AKA what I wish I had as a guide for myself when I was figuring this out.
Disclaimer: I’m an audio noob and am early on in my own journey but I wanted to share what worked for me for this specific use-case. Despite not understanding everything, I hope that this guide helps some other poor soul getting started as well. All links in this guide are strongly recommended reads; they’ll help you understand wtf you’re doing.
This guide is aiming to solve 3 core problems:
- Eliminating/minimizing latency (why is my instrument’s sound delayed?)
- Hearing other audio at the same time as your DAW (how can I hear audio from YouTube while simultaneously using Reaper?)
- Streaming your music from your DAW to OBS (why is OBS not picking up my audio even though I hear it?)
Audio Interface Setup (~$175)
First things first and I cannot stress this enough: If you have money (roughly $175) to spare, save yourself the headache and GET AN AUDIO INTERFACE. This magical piece of hardware will solve most of your problems and make things very straightforward. I’ll go into this setup first because I think it should be a solid standard for most musician streamers. Plus, it’s a nice investment for anyone interested in recording music and capturing higher quality sound. JUST DO IT. If you have no idea what an audio interface is, I found this article really helpful as an introduction and guide to some entry level devices. Note that some mixers also have audio interfaces built in; you can read about the difference here.
Now that that’s out of the way. Here’s what I have (none of these are affiliate links):
- Audio Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface ($159) — I chose the 2i2 over the Solo because the Solo can only record from 1 of its 2 inputs at a time. If you plan on recording a mic and an instrument played at the same time, I’d recommend getting the 2i2 as well.
- Cables/Wires: 1/4" TRS to 1/4" TRS ($11) — I play a digital piano (Yamaha-P115) and so this one cable is what I use to connect the AUX OUT (L+R) to the TRS input in my audio interface. Make sure to google your particular instrument or mic to determine what cables/adapters are required to connect it, but this cable should be fairly standard for modern instruments.
- Headphones and Adapters: You can skip this section if you have headphones with a 1/4" TRS connector (aka it’s thicc with 2 dark rings). I wanted to use my wireless gaming headset (a Steelseries Arctis 7) to monitor sound so I don’t have cords in the way as I play so I got these:
- 1/4" male to 1/8" female TRS converter ($6) — this what you’ll use if you want to connect standard 1/8" tip headphones to the audio interface and monitor your music. If you have no idea what I’m talking about read this help article on identifying the difference between TRS and TRRS and why it is important.
- 1/8" male to 1/8" male TRS wire — this part is also required for my daisy-chain setup so that I can use my wireless headset for live music monitoring.
- Here’s what it all looks like (blue arrows mean you’re pluggin’ something in; sorry, it looks convoluted at a glance but try going from left-to-right, piece-by-piece):
I imagine this setup would work similarly for any Bluetooth wireless headset. Alternatively, you can replace the stuff in the green outline with a wired headset. If you’re hearing any static or distorted sounds, it’s probably cause you have a 3-ring (TRRS) tip (aka a built-in microphone) on your headset. Read that help article!
- Finally, software: I use Reaper as my primary DAW (it’s basically free).
Check out this guide too on some other simple gear to get set-up and why you need each of the components: A Simple Gear Guide for Music Streaming by aeseaes.
The Focusrite Scarlett in particular has a a very user-friendly setup with YouTube videos to follow along AND it comes with some free software! (Notably Ableton Live Lite and an Addicted Keys VST). Just follow their steps to install their drivers/software and set the audio interface as your device for input/output in your DAW (more on this in the article below). Here’s what settings in Reaper should look like:
Highly recommend reading this article for some initial setup of your DAW (arming the track etc.):
Now core problems 1 and 2 are solved! You should be hearing almost no latency when monitoring your instrument/mic in the DAW AND you should also be hearing any other audio sources from your desktop come through your headphones as well! Now for the last (and arguably most challenging) piece: routing what you’re hearing to your stream. STRAP IN YOUR BUTTS, THIS IS THE LAST HURDLE AND YOU CAN DO THIS.
The Final Struggle (Reaper to OBS)
(Sorry non-OBS and Reaper users, I’m not sure atm if there are equivalent plugins/workarounds.)
