Last Updated on December 17, 2020.
Right off the bat I have to say that this is the best gaming microphone I have ever tried, and if you’re someone who needs a USB microphone for gaming or streaming, then it might be the best choice for you.
In this post I will give you a complete overview of the ElGato Wave 3 USB mic, I will go through all the Pros and Cons, show you the features that make it such a great microphone for gaming and streaming, and I will also record guitars with it, so you can see how it performs in that department.
But first you should know a couple things…
What makes a good USB Gaming Microphone?
With so many different USB microphones out there that are being marketed to gamers as being the best ones for their setup, it’s hard to really know which ones are actually good and which ones aren’t.
I’ve tested many different USB mics to see how well they stacked up against each other, and I came to a couple conclusions as far as to what makes a USB mic good for gaming;
- Background Noise Rejection: It should be picking up as little noise as possible; like Keyboard noise, Computer fan noise, A/C noise, etc.
- Volume Spikes/Peaks Handling: When a signal gets too loud it “peaks” and ends up sounding distorted, and since gamers love to scream, this happens a lot. The Mic should have a built-in limiter to handle this better.
- Gain/headphone/direct Mix controls: Being able to control the gain, the headphone volume and the mix between the microphone’s direct sound and the PC’s playback directly from the mic is essential.
- Mute Button:Having a mute button allows you to quickly mute the audio without having to lower the gain and manually increasing it back up again.
Most microphones that are marketed to gamers, don’t usually come with all of these features, especially the built-in limiter.
What doesn’t make a good USB Gaming Microphone?
While you could certainly use any USB microphone for Gaming or streaming, if it comes with the features I just mentioned, then you and your viewers will certainly have a better time.
However, there are other microphones out there, like the Blue Yeti for example, that are still fantastic microphones in general, but that I wouldn’t recommend for gaming.
The reason for this is that having a multitude of polar patterns isn’t useful since you will only be using the Cardioid one because it’s the only pattern that can properly reject background noise while focusing on your voice.
So, why spend money on those polar patterns if you’re not going to use them, when instead you can purchase a microphone that only comes with the cardioid polar pattern, but that includes gaming/streaming specific features?
This is where the ElGato Wave 3 comes in…
ElGato Wave 3
The ElGato Wave 3 (affiliate link to Amazon) comes with all the features I mentioned earlier and it even includes a software designed to help you mix different audio sources for your stream, making it the ideal choice for most gamers and streamers.
Let’s go over what you get in the box, the build quality, all the different features, and how it performs;
What do you get in the Box?
- Wave 3 Microphone
- Microphone stand adapter
- USB Cable
- Tripod Desk Stand (already installed on the microphone)
No Shock mount or pop filter included; These are sold separately.
The build quality didn’t impress me all that much since it feels a bit light and plasticky when holding it in my hand.
It’s got a plastic body with a metal mesh grille that does have some give when pressing strongly on it. Still, nothing I would worry about since it’s designed to be on your desk or on a boom arm, and not used on the road or on a live stage.
The included desk-mount, which already comes attached to the Wave 3, is made of metal and extremely heavy, which means that accidentally knocking the mic over will be quite hard, plus it’s got some padding on the bottom to help absorb any vibrations coming from the desk.
The microphone attaches to the desk mount via two screws on the sides of the mic itself, but the issue with this method is that if you want to attach it to a shock mount, you will need to get the proprietary one that ElGato sells since it won’t work with most conventional shock mounts.
And the same goes for the pop filter; using a standard shock mount and pop filter won’t really work and you will need to get the ones they sell.
Now, let’s talk a bit about how well it does at rejecting background noise, since you don’t want to get a microphone that picks up everything that is going on in your room:
Background Noise Rejection
As a gamer or a streamer, you’re generally typing on your keyboard, and this means that all that noise generated by the keyboard can be picked up by the mic.
The Wave 3 does a decent job at this, but you should really be using it with a boom arm, so that you can place it farther away from the keyboard and closer to your mouth, and this way the vibrations generated from typing don’t get transmitted into the mic via the desk-stand as well.
Note: Every single microphone will pick up some background noise, that’s just life… But with the Wave 3, if you place it between you and the keyboard, so that the keyboard is behind the microphone, you should be set.
The Wave 3 comes with an extensive array of features, and we will be starting with the most important one, which is the Wavelink software:
The Wavelink software allows you to mix different audio sources, like the music you’re playing on your browser or media player, voice chats, and more.
And this comes in handy when managing the audio levels for your stream effectively, plus you can have one set of audio levels for yourself, which are controlled by the “monitor” parameter, and a completely different set of levels for your viewers.
However, that’s not all, since there are two extra features also built into the Wavelink software, and one of those is the feature that makes this microphone excellent for gaming.
These features are; the Clipguard and a High-Pass filter.
You know how gamers love to scream and yell at times, right? This usually ends up absolutely distorting the audio because of the signal being way too loud, ending up in unnecessary jump scares and poor audio quality.
