Unless you have a high-end microphone and a studio-quality recording room, you probably don't want to be transmitting your raw microphone over your stream because it's simply not that good. And even if you have all that, it still can't hurt to enhance the sound of your voice a little bit. Luckily, this is possible to do and is easier than ever, all within OBS!
Years ago I made a post detailing what I had found on the subject: https://fdraconis.com/how-to-process-your-voice-while-streaming/
The solution, I thought, was to run a separate audio program like Reaper, apply the sound processing effects there, output that audio into a virtual cable, and then use that as your microphone device (via VoiceMeeter). The problem was that this would not keep up during performance-demanding games. Frame rates suffered, but more importantly my microphone audio would become choppy and desynced as it tried to do everything.
What I hadn't realized then was that there was no need to run Reaper at all—you can do everything from within OBS!
First, go to your microphone audio device in OBS, right click and go to filters.
In here, add a filter by right clicking and choose VST 2.x Plug-in. Once that is added, click that drop down. What is listed here are all the VST's installed on your computer! Then just click Open Plug-in Interface to start playing with the settings!
But what's a VST?
VST's (Virtual Studio Technology) are modular plugins that can be used across a wide range of audio processing suites. They are often built as standalone tools and can either be used as instruments for producing sounds, like a digital synthesizer, or as effects for processing that sound, like adding reverb.
What we're interested in for OBS are effects VST's. These will take your microphone audio, apply some processing, and output that new, better audio into your stream. You likely don't have any VSTs installed in your computer and are wondering how you can get some, or what will work with OBS. Since VST is a widely used standard software format, you have a huge world of options that you can apply here! While many cost money to license and use (the synthesizer Harmor pictured above costs 150$ USD), there are a lot of free solutions out there on the internet! So I encourage you to search for free VST's online and try out different things.
Unfortunately, there is no easy button to press that just says "make better" because everybody's voice is different (although, who knows, you might find something online that does—and if you do, tell me!). So this will still require some tinkering with the settings of each VST until you get a sound you like. I recommend turning on audio monitoring in OBS so you can hear yourself as you try different settings. Also, just experiment with the knobs and sliders you will find in all these VSTs, even when you don't know what they do (I certainly don't know what half of them are technically doing).
You might find that not all VST's you find work. Sometimes they crash OBS or they don't even open. Here I will list some free solutions that I've found working with some basics on how to set them up—honestly, this may be all you need.
Reaper VST Plugins
It turns out that while Reaper itself isn't technically free and is often too intense to run alongside your game and stream, the plugins I had been using are freely available as standalone VST's! You can find them here (you probably want the 64-bit version): https://www.reaper.fm/reaplugs/
There are four plugins you likely want to be using. Note that the order in the OBS filters matters, so be aware what effects come first.
ReaFIR (for background noise suppression)
If you have background noise this is the first thing you will want to do. ReaFIR is an FFT program that we can use as a noise suppressor (much better than the one that comes with OBS). To use it is pretty easy. Set the mode to Subtract. Then, when you are ready click "Automatically build noise profile" and remain quiet/still. After a second, click that checkbox again.
What this does is analyze the sound in your environment and make a profile that matches it. That profile (the red line) subtracts those frequencies from your audio. That's why it's important not to talk and be still while this is building—if you spoke, it would subtract the frequencies of your voice!
If you are unhappy with the result, click Reset and try again! And if background noise is not a problem for you, then I'd recommend forgoing this plugin altogether.
ReaGate (for your noise gate)
Next is an audio gate. This automatically keeps the audio muted until a volume threshold is reached. If you don't want to be transmitting all the little sounds in your apartment (maybe your Partner talking in the room, the click of your keyboard, your breathing) then this is for you. The main thing you want to adjust is the slider on the far left. This volume slider is your threshold, so as long sounds don't exceed whatever you set this to, your mic will be muted.
I would use those green bars to visibly see what volume different sounds come up as. Try typing on your keyboard, or having someone make background noise. That should give you an idea of where to put that slider. Also try talking at your normal volume. The thing you absolutely want to avoid is cutting off your own voice because you're speaking quieter than your threshold, so just ensure that your gate is somewhere in between the sounds you want to hide and your voice.
If you find that the onset of your voice once you pass the threshold is too sharp, try increasing the Attack slider. This (and all the settings around it) change the amplitude envelope of the sound; a longer attack means that your mic audio can more gradually go from 0dB to full volume.
ReaEQ (for improving your voice's warmth, diction, etc)
Next is an equalizer. This can help make your voice warmer and from sounding nasally. Basically, the line/shaded area represents what frequencies you are making louder or quieter. EQ is somewhat of an art form in itself, so for some helpful starting points I recommend checking out this guide. But to save you time, there are two basic improvements you can make:
Increase gain around 200Hz (men) or 400Hz (women) by about 6dB, and increase gain around 3000Hz (men) or 4000Hz (women) by about 5dB. In ReaEQ, I would change this in tabs 2 and 3 respectively. Also play around with the bandwidth slider, this changes the spread/width around the frequencies you set. I would make them a bit sharper, try values of 0.5 to 1 to start with.
ReaXComp (for a dynamics processor)
This is an audio compressor, and its probably the most complicated thing you will be tinkering with. With this you can dynamically boost/suppress bands of frequencies with a lot of control. It can also really help getting your voice to a really high quality.
Rather than try to explain all these settings poorly I'm just going to share screenshots of what I'm using and that might give you a starting point.
ReaJS (de-esser and other goodies)
Basically this is a simple version of the compressor. What we're going to do is take a small range of frequencies (a band) where your sibilance is and lower the gain. Obviously it doesn't know the range of your sibilance, so unfortunately we need to do this through trial and error.
Here's how to use this one:
- Set the Target Type to Bandpass
- Set the Gain down a bit, maybe around -3dB.
- Start moving the frequency slider around while speaking into the mic. You will need to be monitoring your audio in OBS to hear the results.
- Once you think you've found your sibilance frequency, adjust the bandwidth (the range of frequencies around what you set it to). Generally try to get as small as possible so you're not cutting out the rest of your voice, but just try until it sounds good.
- Finally, try adjust the threshold.
Hopefully that's enough info for you to figure it out from there. Technically you can achieve this in the other plugins we discussed too (ReaEQ, ReaXComp), so it's possible by this point sibilance isn't even a problem for you.
Generally for all of these things you adjust to taste until you're happy with the sound. You really just need a good ear for these things.
Those are the main ones you will want to use, but there are tons of free VSTs available online. Here are a few that I have found!
This one supposedly simulates/manipulates the sense of depth of your voice. In other words, it can make you sound closer or farther away from your mic. No idea how it really works, but play around with it and maybe you can get something good out of it!
The download is available here. To install this one is a little different. You are just given the files; no install.exe to run and install automatically. Which means you will have to place these files manually.
Typically, they go here:
You should have this folder already after installing the Reaper plugins. Go to your Program Files folder and look for the folder called VSTPlugins. Put the folder you downloaded for Proximity in there (make sure it's extracted if in a zip file) and you should be good!