If you are contemplating a career in live streaming then you might ask yourself “What equipment do I need to stream on Twitch?” The answer is fairly similar no matter what kind of content you are creating, it all starts with a stable high-speed internet connection and a decently powerful computer. You will also need other peripherals like great quality streaming software to ensure your quality content is broadcast.
If you plan to stream on Twitch then you are most likely planning to stream content involving video games. In this case, you will certainly need some top-rated game recording software to make sure your viewers get the highest visual quality possible.
What Equipment Do I Need to Stream on Twitch?
Streaming on Twitch requires more than just a powerful computer and a steady internet connection. If you are already asking yourself “What equipment do I need to stream on Twitch?” then you’re on the right track. Streaming isn’t just about broadcasting a mute recording of your gameplay; it’s about broadcasting your personality.
If someone wanted to see just gameplay there are plenty of no commentary recordings of every game out there which leaves no reason to watch streamers. If you are going to stream you will need a way to interact with your viewers. Many streamers choose to use a microphone to broadcast their voice and a webcam to show their face.
If you are planning to stream from a console then you may need extra equipment as well. Streaming from an Xbox or Playstation system doesn’t require any extra equipment, but if you are planning to stream from any other console system you will need a capture card to record the video and audio from your game and transfer it to your streaming computer.
On top of the hardware to broadcast yourself and your content you will need special streaming software to control everything. Raw recorded data from your game, camera, and microphone isn’t very web-friendly. Fortunately, there are programs out there, called encoders, that will convert that data into something that can be broadcast much easier and in much higher quality.
All the Hardware You’ll Need to Stream
The very first thing you will need for streaming is a computer. The required quality of your machine varies greatly depending on what kind of content you are trying to stream.
If you are trying to stream a game of Minesweeper, a game with very few moving parts and mostly static images, your streaming setup doesn’t need to be very high quality at all. If you intend to stream a game of higher graphical intensity, like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, for example, you will need a more powerful processing unit and most likely a wired connection to your modem and/or router.
You will also need a webcam and microphone to broadcast your face and voice. If you are streaming from a laptop you may be fortunate enough to have these things built into your machine, though likely of a low quality. If not, you will need to acquire them separately. These do not need to be of any particular quality, but you will have to keep in mind that the success of your channel will likely rely upon how well your viewers can see and hear your content.
You may also find yourself needing other peripherals like a capture card or even a second machine separate from your primary computer specifically to run the stream from.
What You’ll Need Inside Your PC
The most important parts of your computer’s internal components in regard to streaming are your Central Processing Unit (CPU), Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), and your Random Access Memory (RAM).
Your CPU and your RAM work together to process tasks. If the CPU is like the brain of your computer, then the RAM is its short-term memory. For each task that needs to be completed the RAM is there to determine which tasks are completed first and how much processing power they are allowed to use. Streaming and gaming are both very task heavy activities so performing them together is an intense process for your machine.
Your GPU is necessary for very graphically intense activities. Its job is to relieve some of the stress from the CPU and process tasks from activities like the game you are playing. Without the GPU taking the load off the CPU on tasks like that all of the responsibility for keeping things moving would rely on the CPU alone.
Outside of those three important components you also need the other basic components of a computer like a motherboard, power supply, memory storage, etc. If you are unable to acquire an ethernet cable to connect to your internet then you will also need a Wi-Fi adapter, though this is terribly inefficient and a wired connection is recommended.
There are many things to consider when picking out a microphone, the first of which is your streaming environment. If you are going to be streaming in an environment with a lot of ambient noise, like fan sounds, sirens, cars, and people, then you will need to be very particular about the sensitivity of the microphones you are considering.
The second point of consideration is the type of microphone you want to use. Some streamers are satisfied with a headset microphone whereas others prefer a desktop microphone. If you are planning to work with a headset microphone then it is as simple as plugging in your headset and you are ready to go. With a desktop microphone, it might not be the same, you may need extra equipment such as an audio interface.
