Let’s face it, audio can be a somewhat intimidating thing to the layperson. The likes of complex audio interfaces required for traditional high-quality XLR microphones has led to a rise in USB microphones for the sake of plug-and-play simplicity, but what if you want both the quality of an XLR mic with the simple nature of a USB mic? You don’t need anything fancy for your home production. Enter the Elgato Wave XLR, a simple USB audio interface that takes the guesswork and complexity out of the XLR microphone game. Elgato sent a Wave XLR our way to test out in our home office setup, bringing USB simplicity to studio-level quality.
To be clear, I am very familiar with audio interfaces, having worked at a popular music gear retailer for over a decade and having my own vocal booth setup in my office that runs a high-quality condenser microphone through a nice Focusrite interface. I wanted similar good-sounding XLR mic quality at my desk as well, but didn’t want to have to have a whole second complex audio setup to use my second XLR mic at my desk. The Wave XLR met those needs, and effectively turned my Movo VSM-7 XLR mic into a USB mic.
Routing the VSM-7’s XLR cable through the Elgato Wave Mic Arm, it was as easy as plugging the cable into the back of the Wave XLR. But despite its simple appearance, Wave XLR packs a ton of features into its little chassis, thanks in part to the Elgato Wave Link software, which addresses much of the more complex functionality you might find on other audio interfaces. Wave XLR also doesn’t require external power, drawing power via the USB-C connection to your computer.
In addition to the XLR input and USB-C connection, the rear also features a 3.5mm headphone connection, allowing you to plug directly into the Wave XLR and monitor your audio output with zero-latency. The USB connection will also route your computer audio through the Wave XLR, allowing you to monitor your entire mix, which you can easily balance using the large knob on the front of the device. The knob turns infinitely, using the surrounding LEDs to communicate the levels of each of the three main settings it controls: mic input gain, output volume to the headphones, and to dial in the crossfade mix between your mic and your PC audio. The knob simply pushes in to switch between the settings. You can also toggle the 48V phantom power on and off depending on if your particular XLR mic needs it or not. While the mic we used was a condenser mic, Elgato also says that Wave XLR can breathe life into dynamic microphones via “75 dB of ultra low-noise gain.”
The top of the Wave XLR has a handy touch-sensitive mute button to quickly mute your mic, with the LEDs surrounding the center knob lighting up red to clearly show that your mic is muted. This simple feature mitigates audio blunders, whether using the Wave XLR for streaming audio or just talking part in an online call or meeting while working from home. It’s easy to quickly tap mute when you have to shout at your dog to stop eating out of the trash, or panic as a cat jumps on that shelf full of collectibles that they aren’t supposed to be on. The mute function also mutes you on the hardware side, without needing to question whether the software has you effectively muted.
Wave XLR has an innovative proprietary “Clipguard technology,” which detects when input levels on your mic peak out and audio might clip or distort. When peaks are detected, it reroutes the audio through a second lower-volume signal path that ensures a clean audio output. It’s genuinely impressive how fast the Wave XLR manages to catch and equalize the gain on loud input that would normally distort—so fast, in fact, that it’s literally imperceptible on the output. So whether its just getting excited, leaning in to your mic too close, a sudden cough or sneeze, or any other moments that may peak, clip, and distort your audio, Wave XLR’s Clipguard ensures that it simply never happens.
Elgato Wave XLR Review – Beyond the Hardware
That’s the basics of the plug-and-play functionality of the Wave XLR, but to really get more out of it, you’ll want to download the Wave Link software, which adds a host of audio options and versatility, not just to the Wave XLR, but to a host of audio sources on your computer. However, this software can’t be used without an Elgato Wave product (either the Wave XLR or one of the Wave USB mics), so the ability to even use Wave Link is another benefit of the Wave XLR.
The primary feature of Wave Link is the ability to manage multiple audio sources in one place, and then have separate mixes going through the mic monitoring on the Wave XLR and out to your stream. This way you can crank up the copyrighted tunes on Spotify via your own output, but mute their output to the stream so you can enjoy the music you want without landing strikes on your channel. But even more than this, it’s a way to manage a multitude of audio sources—mic, console, PC game, browser, Spotify, Discord, system sounds, etc.—in one convenient place via independent mixes for yourself and your stream.
As of this writing, Wave Link currently has its version 1.4 beta out, which adds support for VST plugins and effects to the software, adding long-demanded features like compressors, noise gates, pitch shifters, and a variety of other audio plugins that can customize any of the audio inputs you run through the software. Additionally, you can control elements of the Wave Link software, and by proxy, the Wave XLR and attached mic, with the Elgato Stream Deck products, providing a handy and extremely customizable hardware solution for adjusting software settings.
Wave XLR wins the day for its simplicity, providing a great audio interface with USB connectivity for anyone just looking for good quality in their desktop microphone audio setup. It’s not out to replace the likes of a solid studio-level audio interface, but rather to provide an accessible solution for people looking for a bit of an upgrade. On top of that initial plug-and-play simplicity, the Wave Link software allows the Wave XLR to really level up and gain a ton of additional functionality, while enabling it to work with the Elgato Stream Deck as well, further providing proof of Elgato’s one-stop-shop dominance in the home streaming solutions space.
Check out our full suite of recent Elgato product reviews:
- Elgato Facecam Review
- Elgato Key Light Review
- Elgato Wave Mic Arm Review
- Elgato Stream Deck Mk.2 Review
- Full Elgato Setup Evaluation
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