Live streaming software are becoming more necessary as the demand for higher-quality broadcasts is rising. Apart from helping put out better-looking content that has more production value for your audience, they offer a host of enhancements for you as the content creator.
These apps bring together hardware, software, and content in a single hub, which they then send to your streaming platform of choice. From this “studio”, you control most, if not all of your streaming components while having the option to add personal touches to your work.
Some programs offer very basic features and will get you up and running with little technical tinkering. But with the right software upgrade, you can broadcast professional-grade entertainment without spending a fortune—and all from the comfort of your bedroom!
There are many free and paid live streaming software choices out right now. And it gets overwhelming and confusing, especially for a first-time streamer. That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you and rounded up our picks for the best software for pro-level live streaming.
Best Free Live Stream Software
Operating System: Windows, macOS, Linux
We’re starting strong. OBS Studio, or simply OBS, is considered the godfather of live streaming software today. Many other apps use OBS as their framework, which is indicative of how influential this old-timer is. It connects with tens of platforms as well as allows streaming to custom servers.
OBS is the most popular free live streaming software among a roster of many. It’s not just because it doesn’t cost anything or of its seniority. Rather, it’s because you get a lot for what it costs, which is nothing. You have access to a ton of advanced features. If you’re technically inclined, you’ll have a field day tweaking and tuning OBS’s backend dials.
The program is open-source, so it doesn’t have an official tech support line. However, since it is open-source, it’s backed by an active community that provides detailed assistance regarding a wide range of topics.
At first glance, OBS seems barebones. But what makes this software great is what’s under the hood, which is provided by the community. Being a community-driven app means you have a large range of choices for customization, like plugins and widgets. You just have to look for them and install them yourself, which many users see as a plus because it reduces bloat.
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort into learning the ins and outs of using OBS Studio, you’ll appreciate what this complex application is fully capable of.
Operating System: Windows
If OBS Studio is the seasoned veteran, Streamlabs OBS is the hip, younger counterpart that goes to parties and drinks cold brew coffee, probably.
Streamlabs comes packed with user-friendly features right off the bat. It has scene layout presets and an approachable dashboard. It focuses on automation and keeping everything your live stream needs in one place, like your chats. You can set up Streamlabs and go live in minutes.
Being beginner-friendly doesn’t, by any means, make Streamlabs a light-hitter. It’s built upon OBS Studios’ infrastructure, so many of OBS’s advanced features carry over to Streamlabs. This also means that Streamlabs gets the updates that OBS does. The folks at Streamlabs make sure that an update will work with their current build. However, it takes a while longer for the new patches to get sent out to Streamlabs users compared to OBS Studio.
A notable Streamlabs feature is it allows streaming to up to two platforms. Another one is its selective recording controls. This is great if you plan on recording your live stream for upload to a different platform. You can pick out which elements you want and don’t want on record. For example, you can leave out on-screen alerts and just save your gameplay and facecam feeds.
Streamlabs makes things easier for you, especially if you’re looking for a Twitch live stream software because it integrates with the platform easily. At the same time, its features impart professional touches to your live stream.
Operating System: Windows
As the name suggests, Gamecaster is all about the finer points of animal husbandry.
It’s about gaming.
Gamecaster was part of the XSplit family of streaming utilities. It’s now an entirely separate entity. This studio has been refined for easier broadcasting of gaming content.
It comes preloaded with a bunch of free themes, layout presets, and overlays, which all heighten your live stream’s production value minus the tedium of micro-managing every single element.
Themes don’t merely apply to one scene. Selecting one theme loads in multiple scenes. You get an intro, main feed, and an intermission, with the aesthetics of the theme applied to all of them. You can customize these scenes or add more, but you can also start from scratch if that’s what you want.
From a technical standpoint, Gamecaster boasts that it automatically tweaks your settings for a smooth live stream. The app optimizes dedicated graphics card (Nvidia and AMD) usage and ensures that lag and other graphical issues are minimized or eliminated altogether.
What we love most about the software is how considerate it is to content creators. This is especially true for up-and-comers who are ready to take things to the next level.
First, it offers Grooves, which is a library of over 100 copyright-free and DMCA-safe songs that you can download for free and use on your stream. You can also use these tracks on other software and platforms. Gamecaster can easily become your main YouTube live stream software if you want to protect your content from copyright takedowns.
And speaking of platforms, Gamecaster also has Discovery, which is its platform of sorts. Discovery doesn’t directly host live streams but brings together live broadcasts from major platforms instead.
Signing up for a Discovery account yields you the opportunity to get, well, discovered. The platform has a simple filtering system. It’s based on game titles, streamers who are gaining popularity, and those who are looking for other people to join their game. Your audience can even tip you from watching on Discovery even if you’re streaming on Twitch, YouTube, or elsewhere!
