It doesn't take much to start streaming, but running a decent stream and a great stream are two different things. In addition to a game and a shiny personality, you need the best streaming accessories to make your stream the best it can be.
Your webcam's microphone might work just fine for streaming, but a dedicated microphone far exceeds anything a webcam can capture. You can also stream gameplay with Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, as well as PS4 and Xbox One. However, a special capture card improves the appearance of your gameplay during a stream.
We've rounded up five essential streaming accessories to take your stream to the next level. In addition to our tips below, we have specific guides for each category. Check these out if you want more options.
The best streaming accessory
Best microphone for streaming: Elgato Wave 3
The Elgato Wave 3 is a microphone specially designed for streaming. That means more than a USB connection. It's still a USB microphone that comes with a USB-C port next to the headphone jack on the back of the microphone. The Wave 3 goes beyond just plugging it directly into your computer. The front dial allows you to quickly adjust microphone gain, headphone volume and the balance between microphone and PC volume. The Wave Link software extends the mixing functionality even further, so that you can equalize up to nine independent audio channels and configure them for two independent outputs.
The sound quality is also excellent. The Wave 3 comes with a suitable condenser capsule – condenser microphones are typically used for vocals when recording music – and a 24-bit / 96 kHz analog-to-digital converter inside (this is high fidelity audio).
Aside from the sound quality and mixing functions, the Wave 3 has a few small quality of life features. For example, the watch face supports capacitive touch, so you can mute the microphone. Then there is ClipGuard, which constantly runs a second signal path at a lower volume and automatically switches to that path when you cut off the microphone input. While there are mics out there that sound better than the Wave 3, with less than $ 200 and so many specific features for streaming, the Wave 3 is the mic you should be using when you go live.
Best webcam for streaming: Razer Kiyo
Check out two must-haves from your list. The Razer Kiyo processes video and lighting at the same time and at an affordable price. The Razer Kiyo is a 1080p webcam with a ring light around the sensor that provides decent direct lighting for your stream while recording high quality video. Although the Kiyo is rated for 1080p at 30 frames per second, it also supports 720p at 60 fps if you want a smoother look.
The ring light around the camera provides decent lighting, and you can adjust it on the fly by rotating the light (like setting focus on a camera). If you want to tweak the look further, you can use Razer Synapse 3. Synapse allows you to adjust exposure, contrast, white balance, saturation, etc. and save your look as a profile to remember later. You can even set the manual focus (no more dreaded autofocus glitches during the stream).
In terms of camera quality, the Kiyo is excellent, and the light isn't bad either. However, it is not enough to illuminate a completely dark room. The light provided is really best when it just adds a little bit of light to your face, not as a main stream lighting solution (we'll come back to this soon). Ideally you want to turn the light down a little. At full force, it's not only hard, but also bleeds into the edges of the webcam.
If the Kiyo doesn't look like your jam, be sure to check out our list of the best webcams.
Best router for streaming: Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500
The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 is more than enough for streaming. At $ 300 new or $ 250 on sale, the XR500 is one of the more expensive routers on the market, but has a spec sheet to match. It is a dual-band device for the AC2600, with which you can achieve up to 800 Mbit / s in the 2.4 GHz band and up to 1,733 Mbit / s in the 5 GHz band. That's a lot of bandwidth, assuming you're close enough to your router to get a solid signal.
You don't need to be as close to the XR500 as other routers, however. That one router supports beamforming, so you can direct your signal towards your computer instead of sending it around the device. In addition to beamforming, the router offers VPN support that lets you access your local network while on the move, and ReadySHARE Vault, a free Netgear utility that allows you to automatically back up your computer to a USB hard drive attached to your router.
There are also game-specific functions, including geofencing and a ping heat map. These functions are beneficial to the DumaOS operating system of the XR500. DumaOS not only cuts out servers that are too far away, but also offers a network-wide ad blocker, a benchmark for the speed of the direct connection, a traffic controller and much more.
The XR500 is one of the best routers out there and even better when used for streaming.
Best lighting for streaming: Philips Hue Play
Philips Hue is the best smart lighting on the market, despite its high price. The Hue Play kit is perfect for streaming, even if it doesn't look like it at first glance. Hue Play comes with two diffuse bar lights, and Philips is marketing the kit as an add-on to an existing Hue ambient light system. The Play lights are well suited for ambient light and offer a pleasantly soft, even glow when they are mounted behind your TV or desk.
However, you can turn the Hue Play lights on you and there they will light (literally). The quality of light may not match the right studio lights, but the diffusion on each of them provides soft lighting with minimal shadows. The lights are also very small and come with an adhesive pad on the underside that you can use to position them wherever you want.
Unfortunately, the $ 130 kit only includes the two lights. You need oneto control them. That's around $ 200 for a full kit if you don't already have a Philips Hue, but that's still cheaper than the competition. For example, the Elgato Key Light costs $ 200 for a single light, and Hue Play comes with two.
There are also some smart lighting upsides for Hue Play. For example, if you're using a Razer Kiyo, you can light your face with a single playbar while you use the other for ambient lighting (even ambient lighting of whatever color you want).
Best capture card for streaming: Elgato HD60 S +
Regardless of the latest version, the Elgato HD60 remains the ideal capture card for most purposes. The new S + version supports 1080p HDR recording at 60 fps, which is more than sufficient for streaming. It also supports 4K HDR passthrough at 60 fps, so you can enjoy the full fidelity of an Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5 or high-end gaming PC.
It works with popular streaming tools like Streamlabs OBS, OBS Studio and XSplit and has plug-and-play features for PC and Mac. You don't need to download any software to use the HD60 S +. Elgato's 4K capture utility allows you to add live narration to previously recorded gameplay, go back in time to record gameplay with flashback recording, and view previous captures in one convenient place.
The system requirements are not too high either. On Windows, you'll need a 6th generation or better i5 CPU (most quad cores from the last five years should work), 4 GB of RAM, a GTX 10-series or better GPU, and a USB 3.0 port. On the Mac, Elgato recommends the same 4GB of RAM paired with an AMD or Nvidia GPU and an Intel Quad-Core i5 4th generation or better.