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Aston Origin - The Birth of a Brand - Part 1

Category : Products

Setting standards

Aston’s first baby, introduced early in 2016, was the Origin. The microphone, a large diaphragm condenser microphone unlike any other, defined the ethos of the company and set the standards of innovation, creativity and precision engineering for which the Aston brand has quickly become known.

The only mainstream microphone company who manufacture in the UK, Aston Microphones have very few products, but an astonishing number of top artists, engineers and producers using them, on stage and in the studio. So why do Noel Gallagher, Stevie Wonder, Radiohead, Kylie Minogue and many, many others choose to use a microphone priced for the home studio market when they could go for far more expensive and established options?


The Unexamined Mic

Nothing much changed in the microphone world, for years. When Aston’s team sat round the big table with a blank piece of paper they knew one thing for sure; they had absolutely no interest in bringing out yet another ‘me-too’ microphone to take its place in the line-up of near-identical models jostling for market share. So they started from scratch, and asked some fundamental questions which had seemingly not been asked for a long time – if ever.

Why is every mic chassis’ powder coated? Why does pretty much every mic have a steel-mesh head, which can easily be dented and offers scant protection to the fragile capsule within? Why can’t you hand-hold a condenser mic? And so on. Examining such questions afresh was to inspire some radical approaches to the design, manufacture and materials used to create the all-important launch product.

At the same time there was unanimous agreement that the two most important things were that the mic had to be affordable, and that it had to sound good - unbelievably good. So good that the elite of the music industry would want to use it.


Hearing voices

At first these two goals seemed incompatible. However as the Aston boffins started reinventing the microphone from ground-up it turned out some of the solutions they came up with were also significant cost-savers – great ideas don’t have to be expensive ones – and so as the project crystallised it became apparent that more of the cost of manufacture could go towards refining the all-important sound quality.

How a mic should sound is largely a subjective matter and having figured out how to build a mic to be strong, beautiful, radical and yet inexpensive, Aston turned their attention to voicing the mic such that iconic artists, engineers and producers would adopt it as one of their go-to mics, alongside their Neumann’s and AKG’s. But how exactly should it sound in order to captivate such audio royalty? Cue another lightbulb moment; we asked them.

This is how the Aston 33 was formed; a panel of top musicians and audio professionals were invited to participate in blind listening tests, comparing various prototypes of the Origin alongside a couple of expensive ‘classics’ from other manufacturers. At each stage the panel voted on which sounded best, and worst, for a range of sources (male and female vocal takes, guitars and so on) without knowing which they were listening to.

Gradually the Origin was tweaked in accordance with the voting until it was consistently, and pretty much unanimously, judged the best sounding mic of the bunch. Only then did the project move into final testing and then manufacture. The panel, still referred to affectionately as the Aston 33 after the founders, has now grown to over 90 members who now help in the development process of each new Aston product.

The result of the 33’s first involvement, the Aston Origin, is a large diaphragm condenser microphone giving a smooth, warm sound which fits snugly into any mix with minimal fiddling. It is used extensively for vocals, acoustic instruments, guitar cabinet mic’ing and is also proving increasingly popular for drum applications.

Read part two of our Origin series to see some of the all-new technology which facilitated this beautiful, affordable and sonically superb paradox of a microphone – truly a new ‘industry standard’.


Read part 2 here:

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