The best OBS settings for streaming in 2021

Struggling to find the right OBS settings for your stream? Check our guide on the best OBS settings for your live stream.

OBS is arguably the most popular application for streaming video to various platforms thanks to its extensive feature set and ease of use. But getting the stream settings right can be a bit mystifying if you don’t know where to start.

Not all users will need (or be able to make use of) the same settings within OBS, so you may need to experiment with what’s best for your connection and hardware, but we can definitely get you pointed in the right direction with some easy guidelines.

How to change stream settings in OBS Studio

Locating where to change your stream quality settings in OBS is pretty simple, as the bulk of these settings are in a few easily separated menus:

  1. Open OBS, click File > Settings on Windows or Apple menu > Preferences in macOS (or the Settings button at the bottom right on either platform)
  2. Click Stream to select your streaming platform of choice
  3. Click Output to configure your streaming and recording quality settings. You can do this in Simple or Advanced mode with the dropdown at the top
  4. Click Audio to choose your audio quality settings and devices
  5. Click Video to choose your base (canvas) resolution and your output (scaled) resolution.

There are, of course, more settings in other menus, but these are the core settings you’ll be looking at in most scenarios.

Recommended bitrate settings for OBS

Video bitrate

Your stream’s video settings are going to be affected by two main factors: Your target streaming resolution and frames per second, and your internet upload speed. Combined, these are the two main constraints on your desired bitrate.

First, we’d suggest checking your connection’s download and upload speeds with a test like Speedtest.net or Google’s Internet speed test. This will let you know how much upload speed you have to work with and where to start setting your video bitrates.

Next, within that upload bandwidth, you’ll want to choose your target stream output resolution and frame rate (or frames per second). As we mentioned before, there’s no one best setting or bitrate, but here are our favorite guidelines for setting your bitrate:

Stream resolutionStream frame rateBitrate range
1080p60 fps4500-9000 Kbps
1080p30 fps3000-6000 Kbps
720p60 fps2500-5000 Kbps
720p30 fps1500-4000 Kbps
Stream bitrate target guidelines based on desired stream resolution and frame rate

If you’re streaming on Twitch and you’re not a Twitch Partner, don’t worry about setting your bitrate any higher than 6500 Kbps. Twitch streaming caps non-Partner stream bitrates and will scale anything above that limit down to fit within the max bitrate.

There’s no sense in wasting bandwidth when it won’t be used, so keep this in mind until you hit Partner. Fortunately, your bitrate won’t necessarily need to increase if you add more sources to your stream.

Adding extra scenes, desktops, or streaming cameras will all be included in the final compressed stream signal, so add all the extra camera angles your PC can handle!

Audio bitrate

Choosing the right audio settings for your stream is a bit easier, as it’s much less demanding of a stream. Whereas video bitrate can be up to 9000 Kbps or higher for a full HD stream, audio typically sits around 160 Kbps as a recommended starting point.

If you’re doing high-quality audio streaming such as music or something else more demanding audio-wise, we’d suggest bumping this up to 256 or even 320 Kbps.

Keep in mind that this will sit alongside your video bitrate bandwidth, so you could start impacting your video stream if you crank the audio bitrate too high and your overall internet speed has a lower upload speed to start with.

OBS Bitrate Calculator

While it’s a few years without an update, there is an OBS Bitrate Settings Calculator created by an OBS Studio community member, Wondible. This plugin will let you calculate the best encoder settings based on your desired output settings and internet speed.

We’d like to see it updated at some point, but with streaming becoming easier with both CPU/GPU and internet speeds becoming more capable, it may not be as useful as it once was.

Best OBS settings for streaming 1080p 60fps

Our recommended settings would start out with an internet upload speed of at least 5000 Kbps to ensure plenty of bandwidth headroom to support the higher video quality of 1080p 60fps live streaming. The higher bitrate you can upload the higher quality stream people will see.

We would also like to see the audio quality of at least 256 Kbps to provide the best sound quality to match the video.

Best OBS settings for streaming with bad internet

While this is a difficult answer to provide to everyone, there are a few easy wins to help out when streaming with a bad internet connection.

  • First, reduce your video bitrate to the bottom of our recommended live streaming bitrates.
  • If you’re already there, drop from 60fps to 30fps.
  • If you’re still dropping frames, change your output mode to downscale to 720p.
  • Try lowering your audio quality, but no lower than 128 Kbps–bad audio is worse than bad video.
  • If you’re connected via wifi, try connecting directly to your router with an Ethernet cable. You may even need to try a Powerline adapter if a long cable run isn’t possible.
  • Finally, try to upgrade your internet. Yes, this is an obvious answer, but if you’re serious about live streaming, we’d advise it regardless.

OBS Stream settings

The Stream settings menu is where you choose your live streaming service. There’s an absolutely huge list of live streaming platforms available, and if your choice isn’t available you can dial in custom settings.

Most people will use the Connect Account button to pair OBS to their streaming platform of choice, but you can also use a stream key to authenticate as well.

OBS Output settings

While you can absolutely use the Simple settings we feel that it’s worth switching to the Advanced mode for a few key tweaks.

