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Aston Element - The voting results

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The Project Element voting process was open-ended, in that it would run for as many rounds as required to develop the new mic such that it proved the best performer among the competition. As it turned out, this took three rounds to achieve.

Round one saw an unmodified Element prototype – just the capsule doing its thing without any added Aston ‘magic’ in the electronics affecting the basic signal – up against key offerings from AKG, Audio Technica, Blue, Neumann and Rode. Unsurprisingly the unrefined Element proved the least popular or the bunch but this was expected by Aston’s engineers who, at this stage, were as interested in voters’ comments as much as the results data. This feedback on why the panel preferred certain mics for the different sources (male and female vocals and acoustic guitar), and what they did and didn’t like about the raw capsule sound of the prototype, informed the next round of electronics development to tune the sound.

 

The worst performing competitors’ mics were removed from Round 2, leaving AKG, Neumann and Rode in the mix, alongside a choice of two freshly modified Element prototypes (remember, in order to remove any possible bias, at no stage did the voters know which mic was which, or even the mix of models they were listening to). Voting showed a clear preference between the two prototypes, with the best performing version climbing to third place overall. By this time, a comprehensive data-set, plus a wealth of subjective feedback, was revealing not just which were the voters’ favourite-sounding mics, but critically, why.

 

In Round 3, another cull of the underperformers left an AKG and a Neumann up against four newly developed Element prototypes, featuring subtle variations on the sonic preferences of the Aston Family Developer Panel. This time, to the delight of the Aston team, the iteration of the new Element which would ultimately go into production announced itself, voted best performer for both male and female vocals and only narrowly missing top spot for acoustic guitar – a clear winner as ‘best all-rounder’ for singer/songwriters searching for their perfect, affordable, studio companion.

 

We won’t be revealing the exact results of each round (out of respect for our competitors who, in fairness, make very good mic products) but be assured, all the voting data was peer-reviewed at each stage by leading audio journalists from two of the world’s leading specialist publications, Sound On Sound and Music Tech magazines.

 

 

 

The Voting Process 

Prior to Project Element, each Aston mic was developed in conjunction with the Aston 33, a panel, now numbering more than 200, of the world’s top audio professionals and musicians. They took part in blind-listening tests of each new model’s prototypes, against established competitors’ mics, their expert ears gradually informing the precise sound of each new release. Each prototype was modified according to the voting data, and the process repeated as many times as necessary until the Aston was the panel’s clear favourite across a range of relevant applications.

With Element, the concept was rolled out to the public; the musicians and producers who would ultimately be using the new mic to unleash their creativity. Who better to decide the sound of the new microphone? Some ingenious technology was already in place on which the new mic would be centred, Aston’s engineers once again consigning the rule-book to the waste bin (of which more later…), but the SOUND of the mic, its most important attribute by far, was decided by public vote.

More than 4000 people signed-up to become members of the Aston Family Developer Panel and have their say in Project Element. This much talked-about process – already industry folklore - is now complete, and the world’s first ‘People’s Microphone’ is in production, shipping from October 2020.

 

Read more about Elements proprietary technology 

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