What is meant by “Completely Wireless Audio”? Completely wireless includes both the ability to receive and send audio wirelessly.
Why might a streamer need to be completely wireless? Answering this is easiest if we break this down:
- If you need to move around while maintaining good/clear audio, you may need a wireless microphone.
- If you chat with remote parties (something that became much more popular during COVID), then it may be good to have wireless headphones to avoid an echo.
- If you regularly stream with multiple people and it’s difficult to have everyone close to a single microphone (like when playing pinball), you may want wireless microphones for each person.
- If you need to include remote participants into your stream and multiple people physically streaming with you, you may need both wireless microphones and wireless headphones.
Who needs to be that mobile on-stream? Why?
But I mean c’mon… who has remote stream participants AND physically present stream participants in that kind of weird setup where not everyone can be close to the microphone?
Bumpernugget and I playing Godzilla
That last image is where Escher and I played 2 different games at once (Jurassic Park vs. Sound Voltex). Pinball and a rhythm game being played simultaneously. No, really… it was ADHD in a stream but more fun than anyone could shake a stick at and completely impossible at the quality level it was presented at if we didn’t have wireless microphones (YouTube Link).
Maybe we should add another bullet to accommodate streamers who want to have multiple people simultaneously streaming multiple games? There is a line that I find myself crossing often between what most people need, what some people need, what very few people need, and then the crazy situations I put myself in.
So no, let’s just chalk this stream up to general shenanigans and tomfoolery. But hopefully one we can repeat in the near future.
What Solutions Didn’t Work for me and Why?
I’ve tried a number of different ways to solve this over the past 4 years of streaming on Twitch. All were technically successful but improved incrementally with each iteration/change.
Pinball is a community sport and I regularly have people join physically or virtually through services like Discord. And Amazon has great return policies essentially guaranteeing I find the product or products that are the right solution for me.
Please keep in mind that all of these solutions technically work but they weren’t as perfect as they could be for various reasons. I’m being nitpicky but in my opinion, my nitpickiness is justifiable. I really want the best, most comfortable, most versatile/flexible solution out there. So here we go:
One Hard-Wired Microphone
Here is the base-line. One microphone to rule them all as a solution. I’ve tried different microphones here (Blue Snowball, Yeti, Yeti-X Pro, Shure SM7B, and several others) and the audio quality is often different for each but the results were the same, frequent messages from viewers that people not close to the microphone were hard to hear.
Multiple Hard-Wired Microphones
A couple of years ago, I solved this by putting multiple microphones in the streaming area. I think I used (2) Snowball microphones initially but eventually upgraded to Yeti-X Pros.
- Relatively Inexpensive
- Can be combined with wireless headphones
- No batteries/charging required
- Audio sync issues (echo)
- Predetermined areas for conversation must be used
- Quite a few good conversations were missed because they occurred in locations I didn’t have a microphone.
- Background noise from areas potentially without active stream participants can and will be picked up.
Combined Wireless Headphone/Microphone Headsets
When doing streams with one remote participant (Second String Silverball with MPT3k), I used my gaming/work headset (SteelSeries Arctis 7 – Amazon Link) quite a few times. This headset in particular is fantastic for wireless coverage and I use it for work all the time.
- So easy to setup and use. In fact your computer is probably already configured to use this for work/gaming.
- Completely mobile.
- Great charge longevity.
- Does not scale well. Adding a 2nd or 3rd headset like this to your stream is next to impossible.
- Poor microphone quality.
- A bit heavy/large for 2-4 hours of active use on-stream.
- This could just be me but my ears get hot in headsets like this after an hour of use.
PHENYX Wireless Microphone System
This was my first attempt to truly solve the issue and be able to support 4 different people physically streaming with me at once with the Phenyx Wireless Microphone System. I both purchased, received, and tested this at Chicago Expo 2021 where The Pinball Network did a 3 day live-stream from the event.
- Easy to pair/use. Just works out of the box.
- Supports 4 different users simultaneously.
