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The Best Streaming Setup (Equipment List, Costs, Tips)

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The Best Streaming Setup (Equipment List, Costs, Tips)

Choosing the right equipment for your live streams can feel like a significant task. With the quality of your broadcast riding on your streaming setup, whether a beginner or a well-seasoned streamer, investing in equipment is always a big step. 

Though every content creator has their personal preferences and specific workflows, the streaming community has a firm few favorite pieces of streaming equipment that you should choose from. 

You’ll find recommendations for the best streaming equipment drawn straight from the community, so you can learn from the best in the industry when building your very own streaming setup. Let’s jump right in. 

TL;DR

What do you need for a streaming setup?

A high-quality streaming setup doesn’t need to break the bank or be overly complicated. Here are the essential pieces of equipment you’ll need: 

Good internet connection

Arguably the most important piece of any streaming setup is your internet connection. Dodgy or intermittent internet will negatively impact the quality of your live stream as well as your audience’s viewing experience, so it’s best to invest in a stable connection with a fast upload speed. 

Desktop or Laptop 

Firstly, you’ll need a desktop or laptop to stream from. Although there are now some mobile apps that mean it’s possible to stream directly from your phone or tablet, streaming from a computer is still the preferred setup for most streamers. 

If you’re on a budget, go for a camera with a high-quality in-built webcam to make initial savings on a streaming camera. 

How to choose a streaming computer 

  • Budget. Your budget will be the biggest factor in what kind of streaming computer you’re looking at. 
  • Desktop or Laptop? This will come down to personal preference and your specific streaming setup. If you live stream from different locations, you’ll want the portability and flexibility offered by a laptop. 
  • Operating system. You may be an avid Apple fan or a long-time Windows user; either way, this will affect your available options. 
  • Minimum specs. Ensure that the computer you’re eyeing up meets the minimum specifications for any software you’re going to be using. This means looking closely at the CPU and storage. 
  • CPU. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit and is responsible for processing power. You’ll see mention of dual-core, quad-core, and 6-core processors. The higher the number of cores, the better the performance. 
  • Graphics Card (GPU). The GPU is critical for your display. For smooth visuals during your stream, you’re looking for a powerful GPU, preferably NVIDIA GeForce. 
  • RAM (Random Access Memory). The RAM tells you how quickly your computer can load and run programs and apps. You’re looking for upwards of 16GB of memory. 
  • Storage. Computer storage will either be SSD (solid-state drive) or HDD (hard disk drive). In general, SSDs are faster, more efficient, and perform better. However, HDDs are more affordable and offer a bigger capacity. 
  • Inputs & Outputs. If you’re going to be connecting up a mic, camera, and headphones, your computer should preferably have sufficient USB ports to accommodate all your equipment. 
  • Battery life. If you’re leaning towards a laptop, ensure that it has enough battery power to last through your live stream if you find yourself without a power source. 

Streaming software

Streaming software, also known as an encoder, is also a critical piece of any live streaming setup. This type of software takes your audio and video content and converts it into a digital format for streaming. 

What to look for in streaming software

  • Price. If you’re on a budget, look for free streaming software. Be aware, though, that even on a small budget, you can get access to software with high-caliber features that enhance your stream. 
  • Useability. Your streaming software should be intuitive and easy to use. 
  • HD recording. The ability to record your live stream in HD is essential. This allows you to reuse and repurpose your footage and upload your stream for viewers who may have missed it. 
  • Compatible streaming platforms. Make sure that your preferred streaming platform is compatible with your software. 
  • Ability to include guests. If you want to stream with remote guests, you’ll want this to be a straightforward integrated process rather than a hassle. 
  • Live mixing. You should be able to live mix with audio and other media, as well as share your screen during your live stream.

Camera

You’ll need a camera of some kind for your live streams. If you’re on a budget, your computer’s in-built camera might suffice. You can also choose to invest in a mid-range external webcam or a more professional-grade DSLR, depending on how much you’re able to spend and the video quality you’re after. 

