Aston Stealth Microphone Review for Podcasting
A Review of the Aston Stealth Cardioid Podcast Microphone
12.30.19 | Recording Equipment | By: Dayton Cole
I prefer my microphones “shaken and not stirred” (Well…just try not to shake the microphone too much as you might damage the capsule). Much like the famous James Bond catchphrase, the Aston Stealth is certainly a bold and unique creation by the Britain-based company, Aston Microphones. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was testing out a new Amazon Echo product or a microphone (this mic really is huge!) because I was tempted to say, “Alexa (in a very child-like, yet commanding voice), turn on phantom power please!” However, after spending just several minutes tinkering with the Aston Stealth, I quickly realized why Aston designed this microphone to compete with other industry standard dynamic microphones such as the Shure SM7B and the ElectroVoice RE-20. While many podcasters today use the SM7B and RE-20, and for good reasons, the Aston Stealth offers an innovative alternative for anyone looking for a podcast microphone.
Specifications and Features
- End-addressed, cardiod, moving-coil, dynamic microphone
- Internal shock mount
- Quick-Release Stand Mount
- 4 Discrete Signal Paths in 1 mic
- Works with and without 48V phantom power
When I first picked up the Aston Stealth I was amazed at the weight of the microphone. It’s pretty much just as long as the SM7B or RE-20 too. Much like other studio broadcast microphones, the Stealth is an end-addressed, cardioid, moving-coil, dynamic microphone. The internal shock mount is made of a unique Sorbothane material, which helps eliminate all kinds of vibrations that may be sent to the capsule. It also comes with a quick-release stand mount that connects to any typical boom stand, so you can set this mic up extremely fast without having to fiddle with an external shock mount.
While this is convenient, I find that I have to tighten the boom arm pretty tight in order to get the mic to stay in place since it is a heavy mic. The mic also has a built-in pop screen filter much like the SM7B, however, you cannot remove the screen on the mic. I also found that even with this built-in screen there were a good amount of popped plosives in our spoken word test recordings, so I would definitely recommend using another pop screen with this mic if you are recording a podcast or voiceover.
4 Discrete Signal Paths
- V1(Vocal 1) ideal for male vocal
- V2 (Vocal 2) ideal for female vocal
- G (Guitar) designed for any type of guitar ranging from delicate nylon string to raucous guitar cabs
- D (Dark) a vintage ribbon-esque setting
While you don’t have to use these settings exclusively for the sources listed above, these four discrete signal paths essentially give you four distinct sounding microphones. Since we are a podcasting company, we only tested this mic for a spoken word application. Right off the bat, the V1 and V2 settings sound great on the voice. Even though I have a male voice, I actually preferred the sound of V2 on my own voice because it minimized the plosives and it just seemed more natural-sounding based on my timbre. However, I found the V1 settings to work better on a deeper male voice and female voiceover as well.
The sibilance was just a little too pronounced in the V2 setting for the female voice, so if I were recording a podcast interview with this microphone I would most likely just leave it set on the V1 setting. I definitely would not recommend the G setting on the voice as it was kind of thin and nasally sounding, but I’m sure it’s great for guitar. The D setting was very lush and full sounding, however, I can see how that tone would not work well for most modern-day broadcast applications as it probably is a little too dark in tone for spoken word. Again, the ‘G’ and ‘D’ settings are probably going to be more useful in a music application rather than a podcast or VO application.
The most interesting aspect of the Aston Stealth is that it works with and without 48V phantom power. Without phantom power (passive mode) the active circuit is bypassed and this mic functions with the simplest signal chain (like most dynamic mics). When 48V phantom power is applied, then it activates a built-in class A preamp, which gives the mic a ton of clean gain. This is an awesome feature because it means you do not need any kind of external gain lifting device such as a cloudlifter in order to boost the signal. Since dynamic mics have a relatively low output compared to condenser mics, they can be prone to having a lot of noise added to the signal by having to crank up the preamp, but with the Aston Stealth that problem is solved with this built-in circuit. I actually prefer the way this mic sounds with the preamp enabled even though it is a ridiculous amount of gain (40dB). To accommodate all of that extra gain I had to enable the pad on the Apollo x6 when doing the listening tests. Overall, the voice seems to pop out more with phantom power enabled.
