Churches have been scrambling to get their live streaming audio quality dialed in since the COVID-19 pandemic has spread around the world. Many churches are facing an urgent need to stream their services in order to stay connected to their congregation while we practice “social distancing.” The challenge is that a lot of live streaming setups take time to test and calibrate before things run smoothly.
When it comes to live streaming, quality audio is key. Here are the most important things you can do to improve your live stream audio quality fast:
#1 – Set Up Early
It is critical to allow enough time to set up the streaming equipment and do a thorough soundcheck prior to any live broadcast. This is especially important if the streaming setup is new to you. Showing up early will lower the stress level in the tech booth and allow for more troubleshooting time before it’s time to go live.
#2 – Ditch the Internal Microphone
The internal mic on your camera or smartphone isn’t great at picking up full-range sound. It can also be necessary to aim a microphone somewhere other than where the camera needs to point.
Instead, use an external microphone that can plug into the camera or smartphone. A good cardioid pattern condenser mic can work well for most room audio capture needs. A shotgun microphone, common for a lot of video camera setups, can work well too.
If a mixing console output feed is available for the live stream, try to use it.
#3 – EQ and Compress the Audio Signal
A lot of room microphones can pick up low frequency rumble. It’s best to use the high pass filter to cut the lows at the microphone or on the mixing console. Try cutting frequencies below 50-80 Hz and then smooth out some of the high frequencies if needed.
Compression is vital for controlling the dynamics of live streaming audio. A compression setting of 4:1 to 10:1 will help control the dynamic range. This helps viewers at home enjoy more consistent volume levels.
Some streaming software programs have audio effects available to control compressor and EQ settings. Digital mixing consoles may also have onboard compressors and EQ that can be used on dedicated microphone inputs or live streaming output feeds. Take some time to adjust these settings and find the sweet spot for the live mix.
#4 – Eliminate Distortion
One of the biggest problems in live streaming audio is distortion. This happens because audio levels between different pieces of equipment are not set properly.
It is common to overdrive a computer sound card input or the audio input on a smartphone. To avoid this, start with a low output volume on the sending audio device and raise it until there is a clean signal level on the smartphone or computer. Be sure to leave enough headroom for louder volumes that may come through when the band starts up.
#5 – Test. Test. Test.
You’ll never know if the live stream audio quality will be sufficient until you’ve had a chance to test it. Most live streams fail because there wasn’t enough time to fix problems before the service had to start. There can be any number of issues that cause the live stream audio quality to suffer – anything from network connectivity, internet speed fluctuation, software problems, and more.
When it comes to audio, testing each point of the audio signal path is critical to ensuring a good quality mix. Take a moment to listen to the test stream audio on several devices, including mobile devices, computers, and headphones. Adjust the mix and compression settings as needed to ensure a good listening experience.
#6 – Monitor and Adjust
Once the service and the stream have started, it’s important to check the audio feed and make sure it sounds good. The mix will have to be manually adjusted between music and speaking portions of the service if a compressor is not available. Levels that work for a music mix will likely need to be turned up for spoken word.
Gear for Live Streaming Audio
Following these six tips will dramatically improve the quality of your live stream. Once you find the combination of equipment and settings that work, take some notes and try to get the same sound quality or better for every live stream.
If you need a new microphone, compressor, or adapter for the next live stream, take a look at some of these options available on Amazon.
Blue Yeti USB mic for room audio capture
Rode VideoMic for cameras
Saramonic stereo microphone system for smartphones
Movo handheld audio-video rig for smartphones
Comica audio preamp for smartphones
Rolls GLC in-line compressor, limiter, and gate