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Elgato Wave:3 review

The Elgato Wave:3 could be a streamer's dream, with a simple interface and solid features. Other content creators might want something more versatile.
By
November 30, 2021
8.6
Elgato Wave:3
The bottom line
If you're looking for a microphone to help simplify a complicated setup, the Elgato Wave:3 might be just the ticket. However, if you're looking for something versatile and capable of recording in a lot of different environments, you might want to keep looking.

Elgato Wave:3

If you're looking for a microphone to help simplify a complicated setup, the Elgato Wave:3 might be just the ticket. However, if you're looking for something versatile and capable of recording in a lot of different environments, you might want to keep looking.
Release date

June 18, 2020

Price

$159 USD

Dimensions

153 x 66 x 40 mm

Weight

280g (mic and mount)

305g (base)

Model Number

20MAB9901

What we like
Sound quality
WaveLink software
Build quality
Audio Clipguard
What we don't like
One recording pattern
De-emphasized bass
8.6
SoundGuys Rating
8.4
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Sound Quality
9.6
8.1
8.0
Durability / Build Quality
8.5
8.1
8.0
Value
8.0
8.6
9.0
Design
9.0
8.5
9.0
Portability
8.0
8.8
9.0

Elgato has been around for years—its affordable capture cards have made it one of the most important brands in live streaming. However, up until now, the company’s products have largely been confined to interfaces like stream decks and game capture devices. With the Elgato Wave:3 microphone, that’s about to change. Aimed at the same needs as something like a Blue Yeti X, this is a mic for the podcaster, Twitch streamer, and online caller.

A lot of compact microphones target the same group, for similar prices to boot—how’s this one stack up?

Editor’s note: This review was updated on December 1, 2021, to update the scoring with the results of our audience poll and expand the list of buying options

Who is the Elgato Wave:3 for?

  • Streamers looking for something to easily link up with their streaming setup can enjoy this sleek mic.
  • Podcasters who need something that plugs in via USB, is hassle free, and has its own stand will enjoy all that Elgato’s mic has to offer.
  • Conference callers who are ready to dish out for better audio than a gaming headset can afford should clear space for the Wave:3.

What is it like using the Elgato Wave:3?

A picture of the Elgato Wave:3 sits near a window on a wooden table.
This mic is so user-friendly, it’s essentially a set-it-and-forget-it kind of device.

Like a lot of detached USB microphones, the Elgato Wave:3 is geared toward making your audio setup simpler. Setting it up is easy: just plug it into your computer and you’re ready to record. The cord that comes with the mic uses USB-A to connect to your PC, but the mic itself actually uses USB-C, so connecting it to those ports is straightforward too.

An example of a polar chart detailing the pickup pattern of a cardioid microphone
A cardioid pickup pattern can record sound from the front and sides of the unit.

This is a condenser microphone, which is more sensitive than a dynamic microphone, and great at picking up the intricacies of vocal recordings in quieter settings. It has a cardioid polar pattern, so it records in a heart shape around the microphone—that is, it picks up sound mainly around the front and sides, and less in the back. While it only has one recording pattern, it’s still capable of getting a high-quality recording (24-bit/96kHz), something most of its competitors can’t match. The benefit to this high bit rate is that it affords plenty of leeway in post-production: you can make relatively drastic edits to your audio with a 24-bit file before noise becomes apparent.

A close shot of the Elgato Wave:3 microphone's control dial
Clicking the dial lets you cycle through mic volume, monitor volume, and mic/PC monitor mix, all indicated by the row of lights.

The interface for the Wave:3 is pretty straightforward. There’s a dial on the front that clicks in so you can cycle through its different volume options. The back of the mic features its USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack for monitoring. There’s also a touch-sensitive sensor at the top of the microphone for muting—tap it and the LED ring around the dial will turn red to indicate it’s muted; it’s similar to what we’ve seen from the HyperX Quadcast mic. The controls all feel intuitive, and take virtually no time to get used to.

How is the build quality of the Elgato Wave:3?

A pitcure of the Elgato Wave:3 on a wire table plugged into a MacBook Pro running Discord and Elgato WaveLink.
This is a great option for anyone looking to speak into a microphone—not so much for music or other kinds of recording.

There’s a lot to like about the build of the Elgato Wave:3. The mic itself is made of black metal and hard plastic with a brushed matte texture. It’s compact and feels sturdy—there’s nothing rattling around, and the dial feels satisfyingly firm. Even the mute sensor at the top feels nice to tap.

The mic comes with a plastic mount which screws into a weighted metal stand. The stand is actually quite nice, with a rubberized bottom, and some real heft to it. However, unlike everything else in this package, the plastic mount feels a little flimsy—it’s definitely something that would concern me with regards to long-term durability. Two bolts position the mic between the mount, and you can unscrew them relatively easily (which makes sense, given that Elgato sells a suspended shock mount separately).

A detail shot of the mute sensor on top of the Elgato Wave:3 microphone.
The mute sensor feels very responsive and turns the LED ring around the front dial red when muted so you won’t forget if people can hear you or not.

