Today I’m announcing something really special that I’ve been working on for a while now: The “Stream Professor Approved” badge. This is a special badge to indicate products in the streaming space that meet a certain standard of performance, quality, and features that I feel are a must for a truly great streaming experience, worthy of really putting my name behind. These won’t be the cheapest products – I have plenty of reviews on those options as well, but they all have sacrifices – but this won’t focus on the most expensive options, either.
These products hold my absolute recommendation in terms of capability and ease of use, and products that I believe – with my years of testing and evaluating products in these categories – set a solid example for what competing products should aim for.
My goal is to encourage innovation here.
Let’s discuss the categories I’ll be evaluating and my criteria for each.
This should be obvious, I’ve reviewed more capture cards than any other product on the market. That being said, I have strict criteria for what qualifies as a “Stream Professor Approved” capture card. This generation has seen more cards get added to the list, but many that don’t make the cut.
You can check out my capture card reviews playlist if you wish to hear my thoughts on any particular capture card.
Here are my required specs:
- Preview Latency: 65ms
- Connection: USB 3 or PCIe
- Chroma Subsampling: At least YUY2 or xRGB
- Compelling features or UVC*
- Oddball format support preferred**
* The purpose of noting “compelling features or UVC” is that UVC should be the default unless something unique is being added – such as multi-app or other special custom driver features.
** “Oddball format” refers to support for nonstandard resolutions and refresh rates, including but not limited to: 144hz, 240hz, ultrawide resolutions (3440×1440 etc.), retro format compatibility such as 240p, 480i, and output from the Open Source Scan Converter, things like that.
Capture cards from both of the main gaming capture card companies make this list, as well as Magewell!
Stream Professor Approved capture cards:
- AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K (review, Amazon affiliate)
- AVerMedia Live Gamer Duo (review, Amazon affiliate)
- AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra (review, Amazon affiliate)
- Elgato HD60 S+ (review, Amazon affiliate)
- Elgato 4K60 Pro MK 2 (review, Amazon affiliate)
- Magewell 4K Pro Capture HDMI Plus (& LT) (review, Amazon affiliate)
- BlackMagic ATEM Mini Pro (Amazon affiliate, B&H affiliate)
The 4K60 Pro MK2 almost didn’t make the list, but in a recent update 4:4:4 RGB support was added for capture. The Magewell PCIe cards are the most compatible with retro console captures that I’ve ever tested, but come at a significantly higher price.
The BlackMagic ATEM Mini is not a standard capture card, but I didn’t know where else to fit it.
Next up, we have microphones. I am specifically focusing on USB microphones aimed at streamers here, as there’s no end and no ceiling to analog microphones out there, but most of the “features” on them are entirely up to the hardware chain you connect them to, not the microphones themselves.
You can check out my microphone reviews playlist if you wish to hear my thoughts on any particular microphone.
Rather than focus on specific specs for these mics – which are all about the same – my focus is on a particular feature that I think is necessary to streaming-focused audio, as well as a subjective audio quality focus. That feature is having a built-in limiter to prevent the streamer from accidentally peaking or clipping the microphone and stressing listeners’ ears.
Microphones that have earned the Stream Professor Approved badge include:
Honestly, I’m disappointed that I can’t currently include any dynamic microphones on this list, as I really feel that’s what streamers should be using. However, no quality USB dynamic microphones currently ship with any sort of hardware limiter. The Shure MV7 has a software limiter in the ShurePlus MOTIV app and is an honorable mention, however it’s still only in software and thus your audio will be distorted, simply not clipping again in software.
Also it’s worth noting that the Elgato Wave mics don’t technically use a limiter, but rather use a secondary “safety track” to switch to when sound levels get too high, but the end result is the same or better and it still qualifies.
For webcams, I’m looking for two things: High quality with 1080p and 4K modes, and settings persisting past reboot. (It’s sad that basic function we had in 2012 is now a special feature in 2020, but here we are.)
Presently, only two webcams meet these requirements for the streaming space:
- HuddleCam HD USB 4K Webcam (review, B&H affiliate)
- AVerMedia PW513 Streaming Camera (review, Amazon affiliate)
- SUB2r (review, website)
These are high quality, provide clean images, have cool ePTZ features, and have settings which persist past reboot (and between computers in the case of the HuddleCam HD camera).
I would love to see these cameras start to implement at least NV12 for 4K30, as MJPEG is too dated in my opinion, but none can provide that yet, so we’re stuck waiting. If OBS would support Media Foundation device access instead of just DirectShow, the SUB2r could do clean 4K30. But no dice so far.
Lastly, I wanted to note some accessories that qualify for the Stream Professor Approved badge. This is more of a personal judgement, things that I feel truly offer something unique to the space, or spin what already exists in a unique way, or a higher quality way. These are:
- Elgato Stream Deck (and XL) (review, Amazon affiliate)
- Touch Portal (it’s an app not a physical thing)
- LoupeDeck LIVE (Amazon affiliate)
- GoXLR (and Mini) (review, Amazon affiliate)
- Audient Evo 4 (Amazon affiliate, B&H affiliate)
If you’ve seen any of my reviews, these are mostly self-explanatory. It’s no secret that the Elgato Stream Deck is, by far, my favorite product to come out of the streaming space pretty much ever – with utility extending far beyond just streaming.
Along with that you have Touch Portal, which takes the exact same concept, but in app form. While Touch Portal doesn’t have all the same integrations that the Stream Deck does, it has a lot, and gives you a TON of customization over buttons and controls that you can put on any old tablet, smartphone, computer, etc. to control your computer. It’s wicked and blows Elgato’s sad, non-iPad-supporting “Stream Deck Mobile” app out of the water.
The LoupeDeck LIVE is a similar concept, but integrates production apps, as well.
The GoXLR and Mini are pretty phenomenal audio products for the streaming space, if not expensive in the post-tariff and pandemic world.
The Audient Evo 4 is just a wonderful value audio interface. Dual inputs, instrument support, and enough clean gain to power the Shure SM7b and ElectroVoice RE20 without a mic activator and with clean sound. Heck yeah.
This list is not final. Ideally, it will always be expanding – both as I evaluate new products, but hopefully as new products get released that meet my requirements. I’m strict, but the goal is to encourage innovation and push companies who want to earn streamers’ hard-earned money to provide truly worthwhile products and not rebranded knockoff products. Better quality, better features, lower latency. That’s my goal.
It should go without saying, but no company has, nor ever will, paid me to have their product on this list or receive the “Stream Professor Approved” badge. I try to maintain as straightforward and objective requirements as I can so there’s no chance of confusion. This is based purely on my own independent review and evaluation.
Hopefully you’ll be able to buy a product with the badge on its box some day.