Ranking the Best Streaming Software For Free & Paid Users in 2023
Choosing the best streaming software for your unique use case can be complicated. With dozens of products competing for your attention, many with wildly different capabilities, it can be tough to make direct comparisons between various live streaming solutions.
On top of that, there’s the question of price. Some solutions are 100% free; others offer a free tier but hope you’ll pay for add-ons and premium features. Most carry some kind of cost, whether it’s a one-time license or a monthly or annual subscription.
To help you cut through the lengthy lists of features and heavy marketing lingo, we’re ranking the top performers in live streaming software—both free and paid products.
Let’s get started with the best paid live streaming software on the market today.
Best Paid Live Streaming Software
In live streaming, as in life, you get what you pay for.
While we all love free software solutions, they almost always come with limits, drawbacks, or catches. For serious streamers and organizations engaged in live streaming, free isn’t always best.
If you’ve tried the free tools and are back looking for more, you’ll find our rankings of the best paid live streaming software tools below.
ProPresenter is an industry-leading presentation and live streaming software solution. It does what many others can’t, all within a single powerful platform where you can create visuals, build scenes, handle inputs and outputs, and create an engaging live stream for your business or organization.
ProPresenter already had powerful category-redefining capabilities in combining traditional presentation software with live video and other inputs. And now, starting in ProPresenter 7, you can take that stellar presentation stream live in a single click.
ProPresenter supports screen recording and screencasting, and its intuitive editor lets you build gorgeous graphics— no graphic design degree required.
ProPresenter supports an unlimited number of inputs and outputs, and you can preview switches between inputs using the inspector so you can see applied effects before they go live to the audience.
We’ve also created numerous tutorials and webinars to show users exactly how to user ProPresenter with popular streaming services. Check out a few below:
- Recording outputs
- Record and Live Stream Features
- How to Stream from ProPresenter to YouTube or Facebook
- OBS + ProPresenter
Last, ProPresenter offers users a new level of resilient streaming thanks to our partnership with Resi. With a Resi subscription, you can output using the Resi protocol, which is exponentially more resilient compared to basic RTMP or RTMPS. When stream fidelity matters—even under poor network conditions—Resi delivers.
ProPresenter costs a one-time $399 for a seat license. ProPresenter+ is a subscription option that enables ongoing updates and access to any new features and major releases.
2. Wirecast Pro
Wirecast Pro is the first of two products in our rankings made and sold by Telestream. The other is Wirecast Studio, which is the next entry down.
Both applications deliver a similar core live streaming production experience in a familiar interface. Both offer a professional suite of tools for:
- Capturing audio and video
- producing that content into whatever shape or output you need
- streaming that content to popular live streaming platforms
For people who need to edit and produce video before output (using control surfaces, built-in chroma key, production automation, and so forth), Wirecast offers superior capabilities compared to other streaming software focused on the individual live streamer or on streaming services or meetings.
So why do we rank Wirecast Pro higher? Because as capable as Wirecast Studio is, Wirecast Pro can do so much more—for not that much more cash.
Wirecast Studio starts at $599 for a lifetime license, which is a decent chunk of change. But we figure if you have the budget for a $599 streaming solution, you can probably stretch to Wirecast Pro’s price tag of $799.
That extra $200 (lifetime, not yearly) delivers a stunning number of advanced features, including:
- An additional 5 remote guests in Wirecast Rendezvous
- ISO recording capabilities
- PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) camera control
- Multitrack audio recording with pro-grade effects (support for VST3 plugins)
- Broadcast-quality output options (NDI)
- Up to 17-slot multi-viewer output
- Multi-track audio routing
If you’re absolutely certain you’ll never need any of those capabilities, then maybe saving $200 is worth it. But for most people with the budget to consider either, Wirecast Pro is the far better purchase for your money.
3. Wirecast Studio
Wirecast Studio is an extremely capable solution for audio and video streaming. Whether you’re capturing professional-caliber videoconferences or filming using broadcast-quality equipment, Wirecast Studio should give you everything you need for a basic professional output.
