We take a closer look at the new Aston Microphone range and review the Aston Spirit, Origin and Starlight to find out why these mics are setting the new standard in quality
Somewhere in the idyllic surrounds of Hitchin, Hertfordshire in the UK, there’s a small team causing a huge amount of fuss in the microphone industry. If you haven’t heard of Aston Mics yet, you soon will, because these beautiful sounding and near indestructible microphones are quickly becoming the go-to products for industry professionals and a household name in the world of music production.
In just 18 months Aston Microphones have bagged an array of awards and superstar producer endorsements including accolades from well-respected publications such as Sound On Sound as well as full marks from Musictech.net – the list goes on.
Their range, which includes 3 near indestructible microphones designed to take (quite literally) anything you throw at them and a unique portable acoustic treatment solution have all been designed and built in the UK. Each mic has been painstakingly developed with leading producers such as Alan Branch (U2, Jeff Beck, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails), Chris Porter (David Bowie, WHAM!, Take That, Lenny Henry) and Jim Lowe (Stereophonics, Taylor Swift) to name a few.
Coupling a passion for creating extremely responsive microphones that stand up to units 10-20 times the price bracket and a penchant for the less ordinary approach, Aston mics are altogether a different breed of ultra-professional studio quality microphones at home-studio prices. So, considering they’re now available at PMT Online and in stores, we decided to take a closer look at what makes them so good.
Spoiler alert – we loved them.
Aston Origin & Spirit Microphones
The two jewels in the Aston crown are the Origin and Spirit condenser microphones. In one hand you have the Aston Origin, which is a high-performance cardioid pattern capacitor microphone and on the other; the Aston Spirit which is a professional multi-pattern condenser microphone. The main differences between Origin and Spirit: The Origin is a transformer-less LDC whilst the Spirit is a transformer balanced LDC.
[caption id="attachment_33792" align="aligncenter" width="351"]Aston Origin Cardioid Condenser Microphone[/caption]
The Aston Origin cardioid condenser uses transformer-less circuitry, a 1" gold evaporated capsule and the ultra durable mesh head. A -10dB pad switch allows you to record those louder vocals or guitar sessions easily whilst you enjoy a smooth vintage sound at all times. Natural, transparent recordings all the way with this one.
[caption id="attachment_33793" align="aligncenter" width="352"]Aston Spirit Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone [/caption]
The Aston Spirit features a switchable pattern and utilises a 1" gold evaporated capsule. Choose from Omni, Cardioid or Figure-of-Eight polar patterns at the flick of a switch and use the -20dB/-10dB/0dB pad switches to take further control of your recordings. Ideal for acoustic guitar, vocals and cab micing, the Spirit provides a big sound with plenty of sparkling harmonics without adding any of that harshness sometimes associated with condenser mics. You get an organic natural sound that is transparent but with a subtle hint of flattery to bring out the best of your recordings.
The Aston Spirit is garnering awards and accolades worldwide, including superstar endorsements from the likes of Noel Gallagher. The Oasis and High Flying Birds frontman has officially endorsed the brand and has been quoted in typical Noel fashion:
"I ******* LOVE these mics!" - Noel Gallagher
Here he is in the studio recording the new "High Flying Birds" album with the Aston Spirit and Rycote shock mount.
[caption id="attachment_34879" align="aligncenter" width="240"] NOEL WITH THE ASTON SPIRIT AND RYCOTE SHOCK MOUNT[/caption]
As well as Noel Gallagher’s love for this mic, the Aston Spirit has just recently been named as the "Best All-rounder microphone" by MusicTech in the UK, and with several more awards in the bag as well as the 2017 TEC nomination, the Aston Spirit is achieving world domination very quickly - fast becoming an industry great, and at only £349 is the perfect addition to every mic locker, from hobbyist to Pro.
Near Indestructible Microphones
Both the Aston Origin & Spirit have a wave-form mesh head, with elastic mesh memory protecting the customised Aston capsule. Now, this isn’t just your run of the mill mesh head, but a uniquely designed feature that will comfortably stop damage if dropped from height or even hit with a steel bar. There’s even a video to prove it. This ingenious mesh head acts as a pop filter as it incorporates unique mesh-knit technology, that removes all the plosive noises completely yet ensures you get the best sound possible. That’s right, there’s no need for a pop shield when recording vocals!
The 2mm solid stainless steel chassis has been tumbled for 4 hours, foregoes any paintwork to ensure your mic is completely scratch resistant and includes laser cut features that won’t ever rub off! These mics are hardwearing to say the least.
The custom moulded end caps with integrated XLR and stand adaptor are completely unique designs, allowing you to mount the microphones directly to a mic stand. The internal shock absorption system is so good that when you do mount it, there’s no need for a shock mount. However, should you need one for those awkward micing positions, the Rycote shockmounts are available.
Aston Starlight & Starlight Stereo Pair
3 microphones in 1
The Aston Starlight microphone is not your normal small diaphragm cardioid condenser, (in case you hadn’t figured that out yet, the team at Aston don’t do things considered “Normal”) but an extremely powerful and professional studio microphone with 3 different voicing options built-in. Before you start thinking this is 3 different “emulations” it’s not, as it uses proprietary circuitry at the input stage of the mic amp rather than post-EQ. This means you get 3 independent and very different sounding voices in one microphone - you can record the same source three times and enjoy the subtle nuances of each voice to layer recordings beautifully, thanks to Aston’s variable voice switching for sound contouring. Simply click through Vintage, Modern and Hybrid settings.
