The 20 Best Live Streaming Encoders: Software & Hardware [2023]

Ollie Burt
. 35 min read
live streaming encoders

Consumers expect quality video experiences at the touch of a button. Without live streaming encoders, though, this wouldn’t be possible.

Streaming encoders are an essential tool for transporting live video across the internet. Their utility is two-fold: content distributors use encoders to digitise video (changing from analog to digital) while simultaneously shrinking gigabytes of data down to megabytes.

In today’s competitive online video market — where quality of experience is table stakes — ensuring your team has the right encoder for your unique needs is key. Streaming data must be compressed for efficient delivery without sacrificing quality. While most encoders deliver on this requirement, they vary in terms of performance and feature set.

But where do you start when selecting an encoder?

Look no further. Our team of video engineering experts has put together a comprehensive comparison of the best live contribution encoders available in 2023. From free software options to 4K live streaming encoder hardware, we cover it all. Keep reading for the what, where, when, and why of video encoding.

What is a live streaming encoder? 

A live streaming encoder is a solution used to convert RAW video data and compress it for distribution across the internet. Sometimes encoders are built into the camera — as with IP surveillance systems. But more often, broadcasters rely on software and hardware live streaming encoders to get the job done. 

Milliseconds after a stream is captured, an encoder uses video compression algorithms called codecs to condense the data. Live encoders employ lossy compression, tossing out unnecessary data to ensure the greatest reduction in file size possible without degrading perceptual video quality.

The encoder then packages the stream for delivery across the internet. This involves putting the components of the stream into a commonly accepted contribution format such as Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) or Secure Reliable Transport (SRT). RTMP and SRT describe streaming protocols that transport content between the encoder and the online video host. 

In most cases, these streams are repackaged at the next step of the workflow for delivery to the end user. Protocols like HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) and Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) come into play here. These protocols make the content more scalable and adaptable for delivery to viewers with varying internet speeds.

Once the stream reaches viewers, a video decoder built into the player software or set-top box will decompress the data for playback. At this point, the video content has often been encoded, transcoded, delivered globally, and decompressed. Thanks to the efficiency afforded by the encoding solution used, viewers are none the wiser. All they know is that the video content is streaming live and in high quality.

Transcoding vs. encoding: What’s the difference?

The terms transcoding and encoding are often used interchangeably. We’ve even been known to combine the two here at Bitmovin. For the sake of clarity, let’s define each term:

What is encoding?

Encoding describes the process of converting RAW video into a compressed digital format directly after the video source is captured. Video encoding always occurs early in the streaming workflow. It’s also a must for every broadcast scenario because video content can’t be transmitted across the internet without being shrunk into a more manageable size. 

Sometimes the encoder is built into the capture device itself. Other times, it requires a secondary software or hardware encoder for live streaming. With contribution encoding, content distributors generally convert the stream for delivery via RTMP, RTSP, SRT, or another ingest protocol.

What is transcoding? 

Transcoding involves taking an encoded stream, decompressing and altering the content in some way, and then compressing it for delivery to end users. Transcoding isn’t always required, but when it is, it occurs after the video source has been encoded. 

Transcoding can be done using a live video streaming solution like Bitmovin, a live stream platform like Facebook Live that has transcoding technology built into its infrastructure, or an on-premises streaming server. In common streaming workflows, RTMP-encoded streams are ingested by the transcoder and then repackaged for adaptive bitrate delivery via HLS and DASH. This ensures that the content reaches more users, plays back on more devices, and adapts to viewers’ connectivity constraints.

Find out more about transcoding in our ultimate guide: Video Encoding: The Big Streaming Technology Guide [2023] 

A simple analogy for transcoding and encoding 

Let’s use the gasoline supply chain to better demonstrate the difference between these two live streaming processes. 

  1. First, crude oil is extracted from underground reservoirs. This crude oil can be thought of as the RAW video source itself.
  2. Next, the crude oil is refined into gasoline for bulk transport via pipelines and barges. This is the encoding stage, where the video source is distilled to its essence for efficient transmission.
  3. Finally, the gasoline is blended with ethanol and distributed to multiple destinations via tanker trucks. This represents the transcoding step, where the content is altered and packaged for end-user delivery.
Live Streaming Encoder Workflow

Why do I need a live streaming encoder? 

The ability to fit more data into less space has changed the way video is stored and distributed. What once required renting VHS tapes or purchasing DVDs can now be accomplished by simply streaming video content over the top (OTT) or storing it in the cloud. Video encoders make this possible by compressing streaming data into a manageable size.

No matter the industry or use case, encoding is a key step in the video delivery chain. Looking to build immersive online fitness experiences like ClassPass? You’ll need an encoder. Hoping to distribute breaking news online by swapping out expensive satellite trucks for a remote streaming setup? Your live encoder will play a vital role. Simulcasting to multiple online video platforms (OVP) like YouTube and Facebook? Great, here are instructions for connecting an encoder to each platform: 

What about simple broadcasts that don’t require additional software or hardware?

Encoding may seem like an unnecessary step given that anyone can go live using their smartphone. But it’s always taking place in the background. And even when you have the option to stream directly to a site without using an encoder, doing so sacrifices quality and control. That’s why most social media sites offer live encoding software integrations like Instagram Live Producer.

Above anything else, implementing one of the recommended encoders below paves the way for more professional live broadcasts. Most encoders allow you to manage complex productions by switching between cameras, microphones, and media assets. What’s more, advanced solutions allow you to add special effects and graphics for a more polished end-user experience.

Luckily, free software encoders and low-cost hardware encoders exist. That means there’s no need to break the bank when designing your live streaming setup. It’s up to you to decide whether you need all the bells and whistles or if free software encoding does the trick. 

Let’s look at some of the considerations that might sway you in either direction.

How important is low latency?

How important is low latency? It depends on what you’re streaming. For standard live streams like online news, your viewers won’t likely notice a 10-second lag. On the other hand, if you’re building interactive video experiences for online gaming or e-commerce, even five seconds of latency could ruin the entire event.

