A quick and easy audio setup can be a godsend to new streamers otherwise mired in the daunting world of digital mixing, cardioid microphones, and VOIP solutions. While high-end solutions offer granularity, they can also add a level of complexity that could turn off a newbie from a future career in streaming altogether. Luckily, a simple and painless audio solution is close at hand.
Most professional streamers will swear by their all-singing, all-dancing discrete microphone and XFR audio mixing desk setup. These become especially useful if a secondary streaming PC – independent from a gaming PC – is utilised for the utmost in video quality and control. But all this hardware isn’t really necessary to just get up and streaming.
There are some microphones that fall short of expectations, and will likely turn away an audience – most consumer webcams feature microphones far too muffled and low-quality for a streamer to utilise properly, for example. But a quality gaming headset with an adjustable mic will be more than enough to see you through a successful stream.
We’ve already preached the good word of great gaming headsets in length – there’s a lot to cover – but the long and short of it is an immersive gaming experience is not complete without a quality gaming headset. A good noise-cancelling microphone not only plays a pivotal role in the gaming experience, sometimes offering a precious competitive advantage, but is also important for streaming quality.
Get the right mic
Turtle Beach is one company that recognises the importance of clear vocals, and its Elite Atlas headset – with TruSpeak Technology – is more than capable of acting as a surrogate for super-expensive audio mixing equipment in a pinch. This gaming headset features a unidirectional microphone – an important choice to make when picking the right headset for streaming use.
Not all microphones are built for the same tasks. Manufacturers utilise polar patterns to cater their hardware to the task at hand. There are anywhere from four to seven major patterns in widespread use – depending on the industry. Bi-directional, for example, offers clear audio for interviews, and omnidirectional for environmental audio recording.
But it’s cardioid that matters most to streamers due to its exclusionary pattern that is less receptive to audio coming in from anywhere other than directly in front of the mic. Anything from a desktop discrete microphone to the Elite Atlas will feature this pattern – often referred to as ‘unidirectional’. Some microphones, such as the Turtle Beach Stream Mic, will offer multiple polar patterns, so be aware that you may need to ensure your mic is correctly configured for cardioid if it features specific settings.
With a unidirectional mic – such as the one in the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas – environmental noise, within reason, will no longer be an issue for you or your attentive audience. So, with the right equipment at hand, it’s now all about getting it set up correctly and tailored to perfection.
Then get the mic right
The setup is easy enough… as promised. With your headset plugged into your PC – whether USB or 3.5mm jacks will entirely depend on the headset you have to hand – you want to open up the modern-day streamer’s best bud: Streamlabs OBS. This app will do most of the heavy lifting for you on the stream front and allows the same audio granularity as its forebear, OBS Studio.
In Streamlabs, open up Settings, head over to the audio tab, and set your headset as both the ‘Desktop Audio Device 1’ and the ‘Mic/Auxiliary Device 1’. This will ensure that OBS always knows this device will be exactly where to capture game and mic audio from. You also want to ensure that this same device is set to the default for both recording and playback devices in the Windows Sounds panel. This is easily accessed by right clicking on the speaker icon in the taskbar on the bottom right of the desktop.
From the live preview panel in Streamlabs OBS (the main tab), you should now see both desktop audio and mic/aux audio reacting to any desktop audio playing back through the PC, and any noise close enough to the microphone to register.
But while you are now technically ready to go and stream, there are a few extracurricular steps you can carry out to make your simple gaming headset setup sound even better.
OBS and, by extension, Streamlabs OBS offer some incredibly powerful functionality right from the audio mixer tab in the app itself: filters. There are all sorts of filters available, anything from gain and noise gates to VST filters. These can produce great results once configured correctly, and are accessible by clicking on the settings cog for your mic input within the mixer panel.
Gain is a simple filter with a simple purpose: it makes your microphone appear to be louder than it really is. Increasing this too far can be highly detrimental to audio quality and clarity, so be wary of overbearing settings. However, with a few subtle tweaks any quiet mic can be heard loud and clear.
Noise suppression is a fantastic tool for removing minor, constant background noise that may otherwise ruin the audio experience for the audience. Noise gate is similar in that it also aims to rid audio of unwanted background noise. Both prevent sound under a certain threshold from creeping into your stream. The latter can be a little trickier to get spot on first time and will need tweaking to your own environment.
The compressor filter is an incredibly useful tool if you’re prone to raging a little too hard. This essentially prevents your mic from spiking and blowing out your viewers’ eardrums during ‘heated’ moments. Again, this filter will require a personal touch to get just right, but can be worth it if you don’t curtail your emotions well mid-game. This filter is extremely powerful and well worth diving into if you want that professional touch to your stream audio.
Last, but certainly not least, is VST. This stands for Virtual Studio Technology and is used by amateurs and experts alike to get audio sounding as good as possible. There is a litany of free VST plugins available online for anyone to try out, all capable of supercharging your audio no matter your hardware.
Step up and stream
If you want to step your game up to one more notch, the Turtle Beach Elite Pro TAC offers mic monitoring and background noise limiting right on the device itself. Built for professional gamers, this audio controller is a simple way to amplify your stream audio, featuring various EQ presets, Superhuman hearing, DTS 7.1 surround sound, and easy to access controls for on-the-fly configuration.
Your gaming headset is a powerful tool, and not one to be underestimated because your favourite streamer is utilising a professional, studio-grade rig. You don’t need pro equipment to get started in streaming, nor to get great results, and a high-quality gaming headset – such as the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas – has everything you need to kickstart your streaming career.