You don’t need much to start streaming, but running a decent stream and a great stream are two different things. In addition to a game and a shining personality, you’ll need the best streaming accessories to make your stream the best it can be.
Your webcam’s microphone might work OK for streaming, but a dedicated microphone far exceeds anything a webcam can capture. Similarly, you can stream gameplay with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 — as well as the PS4 and Xbox One — but a dedicated capture card will improve how clean your gameplay looks during a stream.
We’ve rounded up five essential streaming accessories to take your stream to the next level. In addition to our picks below, we have dedicated guides for each category, so make sure you check out those if you want a few more options.
The best streaming accessories
Best microphone for streaming: Elgato Wave 3
The Elgato Wave 3 is a microphone purpose-built for streaming, and that means more than having a USB connection. It’s still a USB microphone, fitted with a USB-C port next to the headphone output on the back of the mic, but the Wave 3 goes further than plugging directly into your computer. The front dial allows you to quickly adjust mic gain, your headphone volume, and the balance between mic and PC volume. The Wave Link software expands the mixing functionality even more, allowing you to balance up to nine independent audio channels, as well as configure them for two independent outputs.
Sound quality is excellent, too. The Wave 3 comes with a proper condenser capsule — condenser microphones are usually used on vocals when recording music — and a 24-bit/96kHz analog to digital converter inside (that’s some high-fidelity audio).
Outside of the sound quality and mixing capabilities, the Wave 3 stands out with some small, quality-of-life features. The dial supports capacitive touch, for example, allowing you to mute the microphone silently. Then there’s ClipGuard, which constantly runs a second signal path at a lower volume, automatically switching to that path if you clip the microphone’s input. There are microphones that sound better than the Wave 3, for sure, but at under $200 and with so many features specific to streaming, the Wave 3 is the mic you should be using whenever you go live.
Best webcam for streaming: Razer Kiyo
Check two must-haves off your list. The Razer Kiyo handles video and lighting at once, and it does so cheaply. The Razer Kiyo is a 1080p webcam with a ring light situated around the sensor, offering some decent direct lighting for your stream while capturing 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 offers decent lighting, and you can adjust it on-the-fly by rotating the light (like adjusting focus on a camera). If you want to tweak the look further, you can with Razer Synapse 3. In Synapse, you can adjust exposure, contrast, white balance, saturation, and more, and save your look as a profile that you can recall later. You can even set manual focus (no more dreaded auto focus mishaps mid-stream).
As far as camera quality goes, the Kiyo is excellent, and the light isn’t bad, either. However, it’s not enough to light a fully dark room. The included light is really best when it adds just a little lighting to your face, not as a main stream lighting solution (we’ll get to that soon). Ideally, you’ll want to turn down the light a little bit. At full blast, it’s not only harsh but also bleeds into the edges of the webcam.
If the Kiyo doesn’t look like your jam, make 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 it has a specs sheet to match. It’s a dual-band unit rated for AC2600, giving you up 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band. That’s plenty of bandwidth, assuming you’re close enough to your router to get a solid signal.
You don’t have to be as close to the XR500 as other routers, however. This one router supports beamforming, allowing you to direct your signal toward your computer instead of broadcasting it around the unit. In addition to beamforming, the router comes with VPN support, allowing you to access your local network while you’re away, and ReadySHARE Vault, a free Netgear utility that allows you to automatically backup your computer to a USB hard drive connected to your router.
Then, there are the gaming-specific features, including geofencing and a ping heatmap. These features come courteous of the DumaOS operating system powering the XR500. In addition to cutting out servers that are too far away, DumaOS provides a network-wide adblocker, a direct-connection speed benchmark, traffic controller, and more.
The XR500 is one of the best routers on the market and even better when used for streaming.
Best lighting for streaming: Philips Hue Play
Philips Hue is the best smart lighting on the market, even with its high price tag. The Hue Play kit is perfect for streaming, even if it may not seem like it at first. Hue Play comes with two diffused bar lights, and Philips markets the kit as an add-on for an existing Hue system to handle ambient light. The Play lights handle ambient lighting well, offering a nice soft, even glow when mounted behind your TV or desk.
You can flip the Hue Play lights to face you, though, and that’s where they shine (quite literally). The lighting quality can’t match proper studio lights, but the diffusion on each of them offers soft lighting with minimal shadows. The lights are very small, too, and they come with an adhesive pad on the bottom, allowing you to position them however you like.
Unfortunately, the $130 kit only comes with the two lights. You’ll need ato control them. That’s around $200 for a full kit if you don’t already have Philips Hue, but that’s still cheaper than the competition. The Elgato Key Light, for example, runs $200 for a single light, and Hue Play comes with two.
There are also some smart lighting upsides for Hue Play. If you’re using a Razer Kiyo, for example, you can light your face with a single Play bar while using the other one for ambient lighting (ambient lighting of whatever color you want, even).
Best capture card for streaming: Elgato HD60 S+
The Elgato HD60 — whatever the most recent version of it is — remains the go-to capture card for most uses. The new S+ version supports 1080p HDR capture at 60 fps, which is more than enough for streaming. Additionally, it supports 4K HDR passthrough at 60 fps, allowing you to 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 it comes with plug-and-play functionality on PC and Mac. You don’t need to download any software to use the HD60 S+, though you can. With Elgato’s 4K capture utility, you can add live commentary to previously-recorded gameplay, move back in time to capture gameplay with the Flashback Recording feature, and view previous captures in one convenient spot.
The system requirements aren’t too steep, either. On Windows, you’ll need a 6th-generation i5 CPU or better (most quad-cores from the last five years should work), 4GB of RAM, a GTX 10-series GPU or better, and a USB 3.0 port. On Mac, Elgato recommends the same 4GB of RAM paired with either an AMD or Nvidia GPU and a 4th-gen Intel quad-core i5 or better.