We don’t need to repeat everything we said about Wirecast Pro here— it’s all still true (other than that bulleted list of advanced features exclusive to Wirecast Pro).
Wirecast Studio is a great product. The only major drawback here is price.
If you’ll use everything Wirecast Studio has to offer, then that $599 starting price might not be a dealbreaker. But if you’re operating at that level, why wouldn’t you spend the extra $200 to unlock those insanely powerful pro features?
On the other side of the coin, if you don’t need everything in Wirecast Studio and aren’t going to maximize it, the price tag might just be too high to make sense.
vMix is a little tricky to rank because in a way it’s five products rather than one. If you’re paying for the $1200 vMix Pro, you’re getting something easily on par with Wirecast Pro. On the other end of the spectrum, the $60 Basic HD plan is a lot closer to mid-tier or freemium products like XSplit Broadcaster.
Still, overall we find vMix to be less intuitive than Wirecast no matter which tier you choose. It’s also less focused on streaming, billing itself as a video production suite first of all. For these reasons we’ve ranked it here, just below the two Wirecast products.
vMix is a Windows-only video production suite that is quite capable at the higher end, with up to 1,000 inputs at up to 4K resolution. The broadcast-quality formats are all here, as is support for scoreboards, custom animated titles, up to three simultaneous live streams, instant replay (up to eight cameras in the Pro package), and vMix Call.
All vMix tiers provide recording capability in addition to live stream; the upper two licenses add a second recorder. Instant replay is here, but only in the upper two tiers. The Pro tier gives you instant replay across up to eight cameras.
One positive with vMix is that just about anyone who needs to live stream can find a tier that makes sense. And in most situations, the tiers are priced reasonably for the sorts of customers most likely to choose them. Whether you’re a solo content creator, a church with a single or multicam livestream, or a high-end venue, there’s a vMix package that should meet your needs. (As long as you don’t use a Mac, that is.)
VidBlasterX is similar to vMix in several ways. It’s also Windows-only, and it’s also a tiered product with three very different editions:
- VidBlasterX Home: $9 per year
- VidBlasterX Studio: $99 per year
- VidBlasterX Broadcast: $999 per year
The names tell you most of what you need to know here. Demanding broadcast and production environments will need the high end; others who have graduated from solo streaming or free tools might choose the midrange Studio product (or the Home edition if their needs are quite modest).
At the high end, VidBlasterX is extremely advanced and capable, but it requires an equally advanced and capable staff. If demanding complex outdoor environments and cloud servers and virtual machines sound imposing, then this may not be the right tool for you.
If neither the yearly price nor the technical complexity lead you to look elsewhere, then there’s plenty here to like. You’ll get multicamera support, multichannel inputs, slow-mo and replay, and powerful streaming capabilities. There’s also lower thirds, personalized overlays, and plenty of video effects.
The interface is modular, meaning you can add or remove modules to create an interface that aligns with your needs and style of working.
There’s a high-quality audio mixer on board, with support for numerous inputs and outputs. You can even activate API commands within VidBlasterX.
6. XSplit Broadcaster
XSplit Broadcaster is a middle-of-the-road product. It’s got nowhere near the bells and whistles of anything else on the paid side, but it’s significantly more capable (at least in certain ways) than the streaming solutions in the free tier below.
XSplit Broadcaster is a Windows-only live streaming software solution that supports video broadcasting, streaming and stream delay, scene design and scene preview, among others. If you’re doing interactive events like virtual conferences or Q&A sessions, XSplit provides a level of support you won’t get with free tools.
There’s support for some multi-camera setups, though it’s less flexible than the pro tools above.
One downside to this product is a lack of presets. Users need to know their way around configuring hardware and software at a more granular level than with some other products.
(Bonus) Best Paid Live Streaming Platform: Dacast
Dacast isn’t technically live streaming software, depending on how you define the category. Yes, technically you can go live from within Dacast, but the software platform basically assumes you’ve designed your stream elsewhere.
You won’t be building streams or editing video within Dacast. Instead, Dacast is a professional streaming platform.