In our 2022/2023 Video Developer Report, live low latency ranked as the second-biggest challenge that content distributors are experiencing with video technology. It’s also the area where survey participants see the most opportunity for innovation in their service. Despite this, 47% of those surveyed indicated that they weren’t using low-latency streaming technology.

live streaming encoder - Bitmovin
Video Developer Report 2022/23: Which technology do you use for low-latency streaming?

So what gives? Why would latency rank as a top concern when almost half of the developers participating in our report aren’t leveraging technologies designed to reduce video lag?

As it turns out, ‘low latency’ is a relative term. For some, sub-five seconds is the ultimate goal. But for truly interactive video applications (like online betting, live auctions, and multi-player quizzes) playback delay often needs to be in the hundreds of milliseconds.

There’s also the issue of perceived need. In conversations with customers, we’ve found that video distributors fall into one of three camps:

  1. They absolutely need low-latency or real-time streaming to ensure that the viewer experience is high quality and competitive in their market.
  2. They think they need to decrease latency because there is so much buzz surrounding the topic, but in reality, reducing the lag has minimal impact on how well the content is received.
  3. They’re well aware that quality and scalability are more important factors for their audience, and as a result, aren’t investing resources in driving down latency.

Take it from our Chief Architect Igor Oreper:

live streaming encoder - Bitmovin

“A better question may not be how do I minimize my live stream’s delay? but what is the target latency I want my audience to have? Target latency can make a world of difference to the playback experience you’re offering your viewers.”

Igor Oreper (Chief Architect, Bitmovin)

Source: Low Latency vs. Target Latency: Why there isn’t always a need for speed

How does live encoding impact latency?

For use cases where reducing latency is a must, there are multiple opportunities to decrease the broadcast delay across the video supply chain. The live encoder, packager, CDN, and player must all be optimised accordingly. 

Things that can impact the speed of video encoding include the encoder itself, which codec and protocols you use, and configurations like the bitrate and resolution. 

Broadcasters committed to lightning-speed delivery should look for contribution encoders that support:

  1. Low-latency protocols like SRT and Zixi
  2. Ethernet connectivity 

Additionally, you might have to compromise on quality by decreasing frame rate and resolution if low latency is essential.

When would I need a 4K live streaming encoder?

4K streaming (and even 8K) comes into play on the other end of the spectrum. 

Content distributors prioritising ultra-high-definition video will need an HD live streaming encoder capable of producing source streams with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. 

While sharper than 1080p, these high-bitrate streams are resource-intensive and costly to distribute. For that reason, you’ll want to be sure that 4K UHD is a business need and not a nice-to-have that lacks any real ROI.

Beyond your 4K live streaming encoder, you’ll also need a 4K camera or higher, a transcoding service capable of ingesting and egressing 4K video, and a HTML5 player that supports 4K playback. Your viewers will also need 4K playback devices to benefit from these efforts. Finally, both broadcasters and end-users will require high-speed internet for these types of streams.

But back to the question at hand: What types of broadcasts warrant 4K HD video? We can’t provide clear-cut criteria. In general, though, the following video streams are best suited for 4K encoding:

  • High-production value content like live sports events
  • Immersive experiences like virtual reality (VR) and gaming
  • Cinematic content for over-the-top (OTT) distribution

Check out our 4K streaming customer spotlight on the Brazilian broadcaster Globo.

Software vs. hardware encoders: Which is right for me?

Once upon a time, dedicated hardware was the only choice for live video encoding. Computers are now powerful enough to handle such a strenuous task — but just because you can use software doesn’t mean you should. 

Hardware encoders have the dedicated power to encode high-quality streams quickly. Software encoders, on the other hand, must make concessions to encode in real time. As a result, you’ll sacrifice quality for efficiency — or vice versa — when going with a software encoder. 

That’s not to say that software encoding isn’t a viable option for professional broadcasting. Live streaming software like OBS, Wirecast, and VMix are cost-effective and easy to use. For that reason, we’d recommend starting with one of these solutions if you’re new to broadcasting. Audio, video, and graphics are often stored on a computer anyways, so software encoding can streamline the process. One caveat, though: Make sure your computer is up to the task if you’re going this route.

With hardware encoding, alternatively, you’re able to free up resources and support more advanced configurations. Hardware can get pricey, though. In our list below, the best hardware encoders for live streaming ran the gamut from just over $200 to just over $12,000. 

There’s also a third route to take. Encoding expert Jan Ozer advises using a hybrid workflow:

“Many producers who use software programs like Wirecast and vMix (and TriCaster for that matter) use an external hardware-based encoder for producing their live output streams, which totally removes the encoding load from your mixing station. In very high profile engagements, you should always consider this option as well.”

Jan Ozer, Founder of the Streaming Learning Center


Check out our chart below for a quick breakdown of the software vs. hardware encoding debate.

Cost effective and sometimes freeCan get pricey
Runs on your computerPhysical appliance
Accessible and versatileMore robust and reliable
Slower encoding timesCan encode quickly and in high quality
Power is dependent on your computing resourcesActs as a dedicated resource for encoding workload
Eliminates the need for additional equipmentFrees up computing resources
Best for simple broadcasts and user-generated content (UGC)Best for complex productions and  live television or cable studio setups

11 considerations when choosing a live streaming encoder

Aside from the considerations above (whether or not your workflow will include encoding and transcoding, software vs. hardware solutions, 4K resolution, and low-latency encoding), here are 10 factors to mull over before selecting a live streaming encoder.

1. Cost and/or ability to trial

Price point will always be the deciding factor. If your budget is nonexistent, that makes things easy: Go with a free software option like open broadcaster studio (OBS). Alternatively, you might be able to gain internal buy-in on a pricier option by creating a proof of concept first. In those cases, Telestream’s Wirecast production studio software and the vMix live video production software both offer free trials to get started. 

Hardware will always be the most expensive avenue. Even so, software options have hidden costs because they must be deployed on a reasonably powerful computer. If you don’t have an adequate computer to start, hardware encoding might be right for you. Anyone dead-set on hardware but lacking in budget should go with a low-cost option like the Videon EdgeCaster.

