Streaming has become a fantastic way to interact with people, showcase doing something you love, and even earn some money in the process. However, it can be a little complicated, and equipment like the Elgato Stream Deck help simplify things. But the Stream Deck is also expensive, so aren’t there better alternatives?
One of the best alternatives to a Stream Deck is the Loupedeck Live, which offers increased versatility. Alternatively, you can also use a midi controller, like the Akai APC mini, or you can simply remap a peripheral like a number pad or use a smartphone application.
Stream Decks are great, but their prices start from about $100 for a baby version with six keys and up to $250 for the 32-key version; they aren’t exactly cheap. This is especially true considering they are just macro keypads with LED screens under every button.
Fortunately, there are more affordable and possibly better alternatives.
The Loupedeck Live: A Powerful Alternative
Let’s start by looking at an alternative that is slightly more expensive than the big Stream Deck. The Loupedeck Live has been on the market for a year or two and was initially created as an aid to video, photo, and music editors.
That is until Loupedeck partnered with Razer, a well-established company that builds gaming hardware like computers and peripherals.
Razer then released the exact same product but called it the Razer Stream Controller, and it immediately became a Streamdeck competitor.
Although at around $260, the Loupedeck, or Stream Controller, is more expensive than the Stream Deck, it is well worth looking at because it offers a lot more versatility and uses.
The Loupedeck’s Versatile Design
At its core, the Loupedeck resembles the grid button layout of a Stream Deck, with 12 buttons laid out in a 3×4 grid. However, unlike the Stream Deck, these are not physical buttons but are instead touch-actuated.
Next to the button grid, on either side, there are screens that display the function of the three physical dials on either side. Finally, at the bottom of the Loupedeck, there are eight physical buttons.
The Loupedeck’s strength is in this design. The buttons that form the center grid can be customized and mapped however you require them.
This could be to change scenes, cameras, start or switch applications, change toolsets inside an application, or whatever you need.
Because these buttons are laid over a screen, you can also customize the image underneath each key to make it easy for you to see which is which.
So, essentially, this core grid is exactly the same as the Stream Deck. And that’s also where the similarities stop.
Firstly, there are the six dials which just offer several different use cases. For example, editors can use these to fine-tune color grading.
Streamers can use these to tune things like volume, brightness, color, etc., all on the fly with a twist of the dial.
Furthermore, the physical buttons at the bottom can be used however you want, including adding up to seven pages to the grid buttons. In other words, you could have seven ‘pages’ of 12 buttons each.
This would allow you to dedicate a page to editing, streaming, music, etc.
The Akai APC Mini: A Complicated Alternative
Did you know you can use a midi-controller, like the Akai APC Mini, as a Stream Deck alternative? Well, it is entirely possible with some effort and potentially some tears.
However, before you even start, just know that this is the most complicated option on this list.
It is potentially the most versatile as well. Still, there is a reasonably steep learning curve and a good deal of setup and integration that you will need to do.
What Is The Akai APC Mini?
Seeing as how you are currently in the market for streaming-related hardware, you may have never even heard of the Akai APC Mini. And that shouldn’t bother you too much because it isn’t a streaming tool; it’s a music production tool.
The APC Mini has a large grid of 8×8 physical buttons, customarily used to map sound samples like drums or piano keys.
In addition, at the bottom of the APC Mini, nine sliders are commonly used to change a track’s volume.
There are also two other rows of buttons, one above the sliders and one on the righthand edge. These are used for adding pages to the grid, starting or stopping recording, muting, etc.
How Can The APC Mini Be Used As A Stream Controller?
If, at this point, you are confused about why we are talking about using a midi controller as a stream controller, that’s ok; your confusion has merit. However, we must remember that a Streamdeck is essentially a grid of macros switches.
So, all we really need to do is turn the APC Mini into the same thing.
First, you will need to download Voicemeeter, which is, fortunately, free. Voicemeeter is a virtual sound card that interfaces your midi controller with your windows computer.
Voicemeeter also comes with the ability to remap your midi controller switches by assigning them with different macros.
And because the APC Mini has so many buttons and sliders, the possibilities of what you can map onto it are nearly endless, albeit quite a bit more complicated.
Here’s a video to help you turn an APC Mini into a stream controller:
The APC Mini is also quite a bit cheaper than the Streamdeck, coming in at around the $99 mark, which is crazy good value for money.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Using The Akai APC Mini?
Unfortunately, there are some real drawbacks or cons to using the APC Mini that you need to consider before going this route.
