Streaming spiked in popularity during the pandemic, and it’s now one of the most common ways to enjoy content. But if you want to stream yourself, there are lots of options to choose from. So which software is the best choice for you?
Streaming might be common nowadays, but there’s still no default Windows or Apple software that lets you stream from your laptop. It’s up to you to choose!
If you’ve read our article on How to Become a Twitch Streamer, you might be familiar with basic streaming tools like Twitch Studio. However, Twitch Studio and similar programs can soon show their limitations; they’re great, but can often be a bit limited when it comes to the features on offer. It’s a jungle out there, and for you to find the streaming software that suits you, we've created a guide.
To help us on our quest for the best streaming tool, we’ve asked our partners at StreamScheme for a little guidance. Before listing the software, it’s worth noting the majority of these tools only work on PC. However, we have included some stuff that explicitly works with Playstation and Xbox, such as LightStream. Let’s get started!
What are the best streaming software solutions?
1. OBS Studio
Let’s start with OBS Studio. It’s definitely one of the most popular platforms in the streaming community, mainly because it’s free. This, along with its versatility, makes OBS Studio a winner for newbies. It can also be used on different platforms (not just Twitch) and works with Linux, Windows and Mac.
OBS Studio lets you easily customize your stream’s user interface, giving you the option to adapt it to your individual branding. The platform is open source and has multiple extensions that can work on top of it, just in case you’re looking for more features than you can shake a stick at. The many different extensions and plugins available for OBS can make streaming a lot easier for you.
For instance, they can automate smaller tasks like displaying your newest followers, donations, subscribers, and similar. Tools like OWN3D Pro make all this super straightforward for the streamer.
OWN3D Pro also comes with one of the largest streaming design libraries, and tools like chatbot and alerts. To safely add royalty-free music to your livestream, Epidemic Sound is integrated into the software. This means you have access to more than 10,000 tracks and 25,000 sound effects from their catalog to choose from. You can then soundtrack your content with Epidemic Sound’s catalog, not having to stress about copyright infringement claims.
OBS does have a downside, though. There is no official support, given the fact it’s an open-source platform. However, you can often find the answers on streaming forums and YouTube, as the community’s really active. So, even if you have a burning question, you’ll have no problem sorting it out!
According to StreamScheme, the vast majority of full-time and partnered streamers use OBS Studio simply because it’s way more flexible than its competitors. Together with Streamlabs, whose review you’ll find next on the list, OBS Studio owns about 95% of the desktop streamers’ market (source: StreamScheme), which isn’t too bad.
2. Streamlabs OBS
Streamlabs OBS – also known as SLOBS – comes in at a close second. This tool is pretty similar to OBS Studio in terms of general characteristics: both software are open source, free to use, and allow for extensions to enhance their performance and features.
SLOBS is basically a more user-friendly version of OBS Studio, and also offers official support – something that OBS Studio doesn’t do. StreamScheme suggests that SLOBS is much easier to get started with rather than OBS Studio, just because it has more built-in features. So why have we ranked it second, not first?
Well, SLOBS is generally less compatible, both in terms of operating systems (no Linux yet!) and platforms. Plus, OBS Studio is still more versatile and customizable at the end of the day.
However, if your operating system is compatible and you’re looking for a tool with a gentler learning curve, you’d be best going for SLOBS rather than OBS Studio. If you opt for SLOBS, you can also join their Streamline Prime program (billed at $12/month), which can help boost your following.
Of the two OBS options, we recommend that new streamers start on SLOBS. Then, once you get the hang of things and start personalizing your channel, move to OBS Studio; while the latter ends up giving you more options over time, it can be overwhelming if you're just dipping your toe into streaming.
In contrast to the other options, vMix is made specifically for companies with budgets to burn (think broadcasters, agencies and so on). In terms of features, it’s hard to compete with what vMix has to offer, as it essentially supports every platform, video extension and software.
vMix allows you to stream with super crisp definition (up to 4K) and offers a cheaper version for people who don’t have loads to spend.