The cherry on top is there’s a companion mobile app, which functions as your stream deck.
Best Paid Live Streaming Software
Operating System: Windows, macOS
Price: $599 (Studio); $799 (Pro)
Wirecast gives the best of both worlds. It’s easy to use and filled to the brim with features that will help make your live stream look professional and well-appointed.
The scene composition area is represented by thumbnails instead of text, making it easier for you to determine which element is which. If you resize, crop, or reposition a visual element, the change will reflect on the thumbnail.
It has a live broadcast display, which lets you see your broadcast output. This is separate from the production preview, so you won’t have to second-guess how your scenes will look once you go live.
Wirecast prides itself on having integrated technical and audio-visual functionalities. It has an onboard audio mixer and effects processor, a web browser, and social media display integration. It even has a peer-to-peer conferencing system built-in. You don’t need third-party apps like Zoom or Skype. This feature is for live interviews or podcasts.
The program also allows multi-streaming to different platforms because it really is a professional-grade live stream studio. It’s powerful enough for TV-quality news reports, sports events, worship services, and many more.
The price for each package seems steep but it’s a one-time fee for a lifetime license. Plus, you get access to Wirecast’s massive stock media library. Over half a million assets, which include royalty-free images, music, overlays, borders, etc., are at your disposal.
Operating System: Windows
Price: From $15; $200 (Lifetime)
XSplit has a couple of streaming tools under its belt, and one of them is XSplit Broadcaster, which is its higher-tier live streaming studio.
Broadcaster caters to many live streaming interests—from gaming to education to workplace presentations. When you boot it up for the first time, you’re given several quickstart templates to get things going. These include preset options for PC or console gaming, podcast, talk show, and so on.
Many of its features are geared toward putting out impeccably polished content. One of them is the split display mode. When in normal mode, alterations you make on your scenes will get sent out to broadcast instantly. In split mode, you edit scenes while live but your viewers won’t see them until you click a button that will apply the changes.
You can resize, crop, and position your on-screen elements with pixel accuracy. Broadcaster will also clean up your mic audio with its built-in noise suppression.
Live streaming doesn’t always involve broadcasting through the internet from one side of the globe to the other. Broadcaster allows local streaming over a closed local network. A good application for this is cross-department conferences and presentations within an office.
If you want more customization choices, Broadcaster has a library plugin. You only install what fits your needs. And as with most paid live streaming programs, XSplit Broadcaster is multi-streaming enabled.
Streamlabs OBS Prime
Operating System: Windows
Price: From $19
If vanilla Streamlabs goes to parties and drinks coffee from soaked beans, Streamlabs Prime has over a million Instagram followers and has been retweeted by Elon Musk at least once.
Pulitzer Prize-winning metaphors aside, Streamlabs Prime nets you a ton of perks not just for your live stream but also for your personal branding.
The two-platform multi-streaming limit is uncapped with Prime. A subscription grants you access to more than 40 apps that integrate with Streamlabs. This includes a music player, which plays copyright-free music. There’s a meme board, which plays clips of popular memes. And it’s constantly updated. You also get access to exclusive themes, overlays, transitions, and other visuals.
A major chunk of the services that Prime offers come in the form of marketing tools for brand growth.
Nothing says “pro” like having merch. Streamlabs can stand as your E-commerce platform. You send in your designs and choose from a selection of merchandise categories, like apparel, drinkware, etc. Streamlabs will handle production and sales transactions for you.
The program also has Creator Sites, which is a website builder. You get a domain name and consolidate your video content, socials, blogs, and other components on that website.
Note that both the merch store and website builder have free versions, but more customization options and advanced SEO settings are available with a Prime subscription. There are also sponsorship opportunities exclusive to the premium service.
Which is the Best Live Streaming Software?
Newcomers and veterans alike cite OBS Studio as their streaming software of choice. Some users might be put off by how visually barebones it is and its lack of pre-installed features. But many see this simplicity as a blank slate that’s ready to be turned into a custom-built streaming studio.
OBS Studio is a powerhouse all on its own. But that power requires an investment of time and learning effort. We must mention that most of the apps listed here have an option to import settings and elements from OBS Studio.
Going Pro is Up to You
A professional-looking broadcast helps you stand out from the ocean of live streamers. It also adds a lot of value to you as a content creator.
Audiences appreciate effort and attention to detail. And the work you put in toward broadcasting high-quality content can make them hang around and see what more you have to offer.
Any of the contenders we’ve suggested here can help you achieve mass media-quality content. Remember that these are just tools and you’re the worker.
There’s no shortage of tutorials and support online for making your live streams better. Seek them out and apply what you learn. Soon enough you’ll find your groove and you’ll be putting out pro-level content!