Elgato is a name synonymous with streamers, offering products ranging from green screens and key lights, to capture cards and their proprietary stream deck. Now, Elgato is flexing their way onto the audio scene with two new premium products: the Wave:1 and Wave:3 microphones. These new additions to the Elgato lineup, in partnership with Lewitt Audio, are condenser mics with a USB interface, perfect for plug-and-play recordings. I’ve had the opportunity to use the Wave:3 for myself. But is it the right fit for you? Join us as we find out!
- Current Price: $159.99
- Key Features:
- Proprietary Clipguard technology
- Low cut filter
- Internal pop filter
- Capacitive mute button
- Stream deck integration
- Multifunctional mix dial
- Capsule: 17 mm Electret
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Resolution: 24-bit
- Sample Rate: 96 kHz
- Freq Range: 70 – 20k Hz
- Sensitivity: -25dBFS (min gain) | 15dBFS (max gain)
- Max SPL: 120dB (140dB Clipguard Engaged)
- Dynamic Range: 95dB (115dB Clipguard Engaged)
- Interface: USB-C
- Dimensions: 153 x 66 x 40 mm / 6.0 x 2.6 x 1.6 in
- Weight: Mic & U-Mount 280 g / 9.88 oz | Base 305g / 10.76 oz
Dynamic vs. Condenser
There’s often a debate amongst streamers and podcasters as to which type of microphone is better: Condenser or Dynamic. In all honesty, it really depends on your recording environment and what your intended use is.
For vocal performances or musical recordings, a Dynamic microphone is probably better. If you’re recording in a loud environment – with maybe children running around, or a loud AC – then you might want to opt for a Dynamic mic as well. They aren’t as sensitive and have a more directional sound input, so they don’t pick up nearly as much ambient noise.
For recording meetings, conversations, podcasts, streaming, or any kind of talking a Condenser mic offers a wider range of audio from really soft to very loud. They also provide a more natural sound because it doesn’t take as much force to move the diaphragm in the microphone. As such, they are significantly more sensitive to ambient sounds than Dynamic mics are.
Personally, despite my PC fans blaring, my PS4 Pro sounding like a jet engine, and my toddler constantly knocking on my office door asking for me to play Legos with him – I prefer the cleaner, realistic sound from a condenser mic. Make no mistake, it is a struggle adjusting the gain every time I use it, though. For best results, I usually turn the gain way down low and sit inches away.
Quality and Performance
Elgato’s Wave:3 mic stays true to the typical aesthetic of most of its products: a clean, black and almost altruistic design. The Wave:3 doesn’t bring attention to itself like some flashier mics that glow red or feature LED emojis. It has a smooth, rounded surface with soft edges that ironically makes it look quite sharp. The black steel grille sits inside a plastic frame, supported by a plastic U-mount. If it wasn’t for the cheap plastic, this would be one heck of a quality build. As the plastic U-mount is literally the only way to support the mic up via either a boom-arm or the included desktop stand, it would be detrimental if some unfortunate accident were to befall it.
That said, the Wave:3 sports some premium features that counter most of its cheaper construction. On top of the mic sits a capacitive mute button, which is perfect for quickly (and quietly) muting the mic when you need to yell at your kid to go on the potty, or when your significant other comes in to ask a quick question. There’s also a multi-use dial situated on the lower-front end of the mic. This dial can adjust the input gain, change headphone volume, and crossfade between PC and mic mix. This dial also glows red underneath to let you know when the mic is muted, or white when it’s on.
The last little feature is a built-in pop filter to help reduce plosive sounds. But if you want a little more plosive protection, there is a separate Wave Pop Filter available for $29.99 on Elgato’s website that features a dual-layer metal mesh. Overkill? Probably not. Additionally, there is also the Wave Shock Mount that features a metal chassis with reinforced elastic suspension available separately on Elgato’s website that sells for $39.99. Am I going to buy both of these products as soon as I can? Probably.
The Elgato Wave:3 is has a 1/4 inch thread, but there is an included boom arm adapter that supports both 5/8 inch and 3/8 inch size threads. So the Wave:3 should fit on almost every single modern boom arm or microphone stand. You can just sit it on the desk with the included weighted base, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re going to be typing. The condenser mic will pick up every keystroke with laser precision, which will make any listeners immediately avert their ears. Even on a boom arm, with the gain turned down to 25%, my clicky mechanical keyboard often gets picked up much to my chagrin.
