Aston Microphones Origin by Dowsed
Website: Aston Mics
Aston mics have made quite a stir in the past year, with SOS award nominations, future music platinum awards and Music Tech 10/10s. For a brand new brand and only a handful of products that is pretty impressive, so I just had to see what all the fuss is about. Step forward the Aston Origin cardioid condenser mic.
Priced at £219 it is extremely affordable, even for hobbyists. Considering that Aston mics are also made exclusively in Great Britain (which isn’t exactly the cheapest economy for mass production these days) is a phenomenal achievement. With such a price point and major hype I proceeded with a healthy scepticism. Thankfully though, that was unnecessary, the mic is phenomenal, not just for its price point, phenomenal whatever price.
If I had to describe the microphone in a single line I’d describe it as “the U87 for the new millennium”. Hefty praise but I think this mic can have a similar mass appeal because it has quality with the price point to please everyone, this is what the home studio market has needed for some time.
The sound of the mic itself is crisp, detailed and hyped without feeling too gritty or forced. Its tonality is unlike most mics I’ve ever heard and because of this it took me a little while to get used to. I almost feel like it has some lower-mids cut out of it by design. These lower mids might initially give the source some power but ultimately these are usually the “boxy” and “roomy” frequencies I am almost always cut when mixing. The Origin also seems to suit anything you throw at it too. After a fair few test recordings, however, I found it best used with coloured pre-amps to introduce a little more gravitas to its bottom-end.
After hearing the mic, there was a nagging question at the back of my mind. How did they make it so affordable? Did they scrimp on the body? Box? Grille? If they did then how come it still sounds so good? So for the first time writing reviews for gearslutz I felt compelled to speak to the manufacturer about how they created it. After a several hour long Skype conversation I am now enlightened to their thought process and to a certain extent the science behind their decision making process. Whilst I don’t feel comfortable in revealing their secrets on a public forum, I will say that they have found ways to redesign elements to improve performance which also simultaneously cut costs. This doesn’t just apply for the electrical components like the capsules or transformers, it goes as far as the enclosure and grille too. Their unique take on a microphone grille is easy noticeable even to a novice, gone is the traditional metal mesh and instead there is a knitted wire mesh which also acts as a pop shield, one of those designs that makes people think “why didn’t anybody think about this before?”
Visually, the mic is attractive too, not in the classic golden painted body way but in a rugged “new-school” way. Unlike other brands there is no fancy wooden box or shock mount (again another way to cut costs without compromising performance). I did worry about the longevity of the cardboard box as the mic doesn’t come with a plastic pouch either. There was a nice little Aston pin badge though. Instead of a conventional shock mount the mic comes with a type of shock mount built into the mic enclosure itself and a clip built into the bottom of the mic. This clip one of my only real complaints with the Origin. This clip is extremely difficult to manoeuvre in any position, apart from into a “straight ahead” positioning. It is also not a conventional sized enclosure so that most multi-purpose shock mounts will not work with it. Instead, Aston make a Rycote model of shock mount designed to fit the mic, but this is quite an additional cost compared to the cost of the mic itself.
Sound Quality (5/5)
Without making a single adjustment for its incredible value, this mic is still a 5 star mic and can be put up against anything and still have merit. That said I advise you to spend a bit of time with the mic before judging it because it certainly has a different tonality to most mics, which are direct descendants of that famous German brand I wont name here.
Ease of use (5/5)
Its mesh head which also doubles as a built in pop shield makes it even easier to use and set up than a standard microphone, excellent! That said its most use when you have the Rycote pop shield too.
The things that make this 5 stars is not amount of features, it is instead about the new ideas, which are plentiful.
Bang for buck (5/5)
Innovation that arguably improves microphone design whilst concurrently reduces cost, can only be described as genius!