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Aston Mics; From blank piece of paper to best microphone in the world – in under five years

Category : Brand

The mic that started it all...

Until Aston came along, microphone design had been more or less stagnant, for years. Each year the industry would wait expectantly to see the leading brands’ latest takes on large and small diaphragm condenser mics and the occasional expensive ribbon or tube flagship models. But on the whole these would be tweaks of pre-existing designs; a new feature here, an improved tech spec there, but comfortably familiar in terms of overall design and manufacture; mesh grille heads, powder or other coating on the chassis – these elements were, and still are, present because, well, that’s how it’s always been.

Along came a disruptive team of unruly Brits with (literally) a blank sheet of paper, who set about rethinking every single idea of how a mic should be made. Powder coating? It scratches. Mesh heads? They dent.

The resulting mic, Aston’s first, was the Origin. Unlike anything seen before, an ingenious and cool-looking wave from spring head replaced the usual grille and gave better protection to the capsule – and the ability to quickly reform to its original shape, like the bad guy in Terminator 2. A beautiful, individually tumbled and virtually indestructible steel chassis did away with the usual coatings, which look great in the store window but perish over time. And direct-to-stand mounting was made possible by smart internal shock absorption. The microphone world hadn’t seen so many innovations on one mic for … well probably ever. Origin remains a best seller in the range.

 

But what about the sound?

Nice features, but the sound is even more important, right?

The ‘classics’ of the mic world differentiate themselves by having their own subtle yet recognisable sonic character, and this is subjective. So how do you know in advance if your new mic design is going to please the ears of the world’s top music and audio professionals?

Simple. You ask them. In fact Aston went further and invited them to participate in the R&D.

The resulting panel of experts, affectionately named the Aston 33 after the original membership, now comprises more than 120 top producers, engineers and artists from around the globe

Each new product is subject to a series of blind listening tests involving a number of prototype versions of the new mic plus a few of the aforementioned ‘classics’. The panel are sent recordings of each, across a range of sound sources, and grade them from best to worst, without knowing which is which. The Aston prototypes are retuned according to the results and the process is repeated, until the Aston consistently wins the day.

 

From Origin to Stealth

Spirit and Starlight followed, both following the Aston ethos of offering something genuinely new – never a ‘me-too’ product, always innovative but without gimmickry. Both won many awards and rave reviews, (LINKS) both have become trusted tools for the trade on stage and in the studio; like Origin, Spirit and Starlight have become modern classics. So how to follow up? What next?

By the time the concept of a fourth Aston mic started to germinate, there were more than 120 members of the Aston 33 panel, 92 of whom participated in the Stealth project. The ambitious nature of Stealth’s feature set; four discrete signal paths, active and passive modes, built in Class A preamp and 48v auto-detect (a world first) launched the most complex and comprehensive series of blind listening tests to date.

A matrix of mic voicings, sound sources and competitors’ mics, plus several rounds of voting by the panel, culminated in more than 9000 data points - seriously comprehensive information on which to base the voicings of the new microphone. The testing and tweaking did not stop until Stealth was consistently voted the best sounding for all of its chosen target applications; all vocal timbres and styles, every imaginable acoustic and electric guitar scenario, plus many other diverse sound sources.

 

A NAMM TEC Award seals the deal

The resulting microphone, launched in January 2019, has been the talk of the industry ever since, and Stealth’s victory as ‘Best Microphone’ at the 35th NAMM TEC Awards was spectacular affirmation of its place amongst the handful of products released each decade which truly fall into the ‘game-changer’ category.

It’s all very well when a brand sings its own praises (we all do it!) But this award - plus others including Music Tech’s Gear of the Year award – and an astonishing, glowing response from the world’s media, we hope lends credibility to our claims that Stealth really is something rather special.

 

Read what the industry, the artists, the journalists, think of the Aston Stealth >>>

 

 

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