Aston Microphones announces Element, the ‘People’s Microphone’
Here’s a message from Aston - a huge announcement detailing how their next Element microphone will be blind tested by punters the world over to make the ‘perfect’ mic.
Aston Microphones are used the world over by countless artists, engineers and producers who rely on their incredible sound quality and near indestructible build for their work.
Every Aston mic to date has been developed in conjunction with the Aston 33 panel, a 600 strong group of many of the top industry professionals in the business who, through a series of blind listening tests, have ensured that each mic produced has outperformed all the competition, including big brand mics costing 10 times as much.
Now it’s YOUR turn!
Aston Element will be the first microphone in the world to have a sound crafted by the public, the musicians, engineers and producers who will eventually be using it to create their own musical magic. Aston have taken the mic to prototype stage – now here’s the chance to have your say on how the final version will sound. By registering to take part you can become a member of a voting panel who take part in a series of blind-listening tests.
There will be several stages of public voting between late April and July 2020. At each stage you will be able to listen to 5 takes for each of 3 audio sources (male vocal, female vocal and acoustic guitar) recorded on prototypes of the new Aston, alongside a number of competitors’ mics. Then you’ll rate them, from best to worst. But here’s the thing – you won’t know which sound files are which, or even which mics are being used in the test!
After each voting stage Aston’s design team will modify the prototypes in line with the voting results and the blind-listening test process will be repeated. Only when the new Aston mic is consistently voted the best sounding microphone will the Element be signed off for production. This whole process is being peer reviewed by participating magazines and a team of independent professional engineers and producers.
This is a unique chance for you to contribute to the sound design of a professional studio microphone.
Sign up to be part of the Aston Family Developer team
The Aston 33
So where did the idea for the world’s first ‘customer-designed’ mic come from?
Actually, Aston have created all their award-winning mics so far using a similar blind-testing process with hundreds of the top producers, engineers and artists in the world… But now it’s time to let everyone in on the action! Here’s the history…
The ‘classics’ of the mic world differentiate themselves by having their own subtle yet recognisable sonic character, and this is subjective. So how do you know in advance if your new mic design is going to please the ears of the world’s top music and audio professionals?
Simple. You ask them. In fact, Aston went further and invited them to participate in the R&D right from the start of every mic project. The resulting panel of experts, affectionately named the Aston 33 after the original 33 panel members, now comprises more than 600 top producers, engineers and artists from around the globe, 120 of whom took part in the testing procedures for the development of the 2020 TEC Award winning Aston Stealth.
No other brand develops their microphones this way, in fact it is unique in the Pro Audio technology industry, and it’s the reason Aston mics sound SO good. Aston work with the very best ears in the industry. And now it’s your turn!
Project Element – join the Aston Family Developer team
Every participant will not only be able to call themselves an official ‘Aston Family Voter Panel’ member, you’ll also have the opportunity to pre-order a highly collectable ‘Voter’s Edition Aston Element’ at 25% off list price. These will ONLY be available to members of the Aston Family Voting Panel (limited to one per customer) and will come complete with a certificate signed by Aston’s CEO, James Young, special edition window stickers and a special edition Aston pin badge, as well as digital logos for panel members to display on their own social media posts and web pages. The special edition mics will be available ONLY to Aston Family Voter Panel members.
To participate you will need to have access to a DAW or recording device plus good quality monitor speakers or headphones.
Aston Element – How the audio files are recorded
The sound files are being recorded by completely independent professional musicians at Soho Sonic Studios, one of London’s leading recording facilities.
At each stage, 5 iterations of Element and other market leading mics are used to record audio files for male vocals, female vocals and acoustic guitars. A separate track is made for each mic, with gain levels pre-balanced such that record levels are the same.
Although takes aren’t identical using this method, our artists do their best to make them as consistent as possible. Our own experience, and advice from our A33 panel, has shown that this is the best way to ensure a level playing field. Trying to record one take using multiple mics close together inevitably ends up with proximity and/or off-axis response colouring the sound of one mic differently to the next. Using pre-recorded vocal/instrument material to play into the mics, although ensuring identical takes, relies on having used a mic already to make the recording, thus colouring the original source with the sound of that mic.
The final recorded files for each source are labelled A-E (with a separate key denoting which number relates to which mic known only to the test team). The files are then randomised prior to uploading for voters to audition, so, for example, Mic A is not necessarily always the same product between different sources… this, again, avoids voting bias.
Then it’s over to you, the voters, to decide which version you like best, which second best, and so on.
Meet the performers
Those of you who join the voting panel will probably be curious as to who you are listening to as the voting stages progress! Well Aston have teamed up with some seriously talented and versatile professionals from the ever-growing Aston family of top artists, engineers and producers. Here’s the low-down on the Element performance team…
Charlotte Berg (Iceberg), whose vocals you’ll hear on the female vocal takes, has had her singles chart in both Europe and the USA and is backed by 20 years classical training and a wealth of touring experience. As well as a performing singer, Charlotte is a song writer, and also a producer and engineer at Soho Sonic Studios in the heart of London. She is also founder of her own company, Glassnote Productions. With a penchant for indie, rock, pop, ambient and folk, she brings the versatility needed for the Element project, and what a voice! Charlotte engineered both vocal sessions for Project Element.
Male vocalist, Matt Terry, has an amazing vocal talent and that’s not just our opinion; he was crowned winner of X Factor in 2016 and has gone on to enjoy a number of chart successes, including the winner’s single ‘When Christmas Comes Around’, written by Ed Sheeran, and ‘Súbeme la Radio’ a collaboration with Enrique Iglesias and Sean Paul. Matt also writes his own material for himself and other artists. He has seen chart success with his solo work, including tracks from his debut album ‘Trouble’. He has more than 150+ million streams to his name.
Completing team Element is stellar engineer and producer OJ (Ofer Shabi). OJ has written, produced and engineered music internationally for both established and emerging artists and to accompany film, TV and theatre productions, amassing an impressive client list including Diplo, Usher, Lewis Capaldi, the BBC and The National Theatre UK. OJ and his business partner Yaniv Fridel run one of London’s most revered recording and mixing Studios Soho Sonic in the heart of London. Together OJ and Fridel produced and mixed albums for leading artists across the globe including Arrow Benjamin, Idris Elba and Lisa Stansfield. OJ played and produced the acoustic guitar samples for the project.
Aston Element – the voting process
There will be several stages of public voting between May and July. For each round you will be able to download a range of sound files; 5 takes for each of three audio sources (male vocal, female vocal and acoustic guitar).
You will not be given details of the mics used in the test, which may be all iterations of Element, or may be a mix of other brands. The mic number will also vary from source to source, such that Mic A for Male vocals, may be different to Mic A for guitars. All you will see/hear, are a series of numbered files.
Then you simply rate what you are hearing, from best to worst, using the drag and drop voting page, submit your votes and you’re ready for the next stage. Aston will email you to let you know when each round is open and when it is due to close. Each round will last 2-3 weeks.
Between each stage Aston’s engineers will collate all the voting data and re-engineer the prototypes according to the panel’s preferences.
Once the Aston Element is voted the best sounding microphone by a clear majority of the panel, the process will close and at this point details will be released of the winning version, along with other mics which have been used at various stages of the test.
The resulting microphone will have been created with YOUR input!
Sign up to be part of the Aston Family Developer team