What to look for in a streaming camera 

  • Price. Before you look at your options, you’ll need to know how much you’re able to spend on your live stream camera. 
  • Video Capture resolution. You’re looking for a minimum of 720p output resolution to ensure your live stream is captured in the HD quality you deserve. 
  • Frame rate. Ensure your camera can capture at least 30fps. 
  • Connectivity. Look at what kind of connection your camera is compatible with. If it’s HDMI make sure you know what size: HDMI micro, mini or full-size? If you’re opting for a webcam, ensure it’s USB compatible. 
  • Auto-focus. Though you may not think much of it, autofocus can be a lifesaver. A good auto-focus feature will ensure you’re always in focus even if you’re moving around. 
  • Power supply & battery life. Take a good look at your camera’s battery life and, if possible, ensure that it has the option for an AC power adapter. 

Microphone

A reliable microphone is essential for live streaming. Although you might think of live streaming as more of a visual medium - whether that’s screen sharing or a different video source - the audio is just as important. Poor audio quality can be detrimental to the overall production quality of your live stream, so it’s best to include a decent mic in your streaming setup. 

What to look for in a streaming mic 

  • Price. Again, budget is a huge factor in determining which live streaming mic is suitable for your setup. 
  • Connectivity. It helps to know what kind of connectivity you’re looking for, whether that’s USB or XLR. Bear in mind that if you opt for an XLR mic, you’ll need to invest in a mixer. 
  • Polar pattern. A mic’s polar pattern indicates from which direction or angle it will pick up the most audio. You’ll come across mics with cardioid, omnidirectional, and bi-directional polar patterns.
    For live streaming, a standard cardioid polar pattern will probably be the most effective. Cardioid polar patterns are most sensitive to sound from in front of the microphone.
  • Frequency response. Frequency response tells you the range of sound frequencies a mic can pick up. The most standard frequency response is 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. 
  • Type. You’ll need to choose between a condenser and a dynamic mic. This won’t be your biggest consideration, but being familiar with the basic differences can be helpful.

    Dynamic mics
    are more robust and are better suited to capturing loud noises.

    Condenser mics are able to pick up on delicate sounds and high frequencies.
  • Audio recording quality. For obvious reasons, all streamers want the best quality audio possible. Higher bitrates and sample rates translate to better quality audio. Professionals look for 24-bit and anything above 44.1kHz.

Lighting

Last but not least is lighting. Good lighting will ensure that you always look your best in your live streams. You don’t have to go over the top, but some simple lighting equipment can make a world of difference. 

What to look for in lighting equipment 

  • Price. Think about how much you’re able to spend on lighting. This will impact what kind of equipment you can invest in. 
  • Type. Not all lights are the same. Choose between what kind of color ‘temperature’ you want: Halogen, Tungsten, LED. LEDs are the most flexible option, allowing you to switch between warm and cold lighting depending on what you want. 
  • Size & fit. The size of your lighting setup should be a major consideration. You may be limited by the dimensions of your recording space, and you don’t want to overcrowd your environment with lighting. If you’re in a compact space, you might consider a desktop LED, for example. 

Headphones 

You should also consider getting a pair of comfortable and sturdy headphones. These will help you better discern between different audio sources such as chat notifications and in-game noises. 

What to look for in streaming headphones 

  • Comfort. You’ll be wearing these headphones for long periods, so make sure they’re comfortable. Look specifically at the padding, adjustability, and weight of the headphones. 
  • Connectivity. If you tend to move around a lot or would prefer not to be constrained by wires, you may prefer to go for wireless headphones. Just remember, this can create issues of latency. 
  • Latency. In basic terms, latency is the delay between the sound signal being transmitted and you hear it. Bluetooth headphones tend to come with higher latency, so just be aware of that. 
  • Type. This is mostly about personal preference.

    Over-ear headphones cover your entire ear - these are what most professionals use.

    On-ear headphones rest on your ears, but not over them. These don’t block out as much noise.

    In-ear headphones. Just like Apple AirPods, these sit inside your ears. These are great for portability but don’t always offer the best comfort or audio quality compared to professional-grade over-ear headphones, for example.

  • Noise isolation or cancellation. Consider whether you would benefit from a strong noise cancellation feature. This is particularly helpful if you tend to stream in spaces with a lot of background noise and distraction. 

How much do I need for a streaming setup?

The beauty of content creation is free to do it your way. That means that you can tailor your streaming setup to your budget. That said, as we’ve outlined, there are some essentials that every streamer needs, so you’ll need to be prepared to spend some money upfront to get yourself set up to start streaming. 