2. Support for your ingest protocol(s)

All encoders covered below support RTMP output. This is the de facto standard for first-mile contribution. Most media servers can receive RTMP and all major social media players like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch accept it. That said, there’s a growing list of RTMP alternatives today. These include SRT, Zixi, QUIC, Reliable Internet Stream Transport (RIST), and Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC)

Often, these new technologies are open source and more advanced. SRT and RIST, for example, promise better resilience to network issues like packet loss while ensuring low-latency delivery over public networks. If these protocols play a role in your workflow, you’ll want to find an encoder that can output them. OBS and vMix both support SRT on the software front; Ephiphan’s Pearl Nano and Haivision’s Makito X are great SRT options in the hardware world. 

3. Integration with existing equipment and capture devices

Today’s encoders range from specialised component tools to out-of-the-box studio production kits. While hardware encoders help integrate all of your equipment into a full-functioning studio, they might not be compatible with your current gear. Confirm that your encoder supports the input types (HDMI vs. SDI), resolution (1080p vs. 4K), and frame rate (30 vs. 60 fps) of your camera or video source. 

4. Compatibility and/or integration with your destination

Is your encoder compatible with the platform to which you’re streaming? Whether the next step in your workflow is a transcoding solution, social media service, or something else entirely, you’ll want to ensure that it connects with your destination(s) prior to settling on a live streaming encoder. Some encoders even offer custom integrations with common video workflow tools. 

OBS, for instance, integrates with a variety of video sources and transcoding solutions. These include integrations with Zoom and Bitmovin’s Streams product. Similarly, the Matrox suite of hardware encoders integrates with Facebook Live and YouTube. 

To rehash the last three considerations in this list: It’s vital that you look at your entire streaming ecosystem and make sure the encoder you’re leaning toward fits with your tech stack. 

5. Internet connection

In a perfect world, all live stream encoding would utilise a wired Ethernet connection to high-speed internet. That’s not always the case though. Remote encoding has become increasingly common, which is why many encoders today offer the flexibility to use Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or both. If neither Wi-Fi nor Ethernet is available at your production location, you’ll need an encoder like LiveU that can connect via mobile networks. 

Regardless, we always suggest testing your internet strength to verify the stability of your broadcast signal. High-speed internet is also crucial for producing 4K streams, so try to go with an Ethernet-connected encoder when UHD resolution is the goal.

6. Use case

The perfect encoder for your application will be ill-suited for another’s. That’s why the specifics of your scenario should help determine which encoder makes the most sense. 

Are you streaming a high-action football match that switches between multiple cameras or a talking head commentary with a single video and audio source? Do you need to encode from remote locations or are you always broadcasting from the same studio? All of these specifics will dictate which option’s best.

7. Feature set

Encoders vary drastically in terms of the feature set. Some broadcasters require preset configurations for different productions, while others are vlogging from their desk with minimal requirements. There’s a lot to think about in terms of encoding features — including recording, composting, audio mixing, lower-thirds graphics, subtitles, analytics, and monitoring.

8. Simulcasting

It’s also worth pondering whether you require multi-encoding functionality, simulcasting capabilities, or both. Anyone simultaneously streaming to multiple destinations should prioritise these capabilities or use a streaming solution like Bitmovin to build custom video experiences — including distribution to any device or social media platform.

9. Redundancy

Depending on the criticality of your streaming content, you might require encoder and/or output redundancy. This helps ensure that your stream is resilient enough to survive a cable failure, loss of internet connectivity, or hardware (computer or encoder) failure. For anyone hosting live shopping experiences or news streams, redundancy is an important consideration.

10. How much noise can you handle (hardware) 

Powerful hardware encoders often come with noisy built-in fans. If your encoder is stored away in a closet, this won’t impact your decision. But if your entire studio setup is constrained to the same closed space from which your stream is being broadcast, you’ll want to find a hardware encoder that keeps the sound to a minimum.

11. Operating system (software)

Streaming software like vMix only works with Windows 7 and later. Likewise, Wirecast isn’t available for Linux operating systems. Make sure to verify that your live software encoder is supported by your operating system before making a purchase. 

The best encoder software for live streaming is always going to be one that runs on your OS!

Live streaming encoder glossary

Here’s some encoding terminology to brush up on as you shop around. 

