Are you considering becoming a streamer on YouTube, Twitch, or another platform? If so, then you’ll probably need to consider getting a live streaming encoder at some point. Live streaming encoders are pieces of hardware or software that render your video into a different format, thus allowing it to be broadcast over live streaming services. At some point, you’re almost certainly going to have need of a live streaming encoder, but it can be hard to know which one to pick up. We’re here to help. Here are the 10 best live streaming encoders out there, both hardware and software-based.
1. OBS Studio
OBS Studio really is the little miracle app that does it all. If you’re a streamer of any kind, then you absolutely need to have OBS as part of your setup. Not only is it an excellent screen recorder that can help you capture anything you’re doing on your PC, but it also serves an additional purpose as a live streaming encoder. Its built-in API allows the community to create custom scripts for it, too, so if there’s something it doesn’t automatically do, you can bet someone’s created a script to facilitate that functionality.
As a piece of encoding hardware, you probably won’t need to worry about picking this one up until you’re a little ways into your streaming and broadcasting career. However, if you do decide to make the leap to encoding hardware, the ATEM Mini Pro is an excellent choice. It comes complete with four HDMI inputs, two outputs, and an Ethernet port, so if you want to ditch your PC while you’re streaming for whatever reason, the Mini Pro serves as a great standalone streaming encoder. It can also be used with a PC.
Streambox was once known for its Mac-only applications, but Spectra is compatible across macOS, Windows, and Linux, so you can use it no matter what operating system you’re rocking. Spectra is a great little tool that has some handy features like 16-channel audio, 256-bit encoding encryption, and low latency so that you can monitor what you’re doing easily. It’s worth noting that Spectra isn’t cheap, so it’s worth waiting a little until you’ve got some extra cash, but it’s worth the price.
Like the ATEM Mini Pro, the TriCaster is a hardware solution for encoding, but unlike the Mini Pro, this one’s going to run you some serious cash. If you’ve got money to burn, then the TriCaster is definitely an option you’ll want to plump for, as it’s one of the most powerful and feature-rich encoding solutions on the market. However, we’re talking thousands of dollars here, so we must stress that this really is not a product for streamers who are just starting their channels.
As a premium piece of encoding software, Wirecast is used by plenty of professional streamers around the world. Its beautifully clean interface makes streaming and encoding easy, and you can use it for pretty much any platform, including YouTube, Facebook Live, and plenty more. Again, it’s worth noting that Wirecast very much is not cheap; it’s going to run you a fair amount of money to pick up even the basic package, but there is a free trial so you can decide whether you like it or not.
Don’t let vMix’s rather garish web design fool you; it’s an amazing piece of software that doesn’t just serve as a live streaming encoder, but also as an all-in-one video production suite. This makes it ideal for anyone who wants to branch out into bespoke content creation as well as streaming. Pricing is flexible, and there’s a 60-day free trial that doesn’t restrict access to any of the app’s features, so you’ll be able to get a good idea of whether this app is for you.
7. LiveU Solo
Are you going to be doing a lot of streaming outdoors, or in a location where you can’t easily access Wi-Fi? If so, then the LiveU Solo is definitely a product you’ll want to take a look at. It’s hugely portable and easy to use; you just connect your camera and you’re good to go. A huge range of outlets are supported, too, including YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, and even LinkedIn, so no matter where you want to stream from or to, this is the unit for you. It’s costly, but it’s worth it.
VidBlasterX makes streaming and encoding simple. There are various tiers available for different user requirements; paying just $9 per year gets you access to the basic version, which has everything you’re going to need to get started, and upgrading to $99 per year (which is a pretty big leap, admittedly) gets you the upgraded Studio version. There’s also a Broadcast version, which brings even more powerful functionality to the table. It’ll cost you a whopping $999 per year, though.
Another excellent piece of software that offers a simple user interface paired with surprisingly extensive functionality, XSplit is a fully-featured streaming and recording studio that you can use for free. The free version is somewhat limited; by upgrading to Premium, you’ll get unlimited scenes, watermark removal, and source transitions, plus more. However, if you’re just starting out, the free version is excellent, and pretty powerful to boot.
Make no mistake: the Epiphan Pearl Nano is a serious piece of hardware. It has its own built-in display, as well as SDI, HDMI, and XLR ports for various different peripherals. The Pearl Nano is meant for small-scale live events and companies rather than for individual streamers, but if you’ve got the money to spend and you don’t mind a system that punches well above its weight class, this is still a good option for solo streamers. It’s compact, easy-to-use, and immensely powerful.