Review by Doug Waters
Edited by Sam Hughes
Developed by: Aston Microphones
Reviewed using: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, iMac, Pro Tools 12
We’ve been lucky enough that Aston Microphones have sent us, for the purpose of this review, their single pattern condenser microphone, the ‘Origin’! Both the Origin and it’s ‘bigger brother’ the ‘Spirit’ (Aston’s multi-pattern condenser) have been developed and built in the UK., based in Hertfordshire. Aston’s mics also go through rigorous testing at each stage of development, subjected to blind listening tests in front of judging panels consisting of producers and engineers largely from the UK audio industry. In some essence, we might be able to therefore consider that Aston’s microphones have a very “British” sound!
For this review we also thought we’d give you a little taste of the sonic character of the Origin; we’ve undertaken some tests of our own! We recorded with the Origin alongside another popular cardioid condenser mic, sE Electronics’ sE2200a (not the mkII version), to give you all a comparison of what the Origin sounds like!
Upon opening the foam padded 100% recycled materials storage box, and after digging through the additional sticker and pin-badge goodies, you can expect to be greeted with the unmistakeable solid stainless steel laser-cut chassis of the Origin. Picking it up for the first time, you may be surprised by how weighty it is, especially given that it’s just over 12cm tall.
Perhaps the most striking quality of the design though is the wave-form mesh head, differing from the usually rigid ‘cages’ we’re used to seeing on other microphones. Whilst looking amazing, the mesh is designed to offer greater protection for the microphone’s capsule, should it accidentally be knocked or dropped. In the case of such an incident, the mesh can deform slightly, partially absorbing the knock, and then be reformed by hand.
No longer will you have to fiddle around with getting a pop filter into the perfect position in front of the mic, as the Origin comes with one built in; using the latest in stainless steel mesh-knit technology. This made it very quick and easy to set up at a moment’s notice, with no frustration of having to deal with tightening a gradually drooping pop shield, and start recording in record time!
The Origin utilises a 1-inch diameter capsule, and feature -10dB pad and 80Hz low-cut filter switches. The Aston Microphones logo on the chassis rather handily denotes the front of the mic. Being a condenser microphone the Origin requires 48v phantom power to the internal electronics and set the capacitor plate voltage. As stated in the Owners Handbook provided the Origin is able to withstand SPLs reaching 127dB.
(Frequency and polar pattern responses for the Aston Origin)
The XLR jack input and standmounting thread can be found on the underneath of the Origin, the latter allowing the microphone to be mounted directly to a stand. This made it a little tricky to get into a suitable position where the front was pointed directly at the sound source, especially when being so accustomed to the ease of positioning a mic in a shockmount cradle.
It was a little surprising to be presented with a diaphragm condenser that wasn’t supplied with a cradle, given how sensitive condensers can be to vibrations coming through the mic stand. However, the Origin is actually internally shock mounted! This very effectively isolates the capsule from vibrations and movements from the rest of the body; but it might be advisable to purchase a cradle if you’re dealing with a sound source producing heavier vibrations, such as instrument cabinets or if you intent to use the Origin as a drum overhead. If do you intend to purchase one, either of the Rycote Custom (pictured) or USM shown on the Aston Microphones website would be more than suitable.
In the Owners Handbook, Aston state that the Origin excels on recordings acoustic guitar and vocals; we thought it only fitting to put that statement (and the mic) to the test! Alongside the Aston Origin, we also simultaneously recorded with an sE2200a microphone, and have provided you with the unprocesed (except for some neutral EQ reverb) sounds captured by each, for your own personal enjoyment and comparison.
Firstly, we recorded acoustic guitar, both the Aston Origin and sE2200a were pointed, slightly off-axis, at the point where the neck joins the main body.
Next, we recorded a short segment of ‘Haust’, a piece for female choir composed and performed by Kristin Burdal, based on the poem of the same name by Norwegian write, Arne Garborg. Both mics were positioned to directly face Kristin as she sang, at a distance of roughly 30cm from her.
In both the examples above, you can hear how the Origin provides a natural and transparent sound. The Origin’s ability to capture detail in the higher frequencies is apparent, especially in the vocal recordings. By comparison the sE2200a is a little muddier in the lows and mids, yet may be desirable to some. However, the sE doesn’t quite effectively capture the character and complexity of the high-end frequencies the same way as the Origin!
In conclusion, I feel I can fairly say that Aston’s Origin has largely outperformed the sE2200a; and, as Aston’s own tests have shown, many other microphones within the same price bracket and above!
Online, the Origin can be purchased for roughly £215, one of the Rycote shock mount will cost you around £50 extra on top of that. However, it’s possible to find bundles of the mics with shock mounts at reduced costs. Whilst, the sE2200a mkI used here is now out of production, the newer mkII version can cost around £240 with a shock mount and pop shield. At only roughly £25 dearer, the Aston Origin presents amazing value and will be sure to give an AKG C314, Shure SM7B or Sontronics DM-1B a run for its money!
(Microphones so good, even Stevie Wonder is singing his praises for them!)
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The Sound Architect