  • AV1: An open-source, royalty-free, next-generation video codec developed by the Alliance for Open Media. AV1 delivers 30% bandwidth savings compared to alternatives like VP9 and HEVC while also improving visual quality. Learn more in our AV1 datasheet.
  • Bitrate: The amount of video data transferred across a connection in a set amount of time. Video bitrate is measured in bits per second (bps). When you have a high-bitrate live stream, you’ll need a network connection capable of meeting that bps demand to ensure quality and reliability.
  • Codecs: A portmanteau of ‘coder-decoder’ or ‘compressor-decompressor’, codecs are the two-part compression algorithms that allow content distributors to condense their video and audio content for transmission across the internet. Popular video codecs include H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC, and AV1. Popular audio codecs include AAC and MP3.
  • Frame rate: Because video is actually a series of still pictures shown in rapid succession (like a flipbook), frame rate measures how many frames appear within a second. Thus, the acronym fps (frames per second) is used synonymously. A high frame rate translates to a smooth viewer experience, whereas a low frame rate makes things a bit choppy. Frame rates can range anywhere from 10-120fps, depending on the broadcast type.
  • HLS: Short for HTTP Live Streaming, Apple HLS is the most common streaming protocol today for last-mile delivery. The adaptive HTTP-based format scales easily across content delivery networks (CDNs), and can be played back across all Android, Linux, Microsoft, and MacOS devices. 
  • H.264/AVC: Also referred to as Advanced Video Coding, H.264/AVC is a widely supported codec with significant penetration into streaming, cable broadcasting, and even Blu-ray disks. It plays on virtually any device and delivers quality video streams, but is gradually declining in usage due to more advanced alternatives like H.265/HEVC and AV1. We cover these trends in more detail in our annual Video Developer Report.
  • H.265/HEVC: H.265 was developed by the ISO/IEV Moving Picture Experts Group as the successor to H.264. Also called High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), it generates smaller files than H.264 and supports 8K resolution. This codec is universally supported on Smart TVs and Google also recently added support, so we anticipate a major uptick in use. 
  • Keyframe interval: Also called an i-frame interval, this encoding setting determines how often a whole picture is transmitted. When streaming, the complete image is only included in an initial keyframe, while subsequent delta frames depict changes from that image. This reduces bandwidth by only transmitting new data in each frame. A keyframe interval of two seconds is sufficient when streaming static scenes like a news desk, but action-packed content like sporting events often requires a shorter keyframe interval of approximately one second.
  • Mixing: Video mixing is the process of combining different audio and video files to create a singular feed. This is a primary function of most encoders and includes the ability to transition via smooth dissolves, wipes, and other special effects. 
  • MPEG-DASH: Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP, a.k.a. MPEG-DASH, is the industry-standard alternative to Apple’s HLS protocol. As such, it facilitates the last-mile delivery of streaming content to end users. Because DASH doesn’t enjoy the same playback support as HLS (iOS and Apple TV don’t support it), it lags behind in adoption.
  • RTMP: The Real-Time Messaging Protocol is an ingest protocol used to transport video and audio data from encoders to social media platforms and video streaming solutions like Bitmovin. Originally designed for the now-defunct Adobe Flash Player, RTMP runs into compatibility issues when it comes to playback on popular devices. For that reason, RTMP streams are almost always repackaged into a format like HLS or DASH.
  • Resolution: Resolution describes the number of pixels in a video frame, which determines how realistic the video appears. The higher the resolution, the crisper the picture. Resolution is measured in pixels, with today’s displays weighing in at 480p, 720p, 1080p, 4K, and 8K.
  • Simulcasting: Also called multi-streaming, simulcasting describes the ability to broadcast a live or recorded stream to multiple destinations at once. These destinations can include websites or social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook.
  • SRT: Secure Reliable Transport is an RTMP alternative designed by Haivision to ensure reliable, low-latency video contribution regardless of network quality. This emerging technology doesn’t boast the same support as RTMP but it’s quickly being adopted as a newer and better solution. SRT is especially valuable for remote video production and has powered broadcasts for ESPN, Microsoft, and Al Jazeera. Other advantages of SRT include its support for multiple audio streams, its ability to transport closed captions, and its error-correction qualities when transporting high-bitrate content.
  • VP9: As an earlier version of AV1, VP9 is another royalty-free, open source video codec. It enjoys greater compatibility than many of its alternatives and works well for high-quality compression like 4K streaming requires. Even so, the industry’s prioritisation of AV1 has stifled adoption.
  • WebRTC: Web Real-Time Communication is a technology designed for peer-to-peer streaming between browsers. The framework supports sub-500 ms latency but struggles to scale beyond small chat-based applications. Today, organisations are experimenting with using it as a contribution protocol, delivery protocol, and end-to-end. Whether or not it has a future in large-scale broadcasting has yet to be seen.
  • Zixi: Zixi is a content- and network-aware contribution protocol that dynamically adjusts to varying network conditions and employs error correction techniques for streaming over IP networks globally. This resolves the inherent limitations of low-latency live video delivery, regardless of network conditions. Capable of ~0ms latency, Zixi is a leading technology for sending professional-grade content over the internet with protection and error correction built in. Zixi is technically similar to SRT. That said, while SRT is open source, Zixi is a proprietary and licensed protocol developed by the company of the same name.

The top 20 live streaming encoders: software and hardware

We’ve covered the terminology and key considerations. So, without further ado, here’s our list of the top 20 live streaming encoders in 2023 — broken up to detail the software options first and hardware options next.


  1. OBS
  2. Wirecast
  3. VMix


  1. Videon EdgeCaster EZ Encoder
  2. AJA HELO Plus
  3. Matrox Monarch HD
  4. Osprey Talon 4K
  5. VCS NSCaster-X1
  6. Haivision Makito X and X4
  7. TASCAM VS-R264
  8. Datavideo NVS-40
  9. Magwell Ultra Encode
  10. Blackmagic ATEM Mini
  11. Black Box
  12. Orivision
  13. Axis
  14. LiveU Solo
  15. YoloLive
  16. Pearl Nano
  17. Kiloview Encoders

1. OBS (Software)

OBS is the live encoding software that everyone should start with. The open-source solution is free, proven, and available on multiple systems (Windows, Mac, Linux). Its dedicated user base of OBS developers work to keep the tool relevant, which means its feature set is constantly growing. Useful plug-ins and integrations are always being added for that reason. 

OBS provides everything needed to get a live streaming studio running on a laptop — including transitioning between cameras, mixing audio, and integrating additional material into the production. The software can input multiple sources, and output can take the form of a live stream, recording, or virtual camera.

Support can be found in the community on their forums, discord, and Facebook groups. OBS also offers developer docs and a knowledge base of guides curated by their volunteer support team. When you first fire up the program, OBS Studio even offers a wizard to optimise setup.

We’ve used OBS internally at Bitmovin to generate RTMP streams for many years. We’ve also developed a new plugin for the OBS project that makes it simple to connect OBS to Bitmovin Streams. This helps streamline the process and reduce the likelihood of typos when connecting OBS with Bitmovin.

obs live streaming encoder

Best use case: Simple live broadcasts that require a broad range of functionality.

Key features:

  • Real-time audio and video mixing with transitions and filters
  • Picture-in-picture shots, personalised watermarks, lower-thirds animation, and more
  • File management
  • Screen recording and multi-screen recording
  • Video conferencing and collaboration tools
  • Can be configured for low-latency and 4K streaming
  • Codecs: H.264, MP3, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP, SRT, RIST


  • Highly customisable
  • The scenes functionality allows you to configure stream settings and jump back and forth between them
  • Frequent updates and new plugins from dedicated community
  • Free


  • The user interface isn’t always intuitive
  • Quickly switching between sources and manipulating the broadcast in real time can be challenging
  • OBS comes with a learning curve to configure the encoding settings
  • There’s no dedicated customer support if you need to troubleshoot an issue
  • Minor bugs and glitches are reported
  • You’ll need a laptop to run OBS

Price: OBS is and likely always will be free. This makes it a no-brainer for projects where the budget is constrained.

