How to Set Up a DAW for Streaming
A digital audio workstation (DAW; ex: Reaper, Ableton, Pro Tools) is the software that you will use to mix and record your audio. Getting started in a DAW can be confusing for newcomers to audio production, not to mention the complications that are added when also using streaming software like OBS or XSplit. This guide will show you how to get up and running in a DAW, and then how you can use the audio from your DAW during a live broadcast.
This guide assumes that you already have an audio interface. If you’d like to read more about audio interfaces and compare different options, check out our post about Audio Interfaces. If you are instead using a USB microphone, most of the same steps will apply, but your default recording device will be the microphone itself rather than an audio interface.
Step One: System Sound and Sample Rate
First thing’s first: make sure your interface is properly installed and that your drivers are up to date. The most recent drivers will be available on the website of your interface’s manufacturer.
Once your interface is installed and up to date, you’ll want to check that it is the default communications device for your computer (on both the “Playback” and “Recording” tabs).
For this example, the interface used is a Focusrite Saffire.
Setting Your Sample Rate
This is the first of three points during setup where you will need to set the sample rate. It is important that you use the same sample rate in all three locations, otherwise your audio will suffer from a subtle, glassy distortion (most noticeable on bass frequencies).
A sample rate of 48k is used in this example because 48k is the max sample rate supported by OBS Studio [free], which is the most popular broadcast software for streamers. However, we personally use XSplit Broadcaster [not free], for a few reasons, one of which being that it supports any audio sample rate. 48k is still superior to CD quality and more than sufficient for live streaming and home recording applications.
You’ll find the sample rate in the “Properties/Advanced” tab for your audio device.
If you’re using this guide for streaming, before getting into the DAW, go ahead and make sure this sample rate matches the sample rate that is set in your broadcast software. For this example, we’re using OBS Studio, and the sample rate will be found in “Settings/Audio”.
Now that your sample rate is set for your system sound and OBS, you’re ready to launch your DAW. For this example we will be using Reaper and strongly recommend Reaper for anyone trying to decide between various DAWs.
Step Two: Setting Up Your Interface in a DAW
The first thing you’ll want to do once you have your DAW open will be to make sure that your interface is set as the DAW’s audio device.
In Reaper, this will be found in “Preferences/Audio/Device”.
Select ASIO (audio streaming in/out) to set your interface as the DAW’s device. (If using a USB mic, select your mic as the device, not AISO. If your mic does not appear on the list, select “Direct Sound” of “WaveOut” to use your system’s default device.)
Now for the third and final sample rate selection, this time for your interface. Select the same rate as you set above by going into “ASIO Configuration”.
The ASIO Configuration window will look different depending on your particular interface. The one shown below is for the Focusrite Saffire. Locate the sample rate and set it to match your system sample rate.
This is also where you will find the buffer settings for your interface. Basically, the smaller the buffer size, the harder your CPU has to work. If you experience pops, crackles, short audio drop-outs, or strange bursts of audio slow-down and speed-up, you will need to increase the buffer size for your interface. This will make it easier for your CPU to process the audio, but will also increase latency. A very powerful PC can handle minimum buffer sizes resulting in about 2ms latency, but most computers will likely need to use a larger buffer, especially if you’re streaming.
Your interface, system sound and DAW are now all aligned and ready for your first DAW project.
Step Three: Setting Up Your Microphones in a DAW
Now it’s finally time to get your microphone plugged in and ready to record or broadcast. [Note: if you’re using a condenser microphone, you will need to send power (48v) to your mic. There will be a switchable 48v button somewhere on your interface. Make sure 48v is OFF when plugging in and unplugging your microphone.]
First, you’ll need to insert a new track into your project.
Next, you’ll select the input channel of your interface that your mic is plugged into.
Even though your input is set, you still won’t be hearing the mic. First you must “arm” the track, and enable live monitoring. [Note: make sure you turn down your speakers before enabling live monitoring or there will be feedback.]
Everything should now be up and running and you will be able to hear your microphone in your headphones (and see its level in the track’s level meter).
Step Four: Applying Effects
The great thing about incorporating a DAW into your live broadcast is that DAWs unlock access to thousands of effects, or plugins, that you can use to carefully sculpt and improve your sound, or as creative performance tools with things like software loopers, samplers, or modulation effects.
To begin adding effects to your channel, click the FX button, then add the effect that you’re looking for (such as the EQ used in this example)
An equalizer (EQ) will allow you to reduce or remove unwanted frequencies. More detailed information about how to properly use an EQ, and other effects like compressors, reverb and limiters will be coming soon.
Once selected, the EQ will appear as an active effect on your track.
[Note: when adding multiple effects on a single track, their order DOES matter. The audio will be processed from top to bottom, so arrange your selected effects accordingly. Generally, you will want to order your effects by Tone (EQ or saturation) -> Dynamics (compressors) -> Modulation (reverb or delay). A sample effects chain is shown below.]
