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What Is The Best Bitrate For Live Streaming?

It's always tempting to stream in the highest quality possible. While streaming in 4K sounds great, not only is it not always necessary, in many circumstances it's not possible.

Ultimately the goal is to provide the best possible viewing experience for your audience and there are a few factors to consider including your Upload Speed, the nature of the video Content and your Viewers.

Upload Speed

Your location plays a big part in your ability to stream in the highest qualities as your broadband speed (specifically your often overlooked Upload Speed) determines what is possible.

If you attempt to stream at a higher bitrate than your Upload Speed will allow then you could be delivering choppy video or worse, your encoder could disconnect from your streaming provider.

Your Upload Speed is dependent on your location and your network. It's always best, if possible to connect via a cable directly to your broadband router rather than use Wi-Fi or a mobile network. But this isn't always possible, the best streaming locations are often outside or in rooms away from your router. So, when you test your broadband speed for live streaming make sure you do it in the location and with the equipment you intend to use for streaming to get the most accurate results.

You can test your speed below:

Broadband Speed Test

Powered by BroadbandUK
We recommend that your streaming bitrate should be at least 25% lower than your Upload Speed.

Content

The nature of your content should also dictate what quality you are aiming to broadcast in and what bitrate will be required to give the best viewing experience.

If, for example, you are streaming live sport which has a lot of fast-moving images you will want to maximise your streaming quality, whereas if it's more of a static presentation you could lower it without impacting the experience. Equally, if you're streaming music you would want to prioritise the audio quality over the video.

If you're looking to replicate commonly recognised video qualities such as Full HD you can view our recommended player dimensions and bitrates below:
Quality
Dimensions
Video Bitrate
Audio Bitrate
240p
426 x 240
400 Kbps
64 Kbps (mono)
360p (Low Definition)
640 x 360
400 - 800 Kbps
64 Kbps (mono)
480p (Standard Definition)
854 x 480
800 Kbps - 1.2 Mbps
128 Kbps (stereo)
720p (HD)
1280 x 720
1.8 - 2.5 Mbps
128 Kbps (stereo)
1080p (Full HD)
1920 x 1080
2.5 - 3.5 Mbps
256 Kbps (stereo)
4K (Ultra HD)
3840 x 2160
3.5 Mbps
256 Kbps (stereo)

Viewers

While there is no limit on the number of viewers you can stream to simultaneously and this should have no impact on your chosen bitrate you should still consider your viewers when selecting the ideal broadcast quality.

You should consider how and where your viewers will be viewing your broadcast. Will they only be interested in the audio, if for example, it's a live music set or podcast or are the visuals important. Will they be watching out and about on their phone (with potentially limited Wi-Fi) or will they be casting to a larger screen.

These are important factors to consider when selecting the best bitrate to use when live streaming. For more advice, you can just ask us directly.

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