Finding the best streaming settings

Edit 19.11.17: Please note that portions of this guide are outdated. I’m currently looking into a rewrite of the thing over on the layerth blog. ETA ~2-3 weeks.


Hey since I get asked a ton how to get the most out of your stream I’ve written together a very basic guide.

As per usual, if you need help feel free to contact me. I’m not charging anything as long as you don’t demand help right on the spot.

So, let’s go:


The single most important aspect is bitrate. We want to push that as high as we can to get the best quality:

  1. Download R1CH’s twitch bandwidth tester here:
  2. Uncheck every region except the one you’re in for EU it would look this this: 
  3. Click on Get Key above the Stream Key window, copy your stream key into the field
  4. Click on Start in the bottom left

Now you’ll see a lot of servers. Take the one who has the highest bitrate while still having reasonable quality.



Now take the bitrate you’ve chosen from the highest scoring server and subtract 500kbit/s. That is your maximum bitrate you can use. Let’s call it MAXBITRATE.


If you’re a partner (or stream on a tournament channel), use MAXBITRATE as “max bitrate” in OBS options (options -> encoding). BUT NOT MORE THAN 3500. Twitch doesn’t allow that and will consider using a much larger bitrate abuse of their service. However if your twitch rep allows you more, I say go for it. Just make sure you communicate that to your viewers, suddenly Source can’t be viewed with a 4mb connection anymore and if your viewers don’t know that they might just leave.


If you’re NOT a partner, don’t use more than 2500 instead. It will lag the stream.

Also note as a non-partner  keep in mind who you cater too. If most of your viewers don’t have more than 2mbit/s download then you should use 1500kbit instead of 2500 so they can watch the stream without buffering. That especially applies to 3rd world countries when it comes to Internet, such as Australia or SEA (<3 Australia but the Internet really does suck).



Depends on the bitrate you use:

  • 500   – 1000 kbit/s: 480p 30fps
  • 1000 – 1500 kbit/s: 540p 30fps
  • 1500 – 2000 kbit/s: 720p 30fps
  • 2000 – 3500 kbit/s: 720p 60fps
  • 3500 kbit/s: 900p 60fps

Note that you should only use 900p60 if you are streaming a game such as Dota. Don’t ever use it with an ego shooter, say CS:GO or Overwatch.

720p 60fps is the default one you should be using. Gives reasonable quality and devices like chromecast can play it back without issues.


Other stuff

In advanced settings you can optimize a bit more. The x264 CPU preset can be pushed harder (read faster instead of veryfast) which means better quality but more CPU power needed.

I highly suggest you leave it on veryfast for 90% of the things you do. If you have a REALLY good CPU you can set it lower.

Another trick is to use “opencl=true” on GCN AMD CPUs that can give a very slight performance boost.

Important: Please do not tick “Encode in Full Range”. Formerly it was needed for some programs such as VLC as they would otherwise display colours weirdly, but now there’s no need anymore for it. 

Fall backs

If your CPU is weak, I suggest you use another encode-option in the “Encode” options menu. NVENC/AMD VCE work well with a lot less performance draw backs but don’t have the same quality as x264. Intel QuickSync can also be a valid option and usually has better quality than the other two, but is still not quite at x264’s level.

Last thing

A lot of you might use different terrains. Especially the Battle Pass one will destroy your performance if running on low-end systems and trying to stream. So I’d suggest using the default one if you have performance issues. That also applies if you don’t stream.

That being said, if your hardware can take it, you will get slightly better visual quality when using x264 as encoder. Bright colors are less “expensive” in a bitrate/quality term than dark ones. Because the new terrain is very bright you get a very slight quality increase.

Please not I would always recommend the safer option in the default map.


9 thoughts on “Finding the best streaming settings

    1. I don’t know which max bitrate every website applies. The general idea of checking with R1CH’s tool still applies just fill in the maximum as the one specific to your service.


  1. Andrew says:

    Hey pimpmuckl, great guide. Any suggestions for dota 2 in game settings? I know ultra level of details can really cause stream quality issues when streaming is limited to 3500kbps.


    1. It’s still significantly behind x264 veryfast and quality can be a big deal on limited bitrate that most non-partnered streamers can use.

      I do recommend NVENC, but only when the CPU is facing issues.


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