You do not need an extremely high-quality microphone for streaming. In truth, there comes a point where the unpracticed ear doesn’t notice a difference between an average microphone and a high-quality one, but a bad microphone or a noisy environment will be noticed and ridiculed which can lead to a loss of views and subscriptions. Streaming is more about personality than gameplay and as a consequence of that, your success will likely depend upon your ability to be heard and understood.
My environment is usually pretty quiet so I get by using the microphone attached to my headset, the Sennheiser GAME ONE.
A webcam is an essential part of any streaming setup. Your webcam broadcasts your face and your environment to your viewers which grants you another valuable mode of communication. The two primary concerns when looking for a streaming webcam are resolution and frame rate.
A high resolution is required to ensure the image of you that your viewers see is crisp and clear. The lower the resolution of your webcam the grainier and lower quality the image of you will be and the harder it will be for gestures and expressions to be communicated. It is recommended that your video capture resolution be no lower than 720p with 1080p being ideal.
Framerate determines the video quality of your broadcast image. With low framerates, you have problems like stuttering and freezing which causes the image of you to look more akin to a slideshow than a video or possibly even a still picture if the quality is low enough. A higher framerate keeps things clear and moving. Framerate is measured in Frames per Second (fps) with 30 fps being recommended and 60 fps being ideal.
My preference is for the Logitech C920S HD Pro for its high picture quality and framerate. It has the added bonus of coming with a privacy shutter to cover the camera when it isn’t in use.
A capture card is required for recording gameplay from certain consoles. When looking into capture cards there are a few things to look out for. The capture card itself will likely determine what streaming resolution and bitrate you can stream at. This is essentially the clarity of your stream.
In an ideal scenario, you are after the ability to stream at 1080p at 60fps. If your card has that capability then it doesn’t matter which one you have.
This milestone is important to reach because a lot of viewers won’t bother with a stream if it isn’t in 1080p especially if it looks choppy. Fortunately, not all viewers are so picky and as long as your stream is clear with minimal buffering many viewers will be satisfied.
Some cards are easy to set up, they are essentially plug-and-play devices, but others require a little extra effort to install. A variety of high-end capture cards require that they are installed into your computer’s motherboard. This process isn’t terribly difficult but there are certain things you need to know about working on the internals of a computer before you open it up. A certain level of tech-savviness is required for learning how to set up a twitch stream.
Your gaming keyboard is the usual way you will interact with most games on the PC. Fortunately, you can get by with any keyboard and the only consideration for this piece of equipment is your own comfort. Some people are perfectly happy using a very cheap low-end keyboard to do their gaming on, whereas some desire the added features or cosmetics of much higher-end pieces of gaming gear.
The only thing you have to look out for with a gaming keyboard is what features you want. If you’re happy without any extra features then a low-end keyboard will serve you perfectly well. If there is something specific you want, like macro buttons or wireless capabilities, then there are dozens of devices available online, it really is up to you and what you want.
One thing to keep in mind is that, much like any device, a wired connection is preferred because wireless devices have a lag time associated with them. If you are playing a game with any kind of competition or at a high level of play then you may want to consider staying away from wireless features in your gear.
Personally, I use the Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 keyboard for its super-comfy ergonomic wrist rest which enables me to play long hours.
Software to Make All the Magic Happen
Streaming quality content requires more than just a good idea and the will to succeed. In order to broadcast your content to the world, you will need the right encoder to convert your recorded video content into web-friendly data to be broadcast online.
There are two types of encoders, Software and Hardware, and usually the type of content you will be streaming and where you will be streaming to decides what kind you should use. Because you will be streaming on Twitch you will most likely be streaming gameplay which means a software encoder can get the job done. Fortunately, streaming software is readily available and easy to acquire, many of them are even free!
There are several options available for software encoding and many of them are free including the most popular ones like OBS Studio. If you are looking for something with more performance than your average encoding software then you might consider a paid software like XSplit Broadcaster.
