As a streamer, one of the most important things to think about is your audio and its quality. This is especially true when it comes to your microphone. Viewers will usually come to your stream to see a few things: your gameplay, your commentary, and your personality. And when your mic quality isn’t up to snuff, not a lot of people are going to stick around for your commentary. After all, who wants to listen to staticky, echo-ey audio with a lot of background noise? No one is going to stick around for intelligible audio — not only do viewers want to hear you, they also want to understand you.
Whether or not you invest in a really good mic setup, you can at the very least improve the quality of the setup you do have through OBS. You can do this by using mic filters all within OBS itself. Since you’ll be talking a lot while you’re streaming, your mic filters are just about as important as your webcam settings and filters.
The good news is, OBS mic filters are easy to configure, and they make a dramatic difference to your mic quality.
What is an OBS Mic Filter?
Mic filters are settings within OBS. As you might know from Instagram and other similar apps, filters go ON TOP of images. In this case, mic filters will go over your mic to alter the quality of its output. Filters are free and come built right into OBS. They’ll look something like the below:
There are four filters that we will be talking about in more detail in this guide. The four most common and most important filters are:
- Noise gate
- Noise suppressor
There are other filters as well, but out of all of them, one of the most notable is the Limiter. Limiters prevent clipping and peaking by limiting your audio to a certain max volume (that you set). Using a limiter is great if you tend to get naturally loud or excited enough to yell or scream with relative frequency.
A limiter is a special type of compressor filter with a much faster attack rate and a higher ratio. If you want to use one, the settings to look at are threshold (the maximum output volume or level of the audio signal — it can’t get any louder than this no matter how much you yell) and release (how quickly the limiter stops reducing the audio once the audio level drops below your chosen threshold).
Does the Order of the Filters Matter?
As you’re applying your OBS mic filters, you might find yourself wondering whether the order in which they appear matters. The answer is: yes.
Mic filters apply on top of each other, which means if you do them out of order then you might be unnecessarily processing your audio signal too much. With the correct order, you won’t have to put your settings up too dramatically since you won’t have to overcorrect.
The generally accepted order for mic filters is:
- Noise filters first – Any noise gate or noise suppressors go here (Expanders used as noise gates also go here)
How to Apply OBS Mic Filters
Now that you know a little bit more about the mic filters, let’s take a look at how you can configure them on your OBS Studio.
When you open OBS Studio, you can look at the audio mixer at the bottom of the screen. The audio mixer pictured below will show your mic/aux levels.
Click on the gear icon to bring up a drop-down menu, then click on filters.
Your filter screen will look like the one below. If you click on the plus or minus icons, you can add or remove filters respectively. The up and down arrows allow you to reorder the selected filter and move it up and down the list. The eye icon activates or deactivates the filter as needed.
Results May Vary
Before you start using any of the filters below, it’s worth noting that what might work for others might not always work for you (and vice versa). There will certainly be some trial and error when it comes to setting up your mic’s filters, especially since your individual situation and setup might be unique to others’. It’s a good idea to look at your mic’s audio level bars in the audio mixer section moving as you speak normally or yell loudly.
The mic’s audio levels are the green/yellow/red bars. Your normal speaking voice should remain within the upper green to mid yellow levels. If you’re reaching red, that means your audio is peaking and potentially clipping.
Another great thing to remember is to always test your settings via a recording or the audio monitoring filter. You can also ask your chat for feedback on your mic’s quality during your next stream and adjust accordingly.
The Best OBS Filters for Your Mic
The noise gate eliminates or minimizes background noise like your PC or air conditioner’s humming, your keyboard, and your mouse clicks. It can also conceal sounds of people moving around you or talking in the background.
It’s important to know, however, that the noise gate doesn’t just magically eliminate those sounds. What it actually does is allow you to set a minimum audio level/volume threshold before it starts activating your mic. That way, background noise is gone when you’re not talking. Unfortunately, if you’re talking and the mic is active, all of your background noise will get picked up.