- Easy to change frequency and volume for each headset.
- Bulky and hard to bring places. The rack mounted receiver is especially difficult to work with.
- Not the greatest microphone quality.
- Battery operated mic transmitters.
- Despite the ability to change the frequency used for each mic, there was a lot of interference at Expo that caused “noise” that was difficult to remove.
HOLLYLAND Wireless Microphone System
This was a late night, post-stream, slightly buzzed purchase from Amazon as a result of my frustration with the Phenyx Wireless Microphone System. That particular stream had constant audio quality issues with complaints from viewers that the noise was hard to listen through. The Hollyland Wireless Microphone System was wonderful but… it still wasn’t a solution for 4 people.
- Good audio quality
- The case is also the battery/charger for each device
- Small form-factor which makes travel easy
- Easy controls to adjust volume and enable/disable each microphone
- Only 2 people supported, not 4.
- Battery life isn’t awesome. Only ~3 hours.
All of That Didn’t work? OMG, What Did Work?
Why is it so difficult to find a (4) channel wireless transmit/receive audio system?
Once I knew what I wanted, I assumed it would be easy to find… alas I couldn’t make it happen at the quality level I was hoping to achieve. I was flabbergasted (and I mean that in every sense of the word). How could I be the only person that needed 4 people to both wirelessly receive audio and transmit audio simultaneously?
I went with a hack. I hate hacks. When a product exists to tackle something right, I prefer to use it. My solution unfortunately is like when you piece together different airlines to make a round-trip flight across the country work. Let’s break it down:
You know what worked was the Hollyland wireless microphone system. The box that also charged everything, the ease of use, and quality were great… the only real issue was that it didn’t support 4 people.
How did I solve it? TWO Hollyland Wireless Microphone Systems! That’s right, (2) systems simultaneously hooked up to my GoXLR through a 3.5mm splitter.
I was concerned that this would create an echo but the delay when running both sets is completely the same so no echo and the sound is great. And oh man are they SUPER portable and easy to work with.
This is incredibly personal. I feel like asking someone about their Bluetooth headphones is akin to asking someone to give context to a tattoo. But my favorite for a few reasons is the Aeropex AfterShokz.
These are bone conducting sound headphones that leave your ears unobstructed. The quality is good and they’re so light I often forget I’m wearing them. These headphones allow me to listen to remote stream participants and continue talking directly to my physical stream participants.
Wirelessly Connecting Multiple Bluetooth Headphones
We’ve got some great headphones but how do you connect (4) Bluetooth headphones to a single 3.5mm audio output? There are several devices that do this, but none I found that go to (4) devices. So yet again, a hack with a 3.5mm splitter and (2) of these wonderful Bluetooth Transceivers from Ainostone:
This works well. The volume twist knob is a little too sensitive but I consistently can connect to any/all Bluetooth devices. I just sometimes select the wrong device from the selection menu due to over-sensitivity.
I bring it all together with a GoXLR from TC Helicon. This is a pretty popular device and one that has gone through many, many, many reviews for streamers. It works pretty dang well and offers a ton of options:
This is working really well and I’ve used the entire setup a ton. I’ve used them at shows (Expo and TPF) and plan to use it going forward when I need to be mobile.
I’ll switch to the Shure SM7B when I want to serenade the audience for a bit but almost every time I’ve regretted the decision as I walk away from the pinball machine and forget that I’m not mic’d up wirelessly.
I have 2 minor issues right now with my current setup that I’m hoping to resolve over time:
- There is about a 1/4 second delay in Bluetooth audio. It’s not noticeable in conversations with remote stream participants but slightly frustrating when I’m running direct audio capture from a pinball machine through the GoXlr and outputting the sound through the Bluetooth headphones.
- I don’t have 4 sets of Bluetooth headphones (too much $$$) so I depend on other physical stream participants to bring their own and they often forget (usually because I space reminding them).
Have suggestions or want to recommend improvements? Please let me know in the comments or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org