The Aston Origin microphone—a large diaphragm condenser running in a cardioid polar pattern—surprised me when I first took it home; it’s been surprising me since. Considering its low price, I was anticipating it to sound quite rough around the edges. Perhaps it would balloon in unexpected frequencies, or require much in the mix to make it usable (heavy de-essing to mitigate sibilance, processing into "phone vox" territory out necessity—that sort of thing). At most, I was expecting the mic to accomplish one specific task moderately well, and for that to be its one saving grace.
I’m pleased to say my predictions were off in the extreme.
Immediately upon using the Aston to record the scratch vocal for a demo, I was impressed by its results: a clean, somewhat colorless representation of my voice, relatively un-hyped and utterly devoid of the usual sonic inconsistencies or harshness I've heard in other "affordable" microphones.
I think you’ll get a lot of mileage out of this microphone. Indeed, there are quite a few reasons its quality seems to exceed its price, and here are three of them.
Its tone stands up to processing
This is a marked asset. For whatever reasons, some microphones—especially the less pricey ones—just don't accept the processing you throw at them, no matter how hard you try. This is not the case with the Aston Origin. Remember how I said this mic delivered a clean representation of my voice? Well, that trait is only useful if you can color its sonic characteristics in post; this microphone possesses that trait in spades.
Let me show you, rather than tell you. Here's a vocal I recorded, dry.
Just for fun, let’s put it over an acoustic guitar, recorded in stereo.
The Aston has captured all three of the tracks played here. The mic was fed into a BAE 1073 MPF which, in turn, hit a Cranesong HEDD 192. That's the whole chain.
The vocal in the previous examples hasn't been processed at all. For cohesive purposes, the guitars have been, but only slightly (don’t worry, you’ll hear the raw tracks later). To show you how receptive this mic is to processing, I mixed this vocal through three radically different plug-in configurations, the first of which is iZotope’s Nectar.
Admittedly, that was some extreme processing: EQ, compression, delay, shredded repeat, chorus, and reverb. But that was the point—to show you how receptive this microphone was to all of it. Still, here’s a more natural approach utilizing Slate Digital’s VTM (Virtual Tape Machine) VMR (Virtual Mix Rack) and some Valhalla reverb.
Just for fun, here's a colorful take utilizing nothing but logic stock plug-ins—instantiations such as EQ, compressor, clip distortion, delay designer, space designer, and de-esser.
As you can hear from the above examples, the relatively clean sound of this microphone is receptive to a heck of a lot of plug-in color. It can take de-essing without ruining the integrity of the highs, and it handles harmonic distortion, midrange bumps, and all sorts of compression quite well. But that’s not all.
It stands up to other lauded mics
Here's that vocal again, isolated and dry.
Let's see how my singing takes to a pretty well-known, modern-day mic—the Audio Technica 4050.
As you can hear, the Aston more than holds its own. To my ears, sure, the Audio Technica has a little more heft to it in the lower midrange. It also sports a pinch in the 1.5 kHz area—particularly noticeable in the louder, more screaming vocals—and picks up more noise on Ps, Fs, and Ss (indeed, I chose the lyric, “Somebody’s looking for some peace of mind” precisely because it had an abundance of those sounds).
On the other hand, the Aston boasts a built-in pop filter, which mitigates some of the harsher, wetter plosives. Also, what it lacks in aggressiveness compared to the 4050, it makes up for in an open quality not typical of microphones for less than five hundred dollars. It’s quite bright too, though not overly so. Yes, it is inherently a bit sibilant, but this can be mitigated in the mix.
Keep in mind, neither microphone is better or worse, to my ears. They’re both solid choices, and thus, useful to any engineer looking to make choices on the fly.
However, it just so happens that one microphone has a bit more of a stalwart reputation, at present—the kind of workhorse branding that can be applied to multiple kinds of sound-sources. This brings us to our concluding statement.
This mic works for lots of instruments
Consider, again, that the stereo acoustic guitars used in recording this little blues were also recorded with the Aston. Here they are again, totally unprocessed.
Not bad at all. Even better still, this mic can capture a whole host of instruments well, anything from auxiliary percussion to flutes.
And if that doesn't convince you of this mic’s versatility, let me leave you with this.
That's me playing a bagpipe chanter. You might hate the bagpipes—and I certainly am not a good bagpipe player—but that's some solid, usable unprocessed tone right there.
For these reasons and more, I recommend checking out this mic. Let us know what you think below, in our Comments section.
 Sorry, this broke Brooklynite doesn't own any U87s