Relatively-newcomers to the microphone world, Aston Microphones, managed to stir much hype around its initial release Origin. Not only did they release a microphone, which looked great, complete with new innovations and a remarkable low price, but the company flew the British flag very high. Just as the similarly-named luxury sports car brand from the UK, it’s clear that a product made in Britain still grabs attention.
The influences Britain has had on the music industry, are world renowned. Within pro audio, “that British sound” is something we hear quite a lot, and something Aston are clearly pushing. According to Aston, they are the first brand to solely manufacture their microphones in the UK, with minimal Chinese OEM parts involved. With the release of the company’s more high-end and slightly more expensive microphone, Spirit, I was certainly keen to see what all the fuss has been about.
From The Top
Not many are aware that the team behind Aston Microphones are in fact some of the original founders of sE Electronics. Whilst sE microphones may not typically be my first choice, they’ve certainly been successful. More importantly, the development behind the brand has certainly taught the Aston guys a thing or two about microphones.
With a blank canvas, the Aston Microphone design team set about to re-evaluate the purpose of each element of a professional microphone. This lead to several innovations and new ideas brought into play. Their first release, Origin, wasn’t just another inexpensive studio condenser. It offered several new features and a fresh design not seen before.
The Spirit essentially sports the same design ideas, but in a slightly larger package including changeable polar patterns. As well as cardioid, the Spirit also performs omni and figure-of-8. The unique “wave-form” spring head around the capsule has been carried over from the Origin. This is Aston’s unique method to try and protect the capsule should the worst ever happen. I think this is a great design element, which has in turn delivered the brand an easily recognisable look.
Behind the wave-form is a stainless steel mesh-knit pop filter. Slowly we are seeing built-in pop filters coming into modern microphone design, which is clearly a great idea. Aston also claims that you can even hold the Spirit in your hand, as the capsule chassis has it’s own isolation. These are excellent features to have, even if they realistically only minimise these un-wanted side effects from recording to a degree. Thanks to the isolation, the microphone can be directly mounted to a stand, or via an optional shock-mount.
These features are great, but it’s the build quality that most impressed me. The Spirit is a decent size and weight, as well as being constructed from quality materials. This is a pleasure and surprise to see from something that almost re-defines “cost-effective”. The tumbled custom finish to the chassis is beautiful and, (not that I tried it) but apparently very hard wearing.
Put In Perspective
After testing the Spirit in several scenarios, I certainly see why the brand has managed to cause quite a stir and I feel it is well deserved. In simple terms; yes this microphone delivers the results it promises extremely well. Couple that with the clever and well delivered marketing strategy for our industry, there’s no wonder nearly everyone has heard about these mics already.
However, if all this sounds like a no-brainer purchase for every studio in the land, then let’s just remind ourselves of two very important points. Firstly, there isn’t a single microphone that is perfect for every eventuality. Choosing the best mic for each application is a skill that’s still required. For me, I would describe the sound of the Spirit as “current”. This is great for many of course, especially pop singers of today for example. However, others will very quickly criticise the sound as “bright”.
Secondly, we must remember; you get what you pay for. Whilst this is a phenomenal product that will stand up against microphones ten times the price, it is inexpensive. A very general school of thought may suggest a ‘bright’ sounding mic can usually help bring a vocal forward in a mix. However, the low-mid to mid range of this mic doesn’t jump out of the speakers, in the same way nameless valve microphones can. Of course, a different pre-amp in the recording path might be part of the answer. Regarding the microphone alone though, it was this character which I thought delivered an interesting proximity effect. The Spirit seems to handle differences in distance to the sound source very well - useful if you’re working with a animated performer. In turn though, I believe other condensers can feel closer and more intimate when used carefully.
The success that Aston Microphones have very quickly generated is well deserved. This is a brand that we can be proud of here in Britain, delivering a high-quality product. The suspect artifacts I’ve experienced in other equally inexpensive microphones, thankfully aren’t present here. The Spirit does deliver it’s own unique character, which is refreshing to see, amidst other new microphones aiming to be as neutral as possible. I’m not sure I’d call it the British sound, but it’s certainly a sound from Britain.
RRP: £322 ($430)
· Low-cut filter 80 Hz
· 48 V phantom power
· Integrated pop filter
· Frequency range: 20 Hz - 20 kHz (+/- 3dB)
Simon Allen is an engineer/producer and pro audio professional with nearly two decades of experience. Working mostly in music, his reputation as a mix engineer continues to reach new heights.