When a friend told me about this company, I just about wrote them off as a young, inexperienced startup joining a crowded marketplace. Everyone seems to have an attitude of “Me too!!” these days. Seriously, who would dare approach the marketplace using a name as iconic as Aston? Invoking a culture of gorgeous British sport cars and daydreams of being a top secret spy for MI7, I thought surely they can’t live up to that. Think again.
Welcome Aston Microphones with their simple but effective product lineup of two microphones and a redesigned reflexion filter. Even though they just released at NAMM 2016, they are already making waves as a high-quality manufacturer of microphones, made completely in the UK from design to fabrication and assembly. This review will be focused on their Origin large-diaphragm condenser mic.
Every part of the microphone has been seemingly overhauled, including down to how the paint will wear long-term on the body. That type of attention to detail screams quality before I even buy the mic. Here are a few new features I really liked about the design of this mic.
- Integrated shock mount
- Integrated redesigned pop filter that's removable for washing
- Flexible mic cage to prevent dents
- Standard mic mount built into the body (no more loosing adapters)
- Durable stone-tumbled casing that will last for a lifetime
- It just looks stunning
You can find the usual suspects of switches on the mic with a -10db pad and low cut filter. Nothing to complain about there; using them produces a satisfying, tactile response. Even with it’s inherent limitations of a fixed polar pattern, the big brother Spirit takes over where the Origin stops. The body of the microphone is solid, and from what I have read, it can take a few more bumps and bruises than your normal studio mics due to the integrated shock mount. I’ll leave that to other people to test out though. I can see placement of the mic being incredibly easy with it’s small size, especially if you are finding space around a crowded drum kit.
Aston continues to win points and lower the price point by shipping it in environmentally friendly packaging that still exudes simplistic style (if not only from the Aston Mic lapel pin they include). Literature and manuals complete the package by being informative and well presented.
Looks and design are one thing, however, the real test is in how it performs.
For this test I used no processing, compression, or EQ. Preamp coloration was set to neutral. As follows is my gear chain:
Aston Origin ---> Neve 5024 ---> Orion 32 (96k/24) ---> Logic X ---> WAV
There is no doubt the Origin is a well designed and marketed mic, if not only because of price. In my opinion, it could be at least $100 more and appeal to the same market. That being said, I really liked the design of it and the simplicity with which it mounts to the mic stand. If you are looking for a bit of brightness to a dull source, the Origin aims to please. However, in my test with playing a CP80, I found it to be a bit too detailed, picking up squeaks and nuances in a sometimes unpleasant way. The tone seems to be scooped in the low mids (a subtle but noticeable amount) to remove potential for boominess in bad mic placement.
In a probably unfair shoot-out, I compared it to my Neumann TLM107. We all know the Neumann reputation of having that gorgeous, warm top end and musical responsiveness so I won’t go into detail there. But the first and most noticeable difference to me was the amount of noise between the mics. Without comparing the Origin to others, it was hard to see any issues. Yet, the Neumann truly shows how a low noise floor can improve your tracks by leaps and bounds. I’m not all that surprised. You get what you pay for in quality by joining the professional league of microphones with Neumann.
In conclusion, the Origin is great for recording sources that you need to brighten up a bit, such as making drum overheads shine, or for a dull acoustic guitar. They also give you a great stereo pair of large diaphragm condenser mics at a reasonable price point. Even though I have to knock them on the noise floor and lack of low mids, Aston has a winner on their hands here and I would recommend them to anyone looking to beef up their mic locker. I’ll be keeping my pair of these for quite a while.
The Aston Origin gets a solid 8/10
Download the file samples below if you like, let me know what you think and make your own conclusions. I recorded my Yamaha CP80 and a few samples of my Taylor 810CE. Mics were placed as close as possible without touching. Please pay no attention to the butchering of John Mayer's guitar riffs.