You might have seen the name “Elgato” and assumed this review was going to be about a stream deck or capture card. It feels like the company has become type-cast, for want of a better phrase, as the folks you turn to when you want to take your stream quality to the next level without necessarily having to worry about breaking the bank.
Yet while you’d be correct in suspecting the Elgato Wave 3 as being highly applicable to a Twitch stream (or YouTube, and maybe Facebook if you’re irreverent) this microphone is so much more versatile than the aforementioned products. As someone who works a great deal with audio, I always find USB microphones especially interesting because there’s often a rather wide gap between those that are good and those that are simply… fine.
Fortunately, my time with Wave 3 has painted an excellent picture of a company that’s clearly trying to diversify its product range because this little microphone is an absolute beast that can be easily recommended to anyone looking to improve their stream, podcast, or just impress their friends on a Discord call.
Before heading into how the Elgato Wave 3 performs, I just wanted to take a quick second to acknowledge how good it looks. So many budget USB microphones are designed in such a way that they look more like a background prop in an old Star Trek show and yet the Wave 3 is elegant. There’s a confidence to its shape, one that looks both professional and modern at the same time.
You could see this mic sitting on the desk of Bro Brogan and the scene wouldn’t be disrupted. It’s also just built well, feeling like it could take its fair share of bumps and bruises (that’s the fully metal grill and stand alongside a study plastic body) while on the road because let’s be honest, it’ll be joining you on some trips. Content creators who travel a great deal will be able to easily throw the Wave 3 into a bag and be on their way without worrying about breakages. Clocking in at just over 20cm tall, it’s not a device that will take up an excessive amount of space on your desk either, making it ideal for folks not looking for all the clutter that so easily comes with streaming or video production.
Another feature worth mentioning is the control down on the face of the mic. I’ll be the first to admit that most of the USB mics that I’ve used in my time haven’t included this feature so while it may be on other microphones, this was my first time experiencing how useful hardware-based controls for a mic can be. The dial can be clicked in to adjust three settings: your volume, input gain, or the balance between sidetone and system level.
It seems like a small addition, and in reality it is, but that extra level of control over a recording can make the world of difference. Being able to set the gain based on where the mic is rather than constantly fiddling with recording software is an absolute win. There’s also a handy mute button on the top that doesn’t click, responding just to touch if you need to silence the mic in a flash.
Now to the actual performance of the Wave 3. Let me just say, right out the gate, this microphone sounds fantastic. Elgato has clearly tweaked this condenser mic to work best with voice as speaking into the Wave 3, provided your gain isn’t through the roof, sounds crystal clear. Listening back to your audio, you’ll be stunned that your voice can sound so… smooth. Of course, there is a catch though.
While the cardioid pattern is tight enough that it’ll pick up the voice in front of it without a problem, condenser mics can often struggle with background noise. While Elgato has positioned the Wave 3 as a microphone made for Twitch streamers and podcasts, it’s certainly more suitable for folks sitting in a sound-proofed space and talking.
It’ll easily pick up the sounds of you typing and furiously clicking the mouse (placement depending, of course). You could overlook that, maybe it works for your stream but I’m sure many folks would have an issue with every movement of the desk being picked up.
I also want to touch on some of the finer details here before we wrap up; some aspects that are probably worth considering. The Elgato Wave 3 records audio up to 24-bit, 96kHz which explains how it’s able to take this strained goose of a voice I’ve been bestowed with and make it sound so silky smooth. The microphone also comes with Wave Link, a piece of audio software that’s designed to make your streaming audio much easier to manage.
Admittedly I used the Wave 3 for recording voice-over and podcasts and not so much for live streaming but after messing around with the software, I can see why it would be a huge advantage for streamers. Instead of faffing around in multiple windows to access all the different levels of your system, Wave Link generates virtual audio devices that can be managed independently of each other all within the app. It’s an impressively simple setup that makes adjusting audio for different games and programs so much easier. It can be rather clumsy to set up but when you’re up and running, I can see some people unable to go on without it.
The Elgato Wave 3 proves that amazing audio doesn’t need to be a hassle. Not only does this USB mic provide some of the best audio quality (in terms of voice, it’s not made for music) I’ve heard in a while, it’s also just a joy to use.
It’s lightweight, efficient, looks great in any environment and comes with software that should make most streamers’ lives bountifully easier. While the background noise it’ll pick up even when set to the lowest gain option can be frustrating if you don’t have access to a soundproof space, it’s still an excellent microphone and a worthy investment if you’re looking into spreading that voice across the internet and beyond.
Last Updated: March 9, 2021