We spent a total of over 18 months developing the Aston Element Microphone Bundle, much longer than most products take in this class. More usual would be 6-9 months, which gives you some indication of just how complex this microphone package is.
The first 15 month period of our R&D process involved the development of our new Ridyon capsule technology, the acoustic housing for this (which involved a LOT of testing) and the design and prototyping of the chassis, the grille diffuser and many other pieces of proprietary technology in both the mic and the shock mount and pop shield accessories.
The final 3 months, however, has been all about public choice. Rather than simply putting a new technology straight to market, we engaged in public blind listening tests (by this we mean that coded audio files were made available to the public to audition and rank in order of preference) across 3 separate sessions from May 1st to July 15th. The results of this process, a world’s first in the ProAudio industry, are what have determined the sound of the final product… the world’s first ‘People’s Microphone’ – Aston Element.
Session 1 included our first Aston Element Microphone Bundle prototype in its raw form up against the 5 dominant, big-brand competitors chosen as the best of the best in their class. These included mics from Audio Technica, Rode, AKG, Blue, and Neumann. Before we even got to these 5 mic brands we tested mics from over 20 different brands to pick the best in class (that, with the exception of Neumann, being sub $500 mics… the Neumann was somewhat more expensive!)
Voting in the first round highlighted which mics the public preferred on 3 sources, male and female vocals, and acoustic guitar (the same 3 sources chosen throughout the tests), and what was liked and disliked about the sound of the raw Element prototype. This enables us to discard 2 brands form the test so that in Session 2 we had the top 3 competitor mics chosen by the public and 2 new versions of Element. By the end of the 2nd session, we had a much clearer picture of what people wanted from our mic, driven by the voting, subjective comments made about the competitor mics, and the relative preferences for 2 very different sounding Aston prototypes.
So, by session 3 we had only 2 remaining competitor mics… representing AKG and Neumann brands. We also had 4 different Element prototypes, each with different voicings based on preferences from the first 2 rounds. This enabled us to home in on the final sound and give our customers a wide range of choice for the final sound, whilst also making sure that
Another interesting proof of data is that it was very clear that different mics performed better or worse on different sources as you’d expect… in other words one mic does not fit all. For this reason, we always suggest, where possible, that it’s a great idea to have a couple of different mics in your cupboard to choose from if you have the budget. Our aim, with Element, is not to say “Element is the best mic” … that’s silly because these things are very subjective. No, our aim was to ensure that our entry level mic has the best possible sound, performance and quality and that it comes with the best accessories possible for people who only have the budget for one mic, or want to add a new, high performance mic to their collection, without having to spend a fortune.
The Element, in the final round, outperformed the other mics in the test on both male and female vocals… but was narrowly beaten by both the Neumann and AKG on guitar. The total vote count across all 3 sources showed Element as the clear winner, both in total votes, and in winning 2 out of the 3 source tests, vocals, of course, being the big one as they (on any non-instrumental track) are the most important element of the recording.
It is also important to state, at this point, that the full raw data for the summary information above has been peer reviewed by Music Tech Magazine and Sound on Sound magazine, two of the most influential and respected independent pro-audio publications in the world. We have also chosen not to name names when it comes to specific mic models as we have a great deal of respect for these brands and the quality of their microphone products. At no point do we wish to suggest that Aston is ‘better than another brand’… we have used key models from each competitor brand as a way to gauge the relative performance of our own mic, and although Element came top in the rankings after 3 rounds, there is a lot of love for each of the mics involved in our tests, both from us at Aston, and from the public voting in the sessions.
Aston Element Microphone Bundle Features:
- Side-fire single pattern cardioid Class A active studio microphone
- Unique Ridyon™ custom capsule technology
- Active moving coil technology with super-fast transient response and extended bass frequency response
- Translucent purple backlit badge, indicates 48 V Phantom power
- Mic voicing developed by global multi-stage public vote
- Includes proprietary shock mount and pop filter