Compatibility: OBS is the most widely compatible software on this list, suitable for macOS Catalina 10.15 and newer, Windows 10 release 1809 and newer or Windows 11, and Linux/Unix W window system or Wayland.

2. Wirecast (Software)

Telestream’s Wirecast comes in two tiers: Wirecast Studio and Wirecast Pro. Both provide extensive customisation for professional productions while also enabling broadcasters to go live in a snap with built-in presets for YouTube, Facebook, and more. The intuitive interface pre-populates fields with recommended settings, and you don’t have to add new features using plug-ins as you do with OBS.

Affordability is not Wirecast’s claim to fame, and even if you want to test it with a free trial you’ll be stuck with watermarked audio and video.

wirecast live streaming encoder

Best use case: Live sports events and similar live events.

Key features:

  • Audio mixer and pan-tilt-zoom (PTC) controllers 
  • Options for live streaming, recording, and streaming to external sources
  • Automated production workflows
  • Video conferencing and remote productions
  • Integrated text, transitions, chroma Key, and clocks
  • Social media comment moderation 
  • Stock media library and built-in lower-thirds title library
  • Can be configured for low latency and 4K streaming
  • Codecs: H.264, MP3, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP, SRT


  • Quick learning curve
  • Pre-populates with best encoding settings
  • Unlimited sources and destinations
  • Replays, scoreboards, clocks, and timers for sports producers


  • Costly software option
  • Requires a lot of computing resources
  • You’ll need a laptop to run Wirecast

Price: Wirecast Studio costs $599 and Wirecast Pro costs $799

Compatibility: Wirecast is compatible with macOS Catalina 10.15 and newer, Windows 10 release 1809 and newer or Windows 11.

3. VMix (Software)

vMix bridges the gap between software encoding and professional-quality video productions. Designed to run on a laptop but robust enough to run alongside purpose-built hardware, vMix has some great feature sets even for the minimum $60 price tag. Plus, the 60-day trial comes with all of the Pro features.

Wirecast is a great option for Windows users. Unfortunately, it isn’t supported for Mac users and we don’t recommend running it in a virtual environment on OS X when you could go with an alternative like Wirecast or OBS.

vmix live streaming encoder

Best use case: Windows users requiring a turnkey studio and live production system.

Key features:

  • Audio mixing and ability to combine multiple video files
  • Simultaneous streaming, recording, and output
  • Offers extensive transition effects including cut, fade, zoom, wipe, slide, etc.
  • 100+ built-in animated titles, scoreboards, and tickers
  • HD virtual sets with high-quality chroma key
  • Can add up to 8 remote guests via vMix Call
  • Can be configured for low latency and 4K streaming
  • Codecs: H.264, H.265, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP, SRT, TS


  • vMix social allows integration with social media comments 
  • The lowest tier comes at a very affordable price, with the flexibility to pay more for additional flexibility
  • Stable and easy-to-use software
  • Consistently adding new technologies and capabilities to the platform 
  • Generous 60-day trial period


  • Only a viable option for Microsoft users
  • You’ll need a laptop to run vMix

Price: vMix offers a wide range of pricing options.

  • vMix basic — $60
  • vMix HD — $350
  • vMix 4K — $700
  • vMix Pro — $1,200

Compatibility: Windows 10 or newer.

4. Videon EdgeCaster EZ Encoder (Hardware)

The Videon EdgeCaster EZ Encoder is a portable appliance that brings cloud functionality on premises with LiveEdge. In this way, it combines the flexibility of software encoders with the power and reliability of hardware solutions. Regular software updates ensure support for the most advanced features and the latest industry standards. What’s more, the Videon Compute Platform is integrated with Bitmovin, ensuring that live productions can be quickly configured and sent to the Bitmovin Live Event Encoder distribution.

videon live streaming encoder

Best use case: Broadcasters looking to combine a dedicated out-of-the-box solution with cloud management.

Key features:

  • Small portable appliance
  • Simultaneous streaming to three platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch
  • Support for ultra-low latency and 4K streaming
  • Codecs: H.264, H.265, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP, SRT, HLS, DASH, Low-Latency HLS, and Low-Latency CMAF for DASH
video live streaming encoder workflow


  • Powerful contribution encoder designed for point-of-production
  • Ultra-low latency: Can achieve less than three seconds of latency worldwide
  • Combines benefits of on-premises hardware with cloud-based software
  • Broad protocol support
  • Easy-to-understand web interface
  • Support for HLS and DASH using CMAF


Price: Starts at $1,300

Compatibility: The Videon Edgecaster supports HDMI and SDI input.

5. AJA HELO Plus (Hardware)

AJA’s HELO Plus is a reliable and compact H.264 live streaming encoder. The appliance tops out at 1080p, so anyone looking for a 4K live streaming encoder should keep on reading. But for broadcasters requiring something portable and quiet to get the job done, this is a great option. 

AJA also offers a handful of other encoders, including the U-Tap HDMI, U-Tap SDI, and Io 4K Plus.

aja helo plus live streaming encoder

Best use case: On-the-go streaming in tight quarters

Key features:

  • Portable appliance
  • Can be controlled remotely via a web browser or locally
  • Powerful multi-input video processing
  • Simultaneous streaming and recording
  • Up to two streaming outputs and destinations
  • Picture-in-picture and other graphics functionality 
  • Codecs: H.264, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP, RTP/UDP, SRT, HLS


  • Fanless and silent
  • Calendar integration for live events
  • Supports SRT streaming for a cost-effective alternative to satellite contribution
  • Comes with a three-year warranty


  • Doesn’t support 4K streaming

Price: The AJA HELO plus costs $1,869

Compatibility: The AJA Helo Plus offers both HDMI and SDI input and output. Additional compatibility details can be found here.

6. Matrox Monarch HD (Hardware)

The most notable encoder of the Matrox suite of hardware is the Monarch HD. It’s small, rack-mountable, and fanless.

matrox monarch hd live streaming encoder

Best use case: Broadcasting live content that will be repurposed for additional distribution after the event.

