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Aston Microphones have been a favourite around the Mixdown office for a while now and for good reason. As a brand, they seem to just have a knack for landing on something new, vital and tastefully priced every time they hit the drawing board, genuinely breaking new ground in a product category that is so often set in its ways.
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The Stealth bears all the signifiers of other Aston releases – the excellent R’n’D and reliance on the Vox Populi that made the ‘Element’ such a fun and considered project from start to finish, the professional quality audio capture and egalitarian price point that made the ‘Origin’ one of the best life hacks in Pro Audio and the sheer curiosity and moxie that made the ‘Starlight’ such an exciting prospect from the get-go. This time around it’s the world of large diaphragm broadcast mics that are getting the Aston treatment and make no mistakes The Stealth more than delivers on the hype.
This UK-made mic even snagged the coveted award for Best Microphone (Sound Reinforcement) at NAMM’s Technical Excellence Awards upon release last year and when you break it out in use, it is easy to understand why.
The Stealth is a hefty broadcast style mic and at about 20cm long and weighing in at 700g, it requires a decent mic stand to keep it stable, but once attached to the custom fitted clip, it’s an absolute pleasure to use.
While it is (at least in theory), a large diaphragm moving coil microphone in the broadcast tradition, it also introduces a whole host of new tech that separates it from practically everything else out there. Most obvious of these is the four switchable voices – two vocal settings optimised for different vocal tones, a guitar setting which is equally suited to Spanish guitar, electric guitar cab and steel string acoustic, and a dark, vintage setting, reminiscent of classic ribbon mics.
This latter replicates a much more colourful, harmonically rich sound with a high end roll off and generous lower-mid bump without being overbearing. This works best for a more vintage vocal and dark room sound on any instrument you need it for. The ‘G’ setting is a really usable and handy setting.
It’s worth noting that these voice settings aren’t just EQ filters either, they’re intricate (one would assume passive) contour networks with their own pure signal paths, which really goes to show just how dedicated Aston are in their dedication at the electro-acoustic level, because it must not have been easy integrating this much tech under the hood. Thankfully though it’s in that forward thinking versatility that so much of the appeal of the Stealth lies.
Whereas most mics in this category tend to be voice specific (occasionally finding their way onto other high SPL sources like kick and bass cab), the Stealth is so versatile that it can be both a first choice vocal mic and a first choice for critical instrument miking at the same time.
How does it pull this off? Well like an electro-acoustic amphibian, the Stealth has the nifty ability of operating as both a passive and active mic, meaning you have varying choices in sensitivity and response, resulting in a whole manner of potential applications and sonic decisions at the mic end.
In another major coup, the Stealth also features the world’s first built-in autodetect function which senses the presence of 48V phantom power and will automatically switch the mic to active mode to utilise the onboard class A mic pre.
This inbuilt Class-A gain stage is no shrinking violet either, being capable of boosting the signal by a whopping 50dB!
With a maximum SPL of 140dB and a frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz, and with passive and active sensitivity varying in accordance to what voice mode you’re using, it can go for quintessential ‘Fatten and Flatten’ broadcast vibes, to delicate open LDC capture on a whim, which truly is a feat.
If you’re looking for one Aston microphone or any new microphone for that matter, the Stealth should be your next addition. It’s a great introduction to Aston’s products and values, while sporting an incredibly versatile list of uses (that only increases with a stereo pair!).
The different voicings have their own purposes and uses, but this really shouldn’t hold you back either. The G voicing on acoustic guitars produces a crisp tone with plenty of definition, while the D mode delivers a mellow tone that’s great for twangy guitar amps. Whether you’re using V1 or V2, the Stealth shines in the vocal department, with the latter even sharing similar qualities to the sound of a U-87, which really is the ultimate compliment.
The microphone could be thrown up in front of any instrument or sound source and you’ll more than find a sound (or super interesting, left of centre vibe if that’s your thing). It’s one of those mics that just continually redefines its appropriateness.
Such is the vision and versatility of the Stealth that I’ve made it this far into the review, without even mentioning the price point, which seems to be oddly weighted in favour of the consumer, especially for a mic with this much technical and creative upside. It’s truly hard to believe.
An affordable, versatile, and essential addition to any intermediate producer or engineer’s arsenal of microphones. I also love that the Stealth produces a purple glow when you feed it phantom power – sometimes, it’s the little things that matter the most.