What is the best bitrate for a Twitch stream?

In a nutshell

  • The best bitrate for your Twitch channel depends on the resolution of your stream and its fps (frames per second)
  • Your system’s limitations may limit you to streaming in 720p or at 30 fps
  • No matter what resolution and fps you stream, your optimum bitrate will depend on your internet speed
  • Avoid using more than half of your available bandwidth on any one line
  • Even if you can stream at a higher bitrate, it is recommended not to do so because your viewers may have quality issues watching a stream at a high rate

Balancing out the exact bitrate to use for streaming on Twitch can be a complicated and harrowing challenge — even for experienced streamers. To give your viewers a seamless, quality streaming experience, you need to pick the best bitrate for your Twitch stream. Without it, you can handicap your ability to play the games you’re eager to stream. So, to learn what the best streaming bitrate is and how it changes based on your resolution, you need to know the various components that influence bitrate requirements.

What is bitrate?

On Twitch, your upload bitrate is the amount of data you send to Twitch when you stream. A higher bitrate takes up more of your Internet bandwidth. The higher the bitrate, the better the stream quality. So, the higher the bitrate, the faster and more stable your connection needs to be. If you lack a fast internet connection, your stream wanes, leaving your viewers with a pixelated stream.

The maximum bitrate for Twitch

Twitch limits all uploads to 6,000 kbps. Twitch also allows up to 320 kbps for audio. The audio bitrate is divided between the recording track and the streaming track to permit music released for live broadcasts. That means, with the audio, the maximum bitrate supported on Twitch is 6,320 kbps. Keep in mind, though, that what’s known as the Twitch ingest servers can accept streams up to a given max of 8,500 kbps. If you try to go higher than 8,500 kbps, you will either get an error message or the screen will go black. For that reason, Twitch recommends that you keep your settings within their standard limit. If you try to go higher than the basic limit, and your viewers don’t have that higher option when watching your videos, they will tune out.

The most popular bitrate for Twitch

The best bitrate for your Twitch channel will depend on the resolution of your stream and its frames per second. The suggested stream option is to have a 1080p resolution with 60 fps. Now, of course, you have options. Depending on your setup, you can stream at 720p at 30 fps, but note that the quality won’t be as good as when using the recommended settings.

Your bitrate option selection depends on your resolution and fps. If you’re going for the peak quality stream at 1080p and 60 fps, you will need a bitrate of at least 4,500 kbps. And depending on the overall strength of your Internet connection, you should be able to increase that to 6,000 kbps for better streaming performance. Just remember: If you use too high of a bitrate, you might take up too much of your Internet’s bandwidth.

Choosing the best bitrate for Twitch

You probably won’t need a high bitrate if you’re streaming in 30 fps or 720p. A good starting point for broadcasters would be to stream at 720p at 60 fps. For 1080p at 30 fps, you can get by with a low 3,500 kbps, but 4,500 to 5,000 kbps will look better. Nevertheless, no matter what resolution and fps your broadcast, your best bitrate will rely on the muscle of your Internet bandwidth. Make sure you test your Internet speed before choosing your video settings. According to Twitch’s Internet requirements, you need at least an upload speed of 1.6 Mbps. However, if you desire to broadcast in HD, you need at least 3-8 Mbps. The best bitrate for 1080p 60 fps on Twitch is 6,000 kbps, which would require a faster Internet connection. You can, however, pick 1080p 30 fps if your Internet connection is slower.

What to do if your upload speed is too slow

The two highly influential settings that can impact the streaming bitrate demands on Twitch are the video resolution and the frames per second of that video source. Always refer to Twitch’s guidelines before choosing your settings. And keep in mind that when you livestream over the Internet, your stream is sent over to a server that redistributes it to your viewers.

According to Twitch, streaming at 4,500 kbps for 1080p 60 fps or 3,500 kbps for 1080p 30 fps is not recommended. Twitch urges streamers to use 720p at 30 frames per second with a bitrate of 3,000 kbps (around 0.4 MB/s) in most situations. If your upload speed is slower than this, your best bet is to upgrade your internet plan to suit your needs. Twitch doesn’t recommend going for resolutions under 720p because this will diminish your streaming quality.

In addition to these suggestions, you can also work to grow your channel to become a Twitch Partner. Twitch reserves bandwidth specifically for its Partners. But before weighing your options, always consider your viewers. Not every viewer has the download speed that can match your upload. For most Twitch viewers, a bitrate of 6000 kbps is too high. So, in some cases, lower is better.

Here’s a quick guide for the best bitrate for your upload speed:

  • 4,000 kbps or less – 720p 30 fps
  • 5,000 kbps or less – 720p 60 fps
  • 6,000 kbps – 900p 60 fps
  • 6,000 kbps with Partnership – 1080p 60 fps

The best choices for streamer gear

Another way content creators and streamers improve their stream is by having the right equipment. Of course, you will still need a faster internet connection to improve your Twitch stream’s quality and bitrate, but having the right equipment does help improve your setup. The most common equipment streamers use to enhance their videos are green screens, production lights and microphones. You can go with any lights or lighting, but it’s recommended to use lights designed specifically for production purposes. Green screens are, of course, optional. However, green screens offer content creators many options in choosing their backgrounds or keying out their backgrounds for gameplay.

You’ll also want to consider audio quality. Even the best gaming headsets can’t match the audio precision of a stand-alone microphone. If you want to be heard over the action sounds of the game, stand-alone mics will give your viewers the crystal clarity they need.

Recommended streaming software

Twitch offers gamers/streamers the best options to help them go live on their platform. You can download Twitch Studio, which enables you to go live with all the recommended settings you need to start streaming. This includes getting you up and running with chat, starter stream layouts, alerts and everything else that can make your streaming experience go smoothly. Most Twitch broadcasters use software from third-party merchants such as OBS, Xsplit and Streamlabs. Before launching your channel or stream, investing in one of these software programs can improve your video content and streaming experience.

Know what you need

As you continue to learn more about configuring your settings, your channel may grow to the point where you become a Twitch Partner. It’s not only a way to earn a living but an exciting opportunity to do what you love the most.