The tool does have a couple of minus points, though. First of all, it’s not compatible with Mac, which is a deal-breaker for loads of users. Secondly, it’s monstrously resource-consuming, as it’s meant to be used on a larger scale. But if you can afford it and use Windows, go for it!
There are currently five plans available. Four of these are one-time payments, and one is a monthly subscription. You have:
- The Basic HD plan: $60 one-time payment.
- The HD plan: $350 one-time payment.
- The 4K plan: $700 one-time payment.
- The Pro plan: $1200 one-time payment.
- The MAX plan: $50/month subscription.
Updates are free and happen once a year.
4. XSplit Broadcaster
XSplit Broadcaster specifically caters to gamers and, more broadly, streamers who want to show off their gameplay footage. It’s relatively easy to get started with and has a bunch of information showing you how to achieve the best setup.
If you want higher video quality, then this is the tool for you, given it supports 4K 60fps video quality.
The negatives of this solution come down to, once again, poor compatibility. No Linux, no Mac, but the price tag is reasonable compared to other solutions, at just $2.50/month. It also comes with a free plan, which has limited features.
LightStream is a web-based streaming software that lets you stream on Facebook, YouTube, Twitch and Mixer. Being web-based, it works with different devices and operating systems, making it ideal for streamers who prioritize flexibility. For content creators on Playstation and Xbox who refuse to use a computer – we know you’re out there! – this one’s for you.
Unlike everything else on this list, Lightstream uses cloud-based capture, which is an absolute must when working with consoles.
You have two main plans – Gamer and Creator – which depend on your target audience. The Gamer plan is cheaper and works for console streams with overlays and alerts, whereas Creator is best suited for more advanced, live video production.
Both plans have three different price points – starting at $7/month and $20/month, respectively – with each depending on the resolution you want to hit for your streams. Basically, the less you want to spend, the lower your video quality will be. The maximum resolution you can reach through this platform is 1080p 30fps, which is available on both plans.
Wirecast is pretty similar to vMix, which we mentioned further up the list. Just like vMix, this isn’t for everyone; if you’re a gamer or musician, it’s unlikely you’ll need a product like Wirecast. But if you’re a studio and need a high-quality video platform with the capacity to stream concerts, sporting events or a royal wedding, this might just be the ticket.
Because of its target audience, Wirecast’s price tag is one of the highest on the list, starting at $599 and climbing up to $799.
7. Twitch Studio
Even though we briefly discussed Twitch Studio in our How to Become a Twitch Streamer article – and it does have its limits – we couldn’t leave it out.
Just like OBS Studio, Twitch Studio is one of the most widespread streaming software among Twitch users. Despite its features being much more basic than other tools in this list, Twitch Studio democratizes the concept of streaming and makes it accessible for everyone.
The tool is free, comes with a bunch of templates to get you started right away, easily links to your gaming consoles, and is simple to install on multiple devices. What’s not to love?! If you’re an absolute beginner who wants to get up and running without any knowledge or investment, you'd struggle to find a clearer entry point than this.
How does Epidemic Sound solve your streaming needs?
Many streaming platforms are in the process of toughening their copyright compliance guidelines. For this reason, it’s getting harder to use copyrighted music in your content without being fined or heavily penalized.
This is where Epidemic Sound steps in – we got you covered! We let you choose all the music you want from our catalog, which features more than 40,000 songs and 90,000 sound effects. Since we own all financial rights to our music, you can use it in your content without worrying about any legal issues. If you haven’t already, sign up for a free trial and start soundtracking your streams today.
Are you a Twitch streamer? Whether you’re a livestream master or just a beginner, discover what Epidemic Sound has to offer on our Epidemic Sound for Twitch page. Oh, and if you’re looking for some music for Twitch, we got your back!
Using our music saves you legal and logistical headaches through all your content and streams, so you can concentrate on doing you. Learn more about streaming, copyright and everything that comes with it below.