Aston Microphones is taking a new approach to designing its latest Element Microphone, utilising a collaborative design process – allowing you to participate in a series of votes to help with Aston’s R&D.
Aston is probably best known by guitarists for its Origin, a cardioid condenser microphone with a one-inch capsule, and the Starlight – a pencil microphone with a precise pickup pattern, perfect for aiming at the soundhole of an acoustic. Aston’s recent Microphones of these were designed using blind listening tests involving the “Aston 33” – a group of professional musicians, engineers and producers, who voted on different prototypes. But for the upcoming Element, that voting will open up to the public, starting today (1 May).
Speaking to MusicTech, Aston CEO James Young explained further: “It’s a very simple voting system – there will always be five microphones, but the listener won’t know exactly what they’re listening to, sometimes there’ll be competitor mics in there and sometimes there’ll be five versions of the new microphone with tweaks to the electronics to make it sound different.
“The first thing people need to do is to go and register to vote – and input a bit of info about their current music-making setup (ie, what they’re going to be listening to the tests through) so we can iron out any potential biasing. Once the participants have registered, they’ll be able to download the first session .WAV files which include five different takes of acoustic guitar, five takes of male vocals and five takes of female vocals, labelled simply.
“They’re uncompressed and able to be inserted into whichever DAW the participant is using. The participant can then audition them, decide which ones you like best and then, on the voting page on the website, we have exactly the same filenames in a cluster at the bottom of the page, so you can then click on them and simply drag them into the position you feel they should be in with one being the best and five being the worst.”
The ranking system will stay open for any changes until that round of votes closes. Aston will then take the results on board, changing the prototypes as indicated by the tests, before conducting a new round with new microphones. Each round will last around 2 or 3 weeks.
While the design specifics of the Element are yet to be revealed, we do know that it’s a side-fire single pattern cardioid microphone, loaded with a unique chassis and grill design, focused on guiding source audio to the capsule and maximising room rejection. Perfect if you’re recording at home, and don’t have a perfectly sound-treated room – or want to get a close-mic’d amp sound without having to isolate the cabinet.