome on your gaming/streaming PC) up and running when you go live. One reason is OBS may say you are live, but Twitch might not have gotten the message. I like to see it up on the streaming website to verify. Also, especially any time you make some changes on your OBS of choice, this can help you hear in real time how your audio sounds from the viewers perspective. Dual purpose of seeing your video output to make sure everything is firing as they should as well. Just a few seconds of content (since it’s delayed a second or two), unmute the device, listen, observe, all good. You can mute it again and leave it up, or turn it off for less Internet usage, whatever you feel the need to do. A cell phone or tablet works for this as well, fyi.
I started this specific blog article as an entire write-up of everything I think you need or may want in order to have a successful stream. After typing up most of the audio section, I said WHOA THIS IS LONG so I decided to break it up into sections. And don’t worry, there will be a “How to” article/YouTube video on setting up the mic filters and software coming. I think this will be a good series for you all, and I hope you enjoy. Remember, slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and AUDIO IS A STRAIGHT UP NIGHTMARE.
Love you all