For this installment, we’re diving deep into the world of studio microphones, exploring the massive range of ribbon, condenser and dynamic options on the market for savvy producers, engineers and project studio enthusiasts.
Catergory: Tube Condenser | Pattern: Cardioid
Key Features: Where to begin? The Sontronics ARIA might be one of the finest valve microphones created in the modern era, pairing premium grade components and UK-made circuits with a hand-picked Slovakian ECC83 tube to deliver a gorgeous sound inspired by the creme de la creme of vintage valve mics.
This cardioid polar-pattern condenser features a 1.07” edge-terminated, single-diaphragm capsule inside of a brushed satin and chrome housing, giving it a distinctive retro look and sound. It also ships in an aluminium case that includes a shockmount, cables and the SPS-2 power supply with a -10dB pad and 75Hz high-pass filter, while the microphone itself is packed into a wooden box with velvet lining for safekeeping.
For those tech-savvy pundits, the Sontronics ARIA boasts a frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz and a maximum SPL of 125dB (for 0.5% THD @ 1kHz), while the impedance sits at ≤200 Ohms with an equivalent noise level of 18dB. A lone blue LED lights up when the tube is warmed up and ready to go, while a medical-grade electricity filter ensures that the power supply is pure and interference-free to save you from spoiling your expensive new microphone. Given that the ARIA also features its own power supply, there’s no need for phantom power to use this microphone.
Mixdown Says: The Sontronics ARIA was beta-tested by none other than Paul Epworth and PJ Harvey, so you can rest assured knowing that this microphone is right up there in terms of quality and more than worthy of its professional price-tag. When used to track vocals, the ARIA is simply astounding: it’s chock-full with nuance and detail, yet never verges near sibilant territory. The high-frequency roll off feature also works wonders here by eliminating any unwanted airiness beginning around the 15 kHz mark, while on the other end of the spectrum, the low end is punchy without any hint of boominess. These aspects, in conjunction with the ARIA’s flat (but not dull) mid-range characteristics, make this microphone a choice option for male and female vocals alike.
The ARIA is by no means just a vocal mic, however: it also sounds wonderful on acoustic and stringed instruments, and sounds sublime with acoustic pianos and when used for drum overheads. I did notice a tiny amount of tube hiss, but with some tactical EQ-ing, you’ll be able to easily eliminate that and focus on everything else this mic has to offer.
Overall: Possibly the best non-vintage microphone I’ve ever experienced, and maybe even better than many of the vintage microphones I do have in mind. The Sontronics ARIA is truly heaven-sent, and will work wonders with any application.
Sontronics are distributed in Australia through Federal Audio.