If you want to more effectively get rid of background noise, you can do one of a few things: move away from the sources of noise or invest in a cardioid polarity microphone that doesn’t pick up audio from anything that isn’t in front of it (AKA you). Cardioid polarity alone won’t save you if you live in a place with a LOT of noise — in this case, you may want to consider a dynamic mic instead of a condenser mic. A dynamic mic like the Shure SM58 works great for getting rid of a lot of background noise. Just check out this video that puts it to the test.
Another thing: if someone tells you to get a pop filter to get rid of background noise, unfortunately, this is a misconception. Pop filters eliminate plosives, which are the startling “PUH” and “BUH” sounds your mic picks up when you say P or B words. They do nothing to get rid of background noises.
That all said, the screenshot below shows the default settings for the noise gate filter.
Let’s break it down:
- Close threshold – sounds below this level will be muted
- Open threshold – sounds above this level will be picked up by your microphone
- Attack time – refers to how fast the filter activates once the audio levels hit the open threshold
- Hold time – refers to how long the noise gate remains open
- Release time – how fast the filter deactivates after the hold time
The best way to determine the best settings for your situation is to look at your OBS’ audio mixer. Check your mic/aux signal as you are talking normally to see where you should set your open threshold. While you are not talking, start typing and making the types of background noise you’d normally face while streaming to see where your close threshold should be.
Attack, hold, and release times are entirely up to your preference, though some people may prefer faster attack times.
Noise suppressors can eliminate background noise completely up to a certain degree. If you’re dealing with lower, more constant noises such as your PC tower’s hum or your air conditioner or fan’s sound, a noise suppression filter might do the trick.
A noise suppressor’s effect is more subtle than a noise gate’s, though both are often used in conjunction. Here’s what the noise suppressor looks like:
There are two modes: RNNoise and Speex. RNNoise (pictured above) doesn’t let you set a level for the noise suppression and uses more CPU resources.
Speex, pictured above, uses less CPU. It also allows you to set a custom level for the noise suppression. The default setting, -30db, is often good enough. However, if you feel it might be too much, you can slowly adjust the level until it’s just right.
A good way to check whether your noise suppressor is working as it should is by making recordings through OBS and listening to them. If you still hear background noises, you can continue to make changes.
A compressor is one of if not the most important filters you can add to your mic in OBS. Compressors keep your audio levels consistent by doing two things:
- It brings loud sounds down to a maximum volume (set by you)
- It brings quiet sounds up to a minimum volume (set by you)
This allows you to prevent loud audio from breaking your viewers’ eardrums while also letting you talk a bit more quietly and still be heard. Because of the way compressors function, many streamers also apply a compressor filter to their desktop audio (game audio, music, etc) so that audio levels remain consistent all through the stream.
The default compressor settings are pictured above. However, you’ll probably need to tweak these for your particular situation. Let’s break the features down:
- Ratio – how much compression is applied to your mic audio. 3:1 or 4:1 often sound most natural
- Threshold – the max volume your audio will allow. Any louder volume will be brought down to this level
- Attack – how fast your compressor activates once the threshold is reached. Some people leave it as is or go to 4ms
- Release – how fast your compressor deactivates once the threshold is reached. Some people leave it as is or go up to 100ms
- Output gain – adds gain (increases volume) to your mic’s overall audio. You can ignore this and add a gain filter if you prefer
We’ll overlook the sidechain/ducking feature for now as it’s not absolutely necessary to set up your compressor.
If you want to know more about setting up your compressor, read our guide: What Are the Best OBS Compressor Filter Settings? – [SOLVED]
Gain filters are a straight volume boost that you can add to your overall filtered audio. The reason why it often goes last on your filter chain is that other filters (like the compressor) already have built-in gain settings.
If you are using a mic with an audio interface, you might prefer to change your gain settings through your hardware instead. However, gain filters can be helpful when your mic’s audio levels are lower by default, such as in the case of you using dynamic mics like the Shure SM7B without a cloud lifter.
Your mic audio can make a huge difference in your stream’s production quality. Making sure that it’s clear and easy to understand can help to increase the chances of viewers interacting with you and sticking around for your streams. We hope that this guide for the best mic filters in OBS can help you set up everything how you’d like!
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