These days, the quality of a live stream can make or break the audience experience. Not too long ago, people were willing to accept some video lag and questionable audio quality because live streaming was still in its infancy, but that has changed. Serious live streamers need to provide their audiences with professional-quality video and audio, and delivering that quality requires having a dedicated live streaming encoder.
What Is an Encoder?
For those here out of a desire to learn about live streaming, it’s worth starting at the beginning. A live streaming encoder can be either a software program or a piece of specialized hardware designed to transform video content into different formats, creating digital copies that can be transmitted over the internet and streamed from websites.
Since live streaming is so time sensitive, it requires a high-quality encoder that can process video feeds in real time. Most seasoned professionals opt for hardware encoders, but beginners may be better off purchasing live streaming encoder software. Read on to find out about the top five best software encoders for live streaming in 2022.
1. OBS Studio
OBS, short for Open Broadcaster Software, is one of the most popular live streaming software encoders. Its popularity is due primarily to the fact that this open-source software program is free and can be used independently or integrated with many popular streaming and recording programs.
OBS supports AAC, MP3, AC-3, FLAC, and Vorbis audio formats and CVP8, VP9, AVC, and JPEG video formats along with adaptive bitrate streaming and chroma key backgrounds. It does not, however, offer support for multi-bitrate streaming, which means users can’t expect the kind of quality they would from a paid program.
XSplit has fewer features than OBS Studio, so it’s best used in conjunction with this more comprehensive program. That said, it’s a great piece of streaming software as long as users are comfortable with the program’s in-house encoding, which only supports quality up to 720p. The primary feature that XSplit adds to OBS is its multi-bitrate streaming ability.
3. Telestream Wirecast Studio
Telestream Wirecast Studio features an easy-to-use interface with an intuitive layout. It offers all the same control options as the OBS/XSplit combination described above and makes them much easier to use.
The only real downside to using Wirecast is its price tag. The basic program costs $599, and the full-functionality Wirecast Pro software costs $799. Most live streamers start out using a free program like OBS as a result, then upgrade to Wirecast when they need somethivMixng a bit more serious.
4. vMix for Windows
A platform like vMix offers a comfortable middle ground between OBS and Wirecast. The developers offer a 60-day free trial so that users can learn the program, then charge between $60 and $1,200 depending on what features users need. Unfortunately, it’s for Windows only, which means Mac and Linux users are out of luck.
5. Shoflow Studio
Shoflow Studio is one of the most popular live streaming encoders among YouTubers, podcasters, and influencers, who are attracted by its easy setup and low CPU usage. It’s not a very powerful encoder, but Shoflow is a decent option for anyone looking for a simple, free software encoder to get started.
The Final Verdict
The best option for serious, professional live streamers is unarguably to purchase a hardware encoder. However, there are plenty of easy-to-use software encoders out there that cost less and offer a means of getting started in the industry. Any of the above options should offer a good starting point.