Best Streaming Setup

Streaming Computer

Razer Blade 15 (Laptop) 

Price: $1,499.99

Features: 

  • Battery life: up to 6 hours 
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Home  
  • CPU - 8th Gen Intel Core i7 -8750H 6 core processor 
  • GPU - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4 
  • Storage: 512 GB Flash Memory SSD 
  • Inputs & Outputs: 3 USB 30 Ports 

Macbook Pro 14”  (Laptop) 

Price: $1,999.99

Features: 

  • Battery life: up to 11 hours of wireless web browsing 
  • Operating System: MacOS M1 Pro 
  • CPU - 8-Core CPU 
  • GPU - 14-Core GPU 
  • RAM: 16 GB Unified Memory 
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD Storage 
  • Inputs & Outputs: 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI port, SDXC card slot, MagSafe 3 port 

Dell G5 (Desktop)

Price: $1,697.49

Features: 

  • Battery life: N/A
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Home 
  • CPU - 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10700F processor 8-Core 
  • GPU - NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060, 12GB 
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4 
  • Storage: 1MB SSD Storage 
  • Inputs & Outputs: 4 USB 2.0 Port, 5 USB 3.0 Ports 

Live Streaming Software

Best for beginners/budget - OBS Studio (Open Broadcast Software) 

  • About: An open-source streaming software downloadable for Windows, macOS, and Linux. 
  • Price: Free
  • Compatible streaming platforms: Twitch, Youtube, Facebook, and more. 

Features: 

  • Highly customizable. Custom transitions and modular ‘Dock’ UI that lets you rearrange the interface exactly as you want. 
  • Real-time video/audio capturing and mixing. 
  • Intuitive audio mixer with integrated noise suppression and gain. 

Best for professionals - Riverside.fm 

  • About: A browser-based HD recording and streaming software setup for individual and multi-remote participant live streams. 
  • Price: Free & paid plans starting at $15.
  • Compatible streaming platforms: Twitch, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 

Features: 

  • Live mix your live stream with the Media Board. Include music, sound effects, videos, and more with the Media Board. 
  • Share your screen during your live stream, and it’ll be automatically recorded onto a separate track. 
  • Interact directly with your audience. The live chat and audience call-in functions mean you can engage directly with your live stream viewers. 
  • Local recording in full HD. This means your live stream recording will be completely unaffected if your internet connection cuts out. 
  • Include up to 7 remote guests. Each guest will be automatically locally recorded on a separate track. 
  • Quick and efficient editing. With the Magic Editor, you get a ready-to-use recording of your live stream in seconds. 

Streaming Cameras

Best for budget - Razer Kiyo Streaming Webcam

  • About: A two-in-one camera/lighting solution, the Razer Kiyo camera has an integrated ring light. If you’re on a budget, this is a great camera. 
  • Price: $79.99
  • Video capture resolution: 60fps at  1080p
  • Connectivity: USB 

Other features: 

  • Adjustable ring light so that you can get your lighting just right

Best for beginners - Logitech C922 Pro Stream Webcam 

  • About: A webcam designed with streamers in mind, the C922 is a great entry-level camera with superb clarity and quality for an affordable price. 
  • Price: $99.99
  • Video capture resolution: 30fps at 1080p or 60fps at 720p
  • Connectivity: USB

Other features: 

  • HD autofocus and light correction 
  • Stereo audio with two omnidirectional mics 

Best mid-range - Logitech Brio Ultra HD Pro Business Webcam 

  • About: A webcam designed with streamers in mind, the C922 is a great entry-level camera with superb clarity and quality for an affordable price. 
  • Price: $199.00
  • Video capture resolution: 30fps at 4K, 30/60 fps at 1080p or 30/60/90 at 720p
  • Connectivity: USB

Other features: 

  • Automatic adjustment to any lighting conditions 
  • Adjustable field of view - choose how much or little you want to show in the video frame 
  • Integrated dual omnidirectional mics 

Best for professionals - Sony A7 IV Mirrorless Camera 

  • About: The Sony A7 IV boasts unbeatable video resolution that will capture you in crystal clear quality. 
  • Price: $2,498.00
  • Video capture resolution: 10 fps at UHD 4k
  • Connectivity: HDMI and USB Micro-b, as well as mic and headphone jack

