Being stuck at home the last few months with nothing but my pets and a constantly expanding backlog of video games to keep my company, I started having a thought that I’m sure plenty of other stir-crazy gamers around the globe are beginning to have: what if I just, like, became a streamer? I don’t necessarily have lofty career aspirations when it comes to live-streaming – I’m not trying to become the brown Ninja or pay my rent by cruising through Touhou games for a digital audience – but the idea was still there bouncing around in my head.
In fairness, the idea was already there long before I was forced to remain indoors. I had used Twitch to host movie nights for friends before, I’ve been a guest on other people’s live-streams before (check out our TSA Plays series on YouTube or Twitch), and I had even made plenty of investments into hardware that could help me set up a pretty professional streaming situation. I’ve got a beefy custom PC, great headphones, and a capture card to grab direct footage from any of my consoles.
One of the most important areas to invest in for any budding video game live-streamer, though, is the microphone. You can have a stylish stream layout and wild Valorant skills, but if your voice sounds like it’s being blasted through a wind tunnel, nobody is going to have a good time. Thankfully, a company that has already become the premier publisher of various high quality live-streaming accessories is deciding to dip their toes into the audio arena. Elgato has just launched a line of streaming-focused desktop microphones in the form of the Wave series, and I’ve been spending some time with the Wave:3.
Right out of the box, the Elgato Wave:3 establishes itself as a premium product. The sleek design of this six-inch condenser microphone is ultra classy, with an all-black finish and a sturdy 20-ounce build. The included base is a flat, round platform that keeps the microphone from wobbling or falling over, but an included adapter lets you easily remove the mic and U-Mount in order to attach it to your boom arm or shock mount of choice. The touch-sensitive mute button at the top of the microphone is a perfect finishing touch, offering flawless functionality without hindering the aesthetic of the microphone at all.
The middle segment of the base is perfect for attaching a basic pop filter, but you won’t need it thanks to the impressive internal pop filter of the Elgato Wave:3. Any plosive ‘P’ sounds or sibilant ‘S’ sounds I dropped when recording were eased out almost entirely.
Perhaps even better than the internal pop filtering, though, is the built-in Clipguard technology that eliminates distorted audio levels from your recordings entirely. It’s not at all uncommon for a live-streamer to have solid levels when they’re speaking at a normal volume, only for their levels to explode when a jump scare makes the streamer let out a blood-curdling scream. You usually need a solid mixer or post-production to deal with nasty moments like these, but try as I might, the Elgato Wave:3 refused to let my voice get overdriven no matter how loud or suddenly I screamed. The condensing effect that the Clipguard has on these moments might be noticeable to a keen ear, but it’s a minor alteration that easily beats the chore of post-production alteration or having live wavelength spikes.
Whether you’re in a live setting or you’re doing a studio recording, the amount of control you have over your audio with the Elgato Wave:3 is staggering. The dial on the front of the microphone lets you adjust between seven varying levels of audio gain on the fly. With no gain, you’ll need to have your mouth pretty close to the microphone to produce a solid recording, but background noise is nonexistent. It isn’t until you hit 2 levels of gain that there’s an incredibly minor amount of background buzz, but it’s something that would be entirely unnoticeable when blended with game audio and easily eliminated with a simple noise removal tool in any recording software. Higher levels of gain will yield much more noticeable background noise, but at 40% gain I still was more than happy enough with my setup and rarely needed to bump it any higher.
If you want more control over your audio, the accompanying software tools for the Elgato Wave:3 add a bevy of live audio manipulation features that are a godsend for first-time streamers. Wave Link provides a digital mixer that allows you to set up various channels for your voice audio, game audio, music audio, and anything else involved in your stream. You can adjust the levels of each element on the fly, but what impressed me the most was the ability to have two separate audio mixes.
While you want your viewers to hear your voice clearly above faint background music, and obviously never hear any of your desktop notifications, you can have a second mix where you get to hear those notifications and dial down our own voice. One click lets you swap between a local audio mix and a stream mix whenever you want, and feeding the stream mix into OBS ensures that your viewers will only hear what you want them to hear. You can even connect Wave Link to an Elgato Stream Deck if you want handy shortcut controls for various elements of your mixer setup.
It’s a solid system, but it wasn’t without headaches for me. The Elgato Wave:3 worked flawlessly for me out of the box, but once I installed the Wave Link software, things got a tad rocky. From then on, plugging the Elgato Wave:3 into my PC made my Windows toolbar audio icon and my volume controls unresponsive, and it would take minutes of frustration or a haphazard force quitting of my audio drivers for everything to operate normally. The “solution” is to never unplug the microphone once you’ve got things working the first time.
Additionally, as much as I wanted to test out the PlayStation 4 compatibility of the Elgato Wave:3, I couldn’t. While the microphone is properly recognised as an input and output by my console, I could not get it to register any voice input from me, no matter what I tried. While I could hear myself perfectly through the customisable built-in voice monitoring of the microphone, and my PS4 would pass game audio through to me just fine, my console couldn’t hear me.
They’re both issues that don’t kill the product completely, but do prevent it from being a perfect multi-purpose streaming tool, especially when considering the price. At $159.99 / €169.99 / £159.99, this isn’t exactly “my first streaming mic” territory, and the lower priced Wave:1 isn’t only $30 / £30 cheaper, at the cost of dropping from 96kHz to 48kHz sample rate and losing the mute button. Still the strength of the Wave:3’s onboard processing means it can stand up and be a worthy alternative to the $130 / £120 Blue Yeti and similarly priced Rode NT1-A that seem to be every budding podcasters’ go to mics.