What you are about to read is the culmination of 18 months of research and development, 3 months of unconventional testing, and a whole heaping pile of mad-scientist level jiggery-pokery that resulted, at last, in one of the most uniquely developed microphones: the Aston Element. It is the only first microphone that can honestly call itself “The People’s Mic,” and we are going to tell you all about it.
- MSRP: $199.99
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Capsule: “Ridyon”
- Diaphragm Size: 1.5 inches (38mm)
- Connection Type: XLR
- Power Requirements: 48v Phantom Power
- Microphone Class: Its own.
- Included in the box: Element Mic, shock mount, and magnetic pop filter
Unearthing the Origin of the Element
The people are Aston Microphones are on a mission to produce the best possible sound a microphone can give. As a result, the Aston 33 was formed. This cabal of producers, musicians, audio engineers, and front of house sound techs exists to relentlessly pursue excellence, rather than replicating what has been done before.
If you have been following content here at MMORPG.com, we talked about this in our reviews of the Stealth and Origin for last year. Both of these are incredible offerings for the streamer, podcaster, or content creator looking to capture clear audio, but Aston Microphones has never been a company content with one or two hits.
While communicating with Aston Microphones, CEO James Young shared a vision with us: what if the Aston 33 concept extended beyond these individuals responsible for the mic voicing we have heard before? What if the people got to define the voicing they got out of a microphone? Sure, this could be done, but it could be costly. Could they make a high quality, entry-level microphone financially accessible to the people? Out of these questions, 33 turned into over 4000, public testing began, and Aston Microphone’s chief designer went to work.
After pitting different versions of the microphone against competitors in the sub-$500 USD price bracket from Audio-Technica, AKG, Blue, Neumann, and RODE, as well as having the data peer-reviewed by Music Tech Magazine and Send on Sound Magazine, the final round had a clear winner. And it is that version of the Aston Element that we have to review today.
Right out of the box, it is apparent that the Aston Element is a microphone in its own class. Its design is far sleeker than the Stealth, but carries Aston Microphone’s flare for avant-garde design, right along with a purple LED backlit logo - more on that later. The product ships with a molded plastic shock mount that is light enough to be springy (or shock-absorbent), but sturdy enough to hold the mic as well as a pop filter that affixes to the chassis of the mic via magnets. And that is just its physical attributes.
If you noticed in the specifications list, underneath Mic Class, I wrote that it is in a class of its own; there is a very good reason for that! Thanks to the mad-scientistry of Trevor Szynk, the mad-lad behind the Stealth, the Aston Element has a capsule design unlike anything on the market.
Dubbed “Ridyon,” the capsule’s design is meant to use elements of ribbon, dynamic, and condenser microphones without their shortcomings - hence, the naming convention of both the mic and capsule. The capsule uses a larger-than-standard mylar diaphragm to capture sound that goes beyond the convention. This creates a broad soundscape with incredible consistency in the low mid and low frequencies.
There is a fun side note with the Aston Element:
If you look at the pictures, you will see a purple LED lighting up the Aston Microphone’s logo. Fun fact: that is not aesthetic, that diode is a part of the microphone’s actual circuitry! And who said RGB couldn’t be functional!?
In Its Element
After using the Aston Element for a few weeks as both a podcasting mic, live streams, and producing content for my church, I was absolutely stunned at the performance of the Aston Element, especially at its price point.
While it is possible to find decent sound around the $200 range, what you will typically find is that there can be a bit of quality sacrificed in the overall sound. This can be attributed to the quality of components, how those components interact with one another, the materials the mic is made out of, and more. Since this is Aston’s design through and through, each part has been carefully selected to produce the final product we have here today.
Take a listen to this audio sample:
As I mentioned, the Aston Element is incredibly receptive to nuance in lower frequencies, thanks to the larger diaphragm. To my ear, the Element delivers a very nice, warm sound without being muddied by the low end. This is quite an amazing feat at this price point, especially if you have a deeper voice. If you happen to have a more feminine voice, you shouldn’t overlook the Element; its power in the lower registers combined with high-frequency response create a rich experience to keep your voice natural without being sharp.
As a bonus, I was feeling festive, so I busted out my (very dusty) Fender CD-60 acoustic guitar for a rendition of one of my favorite Christmas hymns. The way that the Element enhances my guitar’s sound is almost transcendent.
Have a listen (but, please go easy on my skills):
For me, Aston Microphones have been my first choice when recording podcasts and streaming. But sound is such a personal thing; we all know what we like to hear. What the Aston Element does is that it has taken our collective voices and delivered a versatile microphone experience.
At $199.99, the Element captures high-quality sound with enhanced lower frequencies and it costs a fraction compared to microphones that it can hang with. Not only that, its proprietary Ridyon capsule gives users the benefits of three different mic types without the pitfalls.
Much like the Stealth, I was a little disappointed to see Aston using plastic mounting parts for the Element. The shock mount does, however, feel like the right balance of durable and springy. My biggest concern is its durability over time, especially if you aren’t planning to set up and tear down the microphone often. Anecdotally, I have used the Stealth as my main mic for years, tearing it down after every use and the plastic mount has served me well. Our hardware editor, on the other hand, did not have the same experience. In other words, your mileage may vary.
Is it the greatest microphone in the world? No, but Aston doesn’t even claim that. It is, however, one of the most unique in both story and development. For being the only microphone in the world that can claim that over 4000 trained ears wanted to hear more of… that says something! If you are looking at making the switch from a USB microphone to an XLR-based setup, keep the Aston Element near the top of your list.
If crazy brain-children like the Element keep coming from these mad lads in the UK, I hope this isn’t the last we hear from Aston Microphones!
Note: This product was provided for review by Aston Microphones.