Elgato Wave XLR Review



Elgato’s Wave XLR audio interface is an interesting proposal, especially for those looking for a solid XLR option with little real estate being used on their set ups. The draw of the device is simple: turning robust and expensive XLR mics into, effectively, a USB mic thanks to Elgato’s Wave Link software. However, does it do enough to be seen as a viable replacement for the likes of a GoXLR or AverMedia’s Nexus?

Specifications:

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz

Dynamic Range: 100dB (120 dB Clipguard engaged)

Equivalent Input Noise: -130 dBV @60 dB gain

Gain range: 0 – 75 dB

Phantom Power: 48 VDC 7mA

Maximum Input Level: 10 V @0 dB gain

Maximum Output Level: 77 mW

Resolution: 24-bit

Sample rate: 48 / 96 kHz

Rear I/O: USB-C; 3.5mm headphone jack; XLR Input

Price: $159.99 on Amazon

Initial Thoughts And Sound Test

Out of the box, the sleek design aesthetic of Elgato is on full display. It’s a device that really doesn’t take up much real estate on your deck, but it does add a ton of functionality to any set-up. The front of the Wave XLR is dominated by a large dial surrounded by LEDs to indicated volume, mic and crossfade levels clearly. The top of the device is a capacitive mute sensor which you can tap easily to mute your microphone (which turns the LEDs red to easily remind you of this). It’s small it there doesn’t feel like there is any wasted space on the device.

At first glance then it’s easy to dismiss the Wave XLR as feeling basic, especially compared with other smaller XLR interfaces out there, specifically the GoXLR Mini. While the competition takes up its face plate with multiple mixing faders allowing you to control different mixing levels on the fly, the Wave XLR simply gives you control over the mic volume, audio volume and a crossfade between the two in the device.

Wave XLR Front

The Wave XLR has a studio quality pre-amp able to power even the most dB-hungry dynamic microphones, while also providing 48V of phantom power to give life to XLR condenser mics, like the MOVO VSM-7 I used during my review. Additionally, the Wave XLR has what Elgato calls “Clipguard” technology, designed to intuitively reroute audio through a separate signal path to keep your audio levels clean, especially when they would normally peak on other devices. The Wave XLR also a low-cut filter, able to get rid of those lower frequencies in your audio, regardless of mic.

But where the Wave XLR thrives is with its software. The draw of the Wave XLR is effectively giving your XLR microphone the same functionality, simplicity and control of a USB microphone. Elgato’s Wave Link software, which it debuted with its Wave:3 USB mic last year, provides tons of functionality to easily control your audio set up. You can re-route programs on your PC to separate audio channels, such as separating a browser source from a game source, giving you the ability to more easily independently control the audio coming from them, as well as set up a multi-channel mix for streaming and video creation.

The software itself integrates easily with the Wave XLR, giving more control over the microphone you’ve got plugged into as well, allowing you to seamlessly control your mic levels on stream as well as in your own headphones independently.

Effectively, the software takes much of the functionality you’d find on a full-form audio interface and integrates it with the Wave XLR. The result is clean, crisp audio that sounds as good as some of the leading mixers out there – which is great as a starting point before it’s condensed further by Twitch or YouTube streams, or through a Discord call. As you can hear in the audio sample below, the Wave XLR beautifully captures the sound of my MOVO VSM-7 Condenser XLR microphone with clear lows and highs, as well as ensuring that the source doesn’t peak anywhere throughout the recording. This was with about 40% of the gain provided by the pre-amp – it really doesn’t struggle to power the microphones I’ve tested this with.

However, the Wave XLR does feel like it’s missing some of what draws content creators especially to an XLR audio mixer. As of now, there are no features such as a noise gate, compression, or EQ built into either the Wave XLR or the Wave Link software, which feels like a huge miss as it can completely help round out and create a unique, distinct sound. This type of feature is standard on devices like the GoXLR and the AverMedia Nexus, providing even more functionality and customization of your XLR sound.

