Ease of use in a small package is the name of the game for the Elgato Wave:1 ($130 MSRP at the time of writing), and for the most part it succeeds. The Wave:1, the more budget-oriented brother of the Elgato Wave: 3 I$160 MSRP), features a high-quality Lewitt Audio designed capacitor that makes its presence felt in clear audio reproduction. The microphone opts for a cardioid pattern, making it a difficult task to make something really sound awful.
The Wave Link software is intuitive enough to let almost any amateur mix a broadcast like a semi-pro in minutes. All of these factors make the Wave:1 a powerful tool for beginners, who will likely be so excited about how easy it is to get started that the product’s more serious flaws will be covered up. Those with experience in professional audio or looking for the best gaming microphone however, will find the Wave:1’s problems impossible to ignore.
Elgato Wave:1 Specifications
|Frequency range:||70 – 20,000 Hz|
|Preview / Bit rate||48 kHz / 24-bit|
|Headphone Amplifier Impedance||16 ohms|
|Dimensions (extended in foot, LxWxH)||1.6 x 2.6 x 5.6 inches (40 x 66 x 141mm)|
|Weight||Microphone and U-mount: 0.54 lb (245 g) Base: 0.68 lb (310 g)|
|Additionally||Desk Stand, Arm Arm Adapter, USB-C Cable|
Design of the Elgato Wave: 1
The Wave:1 adheres to a simple, elegant design philosophy. The microphone itself is a sleek black rounded rectangle with a USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone output on the rear of the chassis. There is a single knob for the output volume or, if you download the microphone software, the input gain. Out of the box, the watch face doubles as a mute button on the front. The volume knob is notched, which gives a good tactile indication of where your volume levels are set. In addition, a white LED ring around the button lights up as the volume increases. Pressing the button will mute the microphone and the LED level indicator will also turn red. We already enjoy an intuitive design that you can easily get used to.
While the overall simplicity of the Wave:1’s design is primarily a plus, the lack of built-in controls for the microphone’s input gain is a major drawback. The volume knob on the front controls the headphone output level, so you’ll need to install Elgato’s Wave Link software to adjust the microphone’s input gain. This is a major drawback for those looking for a more plug-and-play experience and makes the Wave:1 software a necessity rather than an option. A recent firmware update has made it possible to adjust the microphone’s input gain via the physical volume knob, but access to this functionality still requires the use of the Wave Link software.
Included in the Wave:1’s box are an 8.2-foot USB-C cable, a U-mount, a desk stand, and a boom arm adapter. The microphone is easily attached to the U-mount by means of a pair of thumbscrews. And the boom-arm adapter also makes mounting the Wave:1 on a microphone boom a breeze. However, the boom adapter is not universal. Some boom arms may require additional weight to avoid vibration. The Wave:1 doesn’t come with a shock absorber, but you can buy one for an extra $40I
Although attached to the included desk stand, the Wave:1 maintains a very small footprint, which is a huge plus for those with limited desk space. In total, the microphone measures 1.6 x 2.6 x 5.6 inches, making it slightly shorter than the Wave:3 (1..6 x 2.6 x 6 inches) and even shorter than the Razer Seiren Mini (2.2 x 3.5 x 6.4 inches).
Sound quality on the Elgato Wave:1
The Elgato Wave:1 was designed with the help of Lewitt, a respected name in pro audio, and it seems to be paying off. The microphone offers excellent sound quality.
The mic faithfully reproduced my voice without that compressed, nasal character common in more budget-friendly mics. My test shots with OBS were crystal clear – in some cases even too much. This cardioid capacitor is extremely sensitive and picks up a noticeable amount of background noise. If you have a bedroom facing the street or other shooting area like me, this is not the best choice.
You should also pay special attention to positioning the microphone relative to your other gaming equipment. if your best gaming keyboard is loud and clicky, you don’t want it close to the Wave:1. Since the Wave:1’s condenser only works in a cardioid pattern, it’s best to position the microphone with an arm if you have noisier gaming equipment.
The default input gain level for the Wave:1 is a little on the hot side, but doesn’t come close to clipping the mic as the Clipguard feature. This is a hard compressor/limiter that prevents peaking and kept the signal below the red line very well during testing. Still, it can exacerbate the problem of unwanted ambient noise in your recording/streaming space. Lowering the profit in Elgato’s Wave:1 software proved very helpful in minimizing this problem.