[caption id="attachment_33800" align="aligncenter" width="352"]Aston Starlight Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone[/caption]
The Vintage voicing provides a classic warm and smooth sound whilst introducing some subtle low end and rolling back those pesky extreme highs. Modern setting throws in some airy high end lift, ideal for guitarists whilst the Hybrid gives producers a flatter response with a touch of low end lift. These three different voices that have been compared to the likes of a Neuman KM84/KM184 and the Rode NT5, still retain an unmistakable Aston identity making the Starlight an essential item for professional recording artists at a tenth of the cost of their peers.
The Aston Starlight utilises a 20mm cardioid capsule which was hand picked by a panel of more than 50 of the worlds top producers in double blind listening tests conducted during 2016. These blind tests were to ensure that the consistently preferred sound was integrated into the microphone, and were undertaken by comparing some of the worlds leading microphones, both vintage and new. This resulted in the brand implementing their proprietary ‘Voice Switching’ mode which provided 2 different voice modes which would accommodate new and vintage style voice modes as well as a 3rd 'Hybrid Mode' for good measure.
The construction of the Aston Starlight & Starlight stereo pair also took us by surprise with just how tough they were. The interesting thing about these Small Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser mics is not only the 3-mics-in-1 feature (we’ll get to that later) but the sintered metal head – a unique and innovative way of protecting the gold-sputtered 20mm capsule that provides excellent acoustic properties too! There’s no need to worry about your capsule with this thing!
Its got a laser!
Aston Starlight and Starlight Stereo Pair small diaphragm cardioid condenser microphones are the engineers dream mic thanks to the (yet again) near indestructible design, which incidentally looks just like a lightsaber (a few of us geeked out). The addition of a laser that allows you to easily reposition your microphones in exactly the same position after you’ve packed down, meaning you can get the same sound night after night is also one of the best ideas anyone has ever had. If you’re a touring sound engineer, all you have to do is point where your mic needs to go with the laser and throw a bit of tape on the area for future reference, making set ups quicker and easier every night. Genius.
[caption id="attachment_33802" align="aligncenter" width="352"]Aston Starlight Small Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone Stereo Pair [/caption]
It's got absolutely amazing reviews!
The team over at Sound On Sound reviewed the Aston Starlight in great detail, and were suitably impressed with it's performance. You can read the entire review here, but here's some of the best quotes:
“Low noise and ultra-low distortion were made design priorities.”
“Trying the mics in the role of drum kit overheads, I was pleasantly surprised that even in my small studio, the sound came back as very polished and well-balanced”
“It seems that the Starlight can turn its hand to just about anything. It works admirably on acoustic guitar, it doubles up as a vocal mic if you need it to and on drums it packs a weighty punch as well as retaining the transient detail.”
“…and yes, I did find that laser useful, especially when lining up the mic on drums or acoustic guitar. I’m very happy to have it on board… it should also impress clients!”
“In all the Starlight is a versatile and well-voiced microphone at a lower than expected price that I’m sure will see a lot of action in both professional and home studios." - Sound On Sound
And there's even more reviews flowing from some of the most well respected publications:
“…definitely preferable even to the KM 184”
“Every studio needs a pair of small-diaphragm condensers, and by offering three voicings in the Starlight, Aston is making a solid case to be the first mic you reach for when you do.” - MusicTech
“I not only appreciated the aiming ability of the laser, but more so the laser-like focus of the sound.”
“Starlight has great off-axis rejection and a tight proximity effect. The mic really can focus the sound right on the spot!”
“…a very balanced and focused drum overhead sound that blended nice and tight with the spot mics on the toms, kick, and snare.” - Recording Magazine
“Starlight pinpoints your sound with laser accuracy and three different voicings.”
“The option to change the mic’s voicing is a really useful feature — it’s like getting three mics in one.”
“Similar to the Origin, tracks recorded with Starlight don’t seem to require a heap of treatment… if there’s ever a mark of a good microphone, that would be it.” - Audio Technology
The Aston Halo reflection filter is more than just a portable vocal booth, but a complete Portable Acoustic Treatment solution ideal for the likes of vocals and acoustic guitar. The really interesting thing about the Halo is its unique shape; where normal reflection filters tend to wrap around the sides, the Halo however takes into consideration the sound reflections coming from the ceiling as well as the floor, providing you with far more isolation via a unique circle construction shape. The unique patented wave form design improves the sonic diffusion allowing the perfect amount of “life” into your recordings, meaning your takes sound less sterile, which is great.
[caption id="attachment_33803" align="aligncenter" width="352"]Aston Halo Pro Reflection Filter & Portable Vocal Booth[/caption]
It also looks a lot better than a few of the reflection filters out there, an intentional feature that will hopefully inspire a more enjoyable recording experience. In addition, the Halo is constructed using a patented PET Felt, made from 70% recycled PET plastic bottle materials making it the most environmentally friendly reflection filter on the market. You have two colours to choose from with the Aston Halo Shadow and Aston Halo (Purple) both of which have easy mount hardware included so you attaching your mic is a breeze.
[caption id="attachment_33804" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Aston Halo Shadow Reflection Filter[/caption]
Aston 3 Year Replacement Warranty
The team at Aston have also included a 2 year replacement warranty with their products which can be extended to 3 years once you register your product and join the Aston Owners Club at no extra cost. As each microphone undergoes rigorous testing at each stage of development, you can tell the team are proud of their creations and want to make sure that in the unlikely event that something goes wrong, you get a replacement as soon as possible.
Overall, were pretty impressed with the range from Aston Mics. The attention to detail is astonishing, whether its the etched symbols, to the mesh head that protects the capsule and acts as pop filter, to the impressive price point, it all added up. However, its the sound on offer that really sets these microphones apart from anything else out there. These are professional, dare we say it aspirational levels of quality for a tenth of the cost of some of the more "coveted" mics available. It wont be long before these Aston Microphones become the industry standard.
View a complete range of Aston Mics over at PMT Online.