Earlier this year, we took a look at the Aston Stealth, an outstanding dynamic mic from Aston Microphones. We were so impressed that we had to know more about the company and see if their other products held up the same high standard. Today we’re looking at the Aston Spirit, a heavy-duty condenser mic just as at home in the studio as your desktop. If you’re ready to make the jump to pro streamer or podcaster, should this be your mic of choice?
- Current Price: $449
- Transducer Type: Condenser
- Acoustic Operating Principle: Pressure Gradient
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz (+/-3dB)
- Equivalent Noise Level: 14dB A-Weighted
- Sensitivity at 1kHz into 1kohm: 23.7mV/Pa
- Maximum SPL for THD 0.5%: 138dB
- Signal-to-Noise Ratio (rel. 94dB SPL): 80dB A-Weighted
- Polar pattern: Omni/Cardioid/Figure-of-Eight
- Pad Switches: -20dB/-10dB/0dB
- Low-Cut Filter: 80Hz
- Product length: 175 mm / 6.89 in
- Product width: 54 mm / 2.13 in
- Product weight: 625 g / 1.38 lb
A Unique, Professional Mic for Content Creators
The Aston Spirit is a professional microphone, that much is clear from the get-go. Not only does it have a professional price ($449) but it’s also been put through a process of refinement other microphones just don’t. To develop the “Aston Sound,” Aston Mics elicits the help of a panel of industry veterans and practicing engineers and artists. These pros take part in blind testing, identifying which model sounds the best across multiple rounds. Aston then uses this information to tweak and modify their designs until their product is the clear winner. It’s an impressive process and one aimed at leading the industry in sheer quality for the cost.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Spirit is its eminently unique look. The body of the mic is made of tumbled stainless steel, giving it this wonderfully industrial aesthetic. The capsule itself is protected by a woven metal fabric and wave-form metal grille. All that metal does make it a bit heavy, but my Blue Compass boom arm didn’t have any trouble supporting it. On the other hand, it’s incredibly durable. I firmly believe that dropping this microphone would damage my mic or floor far more than the capsule itself.
In fact, I was able to find a video of Aston knocking the mic on a table, denting the grille. In fact, that’s exactly what’s intended to happen. The wave forms are made to deform, absorbing the impact before it reaches the capsule. Because of this design, it’s also able to pop right back into place with minimal finessing, which is exactly what happened in the video: from dented and sounding great to looking good as new with a little massage.
The Spirit also features an internal shock absorption system, dramatically reducing the need for a shock mount. In the video above, you’ll see that I spend the first half holding it and passing it between my hands with virtually no handling noise. Now, I did invest in the Aston SwiftShield system, which is a combination shock mount and pop filter, but knowing what I do now, I might have just picked up the pop filter and been done with it. As a result of this innovative design, Aston has also included a thread for direct-to-stand mounting.
The Aston Sound
What matters most, though, is that Aston Sound. The impact of their R&D process comes through loud and clean when you actually hear the mic. The Spirit offers the best out-of-the-box sound I’ve heard on a condenser microphone, even beating old favorites like the Audio-Technica AT4040. While I adore the warmth of the 4040, the Spirit has its own warmness but then pairs it with an excellent transparency to make whatever you’re recording sound extremely true to life.
It’s also an extremely quiet microphone, thanks to the premium electronics Aston has used. The amount of self-noise is absolutely minimal, which is exactly why so many professional audio engineers use it to mic vocalists and instruments. What you hear is what the microphone is exposed to – yes, that does mean it will pick up room noise if you’re in an untreated space, but there are solutions for cutting out things like PC noise even if you don’t have acoustic panels up (because few of us actually do, including myself).
The first is a built-in low-cut filter. If that sounds like gibberish to you, it cuts the low frequency noise that drones in the background. Turning it on immediately cut down on the vibration noise from the fans in my computer tower – a change that is rapidly apparent when you see the audio meter drop into nothingness.
If that’s not enough, there’s also two build-in pad settings for recording loud sources. Or, at least, that’s their usual use. For a streaming or podcasting setup, these can also be used to eliminate background noise and isolate your voice to improve the quality of your content. There are options for 0dB (default), -10dB, and -20dB. -10dB is about the perfect setting for a home recording setup where other people may be going about their day while you’re producing content in your room. That setting completely removed my PC noise as well the minor background drone of people talking, the television playing, or people walking by in the hallway. -20dB takes this a step further but I found it too quiet to actually use for spoken word without also having to boost the volume. Both settings require you to be closer to the microphone but -20dB requires you to be right on it, which makes avoiding plosives much harder. Leave that one for mic’ing your guitar amp.
Large-diaphragm, Multi-pattern Recording
Under the hood, the Spirit uses a big 1-inch large-diaphragm condenser capsule. Compared to something like the Blue Yeti, you’ll immediately notice how much fuller your voice sounds. The capsule has also been gold evaporated, allowing Aston to enable multiple recording patterns. Streamers will likely want to stick to the cardioid polar pattern, which focuses on a heart-shaped pattern in front of the mic. It also features options for bi-directional recording (front and back) and omnidirectional for when you need to record the full 360-degrees around the mic.
Having used a number of small-diaphragm multi-pattern mics, like the Yeti or HyperX QuadCast, I was struck by just how full each of these patterns was able to remain. The Yeti, for example, would immediately sound much thinner outside of Cardioid mode. That is absolutely not the case here. In a podcast or co-host setting, I wouldn’t hesitate to use bi-directional or omnidirectional recording versus using two independent mics.
For my testing, I ran the Aston Spirit through a GoXLR. TC Helicon’s interface brings a lot of fun options with them, including a built-in noise gate, compressor, and EQ that you can apply to your voice. The Spirit is the first mic that captured my voice so well that I didn’t add EQ to enhance the bass. With only a little compression and a noise gate to catch louder sounds from my family, the Spirit became the single-best condenser I’ve ever used for streaming.
The Aston Spirit is an absolutely premium microphone and it’s frankly fantastic. The blend of premium electronics and well-engineered chassis make for a mic that trades blows with condensers twice its cost and puts USB mics to shame. At $449, it’s not for new content creators, but if you’ve been in the game for a while and are ready to take your production quality to the next level, the Spirit is an outstanding way to accomplish that.
- Outstanding sound quality – extremely natural
- Exceptionally low self-noise
- Superior metal build and wave-form grille
- Effective internal shock absorption system
- Quite expensive
- Very sensitive to room noise