I kept my Wave:1 plugged into a Thunderbolt-enabled USB-C port on my desktop. I generally prefer USB-C or Thunderbolt for recording purposes because of the extremely low latency. Unfortunately, the Wave:1 doesn’t seem to take advantage of this. There was a noticeable backlog delay from the moment I spoke with the sound being routed to my chosen exit. This can be very distracting. Sometimes the word I spoke into the microphone wouldn’t show through my headphones until I spoke halfway through the next word, producing an effect similar to a light-tailed echo. To say the least, this latency is still noticeable, and at worst it appears to be approaching the 200-500 ms level and is reminiscent of cave recording.
I tried to eliminate this by closing the software, trying a different USB-C port, and even testing on my USB-C equipped gaming laptop, but the results were the same. After these efforts proved fruitless, I updated the Wave:1 to the latest firmware (version 1.1.0 at the time of writing) and that seemed to make the problem worse.
It’s possible to get almost no latency monitoring with the Wave:1, but only if you plug in a pair of headphones into the 3.5mm jack on the back of the unit and set your monitor mix output to the headphone output of the microphone . This goes against the Wave:1’s small desktop footprint, as that means you’ll need to plug in an extra piece of equipment to have a usable monitor mix. Depending on your setup, this could be a headache for cable management, but the alternative of hearing your monitor mixing through half a second of slapback echo is infinitely worse.
It’s a shame the Wave:1 suffers from this limitation, as it really is an excellent sounding microphone. However, I don’t care how good something sounds if I consistently hear it almost half a second later than I should. Signal lag is a major problem for a tool intended for recording and broadcasting. Imagine recording a podcast with someone on speakerphone, and you get the idea. If you don’t like using headphones with your mic, don’t go on this wave.
Features and software on the Elgato Wave:1
Wave Link is remarkably easy to get your head around and makes it really easy to achieve a well-balanced mix that can be imported into streaming software as a single source. But audio perfectionists will wish there were more sophisticated ways to manipulate the overall EQ curve. Taken for what it offers, however, Wave Link is a great time and money saver for streamers and content creators who don’t have the resources and space for a physical mixing console.
There are not many options to adjust audio. You won’t find any EQ presets or the ability to manually change the microphone’s default voices. Instead, you only get the ability to toggle the aforementioned Clipguard and a low-cut filter on and off, and manipulate sliders that control input gain, mic output volume, and mix balance between the mic and PC audio.
The software also lets you choose whether the dial on the front of the microphone controls input gain or output volume, and has a gain lock function to prevent other applications from interfering with your levels.
After the initial setup, you can add channels to your overall mix, each with its own independent monitor (read: headphones) and a stream output slider. This allows you to run two mixes at once, one for yourself and one for your intended audience. Once you have achieved the desired mix balance between your microphone input, game audio, music, voice chat and any other source you wish to add, your stream output mix can be added as a source to your streaming software of choice without any further adjustments.
The Elgato Wave:1 does many things well, but has some notable flaws that prevent it from revering the highest echelons of USB gaming mics.
Let’s start with the positives: the microphone audio is top-notch, clear, clean and with no obnoxious frequency emphasis. The microphone itself is compact, lightweight and easy to mount on a boom arm. Elgato’s Wave Link software does an excellent job of easily realizing a professional sounding audio mix for broadcasts by providing a workflow that is simple, elegant and intuitive. These are wonderful assets that others in the field would do well to emulate.
However, there is no way to adjust the input gain of the microphone without installing the Wave Link software, which makes the Wave:1 not plug and play. To make matters worse, the default input gain setting allows for too much ambient noise recording. And there is audio delay when the 3.5mm jack is not used. Despite being a USB-C device, the audio delay was often much greater than what
was present in USB-A microphones I have used, such as the Blue YetiI
The Wave: 3 wins higher numbers, especially when it’s on sale, thanks to greater sensitivity, more dial options, and a built-in pop filter.
But if you’re on a budget, the Wave:1 offers excellent sound quality alongside a well-designed virtual mixing console for streamers and content creators who want to keep it simple – except for using headphones.