I’m going to make a bold statement here: the audio for a live stream is more important than the video.
We’re tuning in to hear the Word. On a live stream, that comes in the form of your one, single audio connection to the broadcast equipment. If this signal is poorly mixed or otherwise compromised, there’s no reason for me to tune in or stick around for your live stream.
Before I reveal the solutions for achieving great audio for your live streaming feed, it will be helpful to identify the most common audio issues...
- audio that is too quiet (hard to hear at normal device volume levels)
- audio that is too loud (causing clipping or distortion)
- vocal microphones or music instruments that can’t be heard
- audio that cuts in and out
- buzz or hum on the audio feed
Your utmost technical priority is to prevent these issues and fix them quickly if they happen during your next live stream.
One of the best tools to ensure a consistent volume level for your live stream is to use a compressor. An audio compressor should be placed on the final output feed coming from your mixing console before it enters the broadcast equipment (encoder or other device).
It is helpful to use a compression ratio of 4:1 or greater in order to control dynamic audio signals. While you want a few audio dynamics in the live streaming signal, the best listening experience will be achieved with a rather limited dynamic range, especially when listening on a mobile device.
Please don’t make the mistake of using the main mix output of your mixing console as the only feed to your live streaming equipment. The audio mix for the room is likely VERY different than the mix needed for your live stream.
At a minimum, I like to mix in a separate room mic with the main audio mix. This allows a listener to hear the room and pick up any additional audio content that might not be mixed through to the main loudspeakers.
Some churches will use a separate audio console with a split of all audio inputs mixed specifically for broadcast or recording. Smaller churches can sometimes get by with using a dedicated Aux or Matrix mix for the live feed depending on the mixing console.
The important thing is that you monitor this mix in your headphones to make sure you can hear everything in context.
Experiment with your room mic location or mixing groups to get a balanced and good sounding mix. Just make sure you place a priority on the spoken word.
Be sure to monitor your live streaming feed before and after it enters the broadcast/encoding equipment. And then listen to the actual live stream and make sure everything is mixed appropriately.
If you have buzz or hum on the line, troubleshoot your audio cables and grounding connections. Use a ground lift switch on a direct box or isolation transformer to fix some of the more common noise problems.
The important thing is that you need to monitor the audio at several locations – not just the mixing console output.
There are lots of variables in even a simple live streaming setup, but getting a handle on your audio quality will go a long way in creating a live streaming experience that viewers will want to tune in for every week.
Note: this originally appeared as a guest post on the TwelveThirtyMedia blog.