Compared to my main streaming mic, the Blue Yeti Blackout, the Elgato Wave:3 is both significantly smaller and significantly lighter, although I do like the metallic heft that comes with the Yeti. What’s nice is that since the Wave:3 is so much lighter than the Yeti – and many other popular streaming mics – it doesn’t weight down my boom arm at all. If you use a multi-boom or travel with your microphone a lot, the Wave:3 would be an ideal mic to have in those situations.
One of the only negatives about the Wave:3 (besides the plastic) is that it only records in a Cardioid polar pattern. Unlike the Yeti or the HyperX QuadCast, which both offer 4 polar patterns, the Wave:3 is stuck to being mono speaker. This means that if you needed to record multiple audio sources, like a conversation between two or more people, then the Wave:3 won’t provide the ideal pattern for that. Sorry in-person interviewers and podcasters, this isn’t the mic you’re looking for.
How does it sound?
But the million-dollar question is: how does it sound? For $159.99 the Wave:3 is competing against the aforementioned Blue Yeti ($129.99), HyperX QuadCast ($139.99), and Razer Seiren Elite ($199.99). Unfortunately, I have neither the QuadCast or Seiren Elite available to test, but I do have the Turtle Beach Stream Mic – a device so obsolete that Turtle Beach only lists the replacement mic stand on their website.
Two features that I especially enjoy from the Wave:3 are the clipguard and lowcut settings. Clipguard is a proprietary piece of technology that “instantly reroutes sound through a second signal path that runs at a lower volume.” Meaning whenever you yell or scream into the mic, the distortion that you would normally hear gets filtered out and you get a much cleaner audio output. Just for fun, I tried singing (screaming) some of the more intense metal songs I know and the resulting sound was much more palatable. You know how people start yelling into their mics so loud it nearly causes your headphones to break? That wouldn’t happen with the Wave:3.
Similarly, the Lowcut filter drastically “cuts out all frequencies under 80Hz from the microphone signal,” which is supposed to help reduce any kind of big thump or boom that it would otherwise pick up. This helps mitigate those loud percussive thumps that microphones can pick up when you hit the desk or bang your boom accidently. Unfortunately, it can also have the unintended consequence of removing the low timbre from your voice. For men with deeper voices, this might make you sound a bit funny. For everyone else though, it’s probably not even noticeable.
Elgato Mixer App and Stream Deck Integration
Elgato has created a brand-new mixer app specifically for the Wave:1 and Wave:3 microphones called the Wave Link. This app can monitor up to 9 channels concurrently and allows users to mix audio channels to create the perfect audio mix for your stream, podcast, or any kind of recording you’re doing.
The Wave Link mixer also allows you to monitor just your mix output to your headphones as well as the stream mix that you broadcast. The stream mix can be selected as an audio source from any of the typical broadcasting software, like OBS and Xsplit, for even more integration.
Speaking of integration, the Wave:1 and Wave:3 mics have integrated support with Elgato’s suite of Stream Decks. You can set up the buttons on the Stream Deck to control both monitor and stream mixes for either input or output, adjust the input gain, toggle the Lowcut and Clipguard features, or even just mute the mic entirely. The Stream Deck allows for on-the-fly adjustments to the Wave Link Mixer, so you can change the quality of your stream (or recording) with a quick tap of a button.
The Elgato Wave:3 is one of the best pieces of tech I’ve had the pleasure to use. Although the build quality isn’t necessarily what I expect out of this price point, I’ve come to expect Elgato branded gear to always carry that premium price tag. Simply put, despite the build quality the Wave:3 is still a quality microphone. With all the bells and whistles included, like the multi-use dial and capacitive touch mute button, this is probably the best “ease of use” microphone a streamer or podcaster can get their hands on.
Condenser mics have practically overtaken the market in terms of streamer-friendly microphones, but the Wave:3 adds some much-needed quality-of-life improvements in the form of the Lowcut filter and their proprietary Clipguard technology. Coupled with the internal pop filter and the included Wave Link mixer, which rivals other third-party digital mixers, it’s never been easier for someone to have absolute control over what they record. If only it had more polar patterns so you could control how you record. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a quality microphone without the fuss and bother of XLR cables or multi-channel audio mixers, then the Elgato Wave:3 is a must-buy.
The product discussed in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.