Looking for the best Twitch streaming gear short of a full broadcast setup for your home? We guide you through our top picks for all your A/V needs across a range of budgets.
The world of streaming is massive and despite this, a lot of people still aren’t getting the right kit. From capture cards, cameras, and lighting, too often we see everyone from the massive streamers to the little ones not running at their best.
So it’s time to take your stream from looking like a murky, low-rent xQc stream to looking a little more refined and robust.
If you’re looking for how to stream on Twitch, we have that full guide up now too.
Cameras for streaming
Choosing your camera for streaming is a tough choice. Do you go for the high quality, but the high investment of a mirrorless camera? Do you risk it all on an older DSLR? How about those using webcams?
They’re all viable options, but choosing a mirrorless over a webcam would be our preferred one. You can actually now use a mobile phone and probably get a better image out of it in some cases.
However, don’t over-invest. There are multiple webcams these days that can spit out a decent-quality image, and there are mirrorless cameras that could potentially burn out over long periods of usage.
Our choices would typically land on older models of mirrorless cameras and the most recent releases for webcams.
Mirrorless cameras, despite their advertising, are photography cameras first and foremost. This means that the sensor and glass are all designed around burst usage. Using them over hours every day, as you build up your stream, could see it flatline or damage the sensor, which is an expensive fix.
Modern mirrorless cameras have more of a focus on video, but again, just beware that while it’s infrequent, it’s something to take note of.
Things like the Sony Alpha series of cameras are perfect thanks to their excellent lowlight performance. You should be able to find on eBay, older models of the larger Alpha series for less than you’d find them pre-owned at a store, and for those wanting something fresh out of the box, but on a smaller budget, the A6400 is still a killer choice.
As for webcams, we’d probably recommend something without the ring light strapped to it. The Razer Kiyo is a good webcam option but doesn’t come with a 1080p image. While this isn’t a bother for most gaming streams – you’ll be a small square in the corner, remember – it is something to take into account.
We’re never going to be streaming at 4K and unless you’re doing wizardry by using a singular 4K shot to produce two shots, there’s no need for one. We recommend you grab the Logitech Streamcam in this case, but if money is no object, the Insta360 Link with a physical motor is great at tracking you.
Webcam vs Mirrorless/DSLR
Using a webcam over a mirrorless camera is more about your budget, than quality. There are some webcams fetching upwards of $100 and for the most part, we’d still recommend you go that way if you can’t afford a proper camera.
What you can do to combat this is, is to add more lights. Webcams, even these expensive ones, are notorious for not being great in low light. This will result in low framerates and noisy images.
Capture cards don’t need to be Elgato branded to be good. While Elgato’s certainly is the most popular, they have a big tendency to decide not to work. We should know, we have three. However, they do offer an unparalleled level of support due to being owned by Corsair, and support in software like OBS is almost plug-and-play.
Another question is, do you go internal or external? With the rate of USB’s performance increasing since 3.0, the need for an internal PCIe card is getting less for regular consumers.
However, for those wanting more out of their capture cards, running a Blackmagic Design Decklink Quad will actually provide you with four capture cards in one. This means you can run your camera, console, and other devices through it and then import them as independent sources into OBS.
This will require one of the long PCIe slots to run, so be sure your motherboard can support it before plopping it in.
If you have no interest in bringing in new video sources and want a clean way to transition between scenes, swap to a privacy screen, or just a full webcam, we’d recommend looking into Elgato’s Stream Deck and Mountain’s DisplayPad.
These will integrate directly with OBS and other software to provide you with a quick way of transitioning between your different sources.
For those wanting to have more of a traditional video mixing desk, we’d recommend things along the lines of the Atomos Ninja V and Blackmagic’s Atem Mini Pro. While the Ninja V is more used for filming and video production, there’s an attachment to allow it to ingest four different HDMI sources, turning it into a mixer.
The Atem Mini comes in multiple shapes and forms, but the Pro should provide you with a decent array of tools and some Picture-in-Picture options too. Blackmagic’s Atem Mini is split between the Pro line and the ISO line. The ISO line is for those that want to capture every stream coming in independently for editing down the line, rather than the Pro’s ingest and mixing down to a single stream.
Do you need a capture card?
If you’re streaming PC games, or you’re on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, there’s actually no real need for a capture card if you’re strapped for cash. The main benefit of having a capture is the flexibility of what you can capture.
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Cameras, consoles, and even phones or tablets can all be captured through one. It also means you can upgrade the look of your stream via OBS or something similar, without being restricted by the console itself.
