Which Streaming Software should you use?
It can be hard to pick the right free streaming software for you. Streaming is a rapidly expanding market, and developers are clamoring for your attention with claims of better performance, ease of use and quick setup – so how do you choose? Whether you’re a content creator who’s new to live streaming or you’re a business owner who live streams as a main source of revenue, you can rest assured that there’s a solution out there suited for you.
Some of the key features to look out for in your chosen software are: supported platforms, different input sources, user support, and supported games (some streaming applications require you to choose from a list of titles instead of letting you stream whatever you want). Always consider the system requirements of each program compared to the specs of your current rig. For modern PCs, it shouldn’t be an issue, but it can be a problem for users with an outdated OS or for users who stream from Consoles or Phones.
You’ll also want to consider the quality along with your bandwidth and the number of total inputs. Resolution can range from the most basics at 720p all the way up to 4K. You should never assume you’ll get the full range out immediately as you may have to pay for higher quality by upgrading to a premium tier.
But what are the principal differences between the various options, and how to decide which streaming software is best for you? We will try to help answer those questions.
So here are, In no particular order, the best streaming software:
- OBS Studio
- Streamlabs OBS
- xSplit Gamecaster
Open source, powerful and flexible, OBS Studio is easily one of the best choices when it comes to free streaming software. It’s available on Windows, Mac and Linux, and receives regular updates from an passionate team of contributors.
This software can do a bit of everything, and while we won’t say it’s easy to use, it is quite effective. With a reputation for being overly complicated to set up, if you are only interested in basic streaming then there’s no need to plunge into the more complex settings – however if you do want to make your stream look professional – there’s no shortage of options to meddle with.
Among it’s diverse set of abilities is the multiview feature which allows you to monitor eight scenes at once and edit them with a simple click! In addition there are a number of customizable transitions at the ready, and a hotkey for every function. It’s no slacker in the audio department either, considering the editing tools – including a mixer with per-source filters like gain and noise gate.
OBS Studio can stream directly to Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, Facebook and it’s even possible to stream to multiple platforms at once. It’s a program you need to discover as you go, but one that will not disappoint if you can deal with a few peculiarities.
- Highly customizable
- Works with Linux, Windows, and Mac
- An advanced video editing tool
- Advanced features like filters, audio mixers, automatic gain booster
- No centralized support (community only)
- Can be difficult to configure, especially for beginners
- No multistreaming
Unless you’re new to the scene, it’s safe to say you’ve probably heard of Streamlabs. As the name suggests, Streamlabs OBS is built using OBS as the foundations while putting a friendlier face on the powerful streaming software and adding Streamlabs integration to the program.
Streamlabs OBS feels very similar to OBS Studio, but with a more slick and user-friendly design. Almost everything you need is conveniently placed in your dashboard. Many features, which previously could be accessed only via plugins in OBS Studio – were made standard in SLOBS. This includes social widgets (donation and subs tracking, real time game alerts, chatbox, etc.), free overlays, face masks, audio filters, a video editor, and tons of other fun stuff. SLOBS also has better support than OBS Studio, with Streamlabs support staff and Discord support also available.
Predominantly gamer-focused, SLOBS makes a great tool for streamers who want to stream games rather than focus on other types of streams (such as ASMR, Just Chatting, vloggs, etc..). It offers smart, game-specific encoding, which results in lower overall CPU usage – one of the softwares biggest strengths. And last but not least, Streamlabs OBS makes a backup of all your Streamlabs settings so that you can stream from anywhere you like!
- Game-Aware Video Encoding
- Integrated Alerts
- Low CPU usage
- Used by most streamers
- Still beta’ish, bugs reported now and then
In contrast to the free streaming programs in this roundup, Xsplit Gamecaster is a free, cut-down version of a premium application. As such, while it may look sleeker and benefits from premium support online, some features are locked behind a paywall that would otherwise be accessible in the freemium softwares.
Gamecaster is the game-centric version of Xsplit Broadcaster, with a more polished and intuitive interface. It supports streaming to Twitch, YouTube Live and Facebook Gaming, and is incredibly easy to use – it automates nearly everything, so you can focus more time on the game and your audience and spend less time messing around with the program itself. It’s ready to roll after installation and works with consoles as well – if you have the proper capture card.
The biggest drawback is that streams at the high end resolutions carry an Xsplit watermark – which is not ideal if you want your stream to look professional. You’ll also have to use your credit card if you want chroma keying (green screen), in-game Twitch chat, console support via a capture card and custom logos. And the most detrimental part is Commercial use also requires a license.
- Chroma key
- Enhanced audio features
- Excellent support
- Not compatible with Mac or Linux
- Limited free version
Wirecast is a program many people have heard of, but not many have tried. We’ll get to that reason soon enough, but before that we want to talk about what makes this one unique and why it may be the last (but certainly not the least!) program you ever buy. Compared to our other choices, Wirecast is one heck of a professional program.
Telestream has three different versions of Wirecast available, although all share a common set of features. The software gives you full control over your presentations with things like 3D animated titles, video conferencing and unlimited support for inputs. Like layers? Well, with this program you can use up to 250! Widgets & playlists, in addition to GPU accelerated coding are all standard features for the Studio and Pro versions of Wirecast.
The ‘Pro’ version provides access to things like multi-track recording and NDI output, alongside ISO recording from individual sources. It also comes with three “virtual sets” along with Instant Replay and a Live Scoreboards. While we only touched on a handful of the many features Wirecast brings to the table, trust us when we say it’s not a tool for beginners – it’s a tool that professionals will surely appreciate. Lastly while there’s a 30-day trial, all versions are pricey and we suggest you only buy them if you seriously intend to delve into streaming professionally.
- Multiple-bitrate streaming
- Interactive user interface
- Integration with over 30 platforms
- Virtual sets
- GPU accelerated coding
- System requirements
- It’s expensive
Picking the right software to stream could be a difficult decision to make. While there are other options out there – such as vMix, VidBlasterX, Lightstream and Nvidia Shadowplay (just to name a few), they aren’t as good as the ones that I mentioned above. Just in case you didn’t have the patience to read through it all, here’s a very short tl;dr of what I talked about:
- OBS or Open Source Broadcaster is a popular recording and live streaming software that everyone, even a beginner can use – however to really use it’s full potential requires a lot of time and effort.
- Go live in seconds with Streamlabs OBS. You could almost say it’s OBS on steroids with the incredible amount of built-in presets and it’s clean interface you get to use it very easily. Not only does Streamlabs OBS offers heap of plugins or send alerts while gaming live streaming (for example) – it is also better optimized when compared with OBS or other live streaming software.
- Finally – boasting excellent quality software, Xsplit Gamecaster has many premium features that come at a steep price. Contrary to most of the free streaming software in this roundup, this is a cut-down version of a premium application. As such, it looks sleeker and is very versatile, but there are features are locked behind a paywall.
- Enjoy professional live streaming with this impressive tool. Wirecast Play allows you to easily encode your livestream over multiple platforms or servers. Using this professional live streaming software, you will gain complete control over your stream – but only if you can afford to spend a lot of money.