Firstly, as we have mentioned, the process is much more complicated. So even if you are well versed in programming or midi controllers, there are still bound to be kinks you will run into the first few times you use it.
Secondly, there are a lot of buttons on the APC Mini. Like A LOT. And unlike the Streamdeck and the Loupedeck, these buttons are not pretty pictures that clarify what they do. Instead, they are just buttons that can be assigned colors.
In other words, you will need to remember which button you programmed, and the chances are good of pushing the wrong button during your first few streams.
Finally, there is a lot of love and hate for Voicemeeter. Some people love what you can do with it, while others say it is too complicated and often unstable.
Sure, suppose you really like the idea of using your midi controller like this. In that case, you can probably find a better alternative piece of software, but it will likely not be free.
Remapping A Peripheral: A Cheap Alternative
Remapping the keys on everyday peripherals is often overlooked and is an excellent option for new and experienced streamers. Really all you need is key remapping software, for which there are free and paid options.
Using this software, you can, for example, remap your number pad or function keys to function as a basic Streamdeck.
Granted, you may not want to remap keys on your primary keyboard because you obviously don’t use it only for streaming.
But then you can always get an external number pad and custom keycaps and build your own makeshift Streamdeck for $20 to $30.
However, if you want a peripheral that offers you more versatility, you can get the Max Keyboard Falcon. The Max Falcon looks like a typical number pad with 20 keys, but it has onboard memory allowing you to map up to 5 pages.
In other words, you get a total of 100 keys. And, as a bonus, it comes with RGB allowing you to at least assign different colors to different keys, helping you keep track of what is where.
Furthermore, the Max falcon will set you back around $50, so it is still a cheap option.
You can have a look at the Max Falcon here:
Smartphone Applications: A Virtual Alternative
Finally, what may be the best option for most people, especially new streamers, is using your smartphone.
The device which arguably the most versatile and powerful tool you already have at your disposal.
I’m sure you could have guessed that there would be a smartphone application alternative to the expensive Streamdeck, and you are right. In fact, there are three popular options for you to choose from.
Streamdeck Mobile: A Virtual Streamdeck
Suppose it’s an alternative to a Streamdeck that you are looking for. In that case, you probably need to look no further than the Streamdeck Mobile application, which, as you guessed it, is a virtualized Streamdeck on your smartphone.
The benefit of Streamdeck Mobile is that it is also made by Elgato, so it looks and works like a physical stream deck. Everything from the user interface to the software is exactly the same.
You get the same 15 keys in a 5×5 grid, displayed either portrait or landscape, but unfortunately, you can’t change the number of keys.
So even if you use a tablet, you still only get those same 15 keys, albeit a bit bigger.
The other downside is that it is the most expensive smartphone application at $2.99 a month or $24.99 for a year’s subscription.
Streamlabs Deck: An Integrated Streamlabs Controller
Streamlabs OBS is probably one of the most commonly used pieces of streaming software, meaning that the stream controller is really just integrating into Streamlabs OBS to control various functions.
So why not opt for an application made by Streamlabs for Streamlabs? That’s what the Streamlabs Deck application is.
As a bonus, it’s also completely free.
The big downside of Streamlabs Deck is that it only gives you the controls available inside the Streamlabs OBS for a particular scene.
And there’s no option to customize any of the controls apart from rearranging the order.
Unfortunately, it also doesn’t play nice with any application apart from Streamlabs OBS, so using it with something like Twitch is difficult.
Touchportal: Near Endless Options
The most versatile smartphone application option is Touch Portal, which comes in as a free or paid option. The free option gives you two pages of eight buttons each and helps test the application.
If you decide that the application is right for you, you can opt for the paid version, which only costs $13 once off and gives you unlimited pages.
You can even customize the number of buttons displayed on every page, up to 100.
Touchportal works well with most streaming applications. It even has some advanced functions, like allowing your viewers to change the camera angle through the chat.
The biggest downfall of Touchportal is that their user interface, where you map all the keys, takes some getting used to and can frustrate new users.
Final Thoughts On Stream Deck Alternatives
There are several alternative options to the Streamdeck. If you need a more versatile option and don’t mind spending a little more money, then the Loupedeck Live could be a good option.
Alternatively, you could also remap a midi-controlled like the Akai APC Mini to give you endless options and controls.
The cheapest options available are to remap the keys on peripherals like an external number pad or mouse.
Or you can opt for a smartphone application like Touchportal, which gives you an endless number of buttons and pages and integrates well with most streaming applications.