For our sound tests, we put the Aston Stealth up against the Electro-Voice RE20 and Shure SM7B and recorded male and female narration. We even did tests utilizing the internal preamp on the Stealth while running the RE20 and SM7B through a cloudlifter to compare how these mics sound with some clean gain going into an Apollo x6.
After some blind listening tests, our team of engineers preferred the SM7B on the male voice as it was the most natural sounding, with the RE20 close behind, which has a more in-your-face radio sound. While the Aston Stealth did not sound horrible, we felt like it didn’t sound as smooth or natural as the RE20 or SM7B especially in the upper frequencies. The frequency response of the stealth emphasizes some upper frequencies that our engineers did not particularly like on the voice. Also, the built-in pop screen filter did not do a good job at reducing or minimizing plosives, so I definitely would use a pop screen filter on this mic for recording voiceover. Even though we would not put the Stealth ahead of the RE20 or SM7B for podcasters, it definitely is not a bad alternative.
Ease of Use
Since the Aston Stealth has a lot of features you don’t see on any other microphone, there is a little bit of a learning curve to get this mic up and optimally running. It definitely takes some practice to switch between the different voice modes, but that’s designed intentionally to make it harder to accidentally switch the settings while recording. I found it extremely difficult to quickly change between voice modes in a session, which is not ideal if you are in a time crunch and need to track at a fast pace. Activating the built-in preamp circuit within the mic is as simple as engaging phantom power on your preamp or interface. It’s really cool to be able to get all of that clean gain without having to connect the mic to anything else in your signal chain. The built-in preamp circuit is definitely my favorite feature on the Stealth as it gives the mic a more condenser-like quality.
At first, I thought the mic clip that connects to the boom arm seemed very cheap and I was skeptical that it would even support the weight of the microphone, but the Stealth sits very securely on the stand and it hasn’t fallen off yet (knock on wood). Even though changing between the voice modes is clunky, setting up the mic onto the mic clip is very fast and is a really innovative design. The lip at the bottom of the microphone also makes it impossible to use certain types of XLR cables such as right-angle cables.
The Aston Stealth is currently $379.99, which is pretty amazing when you think about all of the features of this microphone. Even though the SM7B ($399) and RE-20 ($449) are around the same price we typically recommend using a cloudlifter with those mics, which can cost an additional $149. If you are on a budget, looking for a more versatile mic, or don’t want to spend the money on an external gain lifting device, then the Aston Stealth is worth a look.
Even though we only tested this mic in a podcasting application, I can certainly see why Aston makes the claim that this is the most versatile microphone on the market. The 4 voice settings each have their own flavor, which makes this a very versatile mic. It’s very quiet with almost no noise and the built-in circuit is a huge bonus that’s ideal for people who don’t have a good quality preamp to begin with. This mic also has really good off-axis rejection, so it would be great for a podcast interview with two mics or if you are recording in a noisy environment or untreated room. I did some tests in a large untreated office space with a bunch of people working around me and the Stealth did a great job at minimizing the sound of the environment around me. If I was shopping around for a VO mic or a podcast microphone I would probably recommend either the Shure SM7B or Electro-Voice RE-20 over the Stealth simply because I think those mics sound better for voiceover and interview work.
Overall, the Aston Stealth is a really interesting design with some very cool features. It’s an extremely versatile mic at an affordable price. Even though the Aston Stealth is not my first choice for a podcast microphone, the other competitors could certainly learn a thing or two from Aston Microphones as their internal preamp design is extremely innovative, which is definitely needed in the podcast industry.
- Introducing Resonate Version 2.0
- Top 5 Podcast Hosting Platforms
- 10 Best Microphones for Podcasting in 2019
- The 9 Best Scary Podcasts for Halloween and the Fall Season
By: Dayton Cole
As Lead Mixing Engineer at Resonate Recordings, Dayton oversees the audio editing and mixing process for many entertaining podcasts. When Dayton is not mixing and mastering audio he enjoys making tacos with his wife in their home in Louisville, KY.