Other features: 

  • AI autofocus system 
  • Real-time tracking and eye-tracking 

Streaming Microphones

Best for beginners/budget - Blue Yeti Nano 

  • About: A reliable mic perfect for beginners and streamers on a budget. 
  • Price: $99.99
  • Audio recording quality: 24-bit/48kHz recording 
  • Frequency response: 20 - 20,000 kHz 
  • Type: Condenser 
  • Polar pattern: Choose between cardioid and omnidirectional 
  • Connectivity: USB 

Best mid-range - Elgato Wave:3 

  • About: The Elgato Wave:3 is an excellent option for streamers with a little more to spend. The audio quality is superb for the price, and the in-built hardware effectively mitigates against ‘popping’ and ‘clipping.’ 
  • Price: $149.99
  • Audio recording quality: 24-bit/96kHz 
  • Frequency response: 70 - 20,000 Hz 
  • Type: Condenser 
  • Polar pattern: Uni-directional 
  • Connectivity: USB 

Best for professionals - Shure MV7 

  • About: The Shure MV7 is a professional grade mic designed to capture broadcast-quality audio whatever the recording environment. Streamers who invest in this mic will not be disappointed. 
  • Price: $249.00
  • Audio recording quality: 48 kHz / 24-bit 
  • Frequency response: 20 - 20,000 Hz
  • Type: Dynamic  
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Connectivity: USB / XLR 

Lighting

Best for beginners - MOUNTDOG Softbox Lighting Kit 

  • About: This softbox lighting kit is a versatile lighting setup for any streamer at an affordable price. 
  • Price: $79.49
  • Size: Softbox is 20x28” and the stand is 27 - 80” tall 
  • Type: LED

Features: 

  • Rotatable head & adjustable light stand 
  • Remote control to adjust lighting 
  • Easy to set up & simple lighting 

Best for professionals - Elgato Key Light 

  • About: The Shure MV7 is a professional grade mic designed to capture broadcast-quality audio whatever the recording environment. Streamers who invest in this mic will not be disappointed. 
  • Price: $199.99
  • Size: 1.18 x 13.77 x 9.84”
  • Type: LED 

Features: 

  • Adjustable color temperatures 
  • Adjustable light placement 
  • Light control app so you can control your lighting from your mobile 
  • Durable design 

Streaming headphones 

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 

  • Price: $179.00
  • Comfort: Soft & replaceable ear pads as well as soft padded headband
    Connectivity: Wired 
  • Type: Over-ear (circumaural) 
  • Noise isolation: Good sound isolation 

Sennheiser Game ONE 

  • Price: $122.01
  • Comfort:  Lightweight with plush velour ear-pads
    Connectivity: Wired 
  • Type: Over-ear (circumaural) 
  • Noise isolation: Noise-cancellation 

Other features: 

  • Integrated microphone on a boom arm 

HyperX Cloud Flight - Wireless Gaming Headset 

  • Price: $139.99
  • Comfort: 90-degree rotating ear cups, soft padding, and ‘HyperX’ signature comfort levels
    Connectivity: Wireless 
  • Battery life: Up to 30-hour battery life 
  • Type: Over-ear (circumaural) 
  • Noise isolation: Noise-cancellation for immersive audio 

Other features: 

  • Detachable noise cancellation mic 

Stream Setup FAQs

How can I make a cheap streaming setup?

You can make your streaming setup as cheap or expensive as you need and want it to be. Keep in mind, though, that if you’re serious about streaming in the long-term, it’s advisable to invest in durable equipment that’ll last you a long time. 

How to setup streaming pc

With Riverside, streaming on your PC or any desktop is easy. Once you’ve decided which streaming platform you want to broadcast to, simply login to your Riverside dashboard, enter the recording studio, enter the relevant stream link, and start broadcasting! 

How to setup streaming on YouTube

The process of setting up a YouTube stream depends on where you’re streaming from. If you’re using Riverside, it’s super straightforward. Simply enter your Riverside.fm recording studio, enter the stream link, hit record, and start live streaming. 

Do I need a capture card?

A capture card essentially delivers your video to your PC to be processed and allows you to simultaneously view the video on your monitor. You’ll only need a capture card if you’re using an external recording device to record your stream. This might be a device such as a DSLR camera or a gaming console.

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