Cameras and capture cards might be the main event, but if your audio is bad, your entire stream will be bad. However, you don’t need to go all out on a microphone to get decent audio, it’s more about working with what you have.
If you have a decent gaming headset, then start your journey with that and begin to move up to an independent one. Tyler1 is known for using one, but you don’t want to blow up your audience’s ears with screaming. Mess with the gain and perhaps use Nvidia Broadcast – if you have an Nvidia GPU – to mute background noise coming in.
As long as your audience can’t hear you breathing into one, you should be good to go. However, just consider that there are some great cheaper condenser or dynamic microphones to grab from Amazon.
For those who have decided to go the route of a USB interface, getting a great, XLR microphone isn’t hard. We’d recommend something from Samson, which is what we used for years and managed to produce decent-sounding streams for under $100. There’s a full kit for their C01 microphone on Amazon for $80 which is a great jumping-in point.
If you have the budget, we’d fully recommend looking into HyperX’s newer XLR microphones and even Rode’s massive selection. These have always produced top-quality audio, without the need to rely on a Shure SM7B.
On the side of USB microphones, we’d always recommend things like Rode’s newer RodeX brand. However, we’d also say to look at some of the microphones above the $50 range. Lower than this, you’re going to run into junk that isn’t worth your time. While it might be a quick fix, you’ll drive away viewers with your bad audio.
USB vs XLR
Much like with capture cards, XLR provides a deeper level of customization and knowledge that your hardware is potentially going to go further. While you’ll need additional hardware to power them, they’re our preferred way for content creation.
USB microphones are of great quality wise but are severely lacking when you want to connect more than one. If you’re going to be streaming on your own, USB microphones are a great option for an easy plug-and-play alternative to XLR.
Are Yeti Snowball microphones good?
For quality and price, there are better options than the Yeti Snowball microphones from Blue Mics. We’d recommend looking into cheaper alternatives.
Best USB interfaces and mixing desks
For USB interfaces or a mixing desk to take in your XLR microphones, you want to first consider your budget and who will be participating in your content. If you know that another person will be joining you on a regular basis, you’ll want to invest in an interface that supports two or more microphones.
For this type of content, we wholly recommend you go with something like the Rodecaster Pro 2, but its expensive price might put you off. The Rodecaster Pro 2 is fantastic though, allowing you to bring in sources from Bluetooth, up to four XLR microphones, and includes a built-in soundboard.
However, let’s not discount the more budget conscious. Those wanting to stream or make content with their friends. If you’re not going to be doing much post-production and focusing on live streaming, then you should be fine with a lower-tier analog or USB mixing desk.
If you know it’s going to be a solo project, you’ll be fine with something like the Behringer UM2. This is an excellent entry-level audio interface with simple controls on top. Of course, if you wanted to go up a level, Focusrite is where we’d say to look into it.
The UM2 will give you physical controls over your audio, so you’ll be able to control yourself without having to go into OBS to turn yourself down.
Analog mixing desks
What analog mixing desks miss in fine-tuning digitally on your PC, they make up for in price and convenience. Rather than having much accuracy, you’ll need to do the mixing on the desk itself to get the right sound levels.
We also recommend getting a ground loop isolator. As you’re going to be pushing multiple digital signals into your mixer, not every single one is going to handle that much frequency bouncing around. The isolator will actually dampen, or even eliminate that irritating buzzing sound you get with some devices. They’re cheap and effective and we always recommend having one or two on hand.
If you’re going to be streaming in a dim room, or just want to look your best on camera, lighting is key to everything. Not only is it going to change the look of your stream from a cheap one to a professional-looking one when placed correctly, but it’ll also solve a lot of frame rate issues with cheaper webcams.
Neewer is a budget brand on Amazon, which we use for some photography and video situations. They have a nice softbox, and some LED lights available at a not-too-high cost. Of course, for compactness, we’d probably recommend something like Elgato’s Key Light.
With certain apps now emulating a green screen by using machine learning or AI, like Nvidia Broadcast, let’s not forget that nothing compares to the physical version.
You don’t need a green screen for your stream, but having one can give you a little bit more flexibility in terms of placement of yourself on the stream. One of our top annoyances is massive streamers blocking out portions of the game with their cameras.
As long as the green screen is flat, clean, and has plenty of light, it shouldn’t really matter what you use. We’d obviously always recommend something that isn’t made of cloth, but again, as long as it’s stretched enough to remove creases you should be fine.
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