What is the Best Streaming Software For YouTube in 2023?
If you’re a content creator for YouTube, you need software that enables you to produce high quality video content and stream that content according to YouTube’s requirements.
By the way, “content creator” doesn’t just mean vloggers and gamers and podcasters, though it certainly includes them! Any individual or organization that streams to YouTube is a content creator, including businesses and houses of worship.
With the wrong streaming software for YouTube, your stream could suffer quality or connectivity issues. And you might not have the ability to create the kind of stream design you’re wanting.
That’s why it matters which YouTube streaming software you choose.
Below, we’ll rank and share our honest thoughts on four of the best streaming software for YouTube so you’ll be equipped to make the best decision for your live streaming needs.
Criteria for Ranking
We know you want more than just our opinions. So how did we come up with these rankings?
We evaluated five criteria for each solution listed below, each of which contributes to how well a given solution performs as live streaming software for YouTube.
These are the criteria that we’re using:
- Interface: Is it user-friendly? Easy to learn? Robust enough to give you the control you need?
- Quality of video and audio streams: Does the tool have a bad reputation for dropped streams or other quality issues?
- Feature set: overlays, chat integration, multistream capabilities, and more
- Community support and updates
Why Choosing the Right Streaming Software Matters
Choosing the right streaming software can make an outsized impact on your streaming performance. There’s a real impact on both viewer engagement and satisfaction, for good or for ill: a glitchy or unprofessional-looking stream is inherently a less satisfying, less engaging experience than a well-designed and well-performing one.
When you consider how YouTube decides which content to feature, this matters even more. While no one can know the algorithm perfectly, consensus is that YouTube currently rewards videos that are high-effort, high-value propositions. It also boosts the reach of videos and streams with strong engagement: so if users are clicking away due to quality issues, that’s having an effect on your stream’s reach.
Streaming software also plays a role in helping you grow a YouTube channel. Everyone’s got to start somewhere, but as you grow in professionalism as a streamer, your stream itself needs to grow up, too. Relying on free streaming software for YouTube for too long could limit your growth. The wrong software can also limit your effectiveness in designing the stream you want to have.
Top 4 YouTube Streaming Software Solutions
Across all five criteria, ProPresenter outperforms the competition.
ProPresenter has an intuitive interface that puts all the tools you need front and center. While ProPresenter is designed with all the features and capabilities pros need, the interface was designed with volunteers in mind.
Quality of streams
All the stream software for YouTube in this review can output reasonably reliable streams over RTMP. But only ProPresenter includes support for Resi™, the most resilient streaming protocol ever created. It’s so resilient, Resi streams can survive a total internet outage for up to two minutes — with no drop in quality.
That means ProPresenter is an ideal choice for streaming environments where internet connections aren’t perfectly stable, as well as any situation where reliable stream quality matters above all else.
Most people who know of ProPresenter think of it as a presentation app, and it is: the feature set for live productions and presentations is broad and deep. But ProPresenter is also powerful streaming software: users can go live from within ProPresenter 7 with the click of a button. ProPresenter acts as a hub for all your content: live video, slide content, overlays (such as stream design content or lower thirds), and more all in one place.
ProPresenter gives you the ability to switch between video inputs and even apply effects using the inspector. You can see a live preview of video inputs and then output your desired content to your stream.
You can also record your screen and capture and output audio using audio routing. Automate your audio and even send it over SDI and NDI if your setup calls for it.
Seat licenses for ProPresenter start at $399. This one-time charge includes 12 months of full support and all updates. ProPresenter+ is an optional yearly renewal that extends support and updates another 12 months.
Community support and updates
As one of the leading presentation software solutions on the market, ProPresenter enjoys a large community of professional users, including many who use ProPresenter as streaming software.
ProPresenter is Renewed Vision’s flagship product, so it enjoys regular updates and continual development.
Streamlabs is an evolution of our #3 choice, OBS Studio. The makers of Streamlabs sought out to overcome some of the limitations of OBS Studio, and they did so (hence our ranking Streamlabs higher here).
Those improvements come at a cost, literally: Where OBS Studio is squarely in the free and open source category, Streamlabs is a freemium product: to enjoy the most powerful additions here, you’ll have to pay up.
Overall, Streamlabs is a high-quality choice for YouTube live streaming software. The free version can be a great choice for those just getting started with streaming and recording content, and many appreciate keeping the same familiar interface as they upgrade to various paid features and packages.
Streamlabs has an impressive set of features for a free (or freemium) product. Though there are some significant missing features, we find Streamlabs both easier to use and more powerful than OBS Studio (the third-ranked streaming software for YouTube in this article).
Setup is extremely easy: Streamlabs includes an optimizer that gets all the basic settings right for you (most of the time). It’s a great asset for anyone new to the world of streaming.
