With all the gear in place to record, you still need a streaming program – an encoding program that coverts your video input into a digital format so it can be viewed online. There are plenty of options to choose from that do so much more than let you go live, so to help you choose the best option, we’re sharing our picks for the best streaming software for going live on Twitch and other platforms.
Best Streaming Software for Beginners
For those who are just getting started on Twitch or other live streaming platforms, we know you probably don’t have a ton of experience or disposable income to invest in your streaming software, and that’s perfectly okay. The options listed here are not only great software options in general, they’re not complicated to set up, making them ideal for beginners and pros alike.
If you’re already streaming, you are probably familiar with Streamlabs. They offer the leading toolkit for live streamers that includes a widget that lets you collect donations along with giving you the information about your metrics. Their foothold in live streaming made it natural for them to create their own streaming software.
Designed specifically for streamers, Streamlabs OBS (SLOBS) is a free, open-source platform that has a clean, user-friendly design with tons of built-in features, including widgets, overlays, audio filters, video editors, and more. You can easily customize your streaming experience for your viewers, and with its game-specific encoding, it requires less CPU usage.
Not only is it easy to use and customize, but there’s also great user support with troubleshooting and a Discord channel for live help.
Pros: Free, lots of built-in features, ideal for gamers, minimal strain on CPU, fast and easy setup.
Cons: Is can sometimes be buggy. We often hear reports from our community about miscellaneous issues when using this program vs classic OBS.
Lightstream is free, cloud-based streaming software, so anything you save – projects, scenes, etc, are all available no matter where you access it and it doesn’t tax your CPU. What makes this the best streaming software for beginners is that it’s easy to use and quick to set up. It does a lot of the hard work for you including automatically selecting the ideal encoding settings, monitoring your internet connection, and adjusting the bitrate to prevent buffering.
While it’s not as powerful as Streamlabs OBS or many other options on our list, Lightstream is great for live streaming from different devices or if your setup isn’t incredibly powerful. Plus, with live chat support, if you run into problems you can get help quickly.
Pros: Free, cloud-based, easy to use, fast setup, easy on your CPU. Specifically great for console-based streamers to reach the next level of production.
Cons: Technically limited compared to other stream software options.
Best Streaming Software for Experienced Streamers
If you are a bit more familiar with streaming software and want more professional-level customization options, choose from our picks for the best twitch streaming software for more experienced users.
Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)
OBS is free, open source software that is incredibly powerful and customizable. There are always new features and plugins being developed for it. Ideal for all types of content creation, OBS even allows you to stream on several different platforms at once. It’s also compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems, which opens it up to more contributors, support, and users.
However, because it’s open source, there is only community-based support if you have a snag. But if you’re experienced or tech-savvy, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Google is your friend!
Additionally, because it is so robust, beginners may find OBS a bit complicated to set up. Despite this, the basic settings are fairly easy to use.
Pros: Free, highly customizable, can stream from several platforms at once, minimal strain on CPU. The gold standard of streaming.
Cons: Not as beginner-friendly, requires some self-learning.
vMix is incredible streaming software for Twitch users who want a high-end option and professional features. This lets you create virtual sets, animated overlays, instant replay, and so much more, providing an elevated experience for both you and your viewers. Even though it offers more advanced features than other software, it also has excellent customer support to help you learn and figure it out.
While vMix has a tiered pricing system so you can only pay for the features you need, in order to achieve the professional broadcasting capabilities you’re looking for, you’ll want to consider the HD, 4K, or Pro packages. The HD starts at $350, but there is a free 60-day trial so you can test it out.
Pros: High-end features, professional production quality, free 60-day trial.
Cons: It’s not free, and it’s probably more than most streamers need.
Wirecast is professional level streaming software that is available in two versions: Studio and Pro. Both come with tons of features, including allowing you to host guests on your stream, unlimited capture, and the ability to multi-stream to different platforms at once. The Pro version includes high-resolution ISO recording, instant replays, NDI output, and other features.
Made by Telestream, Wirecast often comes out with new features and updates, and premium technical support. It’s made for advanced live streamers, so it can be more taxing on your CPU, which is something to consider while gaming. While it’s not inexpensive (Studio begins at $695), there is a free 30-Day trial so you can test it out.
Pros: Advanced customization, ample features, Mac and Windows compatible, professional layout.
Cons: It’s not free, and it’s a bit dated for use in the game streaming space. Again, it probably has more features than most streamers really need.
Discover the Best Streaming Gear for Twitch
If you want to create a professional-quality stream for Twitch, check out our recommendations for the best streaming gear, including mics, webcams, and more!