As the article from aeseaes mentions:
“… despite the audio coming in loud and clear through your default device, no audio is making it to the broadcast software.This is merely a symptom of how DAWs handle audio routing. A DAW does not share its audio with other programs by default…”
Where I personally diverge from this guide is the method I use to route sound from Reaper into OBS. Instead of a Reaper plugin aka Voxengo (that could potentially add more latency to your sound), I use an OBS plugin that allows me to receive ASIO input. To do this, I use two components:
- ReaRoute, which comes with Reaper but is sneakily unchecked in the original installation by default. You can re-run the Reaper installation and just make sure it’s checked in the components list to make sure you have it.
- obs-asio which allows me to capture ASIO input. Be sure to read and follow the Installation and Usage guide here:
Authors : Andersama (lead) and pkv We invested a lot of our time in making this plugin, which we release free of…
OKAY. You’re almost there. Once you have followed all the instructions in the Installation and Usage Guide for obs-asio you simply need to route the output from your track in Reaper to the ReaRoute channels you set up in the Properties for your ASIO source. BASICALLY, click this button for ‘Route’ on your active track, click ‘Add New Hardware Output’, and select ‘ReaRoute1/ReaRoute2’.
VOILA!!! Try playing some sounds and you’ll see the audio spike for the ASIO Input Capture. All the other sounds from your desktop will still go to Desktop Audio (as long as you have the default device set to your Audio Interface), so that means you can even control your volume levels directly from OBS without touching your DAW settings. YOU ARE DONE! You honestly should celebrate ‘cause getting everything to play nicely up to this point is a real struggle for a newbie. Great work!!!
Happy streaming and if there’s anything you have questions about or feel I can elaborate on (e.g. more screenshots), please leave a comment and let me know! Catch me on stream at https://twitch.tv/fwoshy
Software-Only Setup (Free)
So you’ve scrolled all the way down and you’re like “Blahhhhghh I don’t know if I wanna invest in an audio interface yet. Can’t I just have this all accomplished with some free software or something and call it a day.”
The answer is yes, but the latency will never be completely gone (and if you’re a musician, it WILL drive you insane). IMO it should ONLY be your option if you don’t have funds for an audio interface right now. I’m not gonna type up a full guide (since I think you should spare yourself) but I’ll link the resources I used to get a semi-passable setup.
- You’ll need to get ASIO4All for starters: http://www.asio4all.org/ You’ll have this as your default device in Reaper and can tinker with some of the settings there until you are hearing your instrument.
- And then this video here is the holy grail on how to use software called Voicemeeter Banana (yea I know, what a name). This will allow you to hear other audio/videos etc. while you have the DAW open:
The video itself is also quite funny, but even after setting this up correctly — I STILL had a little bit of latency that was enough to be annoying.
There are a whole buncha small optimizations you can do by changing the sample rate or turning your sound quality to shit just so you can live with a little less latency. Try googling ways to reduce latency without an audio interface… Though, honestly that was what convinced me to stop the madness and just buy one.
I just wanna play piano, I don’t care about your “VST’s” and your “DAW’s”
Well, shoutout to the Addicted Keys Standalone app. If you happen to be a pianist and wanna play the piano with none of the bells and whistles, have it come through your desktop audio, and just use OBS to capture that audio, then all you have to do is open the Addicted Keys Standalone App that comes with the VST purchase and I’ve found that the latency is actually… negligible! (I can’t seem to find the real reason why… please tell me if you know.) The sound routes to your Desktop Audio in OBS and you can still play other audio sources to Desktop Audio as well. I used this method for quite some time before wanting to expand to other instruments and filters in a DAW.
Thanks to these cool people who stream on Twitch who helped give me pointers along this arduous journey, BE SURE TO CHECK THEM OUT!
- chewiemelodies — amazing and super nice classically-trained pianist who now plays everything by ear, he first intro’d me to the Voicemeeter Banana route a while back but has since ascended to an audio interface setup: https://www.twitch.tv/chewiemelodies
- mechachoi — another talented pianist who freaking BUILT HIS OWN INSTRUMENT. He also drew me a neat diagram of his set-up which involves a mixer for his multiple inputs. mechachoi also plays by ear and puts a jazzy twist on things and has one of the most wholesome chats around: https://www.twitch.tv/mechachoi
- a_couple_streams aka aeseaes — a lovely couple who have indirectly helped many by lighting the way for music-streaming with the articles they’ve written. Be sure to catch them live, their stream is just bliss: https://www.twitch.tv/a_couple_streams