Many solo streamers love Streamlabs for the way it integrates their streaming chat directly into the application. The monetization aspect is also helpful in the solo realm as fans can send tips and so forth with relatively little setup or infrastructure needs.
The Test widget is also extremely useful: it allows streamers to make sure everything’s operating as expected before going live, in just a click.
The Freemium model is a con at least in some senses: there’s nothing so frustrating as hitting a paywall, but that’s a frequent experience in Streamlabs.
One big miss in Streamlabs is a lack of sound commands: they aren’t in the integrated chat, so you’d need to run a separate chat tab to use them.
You’ll also want to be careful if your hardware isn’t particularly powerful: all the enhancements in Streamlabs make it much more taxing on your CPU and GPU than OBS Studio.
Streamlabs is a freemium product. The core application is free and open-source, but many of the tools that most pro streamers need are tucked away in the Streamlabs Ultra, which costs $19/month or $149/year.
You can still subscribe to some individual premium tools a la carte as well.
Who it’s best for
Streamlabs is ideal for solo streamers, especially in gaming and esports. The built-in chat, customizable themes and overlays, and monetization options all appeal to gamer streamers (and anyone else entertaining a live audience for hours at a time).
3. OBS Studio
OBS Studio is another extremely popular choice for streaming to YouTube. It ranks #3 on our list because it’s a very strong tool, but it’s not as robust as ProPresenter or as easy to use as Streamlabs.
Experienced solo streamers (or those ready to put in a lot of time to learn the product) enjoy the amount of control they get with OBS, as well as its minimal impact on system resources.
It’s also the only free and open source streaming solution on this list, and arguably the best free streaming software you can find for YouTube (and other platforms).
OBS Studio offers tons of customization, and its open-source architecture means that anything is possible (you just might have to build it yourself).
Streamers using older hardware may find OBS Studio their best option thanks to its low CPU usage.
OBS Studio includes an audio mixer, which is extremely helpful when managing multiple audio inputs.
You won’t find nearly as many plug-ins for OBS Studio. Most (for-profit) developers have moved on to Streamlabs since it’s actually possible to make money there.
The user interface here is also confusing for some streamers. This isn’t surprising to see in a free and open source product, but it’s still worth noting.
Open source software means no one’s getting paid to mind the store: there is no staff support team to call when things go wrong. Of course, OBS has a huge and enthusiastic community, so it’s usually easy to find the help you need.
Last, OBS Studio can’t do multi-streams. If you need to stream to multiple destinations simultaneously (e.g., YouTube, social media, and Twitch), OBS Studio won’t work for you.
It’s free, plain and simple.
Who it’s best for
OBS Studio is a powerful, impressive product. It’s just not very easy to use. It’s the best choice for experienced streamers who know their way around a computer, A/V setup, and the various ins and outs of each streaming platform. And if your budget is nonexistent, OBS might be the only feasible option.
4. XSplit Broadcaster
XSplit Broadcaster is another streaming solution popular with gamers and solo streamers, but it also has a significant following in more corporate and live-event contexts. It’s accessible and easy to learn without being too barebones for professional or business use.
It’s not as advanced as ProPresenter, but it surpasses both OBS Studio and Streamlabs in terms of feature set.
XSplit Broadcaster has strong video editing capabilities and a clear, capable user interface. It also doesn’t require much CPU power — just a touch more than OBS Studio and much less than Streamlabs.
Connecting your stream to YouTube is easier here as well than with OBS.
XSplit integrates with popular videoconferencing apps — a big win for corporate and business users.
There are several advanced features offered here, including integrated green screen, stream delay, and keyframe transitions.
Though most people don’t do the latter, if you want to both capture and stream in 4K XSplit isn’t for you. It can capture 4K footage but maxes out at 1080p for stream outputs.
Be aware that even though XSplit Broadcaster costs money, you’ll need to pay even more for some plugins. Not only that, relatively few integrations and plugins are available.
XSplit appears to support multiple screens, but only one output to those screens.
XSplit Broadcaster Premium costs $60/year. VCam Premium, which allows you to remove, edit, and blur your webcam background, is $30/year. Or you can bundle both for $70/year.
Who it’s best for
XSplit Broadcaster is best for streamers and businesses with a modest budget and medium-complexity streaming needs. It’s a good middle-of-the-road choice that balances ease of use, affordability, and a capable feature set.
As we wrap up, it’s time to answer the core question of which streaming software is the best choice for you or your organization. The answer depends on what you need to do with streaming, your budget, and your overall comfort level with technology and troubleshooting.
Beginners on a budget should start with either Streamlabs or OBS Studio. Those with more intermediate needs might find a good compromise in XSplit Broadcaster, which ends up being cheaper than Streamlabs Ultra anyway.
And if you need a fully featured, professional grade solution? ProPresenter is the hands-down winner.
You can see for yourself whether ProPresenter is the best option for your setup and needs: get your unrestricted two-week trial today!