Streaming tab

In the Streaming tab we can make the majority of our settings changes:

Audio Track

Set this to 1 in most instances

Encoder

Set this to NVIDIA NVENC H.264 (new) if you have this available (only available on an Nvidia 10, 20, or 30 series graphics card), otherwise, choose the x264 encoder option.

The NVIDIA NVENC encoder will reduce the load on your CPU by letting the GPU do the video encoding. This means your CPU works less, but at this point, results in slightly lesser video quality.

The x264 option will use the CPU for all encoding. This looks a bit better but may use more CPU than you’d like. If you have a high core count CPU this shouldn’t be an issue.

Note: If you’re on a Mac, do not use the Apple VT H264 Software or Apple VT H264 Hardware encoder. These are variable bitrate encoders and are best used above 10000 Kbps streams as of the time of this writing.

Rescale Output

Leave this unticked–you’ll do this in the Video menu later.

Rate control

Set to CBR, as we always want a constant bitrate–variable bitrates cause artifacts and quality drops among other visual issues.

Bitrate

Set to your desired bitrate as discussed above.

Use Custom Buffer Size

Leave this unchecked, it’s not needed for most services

Keyframe Interval

Set this to 2; this means that every 2 seconds will be a fully-rendered frame to act as a keyframe. This works to ensure that the stream does not build up delay or lag as the keyframes act as a time sync mechanism.

CPU Usage Preset

If you’re not using the NVENC GPU encoder, you can use this to control the CPU encoding. Most find that the veryfast preset is adequate, but if you have a very powerful multicore CPU you could probably set this to a slower setting.

The slower the CPU Usage Preset, the higher quality the video encoding will be, but at a higher CPU workload.

Profile

Set this to High. Not all services accept this setting, but it looks better than Main, and Baseline is, well, really not great. If your stream doesn’t work set to High, back it down to Main. You can read more about these profiles here.

Tune

Most people will leave this at None. These are used to enhance certain types of content, but it’s not terribly important for most users. You can read more about the FFmpeg implementation of this option here.

x264 Options

You most likely won’t need this. If you really want to dive deep into command-line arguments, here’s a good starting point. But again, you probably don’t need it.

Audio tab

Audio bitrate

As we set the audio track to 1 on the Streaming tab, we only need to alter the Track 1 line on this screen. Set this to your desired audio bitrate.

OBS Audio settings

Sample Rate

Set this to 48 kHz. This will get you the best quality audio within the bitrate chosen previously. CDs are sampled at 44.1 kHz, and 48 kHz gets more data sampled in the same timeframe.

Global Audio Devices

These options for Desktop Audio and Mic/Auxiliary Audio will vary depending on your setup and your needs. This will let you set up mics as well as in-system audio sources to be fed into your stream.

Meters

The defaults should be adequate for most users.

The Decay Rate determines how fast the meters fall from whatever level they detect–slower is easier to see the peaks but less accurate to real-time peaks. We’d suggest leaving this at Fast as it will restore from temp peaks faster giving a more accurate reading second to second.

Peak Meter Type dictates the source of the meter’s peak measurements. Sample Peak is basically an estimated level, and True Peaks is a more accurate reading–but is more CPU-dependent. Unless you absolutely need accurate metering, leave this at Sample Peak.

Monitoring Device

If you want to route your stream to a certain pair of headphones or another output device, set this here. This is useful if you need to hear the stream mix but another output device doesn’t.

OBS Video settings

Base (Canvas) Resolution

The Base Resolution is the area of your display(s) that you wish to capture in your stream. If you’re playing a game in 1080p, set your Base Resolution to 1920×1080.

If you only want to capture a small portion of your screen (or are using another resolution somehow), you can set this to match that area.

Output (Scaled) Resolution

If the Base Resolution is the source, the Output Resolution is the target. This is the size of the stream being sent to your streaming service. This will be the effective resolution of your live stream.

If you don’t have the bandwidth for a 1080p stream and need to downscale to 720p, you would set that here to 1280×720. Otherwise, you’ll probably want this set to 1920×1080 for a full HD live stream.

Downscale Filter

These are most likely completely foreign to most users, and that’s fine. The Downscale Filter is what’s responsible for taking the Base Resolution and scaling it down to the Output Resolution.

We’d recommend the Lanczos filter for most users on a modern mid- to high-end setup with a Ryzen 5 or Intel i7 7th gen CPU along with an Nvidia 20-series or equivalent GPU.

Lower power computers should probably be on Bicubic because of the less demanding nature.

Common FPS Values

Most streams aim for at least a 60 FPS stream. We’d advise at least that, but if you have a less capable machine you may need to drop this to 30 FPS.

FAQs

Final thoughts

Streaming has never been easier than with the help of OBS (and Streamlabs OBS), and with a bit of our help, you should be able to get the right OBS settings dialed in quite easily for a great live stream.

Do you have a question about something we’ve missed in this guide? Any tips to add to help fellow streamers get the best performance possible? Leave a comment down below with your thoughts!

Musician, photographer, and tech nerd in Sacramento, CA. Currently learning audio engineering and video production while spending way too much time on YouTube.

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