If you’re happy live streaming on Facebook or YouTube or Twitch and don’t need anything more, Dacast doesn’t offer you a whole lot. But some live streaming scenarios need a more professional home.
Dacast is perfect for businesses that need a premium hosted solution that they can whitelabel to their own brand, or for anyone who wants more control over their stream (including monetization). Deeper analytics, better embedding, video on demand (VOD), OTT, and more—Dacast powers them all in a compact platform.
Plans range from $39 to $165 a month. High-volume users can request a quote for a custom plan as well.
Best Free Live Streaming Software
If your budget is nonexistent or already used up on hardware, then none of the paid streaming solutions are going to fly. That’s OK: while you’ll definitely notice a drop in features and robustness, these free streaming software solutions can get you up and streaming for exactly zero dollars.
For the sake of clarity: We’ll include “freemium” solutions in this section. These tools are technically free to use in some capacity, but you might end up needing to upgrade to get a specific feature you need.
1. OBS Studio
OBS Studio is our top choice among free streaming software in part because it’s actually free, not a “freemium” product that hides all its best features behind a paywall. It’s also one of the most popular choices among content creators and solo streamers: the relatively basic interface, gentle system requirements, and nonexistent price tag all make this open source solution attractive.
OBS Studio has desktop apps for all major operating systems (Windows, macOS, and Linux); each offers users a quick and relatively simple path to get a live stream running.
For the price, there’s a lot here, including a scene builder, an audio mixer with filters, and all sorts of configurable hotkeys. OBS even includes basic video editing capabilities. It’s no Final Cut Pro, but it still gives you the tools to create produced video files that you can play back or stream.
OBS Studio targets solo streamers (like influencers and pro gamers) most of all, and if that’s your primary use case, we recommend giving OBS Studio a try. However, businesses, live events professionals, and others may find the feature set a bit too thin. If you’re doing more complex streaming work than your average Twitch user, you might not find everything you need here.
Sharing a similar underlying architecture to OBS Studio, Streamlabs (formerly Streamlabs OBS) is a freemium option that enables video streaming to multiple platforms via web browser, gaming console, or desktop client.
Streamlabs is evolving into a suite of tools, and the company would really like for you to subscribe to its $19/month Ultra plan, which gives you 8 apps all focused on content creators.
The basic Streamlabs experience is still free and open source.
Streamlabs has an even more intense focus on the gaming community than OBS Studio has, which makes it perfect if you’re a gamer and pretty good if you’re any other type of solo content creator.
But this tight focus means Streamlabs might not be the strongest fit for businesses, houses of worship, and events teams.
3. Onestream Live
Onestream Live (not to be confused with the finance platform of the same name) is a great tool for both live and pre-recorded streaming—if you’re the right kind of streamer. It’s mostly for video interview style streaming, as the price differentiation is mainly on the number of participants on the stream (and the number of social accounts you can connect).
There isn’t much in terms of scene design or video editing here: “pre-recorded streaming” is code for “make your video in some other tool”; and the focus on videoconference-style streaming lessens the need for complicated overlays.
The free plan is quite capable in this context (up to 720p), though it doesn’t allow you to record sessions (or your viewers to download session recordings). The free tier also lacks overlays, live sales, and background music and visuals.
(Bonus) Best Free Live Streaming Platform: Restream
Restream can’t do everything Dacast can do, but it can do many of the same things—and it has a free tier. You can use many of the streaming solutions in this ranked list to output to Restream, which can then send your stream out to numerous channels and platforms. You can also add basic graphics directly in your browser, and you can schedule videos to go live at a later time.
ProPresenter Is the Best Streaming Software
We’ve reviewed 11 of the best live streaming software products on the market today, including both free and paid. Across them all, ProPresenter stands out as the best streaming solution for most users and use cases.
With powerful stream design features, support for as many inputs as you can throw at it, a one-click “go live” capability, and access to the most resilient streaming protocol on earth, ProPresenter delivers an elevated experience that will make your life easier and your stream more engaging.
See for yourself by giving ProPresenter a test drive for free: start your unrestricted two-week trial now!