Ultimately what you need to know is that OBS Studio is free and can get the job done, but it isn’t very user-friendly and has a learning curve before you can use it with any comfort. Thankfully it has tutorials available on the OBS website. Alternatively, you can pay for an encoder like XSplit which has better performance and is more user-friendly and easier to set up but will cost you on a monthly basis.
Learning how to use OBS Studio will be an important step in learning how to stream on Twitch. OBS is an open-source software developed by streamers for streamers which means that it is full of features that are ideal for streaming, but it requires study and practice to use to its full potential and isn’t very user-friendly.
Because OBS Studio is an open-source software with many contributors it is extremely feature-rich, more so than most other encoding software. It comes with a large variety of customization options and the ability to interface with other programs like Photoshop to create very professional-looking streams.
When considering performance OBS Studio is perfectly sufficient to stream at high quality with minimal issues.
XSplit Broadcaster is another encoding software designed for streaming that is frequently used by professional streamers. It is free to use and download up to a certain standard, but for some of the extra quality of life features, you will need to pay.
XSplit has the added benefit of being much more user-friendly than OBS. The setup and customization options are more intuitive. The performance of XSplit is more stable overall than OBS and can stream at the highest quality.
If you are planning to record your own streams for personal use then XSplit has you covered. It comes with support for local recording and even has a feature for audio and video optimization with regard to uploading on YouTube.
XSplit has more features directly built into the software than OBS including an option to edit videos at will, but that feature and many of the better ones are locked behind a paywall. If money is no object then XSplit is definitely the way to go to get the most high-quality streaming with the least amount of learning curve.
Live Stream From a Computer
Streaming from a PC is the ideal way to broadcast your gameplay and it has the added benefit of allowing you to stream different kinds of content, not just games. By streaming from a PC, you are ensuring that you can stream at the highest quality available with more customization options than any other platform.
Unfortunately, with all of the added benefits of streaming from a PC there is also a downside; streaming from a PC is more complicated and involved to set up than any of the other platforms.
First, you need to make sure that your audio and video is connected to your encoder, this should already be taken care of if you are using a software encoder and are streaming gameplay but if you are streaming content that isn’t coming from your PC you will need an external camera and audio source and connect them to your PC.
The next step is to configure your encoder to make sure that it is broadcasting data in the most efficient method for what you are trying to stream. This also includes setting up overlays and notifications.
You will also have to configure your stream settings and if you want to archive your streams after they are completed you will have to make sure you check “Automatically archive my broadcasts” in the Twitch settings.
Once those steps are complete you are ready to start your stream!
Live Stream From a Console
If you are a Playstation or Xbox gamer you are likely planning to stream to Twitch from your console of choice. Fortunately, these two consoles have compatibility with the Twitch app and allow you to stream your gameplay with no extra equipment or setup required.
Just install the Twitch app, connect your device to your Twitch account, open your game of choice, and start your stream.
Streaming directly from a console is very easy to set up and get started but as a consequence of using such limited hardware, you are limiting the quality of your stream. Using an Xbox or Playstation to stream means that you can only stream games from that system and at a lower quality than you could from a dedicated streaming PC. You also lose out on many customization options that are a standard for PC streaming like overlays and alerts.
There is also a concern that with certain games you will be blocked from streaming certain parts or even the entirety of the game which means you are placing further limitations on the kind of content you can generate.
Live Stream From a Smartphone
Streaming from a smartphone requires the least amount of work but is limited by the kind of content you can record and broadcast. Mostly, smartphone streaming is used for In Real Life (IRL) streaming which usually takes the form of vlog-style content.
Starting a stream from your smartphone on Twitch is as simple as installing and updating the Twitch app from your Appstore of choice, giving the app access to your microphone and camera, and hitting the “Go Live!” button.
Unfortunately, the quality of your stream is determined by the quality of your phone in this situation. If you don’t have an extremely high-quality smartphone then you will likely experience low-quality streaming and it is possible that your viewers will experience an abundance of buffering and choppy footage.