Category Archives: New Microphones

ASTON ORIGIN (2016)

It is not often that I buy anything simply on the strength of the advertising, but in the case of the Aston Origin that is exactly what I did! In fact worse than that I bought two! Aston Origin Out of Box As a rule when you make this kind of impulse purchase, the goods arrive and you are doomed to disappointment. However, on this occasion it turns out that Aston microphones are as good in real life as they look on paper and on the website! Every aspect of the product has been carefully considered and designed from the ground up, everything from the unique flexible grill to the eco-friendly packaging.

At the present time the myriad of competitors  in this price range are mostly derivatives of older designs, often vaguely resembling particular vintage Neumann or AKG models. Aston Microphones have launched into this rather tired and jaded market place with product that is radically different.

Designed and built in the UK the Aston Origin not only has eccentric good looks, but it also boasts a distinctive ‘British’ sound. A sound shaped by a panel of 33 well known UK producers and recording professionals, who listened to every element of the audio chain, and by a lengthy process of elimination, chose the very best sounding components. For the full story and technical specifications visit: – http://www.astonmics.com/

The stand mounting options are either the very classy custom Rycote InVision shock mount (left) or simply screwing the mic straight on to the stand.(right)

The stand mounting options are either the very classy custom Rycote InVision shock mount (left) or simply screwing the mic straight on to the stand.(right)

My only criticism of screwing the mic straight on to the stand is that whilst this is quick and easy, it is not always possible to manoeuvre the mic into exactly the right place.

Below is my homemade rotating knuckle joint which allows the mic to be moved into any position whilst screwed directly to the stand.     It is made from the top piece of an old camera tripod. Using Milliput (which sets rock hard) I glued a 3/8 inch thread adapter into the base.  Then over the screw which would normally hold the camera, I glued a 3/8 inch stand adapter to hold the mic. The ball-joint, which can rotate in any direction, is fixed by screwing down the chrome locking ring.

Rotating Knuckle Joint for Aston Origin

So What Does It Sound Like?

CLICK HERE for Rain Stick transient response test

CLICK HERE for Saxophone.

CLICK HERE for Piano and Orchestra

Neumann U87Ai  v  Aston Origin CLICK HERE

Neumann U87AiAston Origin grill

N.B.

The Neumann U87Ai is 8 x the price of the Aston Origin!

Here are my Aston Origins used to record Vocals, Guitars and Harmonica on the title track of Steve Ashley’s new album ‘Another Day’.

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OKTAVA MD-186 A Classic Clone?

It is quite a few years since AKG stopped manufacturing the remarkable D224 cardioid dynamic. There are still some appearing on eBay but the supply of ones in good working order is dwindling. I was therefore very curious when I spotted a Russian microphone which I had never seen, or heard of before, that looked somewhat reminiscent of the D224. It had a similar twin capsule design with separate elements for treble and bass, which means that like the 224 it would not exhibit proximity effect. It also appeared that the frequency response was not dissimilar (30Hz – 18kHz).  It even had an almost identical-looking stepped roll-off filter at 50Hz.  So to satisfy my curiosity I bought 2!

Oktava MD186

When the mics arrived I was immediately reminded of a well-known brand of margarine which has the slogan ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter!’ However, unlike the margarine that wouldn’t fool anyone, these Russian microphones look and sound very similar to their Austrian counterparts. Even the nickel plating appears to be as good as anything found on an AKG. It rapidly became clear that the Oktava MD-186 is not simply a cheap ‘knock off’.  It is a very solid, well-engineered, high quality, professional microphone.

Oktava MD186 Logo Closeup

Oktava MD186 Roll-off switch

Oktava MD186 Frequency Response Graph

Oktava MD186 Frequency Response Graph

So does it really sound anything like the classic AKG D224 ?  

Below are links to 3 very different sample recordings:-

CLICK HERE for Voice recording comparing an AKGD224 and the Oktava MD-186.

CLICK HERE for  Clarinet recorded on the MD-186

CLICK HERE for Live recording of Guitar and Cajon on MD-186 x2 

My two MD-186s are from the tail end of the Soviet era (1989 & 1990) when Oktava was still wholly owned by the Russian State. Although manufactured around a year apart they sound identical to one another. So much so that I would  not hesitate to use them as a stereo pair.

In Conclusion.

Looking on Oktava’s Russian website I was excited to find that the MD-186 appears to be still in production!    

 http://www.en.oktavatula.ru/production/dynamic_mic/

  However, upon further investigation I can find no retail outlet actually selling them! It has been suggested to me that maybe they are only on sale to Russian TV and Radio Stations.  Or it could be that they are no longer manufactured and Oktava simply haven’t updated this web page on their Russian site! Whatever the explanation it seems a great pity that these classic dual element dynamic microphones are no longer available from Oktava………… or AKG !

A Great Technique For Recording Acoustic Guitar….. An Omnidirectional Lavalier!

Eh?…..  Yes, you heard right! A high quality omnidirectional lavalier simply pinned on the performer’s chest about 3 inches above the top edge of the guitar produces excellent results.

Lavalier Micing Acoustic Guitar

  • Because the microphone capsule is so small it has an excellent transient response and is capable of reproducing fine detail.
  • The mic has a very wide flat frequency response covering the full range of the instrument.
  • Being omnidirectional it has no proximity effect and therefore there is none of the boominess often associated with acoustic guitars.
  • No mic stand needed.
  • Allows the player freedom of movement.
  • Positioned above the guitar it reproduces the instrument from the same perspective as it is heard by the performer.  (When recording from the front, some performers will claim that the playback doesn’t sound like their guitar.( Arrrgh!!) This is because they never normally hear it from the front! So this method may cut down such studio arguments!………. ok that’s a bit of a long shot!)

     Here is a short clip of 12 string acoustic guitar recorded using            the HMN Sound MicroLav  (As pictured above)

What About Live?                                                                                                        I have even used this method in theatre shows with solo artists to reinforce vocals and guitar at the same time! The balance is achieved by moving the mic up or down the performer’s shirt! Members of the audience and other technicians  have often commented on how good the guitar sounds, not realising that it isn’t separately DI’d !                                                                                                             (N.B. Being an omni, there are however some limitations on gain before feedback. So maybe don’t try this if you are looking to take the back wall out of the place!)

HMN Sound MicroLav 2014 (Latest Developments)

A brand new version of the MicroLav from HMN Sound arrived a couple of days ago.  Once again I am amazed how quickly it got here! This microphone and the previous one only took 4 days to travel from Thailand! Internal parcel post here in the UK often takes more than that!                                                                                         Having been pleasantly impressed by the previous incarnation I was very keen to try out this latest model, and it does not disappoint!

HMN MicroLav

 Once again mic itself is housed in a tough metal shell with an integral grill, and the cable, although very slender, is reinforced with Kevlar which makes it deceptively strong. It is a high quality microphone aimed at the professional user. This mic appears to have a sensibly flat response and is very smooth right across the frequency range. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the MicroLav is the price! Currently selling on the HMN Sound website for $79 this is excellent value for money and considerably cheaper than competitor models such as the Sennheiser MKE2 which is currently available for around £225.            So what does it sound like and how does it compare?

CLICK HERE to find out.

The MicroLav is also excellent on vocals.

Check out this CLIP recorded without eq.

For technical information and purchasing visit   http://www.hmnsound.com/