Key features:

  • Simultaneous streaming and recording
  • Integrates with Facebook Live and YouTube
  • One-touch stream and recording buttons
  • Remotely controlled
  • Ability to record to an SD card, USB drive, or system drive on computer
  • Codecs: H.264, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP


  • Recording is done in a higher quality to allow post-event editing with a master file
  • Presets and profiles for simple configuration
  • Accessible via web UI or API
  • Two-year warranty with live phone support


  • Doesn’t support 4K streaming
  • Doesn’t support protocols like SRT

Price: The Matrox Monarch HD starts at $945

Compatibility: The Matrox uses an HDMI input/output.

7. Osprey Talon 4K (Hardware)

As the first hardware encoder on our list that’s purpose-built for 4K encoding, the Osprey Talon 4K can stream up to 10 bit 4:2:2 4K 60 fps. What’s more, it supports emerging protocols for real-time video delivery.

The Osprey Talon 4K can be controlled over a web interface and is suitable for use as a wall-mounted appliance or on a desktop. This appliance is also integrated with Bitmovin.

osprey talon 4k live streaming encoder

Best use case: Ultra low-latency streaming for interactive experiences like live auctions

Key features:

  • Designed for 4K encoding
  • Simultaneous streaming and recording
  • Two-year warranty
  • Codecs: H.264, H.265, AAC, OPUS
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTP, UDP, SRT, Zixi, SRT, WHIP


  • WHIP integration for low-latency streaming
  • Unique in offering support for a wide range of protocols, including WHIP for WebRTC, SRT, and Zixi


  • At almost $3K, the Osprey Talon 4K is our priciest option yet

Price: The Osprey Talon will set you back $2,690

Compatibility: The Osprey Talon supports HDMI and SDI input.

8. VCS NSCaster (Hardware)

Rather than taking the form of a black box, the NAGASOFT VCS NSCaster-X1 is a touchscreen tablet for broadcasting, switching, mixing, recording, special effects, and monitoring. This complete live production system provides the flexibility to input an encoded stream from multiple cameras and devices and produce a highly professional live stream with graphic overlays, audio mixing, recording, and distribution. Alternatively, it can also be used like a contribution encoder.

Designed to make live streaming easier to operate, the touchscreen allows broadcasters to quickly switch between channels and start broadcasts. The NSCaster-X1 also offers Ethernet, Wi-FI, and 4G connectivity to meet the needs of remote encoding.

vcs nscaster-x2 live streaming encoder

Best use case: Live sports production with professional broadcast features.

Key features:

  • Touchscreen with simple user interface
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Picture-in-picture, scoreboard templates, and other graphic overlays
  • Streaming and recording
  • Multi-platform streaming to Facebook, YouTube, and more
  • Live+ connection for smartphone control
  • Can be used to operate up to four PTZ cameras with zoom, focus, aperture operation, and camera movement
  • Codecs: H.264, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTP, UDP


  • Equivalent of a video production truck in a tablet with more capabilities than most hardware encoders out there
  • Uniquely designed as a navigation tablet
  • Flexibility to connect to the internet via mobile networks if needed
  • Supports 2 3G-SDI and dual HDMI inputs
  • 1 3G-SDI, 1 HDMI PGM, 1 HDMI display output, gigabit ethernet, and cellular (4G) outputs
  • 802.11 b/g/n


  • Limited protocol and codec support
  • Doesn’t support 4K streaming
  • Not designed for low latency
  • Not cheap

Price: The VCS NSCaster-X1 costs $4,175.

Compatibility: The NSCaster-X1 includes two HDMI and SDI inputs, as well as two HDMI and one SDI output.

9. Haivision Makito X and X4 (Hardware)

The award-winning Haivision Makito X and X4 series of encoders and decoders support low-latency, high-quality transport over unpredictable networks. Specifically, Makito encoders were designed for use cases where low latency matters, including broadcast, government, enterprise, and more. 

The Haivision Makito is your best bet when you need it all — low latency, reliability, and broadcast quality video streaming over IP. One reason for this is that Haivision themselves created the SRT protocol for low-latency, reliable video streaming.

live streaming encoder - Bitmovin

Best use case: Remote field production requiring high quality and low latency video contribution over ip.

Key features:

  • Multi-bitrate streaming of up to four 1080p 60 fps feeds
  • Broadcast quality video up to 4K UHD and in HDR
  • Portable design, also available as a blade for modular installation
  • Native SRT support for reliable ultra-low latency streaming over IP
  • 4:2:2 chroma subsampling for pristine color
  • Codecs: H.264, H.265, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTP, UDP, SRT


  • Supports SRT streaming for a cost-effective alternative to satellite contribution
  • Up to 8 encoding cores for synchronised multi-camera video streaming


  • Not designed with affordability in mind.

Price: Haivision encourages interested buyers to request pricing, but we’re estimating that this live video and SRT streaming encoder falls somewhere in the $6,000-$12,000 range depending on the number of SDi inputs.

Compatibility: The Makito X and X4 series provides 12G-SDI, 6G-SDI, 3G-SDI, HD-SDI and ST 2110 inputs and outputs.

10. TASCAM VS-R264 (Hardware)

Designed to address the growing demand for standalone YouTube encoders in live streaming environments, the TASCAM VS-Rs64 is a no-frills solution for transporting video across public networks.

tascam vs-r264 live streaming encoder

Best use case: Ideal for live streaming presentation for enterprises, house of worship, and education AV environments.

Key features:

  • Simultaneous recording and streaming, as well as encoding and decoding
  • Simultaneous distribution to multiple streaming platforms
  • RESTful API integration
  • Supports Power over Ethernet (PoE)
  • Codecs: H.264, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP, and HLS
tascam live encoding workflow
Source: TASCAM


  • Can be used for both encoding and decoding


  • No support for 4K
  • Not designed for low latency

Price: The TASCAM VS-R264 can be purchased for $1,499

Compatibility: The TASCAM VS-R264 offers HDMI input and output.

