Let’s compare the Elgato Wave 3 USB microphone and the Elgato Wave XLR audio interface. Both of these devices help you get better quality audio into your computer, but they go about it in very different ways. Keep reading to see which device we recommend for home recording, video conferencing, and live streaming.

Quick Answer: The Elgato Wave 3 USB microphone and Wave XLR audio interface have a lot in common and use the same software. The key difference is that the Wave 3 is a simple, self-contained solution, while the Wave XLR gives you the creative freedom to use any XLR microphone.

Elgato Wave 3 & Wave XLR Specs

Aside from the fact that the Wave 3 is a microphone and the Wave XLR is an audio interface, both of these devices are nearly identical in terms of objective, measurable specifications. 

Elgato Wave 3Elgato Wave XLR
Bitrate24 bit24 bit
Sample Rate48/96 kHz 48/96 kHz 
USB-C ConnectivityYesYes
3.5 mm Headphone JackYesYes
SoftwareElgato WaveLinkElgato WaveLink

Want to use your Elgato with 250 Ohm headphones? Check out these linked articles to see how well they perform.

Elgato WaveLink Software

As we already touched on, the Wave 3 and Wave XLR both use Elgato’s excellent WaveLink software; it’s something that really sets the Wave 3 apart from other USB microphones.

We really like how it handles various audio sources from multiple pieces of software, allowing you to create a monitor mix for your headphones and a separate mix to your live stream, video conference, or recording software.

Elgato Wave 3 vs. Wave XLR – Usability & Functionality

The way you physically interact with both of these devices is virtually identical. Pushing the single dial on the front of each unit cycles through the gain, headphone volume, and crossover settings, and turning the dial adjusts that setting.

The only difference between the two devices is that pressing and holding the dial on the Wave XLR toggles phantom power on and off.

Elgato Wave 3 vs. Wave XLR – XLR Connectivity

The Elgato Wave 3 is a pretty good USB microphone that plugs into your computer and connects to the software. You’ll get everything you need to get started in one simple package, but with no further scope to upgrade. 

The Elgato Wave XLR acts as an interface between your computer and any XLR microphone. Want to connect your Wave XLR to the Shure SM7B? Or perhaps you prefer the sound of the EV RE20 Wave XLR setup? Whatever your preference, the Wave XLR’s powerful preamp will power notoriously quiet mics without the need for a Cloudlifter.

Jump to the XLR connectivity segment of the accompanying video to hear a selection of mics through the Wave XLR. 

Sothis is the critical difference between these two devices; if you’re happy with a simple set and forget setup, the Wave 3 will do what you ask of it. However, if you’re looking for an upgrade path or the ability to experiment with microphones, the Wave XLR is more likely to meet your needs. 

Elgato Wave 3 vs. Wave XLR – Music Recording Recommendation

We recommend the Elgato Wave XLR audio interface over the Wave 3 if you’re interested in recording music at home. 

The Wave XLR isn’t the best audio interface for home recording as it doesn’t have 1/4″ inputs, but it does allow you to experiment with different microphones. 

If you are serious about home recording, we recommend looking at an audio interface with a fuller feature set. See our home studio buyers guide for more.

Elgato Wave 3 vs. Wave XLR – Video Conferencing Recommendation

We recommend the Elgato Wave 3 USB microphone over the Wave XLR for video conferencing.

The simplicity of the Wave 3 is an advantage for video conferencing, with fewer cables and connections that could work loose or obstruct your desk. It looks and sounds professional, which is all you really need.

Elgato Wave 3 vs. Wave XLR – Live Streaming Recommendation

We recommend the Elgato Wave XLR audio interface over the Wave 3 if you’re serious about live streaming.

The Elgato Wave XLR offers you the flexibility and freedom to change and improve your sound by experimenting with different microphones and upgrading if your use case or budget changes.  

The Wave 3 locks you into one sound, which may frustrate you as you become more experienced. 

Elgato Wave 3 & Wave XLR Pricing

Elgato Wave 3 vs. Wave XLR | Comparison & Demo Topics

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 0:37 – Video Setup
  • 0:53 – Pricing
  • 1:23 – Specs
  • 2:01 – WaveLink Software
  • 2:45 – Usability & Functionality
  • 3:35 – XLR Connectivity
  • 4:55 – My Recommendation
  • 5:05 – Music Recording
  • 5:48 – Video Conferencing
  • 6:11 – Live Streaming
  • 7:05 – Summary
  • 7:26 – Final Thoughts