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Having Fun with the Elgato Stream Deck

Content creation controller has uses for a radio dude or dudette

Many engineers are familiar with programmable keypads, sometimes referred to as X-keys, used for shortcuts to computer software. A gaming company called Elgato has taken the idea a step further with something called Stream Deck.

This is a hardware box with buttons that simply connects to a computer (Mac or Windows) via a USB port. There are no additional power requirements or anything else but the USB cable.

This content creation controller is aimed at the new world of video streamers: “Streamline your setup! Elgato Game Capture, OBS, Twitch, Twitter, TipeeeStream, XSplit, YouTube and more — Stream Deck integrates your tools and automatically detects your scenes, media and audio sources, enabling you to control them with a quick tap of a key.”

But there’s plenty here that a radio person can put to good use.

Engaging keys

With three sizes, you can have a 32-button, 15-button or small six-button version of the Stream Deck.

Utilizing its software (a free download from its site), you can easily create shortcuts and macros to allow this device to control the computer, connected hardware or software.

The author’s Stream Deck with custom buttons

Making this more visually appealing and user-intuitive is that the keys are backed by full color LCD graphic displays. You can place JPGs or animated GIFs on the key faces to represent functions or software.

I’ve found nothing that requires special formatting or specific resolutions for the images or animated GIFs, they just load and work. There are even plug-ins that allow the animation to represent everything from audio levels, clocks, current weather info (as a weather graphic).

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The buttons can be used to bring up a website, a web stream or nearly anything the computer can do on its own. You can even turn the Stream Deck into an instant audio clip player, as its software allows you to load audio files that are quickly and instantly recalled via the button (and output on the computer’s sound card).

Stream Deck integrates with Elgato’s product ecosystem (for functions like controlling Wave Link audio software, turning on/off Key Lights or capturing console gameplay via the Game Capture line of HDMI capture cards).

With a publicly available SDK, anyone can build plugins for Stream Deck; there are many available that integrate with products from NVIDIA, Spotify, Philips and Corsair’s iCUE ecosystem.

Voicemod has a plugin in the Stream Deck store that enables Stream Deck users to control the Voicemod software; this allows an audio input to the computer (like a USB mic) to be changed using the “Voice Changer.”

And while 32 buttons gives a lot of options, you can have one button to act like a shift or control key to take you to a new layer/page of presets, thus increasing choices.

Since the Stream Deck has no GPIO interface, for the device to control hardware, either that hardware must have software on the PC, or another device (like a USB to GPIO adapter) would be needed.


Elgato is a company that focuses on gaming, but its technology has some enticing possibilities when tied into radio broadcasting, webcasting or video for radio when interfacing into the workflow of a radio station.

Stream Deck icon library

On testing Stream Deck, I was successful in controlling BSI’s Simian automation software, opening Adobe Audition and quickly recalling effects and settings. I was also able to load audio (from music to SFX) and activate equipment off and mic mute buttons. In addition it can display currently playing audio represented by a horizontal bar graph meter. You can have a combined analog/digital clock displayed as a button (accurate with the computer), and even a button that updates the temperature and current weather graphic (displayed on the button).

It’s easy to use and lots of fun. I suspect other users, including the creative geniuses working for morning shows, might make this do even more cool things.

Elgato is based in Germany and California. Founded in 1999, it was acquired in 2018 by Corsair Gaming Inc.

Stream Deck XL (32 buttons) lists for $249.99. Stream Deck (15 buttons) is $149.99 and Stream Deck Mini (six buttons) is $79.99.

Also available is Stream Deck Mobile software for smartphones (Apple and Android), with a 30-day free trial, then $2.99 a month or $24.99 a year for a subscription. For info see

Program producers and studio engineers are both invited to send news about equipment used or recent installations at a radio studio to [email protected].