With your mic plugged in, track armed, effects applied, you’re ready to start recording. However, there’s still one more step required in order to get the audio that you’re hearing in your DAW into broadcast software like OBS or XSplit.
Step Five: Routing DAW Audio to OBS
Here’s where most folks give up on incorporating a DAW into their streaming setup. At this point, despite the audio coming in loud and clear through your default device, no audio is making it to OBS.
This is merely a symptom of how DAWs handle audio routing. A DAW will not be able to share its audio with another program, but, there is a free audio routing plugin that can help: Voxengo Recorder.
Download Voxengo Recorder, open the folder and copy the VoxengoRecorder.dll into your plugins library. For Reaper users, this is located in Program Files/Reaper (x64)/Plugins/FX.
[Note: Voxengo Recorder is 32bit only. This is no problem for Reaper users because Reaper has built-in 32-to-64bit VST bridging. However, non-Reaper users may need additional software to use 32bit plugins in a 64bit environment.]
Now that you’ve added Voxengo Recorder to your plugins library, return to your DAW project. You will apply this new plugin the same way that you added an EQ to your microphone channel earlier. However, this time, you will add the effect to the MASTER channel rather than the individual mic channel.
Before the Voxengo Recorder appears in your effects library, you will first need to scan for new effects.
After scanning for the newly added Voxengo Recorder, locate and add the effect to your Master track.
[Note: Make sure that you place the Voxengo Recoder at the very bottom of your effects list in order to capture the audio after it has passed through all of your plugins. For example, you will likely want to include a Limiter on your master track, before the Voxengo Recorder, in order to keep your mix from peaking.]
The Voxengo Recorder sends a copy of your DAW audio to an audio device within your computer other than your interface. You will be able to broadcast this audio by selecting an audio source other than your interface (ASIO) in OBS, then use the Voxengo Recorder to route your DAW audio to that same OBS audio source. The steps of how to do this are shown below.
First, go into OBS ‘Desktop Audio Properties’ to pick out an available audio device.
In this example, we’ve selected ASUS (NVIDIA Hi Def Audio), but any audio device other than your default device or interface should work.
Now return to your DAW and open the Voxengo Recorder. On the Voxengo, set the “MME Device” to the same device that you set in OBS.
Buffer Count will determine the amount of CPU load and latency that will occur. Latency is not an issue at this point in the signal chain, so increasing the buffer size is probably for the best. You will however need to add an artificial delay to your video source in OBS in order to maintain A/V sync.
Make sure “Output” is changed from “File” to “MME”, and change the bit depth to 24-bit in order to match your default device.
Once all of your settings are in order, press “Start” to begin sending a copy of your DAW audio to OBS. You will now finally see the audio from your DAW as desktop audio levels in OBS.
This guide has shown you how to use your DAW audio while streaming, but you may still have many questions about how to get your broadcast software set up. Configuring your broadcast software will be different depending on the streaming platform you will be using, and which broadcast software you choose. We recommend broadcasting to Twitch.tv using XSplit or OBS. Here are guides from Twitch’s blog for setting up OBS or XSplit.
Below are some common problems and how to fix them:
When I record a test video or stream, I hear an extra copy of my audio.
Your extra copy of audio is most likely coming from one of two places, either from your mic/aux input in OBS, or direct monitoring from your interface.
First, make sure that you have your mic input muted in OBS.
Your mics will be picked up as a “Desktop Audio” source due to the Voxengo Recorder routing, so muting the mic input in OBS will make sure you’re not picking up audio from a webcam mic or your computer’s built-in mic.
Alternatively, you may also hear a copy of your audio if your interface’s direct monitoring is active. Enabling/disabling direct monitoring will be different depending on your interface. Some interfaces will have a direct monitoring button or knob on the interface, while others may require going into your interface’s settings on your computer. For the below example using a Focusrite Saffire, you must go into settings and set the “Monitor Output” to “DAW”.
Once I start streaming, I’m hearing crackles and pops in my audio (or my audio occasionally drops out).
This happens whenever your computer experiences an audio buffer underrun. This video explains the issue in an easy to understand way. Underruns occur when your CPU is not available to receive an audio block, and this is common while broadcasting since streaming is very demanding of your CPU. In order to fix this problem, you will need to increase your audio buffer size (found in your interface’s settings “Reaper->Preferences/Device/Configure ASIO”).
Increase your buffer size one step at a time until the pops and crackles are no longer a problem. [Note: the more tracks and effects that you’re using in your project, the harder your CPU will have to work. This means you may have no problems with a project containing one or two tracks, but a larger buffer might be needed for a project with many tracks and effects.]
To find out more about various streaming platforms where you can perform music online, check out our Comparison of Streaming Platforms.