All told, this feels like a really well built device: the Elgato Wave:3 classic aesthetic means it blends in well with most home office, streaming, and gaming setups. Its compact design seems great for travel too, but is a bit more obtrusive than the Blue Ember XLR microphone.

How do you use the Elgato WaveLink software?

A picture of the Elgato Wave:3 on a desk in front of a PC running Overwatch, StreamLabs OBS, and Elgato WaveLink.
WaveLink and OBS really play well together.

The Elgato Wave:3 is great for a variety of home recording needs, but it’s really aimed at streamers, like everything else the company makes. A big part of that appeal also comes from the mic’s software complement, WaveLink. The app is lean and slickly designed and clearly designed for audio source organization.

If you’ve ever used a program like VoiceMeeter or any of its varieties, WaveLink serves basically the same function—it’s a virtual audio mixer that gathers up all the different programs and browser windows generating sound, and rolls them into a single audio output source. For a Twitch streamer, this can be a godsend, because you only need one audio source for everything on your computer, but you can still manage all the different output levels in WaveLink—all without needing to buy a physical mixer. It’s less useful for people who don’t need that kind of organization, but like VoiceMeeter, it can be great for rolling different types of audio into online calls, as well.

A screenshot of the Elgato WaveLink virtual audio mixer app.
Adding new audio sources is as easy as clicking an empty box (the 5 or 6 here) and selecting a program you have open.

Gamers who just have a game, Discord, and maybe Spotify running the background will probably have little use for WaveLink, especially if they’re running single-monitor setups. However, if you’ve got a complicated audio situation, WaveLink could be an invaluable resource.

How does the Elgato Wave:3 sound?

A frequency response chart for the Elgato Wave:3 microphone, which shows a large de-emphasis in the sub-bass range.
Most fundamental vocal frequencies don’t fall below 100Hz, so even the lowest voices will be minimally affected by the sub-bass de-emphasis.

The Elgato Wave:3 has a sound profile tailored to the needs of podcasters and live streamers. Basically, it’s great for spoken word content, but might not be the best option in a professional studio environment.

While the mids and highs are accurate, there’s a pronounced de-emphasis in the sub-bass range. This isn’t such a bad thing for voice recordings, as it counters the proximity effect, where bass gets boosted from leaning in close—a common occurrence when you’re recording a podcast or YouTube video in a less formal recording environment. Those with very deep voices don’t need to worry, as the roll-off actually occurs at a lower frequency than what most would consider the vocal range.

Elgato Wave:3 microphone demo:

Further emphasizing this microphone’s usefulness for spoken word content is its built-in Clipguard feature, which automatically condenses the audio you record to avoid accidentally spiking the mic. When the headset first launched, you couldn’t turn it off, but subsequent updates to the WaveLink app have added the feature. Nevertheless, Clipguard works very well, so you’re not missing out by just leaving it on. Essentially, this is a set-it and forget it kind of mic—once you’ve gotten your levels dialed in, you’d have to work pretty hard to get blown out audio (trust me, I did).

How does the microphone sound to you?

1744 votes

As of December 1, 2021, 940 readers have rated the above mic sample as somewhere between “good” and “perfect.” This is at the upper end of what you should expect to get out of any products of this type.

Should you buy the Elgato Wave:3?

A detail shot of the Elgato logo on the Elgato Wave:3 microphone which is sitting on a table by a window.
If you’re interested in sitting in front of a microphone and speaking into it, this is a great option—if you want to do more, it’s less great.

If you’re a Twitch streamer looking for something to make your life easier or you’re hesitant about shelling out for an audio interface, yes, you should get the Elgato Wave:3.

The Elgato Wave:3 is a compelling microphone. Its Clipguard feature and frequency response makes it as close to an idiot-proof recording device as possible, given how much they mitigate the problems of getting too close to a microphone. The WaveLink software is very easy to use and has clear benefits for people like Twitch streamers. However, the Wave:3 isn’t perfect, and while for non-streamers, it’s far less of a slam dunk. There are other options to consider.

A product image of the Elgato Wave3 microphone in black against a white background.
Elgato Wave:3
All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.

What should you get instead of the Elgato Wave:3?

If you’re more of a podcaster or YouTuber than a Twitch streamer, having access to more than one polar pattern can be pretty useful. The Blue Yeti range of microphones offers some of the most versatile options on the market. They all offer multiple recording patterns, like cardioid, omnidirectional, bi-directional, and stereo. They’re all around the same price as the Elgato Wave:3 (or cheaper) too.

Man sitting behind the Razer Seiren Mini, speaking into it. Paintings hung on the wall are visible behind him.
The cable of the Razer Seiren Mini lies flush with the back of the microphone when plugged in.

If you’re looking for something a little more self-contained, the HyperX Quadcast comes with a built-in pop filter. Like the Yeti, it also offers multiple polar patterns, though it still relies on a micro USB port. There are also recent compact, single polar pattern microphones to consider—the HyperX SoloCast and Razer Seiren Mini have very few features, but they’re both around $50 and offer very good sound for the price.

However, just because there are other options, doesn’t mean this isn’t a good option. If you’re someone struggling to keep a lot of audio sources organized, it’s arguably one of your best options.

Next: The best microphones for vocals