11. Datavideo NVS-40 (Hardware)

Like many others on this list, the Datavideo NVS-40 enables video encoding and recording. The multi-channel streaming encoder has an easy-to-use web admin menu for controlling the appliance via your computer, tablet, or phone.

datavideo nvs-40 live streaming encoder

Best use case: Multi-channel live broadcasting.

Key features:

  • Four channel capture and streaming
  • Each incoming signal is dual encoded
  • Dynamic parameter settings adjustment
  • Picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture mode
  • Codecs: H.264, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP, SRT, TS, HLS


  • Allows you to record directly to hard disk in master quality with fully customisable frame rate, GOP, and more
  • Can be used for end-user delivery via HLS


  • Input resolution maxes out at 1080p 60 fps

Price: The Datavideo NVS-40 costs $1,999

Compatibility: The Datavideo NVS-40 provides four HDMI inputs

12. Magwell Ultra Encode (Hardware)

This affordable universal encoder for live streaming offers configurable presets for streaming to Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube — including streaming to multiple destinations simultaneously. It’s a complete appliance for video production, contribution, and monitoring.

magewell ultra encode live streaming encoder

Best use case: Simple remote productions on a budget.

Key features:

  • Simultaneous streaming to multiple destinations
  • Native support for Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube streaming
  • Can be controlled via web UI or APIs
  • Suitable for various network environments
  • Internet connectivity via wired Ethernet and wireless networks
  • Codecs: H.264, H.265, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP, HLS, RTP


  • Can be camera-mounted for easy remote contribution
  • Affordable


  • Doesn’t support high bitrate encoding or 4K streaming
  • Recording is bound to the same quality as the encoding settings.

Price: Both the SDI and HDMI models are affordable at $469

Compatibility: The Magwell Ultra Encode comes in two varieties: The Magwell Ultra Encode HDMI and The Magwell Ultra Encode SDI

13. Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro (Hardware)

Another affordable option, the Blackmagic ATEM Mini makes it simple to switch up to eight high-quality video inputs live. Easy to use, fast to learn, and portable, this is a great encoding hardware that also offers a wealth of production features.

blackmagic atem mini live streaming encoder

Best use case: On-the-go encoding for multi-camera setups.

Key features:

  • Mini switcher for multi-camera environments
  • Ability to connect 4G and 5G phones to use mobile data when no Ethernet connection is available
  • Advanced chroma key for green screen keying effects
  • Built-in graphics with photoshop plug-in and ability to connect PowerPint slideshows or gaming consoles
  • Ability to create virtual sets
  • Source monitoring 
  • Codecs: H.264, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP


  • Includes the free ATEM Software Control Panel
  • Compact design
  • Super affordable


  • Limited protocol and codec support
  • Not designed for novices

Price: At $295, it’s one of the cheapest options out there.

Compatibility: The Blackmagic ATEM mini has 4 HDMI inputs.

14. Black Box HDMI-over-IP H.264 Encoder (Hardware)

As the name suggests, this Black Box encoder is a straightforward H.264 live streaming encoder for delivering media over IP networks. The encoder comes in two versions: two or four ports. It can also be paired with the Black Box VS-2001 DEC Decoder for streaming across LAN or WAN.

live streaming encoder - Bitmovin

Best use case: Enterprise collaboration and corporate communications.

Key features:

  • Supports standard definition through up to 1920x1200p
  • Can be controlled via the web interface or Telnet API
  • Power over Ethernet
  • Comes with standard three-year warranty
  • Codecs: H.264, H.265, AAC, and MP2
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTP, TS through UDP, and HLS


  • Interfaces with HDMI signals to deliver media as far as your network reaches
  • Flexibility to choose how many HDMI ports you’d like


  • An expensive option considering its bare bones feature set
  • Tops out at 1080p
  • Limited codec support

Price: Pricing isn’t public on Black Boxes website, but online retailers sell the two-port version for approximately $1,782 and the four-port version for approximately $2,273. 

Compatibility: Buyers have the option to select between one, two, or four HDMI inputs.

15. Orivision H.265 1080p HDMI Encoder (Hardware)

The Orivision H.265 1080p HDMI Encoder touts itself as a stable live streaming solution for remote video transmission or transporting content over WAN. It’s simple and affordable, with a solid feature set.

orivision live streaming encoder

Best use case: IPTV systems, online courses, and meeting broadcasts are all good uses for this encoder.

Key features:

  • Ability to monitor IP status and encoding parameters in real time via built-in LCD screen.
  • Logo, image, text, and mosaic overlay with support for adjusting font sizes or scrolling subtitles
  • Local and remote transmission
  • Output 4 channels simultaneously
  • Power over Ethernet
  • Codecs: H.264, H.265, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP, SRT, HLS, TS over UDP, and Onvit


  • Affordable
  • Web interface offers Chinese and English language selections
  • Image rotation and cropping makes it optimized for social media streaming with support for vertical screen view
  • Three-year warranty includes remote technical service and free firmware upgrade


  • Resolution maxes out at 1080p

Price: The Orivision H.265 1080p HDMI Encode costs around $233, making it a very affordable option.

Compatibility: The Orvision H.265 allows HDMI input.

16. Axis M71 Video Encoder (Hardware)

Axis encoders were designed for IP-based video surveillance systems that could benefit from improved image quality, better scalability, video analytics, and a lower cost of ownership than relying on analog CCTV systems. For this reason, PTZ controls and built-in intelligent analytics are key features of the Axis M71 Video Encoder.

axis m71 live streaming encoder

Best use case: Axis encoders are best suited for CCTV across campuses, IP-based video surveillance retail environments, and other surveillance streaming use cases.

Key features:

  • Full frame rate in all resolutions 
  • PTZ control
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE)
  • Intelligent analytics such as motion detection and active tampering alarm
  • Built-in cybersecurity features
  • Supports all types of standard resolution analog babies
  • Codecs: H.264, H.265, AAC
  • Protocols: RTSP


  • Supports up to 16 channels
  • Purpose-built for surveillance and organisations making the migration from legacy systems to IP surveillance
  • Zipstream technology to analyse video streams in real time


  • Only supports 720p resolution (which is more than enough for surveillance)
  • Minimal production capabilities
  • Limited protocol support 

Price: The AXIS M7104 Video Encoder will set you back about $335, whereas the AXIS M7116 Video Encoder costs around $875.

