This post was originally published on Sound Mind | The Blue Journal on June 11, 2020.
Don’t let the endless arguments about frame rates and resolution fool you — poor audio quality will send viewers running long before they notice you’re only streaming at 30 fps.
One of the reasons Twitch is so popular is because it allows people to connect with one another in real-time. Poor audio quality makes it difficult to communicate with your viewers, which is why it’s crucial to make sure you’re always heard loud and clear.
In this blog, we’ll offer some helpful tips for improving the sound quality of your Twitch streams. Read on to learn about the best microphones for streaming, tips for tweaking your mic settings, and how to use effects like EQ, compression and noise reduction.
USE A PROFESSIONAL GAMING MICROPHONE
In order to improve the sound of your Twitch stream, you’ll need to start at the source: the microphone. Most streamers start out using their computer’s built-in microphone, which is usually designed for convenience, not quality.
By upgrading to an affordable USB microphone like Yeti X or Yeti Nano, you can instantly improve your sound quality and reduce background noise. For more info, check out our blog on the best USB microphones for Twitch streaming.
For even more control over your sound, try upgrading to an XLR condenser microphone like Blackout Spark SL or Ember. If you choose to go this route, you’ll also need an audio interface to connect the microphone to your computer.
Most audio interfaces offer two or more XLR inputs, allowing you to record with multiple microphones at once and making them an excellent choice for co-op streaming. To learn more about the difference between USB and XLR microphones, check out our blog on How to Stream on Twitch.
USE A CARDIOID PICKUP PATTERN
One of the most common audio problems streamers face is excessive background noise. It may seem quiet in your room, but as soon as you plug in a microphone, you’ll start to capture every subtle sound — like the dull roar of a fan, the incessant whirring of your computer or even your dog snoring upstairs. Thankfully, with the right pickup pattern, you can significantly reduce the amount of noise your microphone captures.
Many condenser microphones offer selectable pickup patterns, such as cardioid, omnidirectional, bi-directional and stereo. Cardioid mode captures sound sources that are directly in front of the microphone, making it the perfect choice for eliminating background noise while streaming. Some microphones, like your built-in computer microphone, are only capable of using an omnidirectional pickup pattern, which picks up sound equally from all directions.
USE PROPER MIC PLACEMENT
Another common problem is distant, hollow-sounding vocals — almost like you’re recording in a bathroom. Thankfully, this problem can easily be fixed using proper mic placement. By placing the microphone closer to your mouth, you capture more of the sound of your voice and less of the sound of the room.
Try placing your microphone 6 to 12 inches away from your mouth. If you notice any “plosives,” or popping sounds caused by “p” and “t” sounds, try tilting the microphone at a 45-degree angle towards your mouth. This allows the microphone to capture the sound of your voice without interference from big puffs of air.
USE THE RIGHT GAIN SETTINGS
Microphone gain can be a tricky concept. While it does make your voice louder, it doesn’t exactly work like a volume knob. It’s more like a sensitivity control.
The higher the gain, the more sensitive your microphone becomes. Not only does that make your voice louder, it also makes all of the background noise louder too. And if you turn up the gain too high, you run the risk of loud sounds clipping or distorting the signal.
To properly set microphone gain, start speaking at a normal volume. Then, slowly turn up the gain control until the audio meter on your microphone or recording software is in the green.
Finally, speak up a bit to see how things will react during loud passages. If your meters clip or turn red, turn the gain down. The goal is to have your levels stay nice and loud throughout the stream without peaking.
USE PROFESSIONAL ACCESSORIES
The Radius III shock mount isolates your microphone from interference and helps reduce noise.
A high-quality USB or XLR microphone is great, but you can improve the sound quality of your recordings even further with a few affordable accessories.
If you find that you’re frequently bumping your microphone, invest in a shock mount like Radius III or Ringer. Shock mounts isolate your microphone from interference and help reduce noise, shock and ambient vibration.
If your microphone is taking up too much space on your desk or on camera, pick up a microphone boom arm like Compass. With internal springs and built-in cable management, Compass makes it easy to place your microphone wherever you want it.
Finally, if you just can’t seem to get rid of those pesky plosives, try picking up a pop filter. Pop filters are custom screens that sit between your face and the microphone to help prevent plosives and protect your microphone.
USE EFFECTS TO ENHANCE YOUR VOICE
At this point, your voice should sound loud and clear. But there’s one more step to achieve that professional polish.
Signal processors like equalizers, compressors and noise reduction tools are crucial to professional-sounding live streams. Some streaming software features built-in filters for sweetening your voice, while others rely on third-party extensions.
Equalization, or EQ, is used to tweak the tonal balance of your voice — just like the bass, mid and treble controls on a stereo system. Use the EQ to remove any low-end that may be muddying up your voice with a high-pass filter around 80 Hz.
Another common problem is the low-mid frequencies. Try cutting 3–6 dB around 250 Hz to help clean up the vocal. You may also want to apply a subtle boost to the highs above 5 kHz, but be careful, as this is an extremely sensitive frequency range.
Compression controls the dynamics and relative loudness of your voice by making the loudest parts quieter and raising the overall volume for a more consistent sound. This can help make sure you’re always heard loud and clear, whether you’re speaking quietly or yelling at your computer for lagging.
Follow these guidelines to quickly improve the sound of your Twitch stream. For more information on how to stream on Twitch, including how to grow your audience and how to make money on Twitch, check out our step-by-step guide to streaming on Twitch.