What the Clipguard does is it essentially limits the audio signal’s level, preventing it from getting too loud or “peaking”, and this simply means that no matter how loud you scream into the mic, the signal will never sound distorted or be too loud.
This is the reason why I think the Wave 3 is such a good choice for streaming and gaming, even though having the Wavelink software to mix the audio also adds a lot of value, but the most important feature is the Clipguard.
A high-pass filter works by lowering the level of the frequencies in the lower end, letting the higher frequencies through.
In short; It removes bass frequencies, or lowers them.
This can help in a couple ways;
- Prevent low-end rumble: If you have an A/C on, those low-end frequencies will be picked up by the microphone. But engaging the HPF could reduce that or even prevent it altogether.
- Reduce the Proximity Effect: The Proximity effect happens when you get really close to the microphone and the Lower frequencies suddenly become a lot more obvious. If you have a deep voice and you like having the mic close to your mouth, engaging the HPF might help lower some boominess.
In all honesty, you won’t be using the HPF as much, but the clipguard should be on at all times when streaming.
You will find the mute button on the upper side of the Wave 3, and this is a touch-sensitive button that doesn’t introduce any noise into the recording, which is absolutely not something I expected to find on this mic since most other USB microphones create an annoying clicking sound that gets recorded when pressing it.
This is also really useful for two reasons; having a mute button means that you won’t need to lower the gain to mute it and then increase the gain again to un-mute it, since you could potentially end up at a different level than before.
And having a mute button that is completely silent will make your viewer’s experience better as well.
Gain, Headphone Volume and Mic direct sound mix
On the front there is only one knob that you can use to adjust the Gain levels as well as the headphone volume, and the mix between the microphone’s direct sound and the audio coming from your PC.
You can scroll between which one you want to adjust by pressing on the knob, and turning it will adjust that specific parameter.
Why is having a mix between the mic’s direct sound and the playback of the PC important?
Most people stream using headphones, and unless you can hear yourself properly, you will most likely end up raising the level of your voice.
But if you are able to hear yourself through the headphones themselves, you won’t have that issue.
Also, if you decide to use this microphone to record music, it’s really useful to hear what you are playing in real time.
Otherwise, if you only listen to what’s playing on your PC, you won’t hear the live audio you’re trying to record.
Why is it so good for Gaming?
I think I already made this point quite clear, but the main reason that the Wave 3 is such a good gaming/streaming microphone is because of the Clipguard and the Wavelink software.
Just enabling the Clipguard will already improve the quality of your streams drastically, especially if you’re someone who tends to scream a lot.
And having good audio quality 100% of the times is absolutely essential to keep your audience happy and engaged.
The mixing functionality of the Wavelink software, while being quite useful, isn’t essential, but if you’re buying this microphone because of the clipguard function, it’s just a nice bonus to have the built-in mixer.
Can it record Music?
As a matter of fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how well this microphone performed when recording electric- and acoustic guitar; It has a very nice and smooth low-end that doesn’t sound muddy at all, and the mids and highs- especially the presence frequencies- sound absolutely fantastic, and it gives them an open and airy sound.
This is something that I didn’t expect to get out of a microphone that is strictly designed to capture your voice, but it certainly can record music much better than other USB microphones at a similar price point.
However, I wouldn’t recommend buying the Wave 3 if you’re ONLY going to be recording music with it since there are other alternatives at a lower price that are specifically designed to do this, like the AT2020 USB.
In fact, I would rather you purchase an Audio Interface and an XLR microphone in that particular case.
Note: If you want to know what the differences between an Audio Interface and a USB microphone are, then check this post I wrote on that subject.
Who Should get the ElGato Wave 3?
Anyone who wants to stream or game and have good audio quality to go with it, especially if you’re someone who knows they’re going to scream or introduce volume spikes that might annoy your viewers.
Just remember that in order to get the most out of this mic, it should be mounted using a shock mount on a boom arm or tripod, and it should be as close to your mouth and as far of the keyboard as possible.
Who Shouldn’t get the ElGato Wave 3?
Anyone who is not going to take advantage of the Clipguard and of the Wavelink Software’s mixing capabilities.
If you’re going to be recording music, it’s definitely not worth getting the Wave 3 simply because the features that come included aren’t meant for that, plus it’s a bit pricier than some other great-sounding USB microphones.
Alternatives to the Wave 3
While I believe that this microphone is the absolute best one for gaming and streaming, it’s understandable that the price tag might be a bit too high for some.
In that case, give the Audio-Technica AT2005 USB (affiliate link) a try, since it sells for half as much and works really well for streaming purposes.
Building a good streaming setup isn’t really that expensive nor difficult, but I think that investing in a really good microphone should be a priority, since this is what helps the audience connect with you.
The Wave 3 is the best mic I’ve tried so far for gaming/streaming (affiliate link), and at roughly $160 it’s nowhere near as expensive as something like the Shure SM7B that so many streamers use.
If you want an all-in-one combo, then this is the mic for you.
I hope this information was useful!
Have a wonderful day!