Our Restream Friday Live show host Anya Razina sat down with Mike Russel, Director at Music Radio Creative, to talk about audio in general and live streams in particular. In this article, we sum up all the key points about audio, how to sound better on live streams, and how to avoid big fails on air. Put on your favorite headphones and enjoy the insightful talk about some real stuff.
Thanks to the viewers’ questions, Anya and Mike managed to discuss some vital topics in the audio department, like the biggest challenges sound presents on live streams, the importance of audio quality, ways to improve your room’s acoustics, and the best interfaces for crystal-clear sound. So without further ado, let’s push that play button and jump straight to business.
When did Mike start Music Radio Creative?
Mike Russel started Music Radio Creative as a small voiceover project back in 2005. Ever since, the company has been developing and trying out all sorts of sound-related directions, which led to a YouTube channel and weekly educational live streams. Together with his wife, Mike’s goal is to enlighten people on audio and basically show how to sound great for any kind of activity. Music Radio Creative also creates audio for podcasters, live streamers, radio stations, DJs, etc.
How not to fail on live streams
Every major live streamer has experienced at least one big fail throughout their career. However, back in the day it was acceptable, as live streaming was new, and nobody knew how to do it properly. During the show, Mike shares a few fails of his own, like when he forgot to mute the microphone or accidentally pressed the panic button and called the police! To avoid these and other embarrassing moments, consider following three simple recommendations:
- Before going live, test if everything is working as intended.
- Always be aware of what you are saying, because you might forget to mute yourself.
- When you stop your live stream, make sure it really stops.
What sound challenges do live shows present?
Mike believes that when it comes to any audio, the biggest challenge is to sound as good as you possibly can. On the one hand, we have pre-recorded content, which allows for mistakes and poor audio quality. You can edit the sound, boost some frequencies, remove unnecessary reverb, and add a little bit of compression to level the voice. But on the other hand, you can’t really perform such manipulations when you’re live streaming. You already need to sound good.
What is the first thing to think about before going live?
If your goal is to sound good on live streams, the primary factor is your choice of a microphone. The best advice would be not to use the internal microphone on your computer or phone. It is best to spend at least $50 and get yourself at least the Blue Snowball. If you are live streaming on a regular basis, go for some pro guns, like the Shure SM7B or even the AKG C414 if you are really into crystal-clear sound.
Why is audio quality so important in live streaming?
Weirdly enough, many people don’t actually watch live streams but rather use them almost like podcasts. And it turns out, people are willing to tolerate poor video quality more than poor audio quality. Simply put, if someone's finding it hard to hear what you're saying, then they're not going to stick around. As a live streamer you should understand that some of your viewers might be doing some work, maybe something around the house, during your broadcasts.
Audio quality seems to be the most important thing to focus on before video.
Quick series of questions to Mike
Our viewers asked a few interesting and more specific questions about sound in live streaming. Here’s what came out of it.
📱 Is the iPhone 11 good for live streaming?
Surely, the iPhone 11 has an amazing camera that allows you to live stream in amazing video quality. However, you can’t say the same regarding the internal microphone. Even a relatively small investment in the form of something like the Rode SmartLav+ will make you sound much better. You will also need the Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter.
The internal-mic-only iPhone is getting better with each single iPhone that comes out, but I would still recommend grabbing yourself a little external microphone.
🎙 Do you need to use an interface on a MacBook Pro with the Shure SM7B?
You need something between the microphone and the computer, as the Shure SM7B is an XLR-type microphone. USB microphones have the USB connector that goes straight into your computer. That means you can take that microphone, plug it in, and it will work. However, an XLR microphone requires an interface to connect it to your computer, regardless if it’s a Windows PC or a MacBook Pro.
🔈 How to improve a room’s acoustics
After you’ve purchased a good microphone and an audio interface, you can think about improving your room’s acoustics. There are several proven options, like sticking foam pads on the walls and the ceiling, putting a carpet on the floor, and moving your microphone away from big windows. However, if you don’t want to change lots of stuff in your room, just start with something as simple as putting a heavy blanket over your windows.
Next, get yourself a microphone processor, which will allow you to set up a compressor, adjust frequencies, add de-esser, and most importantly, apply a gate to the sound. The gate function blocks all sounds when the audio is lower than a certain level. You can regulate the threshold to achieve the perfect gate response for your audio.
If you set this up well, you'll be amazed. You will be, like, blown away.
⚙️ What are the top audio interfaces?
An audio interface is a must-have for connecting XLR microphones to your computer and making your sound loud and powerful. It allows you to add clean gain or mute the channel. Mike Russel recommends the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface for live streaming. Though definitely an overkill for live streaming, the Soundcraft Signature 12 MTK is another interface Mike recommends.
The most popular one and one that I've used quite a bit and still use to this day is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
How can musicians benefit from using Restream?
Besides the ability to multistream to many platforms, like YouTube, Mixcloud, Facebook, Twitch, etc., at the same time, Restream has lots of other tools and features for live streamers in general and musicians in particular. Restream Chat allows you to see every message your viewers leave on the platforms you stream to in one place. Thanks to Restream Studio you can start streaming directly from your browser in a matter of seconds. And with Restream Analytics you can discover what your audience likes or dislikes on each streaming platform.
I think it’s a phenomenal part of the service you provide. And yeah, I'm using it actively to improve what we're doing on our stream. It's genius. It's amazing. I just love it.
Let’s recap everything
A good sound starts way before you go live. First, you need to get yourself a good microphone. Ideally, it is advised to get an XLR-type microphone, as it produces much better sound than any of the USB ones. Remember, it is never a good idea to use the internal microphone on your computer or phone. The next step is to buy an audio interface to connect your XLR microphone to your computer.
If you really want to sound as good as possible, it is also important to improve your room’s acoustics. The easiest way to do that is to cover your windows with heavy blankets and buy a processor for your microphone. The latter allows you to add gain, apply compression, balance out frequencies, and set up an audio gate. Finally, you can head over to Restream.io, choose platforms to stream to, and go live!