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Aston Microphones

British-made boutique mics on a budget

It’s tough to stand out in the crowded marketplace of inexpensive condenser microphones. There’s a glut of cheap Chinese-made OEM mics -- some of which have caught on among bargain-hungry shoppers, but most of which pale in comparison to the classic European microphones they seek to emulate. So, is there room in the market for another name in the condenser mic game? UK-based Aston Microphones says yes -- and they're already gaining customers and critical acclaim right out of the gate with their British-designed, British-built Aston Spirit and Aston Origin studio condensers, matching Rycote shock mount and Halo reflection filter.

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Aston Origin cardioid condenser

Your best bang-for-the-buck choice is the Aston Origin, a fixed-cardioid condenser with a 1" gold-evaporated capsule, switchable -10 dB pad, and switchable 80 Hz high-pass filter.

The tumbled stainless steel mic body has a unique look, with the capsule encased in a washable, knitted "steel wool" mesh which serves as a built-in pop filter, with Aston's signature "waveform" grille basket over the top. Aston says that this strong sprung-steel grill serves as a shock absorber, protecting the capsule from harm were you were ever to drop this mic on its head. The mic is directly mountable to a stand without a shock mount -- in fact, this mic has such outstanding shock absorption that some vocalists are using it handheld!

Inside the mic, the build quality is just as impressive, with its hand-selected capsule and transformerless circuitry. You'll describe the sound of the Aston Origin as transparent and true to the source with an open top end, especially on vocals, voiceover and acoustic guitars, without the hi-mid harshness you might be accustomed to from other condensers in this price range. A great-sounding microphone at any price, the Origin is a rare find because it's designed, assembled and tested in the UK.

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Aston Spirit multi-pattern condenser

Step up to the Aston Spirit for multi-pattern flexibility. Nominated for a 2017 TEC Award -- the Technical Excellence & Creativity awards bestowed by NAMM -- the Aston Spirit is similar to the Origin in looks, with the same distinctive "waveform" grille and steel mesh head on a longer mic body. The workhorse Spirit condenser microphone boasts incredible C0G (NP0) capacitors and a transformer-balanced design, and offers switchable cardioid, omni, and figure-8 bidirectional patterns, switchable -10 and -20 dB pads, and an 80 Hz high-pass filter.

The flexibility afforded by multiple pickup patterns is not to be overlooked. The omnidirectional pattern is your most natural-sounding choice, and your go-to choice for a room mic -- just like your ears, it picks up in 360 degrees. The figure-8 bi-directional pattern is a must if you want to pair up these mics in a Blumlein pattern or middle-side stereo setup in front of an acoustic guitar or grand piano.

A single figure-8 mic is also useful for recording a vocalist simultaneously playing an acoustic instrument -- it helps isolate the vocal, which will give you an easier time mixing. In the studio, a figure-8 mic can be used like a tight supercardioid mic, which comes in handy when you're trying to get that larger-than-life, tightly focused supercardioid quality from a vocalist (or a kick drum). Flip between cardioid and figure-8 modes to see how these patterns change the voice of the mic -- it's this versatility that makes a multi-pattern microphone like the Aston Spirit such a worthy addition to your studio's "bag of tricks."

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Aston Halo reflection filter

Not content to stand out among the ranks of value-priced studio condenser mics, Aston Microphones has ventured into another crowded market: microphone reflection filters. Since the original sE Reflexion Filter started popping up in home studios over a decade ago, many manufacturers have crafted their own version of the RF -- a simple, free-standing acoustic treatment that attaches to a microphone stand, effectively taking the "room" out of the recording by putting the microphone in its own sort of "isolation booth." This concept took off alongside the home-studio recording revolution around the turn of the 21st century -- and now, reflection filters are a home studio staple.

You can tell just by looking at the Aston Halo RF that it's different from the microphone shields you've met before. The Halo is larger than its competitors, and rounded like a soft, absorbent PET felt satellite dish to wrap around the mic's top and bottom, not just the sides -- shielding your mic from reflections in the vertical plane (your studio's hard ceiling or floor).

Despite its generous size and shape, the Halo is light in weight: under 3.5 lbs. It's also notably easy to attach to a microphone stand. Instead of clamping to the shaft of a stand, the Halo screws directly to the threaded top of the mic stand -- so it's centered on the stand and won't tip to one side or the other. Once it's mounted on the stand, the Halo extends a separate support rod to hold your shock mount and microphone at your chosen depth inside the filter, with the mic capsule close to the centre point of the Halo. Although it's built to match the Origin and Spirit, the Aston Halo is equally at home with any large-diaphragm side-address mic.

There are a lot of reflection filters and "acoustic shields" on the market. But this British-built beauty is among the best out there. Plus, it just plain looks great!

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