17. LiveU Solo PRO HDMI/SDI (Hardware)

The LiveU Solo encoder is well known in the industry for its ability to deliver reliable 4K video via bonded 4G and 5G. It lets content distributors go live touch of a button and is ideal for remote locations or congested network environments. It’s also integrated with destinations like Facebook, Amazon Live, Microsoft Teams — and will soon be integrated with Bitmovin.

liveu solo live streaming encoder

Best use case: As a portable encoder that supports 4K, the LiveU Solo is great for remote streaming from sports events and conferences with congested networks.

Key features:

  • Portable bonding encoder for 4K streaming
  • Compact and mobile with a built-in battery
  • 4K streaming
  • Solo Stream Tools for personal branding, stream protection, and multi-destination publishing
  • Web-based remote control from smartphones, laptops, tablets, or web browsers
  • Codecs: H.264, H.265, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, SRT, LRT (see below)


  • Offers LiveU Reliable Transport (LRT), a proprietary patented protocol allowing broadcasters to combine multiple IP connections (including cellular, WiFi, and Ethernet) to ensure bandwidth consistency
  • Lithium Ion battery supports three hours of wireless streaming


  • You pay for the expansive feature set that LiveU offers

Price: Pricing for the LiveU Solo Pro starts at $1,495.

Compatibility: The LiveU Solo PRO HDMI/SDI offers HDMI and SDI video interfaces.

18. YoloLiv YoloBox Pro (Hardware)

YoloLive positions their encoders as “the industry’s first REALLY all-in-one live production system that doesn’t require anything external.” Thus, the YoloBox Pro is a one-stop encoder, video switcher, recorder, and monitor in one appliance that’s portable and reliable. This system combines the touchscreen control of the NAGASOFT VCS NSCaster-X1 with the portability and mobile connectivity of LiveU Solo.

yolobox pro live streaming encoder

Best use case: YoloLiv is perfect for broadcasters looking for an all-in-one solution that eliminates the need for any additional equipment. 

Key features:

  • All-in-one encoder, switcher, and monitor
  • Ability to live switch up to six video sources
  • Compact and mobile with a built-in battery
  • Simultaneous streaming to multiple destinations
  • Built-in chroma key for adding different backgrounds 
  • Ability to add video sources and PDF from SD card
  • Audio mixing and switching
  • Overlays for branding, picture-in-picture, scoreboards, comments, and more
  • Codecs: H.264, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP


  • An all-in one solution with robust functionality
  • Portable and eliminates need for computer or workstation
  • All premium features are free with purchase and continuously being added


  • The compact monitor has no built-in speakers

Price: Pricing must be requested on their website but retailers sell it for approximately $1,298 

Compatibility: The YoloBox Pro has 3 HDMI inputs.

19. Epiphan Pearl Nano (Hardware)

Another portable and versatile encoder, the Epiphan Pearl Nano is a live video production hardware designed for small-scale events. It offers a range of capabilities in a compact package and includes a built-in screen for monitoring quality during live events.

epiphan pearl live streaming encoder

Best use case: The Epiphan Pearl Nano is ideal for small-scale live events utilising SRT contribution. 

Key features:

  • Flexible streaming, recording, and storage
  • Cloud-based configuration and monitoring
  • Built-in front screen for basic control and peace of mind
  • Production tools and custom layout designer for picture-in-picture, dynamic backgrounds, and other custom graphics
  • HDMI pass-through
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE)
  • Codecs: H.264, H.265, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, SRT, HLS, DASH


  • Portable and powerful solution
  • Broad protocol support


  • 4K is only available with paid upgrade
  • No chroma key capabilities

Price: The Epiphan Pear Nano is priced at $1,695.

Compatibility: Both HDMI and SDI video inputs can be connected to the Pearl Nano.

20. Kiloview H.264 HD SDI/HDMI Encoder (Hardware)

As the final encoder, the Kiloview H.264 HD encoder compresses live video for streaming over the internet just as all the others on our list. It doesn’t offer anything fancy like a touchscreen or 5G bonding, but it also won’t break the bank if all you’re looking for is H.264 encoding.

live streaming encoder - Bitmovin

Best use case: The Kiloview H.264 encoder is ideal for lectures, online courses, web training, remote learning, and course recording. 

Key features:

  • Simultaneous recording and streaming
  • Streaming to multiple destinations like YouTube and Facebook
  • Logo, text, and image overlays
  • Codecs: H.264, AAC
  • Protocols: RTMP, RTSP, RTP, SRT, HLS, Onvif


  • Broad protocol support


  • Doesn’t support 4K streaming
  • Basic feature set

Price: This affordable encore costs about $350, depending on where you’re located.

Compatibility: The Kiloview H.264 encoder comes in two models: one with HDMI and one with SDI video inputs.


So, what’s the best live streaming encoder? It all depends on your needs. For big production content and complex studio setups, a hardware encoder or even hybrid hardware + software solution is often the best route. Simple live broadcasts are well-suited for software encoders — some of which are open-source and free to use (OBS) — or affordable hardware encoders like the Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro. 

You’ll want to weigh all the considerations detailed above and make sure it fits with your tech stack.

Once you’ve settled on an encoder, your next task is to find the best platform for live streaming. At Bitmovin, we deliver video infrastructure to live streaming service providers building world-class video platforms. Our live and VOD platforms can ingest streams from any of the encoders detailed above and output HLS and DASH for delivery to streaming services.  

Find out how you can achieve the highest quality of experience on the market and deliver unbreakable streams. Get started with a free trial today.

Alternatively, if you have any questions or require further support, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always eager to help you navigate the complex world of streaming.

Ollie Burt

Ollie Burt

Senior Manager Digital Strategy

Ollie has a strong track record in achieving high levels of growth in B2B SaaS companies, with involvement in multiple startups and successful exits. He believes in making advanced technology available to all and that even the most complex topics can and should be broken down to make them accessible to people of all means and abilities in the pursuit of information equity.

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