Additionally, the rear I/O is lacking in terms of easily being able to set up a multi-PC stream, or even multi-mic set up. The Wave XLR can be used to create a multi-PC stream setup, but it’s going to rely on software like Voicemeeter to do so, whereas devices like the AverMedia Nexus can more easily handle this task thanks to its more robust I/O. Additionally, there isn’t the ability to even plug multiple microphones into the device, either through an audio-in 3.5mm jack or a second XLR input. This could make the Wave XLR a device that is harder to use if producing a podcast or stream in-person.

Wave XLR Back IO

Because the Wave XLR is bolstered thanks to Elgato’s Wave Link, the mixing is done through the software and not on the device itself. This means controlling the mix using the Wave XLR versus a GoXLR Mini will require you to either alt-tab out of a game to access the Wave Link software, or be embedded more fully in the Elgato ecosystem and route these controls to a Streamdeck.

Fundamentally, while Wave Link is easy to set up and use, it makes controlling the software itself so much more convoluted versus a device with hardware faders or knobs. While Streamdeck owners will have an easier time, (especially if you have something larger than the Mini which really isn’t suited for this type of control as I’ve found out) it’s not nearly as precise hitting a button with a predefined volume adjustment versus being able to more easily and accurately control with a knob or hardware fader.

Since so much depends on the Wave Link software to get the maximum mileage out of the Wave XLR, I do wonder if the device would have been better suited going for individual knobs on the front for a few mixes versus the large knob that controls mic gain, headset volume and crossfade mix.

Wave Link Software

This isn’t to say that the Wave XLR is a bad device either – far from it. It’s easy to set up and use, and if you’re overwhelmed by the knobs and faders on a more complicated device like the GoXLR Mini, the Wave XLR is going to be much more your speed. There’s also the price to consider. Right now the Wave XLR goes for about $160 on Amazon. This is much cheaper than the competition, like the GoXLR Mini (which routinely sits around $250) and even the AverMedia Nexus (which retails for $349). If you’ve already got a good Dynamic or Condenser XLR mic and are willing to put up with the quirks of controlling the Wave, this is a great sounding and performing option.

Keep in mind too – since so much of the functionality of the Wave XLR is driven by its companion Wave Link software, it is much easier to iterate and improve upon, including adding those missing audio features like an EQ or Noise Gate setting.

Conclusion

All in all, I do like the Wave XLR. It’s smaller footprint on my desk, which is routinely cluttered, and that alone makes it worth looking at for me personally. However, it’s the Wave Link software that really gives the Wave XLR its legs. By turning every XLR mic that is hooked up to it into a Wave:3 microphone thanks to the software, it’s incredibly easy to create mixes, reroute audio on your PC for a stream, and, assuming you’re already embedded in the Elgato ecosystem, control using a Streamdeck. It also works almost natively out of the box with OBS and its Streamlabs variant once you have the Wave Link software set up, making it relatively painless to incorporate in your existing single-PC stream setup.

It has its faults: missing I/O for dual-PC streamers, lack of virtual studio technologies like noise gate and a compression, as well as effectively giving up minute control due to not having hardware-based options over the mix makes the XLR feel lacking compared to its nearest competitors. However, the price cannot be understated: Elgato have priced this well compared to its nearest competition. If you’ve already got an XLR microphone, or are looking at upgrading your audio set up to one like the Rode PodMic or the MOVO VSM-7 (or if you’re looking to really upgrade, every streamer’s favorite Shure SM7-B), having an audio interface that doesn’t “break the bank” by comparison definitely helps make that transition easier.

And, as stated, the deficiencies in the software itself can be remedied over time, meaning that your Wave XLR today might actually be functionally better down the road at giving you the type of control and sound you want out of your XLR mic without the large investment in a full-fledged audio mixing interface.

At the end of the day, if you’re already embedded in the Elgato ecosystem, have a Streamdeck and are looking to get into the world of XLR microphones, I definitely would recommend the Wave XLR. It sounds great – which is a must when talking audio – and the Wave Link software adds so much to the package to help better integrate your sound into a stream. It’s a great little device that can only get better as the software improves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.