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Elgato Wave XLR Review – An Audio Interface for Everyone

Let’s face it, audio can be a bit intimidating for the layman. Complex audio interfaces required by traditional high quality XLR microphones have led to an increase in USB microphones for plug and play simplicity a USB mic? You don’t need anything fancy for your home production. Step inside the Elgato Wave XLR, a simple USB audio interface that removes the guesswork and complexity of XLR microphone gaming. Elgato sent us a Wave XLR to test in our home office setup that brings studio quality USB simplicity.

To be clear, I am very familiar with audio interfaces, having worked at a popular musical equipment dealer for over a decade and having set up my own vocal booth in my office which has a high quality condenser microphone over a beautiful Focusrite Interface operates. I also wanted a similarly good-sounding XLR microphone quality at my desk, but didn’t want a second complex audio setup to use my second XLR microphone at my desk. The Wave XLR met these requirements and effectively turned my Movo VSM-7 XLR microphone into a USB microphone.

Routing the VSM-7’s XLR cable through the Elgato Wave Mic Arm was as easy as plugging the cable into the back of the Wave XLR. But despite its plain looks, Wave XLR packs a ton of functionality into its small package, thanks in part to Elgato Wave Link software, which covers many of the more complex functions you may find on other audio interfaces. Wave XLR also does not require an external power supply and draws power from the USB-C connection to your computer.

Elgato Wave XLR test 2 Wave XLR is a simple big button. (Image: Elgato)

In addition to the XLR input and the USB-C connection, the rear also has a 3.5 mm headphone connection with which you can connect directly to the Wave XLR and monitor your audio output without latency. The USB port also routes your computer audio through the Wave XLR so you can monitor your entire mix, which you can easily balance with the large control on the front of the unit. The knob rotates continuously and uses the surrounding LEDs to communicate the levels of each of the three main settings it controls: microphone input gain, output volume to the headphones, and to adjust the crossfade mix between your microphone and your PC audio. The button is simply pushed in to switch between settings. You can also turn the 48V phantom power on and off, depending on whether your particular XLR microphone needs it or not. While the microphone we used was a condenser microphone, Elgato also says that Wave XLR can bring dynamic microphones to life with “75dB of ultra-low noise amplification.”

There is a convenient touch-sensitive mute button on the top of the Wave XLR that lets you quickly mute your microphone, with the LEDs around the middle button glowing red to clearly indicate that your microphone is muted. This simple feature mitigates audio errors whether you are using the Wave XLR to stream audio or just joining an online call or meeting while working from home. It’s easy to unmute when you need to yell at your dog to stop eating from the trash or panic when a cat jumps onto the shelf of collectibles that it shouldn’t be on. The mute function also mutes you on the hardware side without having to wonder whether the software has effectively muted you.

Elgato Wave XLR test report 1 Wave XLR is a subtle design that won’t clutter your desktop. (Image: Elgato)

Wave XLR has an innovative, proprietary “Clipguard Technology” that detects when the input levels of your microphone are too high and audio is overloaded or distorted. When spikes are detected, it redirects the audio over a second, lower volume signal path that ensures clean audio output. It’s really impressive how quickly the Wave XLR manages to capture and equalize the gain on loud inputs that would normally be distorted – so quickly that it is literally imperceptible at the output. Whether you’re just excited about leaning too close to your mic, a sudden cough or sneeze, or any other moment that could raise, cut, or distort your sound, the Wave XLR clipguard ensures this just never happens.

Elgato Wave XLR Review – Beyond the Hardware

Those are the basics of the Wave XLR’s plug-and-play functionality, but to really get more out of it, download the Wave Link software, which adds a variety of audio options and versatility, not just to the Wave XLR, but to a variety of audio sources on your computer. However, this software cannot be used without an Elgato Wave product (either the Wave XLR or one of the Wave USB microphones), so the ability to even use Wave Link is another benefit of the Wave XLR.

Elgato Wave XLR test 2 Wave Link is a complete mixer for all audio sources on your computer. (Image: Elgato)

The main function of Wave Link is the ability to manage multiple audio sources in one place and then run separate mixes through microphone monitoring on the Wave XLR and to your stream. This way, you can crank up the copyrighted tunes on Spotify via your own output, but mute their output for the stream so you can enjoy the music you want without ending up on your channel. But beyond that, it’s a way to manage a variety of audio sources – microphone, 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 has currently released beta version 1.4 which adds support for VST plugins and effects to the software and adds long-requested features like compressors, noise gates, pitch shifters, and a host of other audio plugins that do this can customize any of the audio inputs you run through the software. In addition, the Elgato Stream Deck products allow you to control elements of the Wave Link software and act as a proxy to control the Wave XLR and the connected microphone, providing a practical and highly customizable hardware solution for adjusting software settings.

Elgato Wave XLR test 2 The form factor of Wave XLR corresponds to that of the Stream Deck. (Image: Elgato)

Wave XLR impresses with its simplicity and offers a great audio interface with USB connectivity for those who are only looking for good quality in their desktop microphone audio setup. It’s not intended to replace a solid studio-grade audio interface, but rather to provide an accessible solution for people looking for a small upgrade. In addition to this initial plug-and-play simplicity, the Wave Link software allows the Wave XLR to really improve and receive a ton of extra features while also working with the Elgato Stream Deck, further evidence of Elgato’s dominance a one-stop shop for home streaming solutions.

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Elgato Wave XLR test device provided by the manufacturer. Please see our Review Guidelines for more information.

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