WINNER: Aston Microphones Stealth
Aston’s Stealth is an innovative dynamic microphone with an active preamp and four voicings, which you can select to configure the microphone to record different instruments and vocals. Aston came up with the voicings through lengthy tests with its expert panel of producers and engineers so came up with the four settings. V1 is the voicing that Aston and the panel found more suits male voices and V2 similarly works best with female vocals. The third setting is G, not surprisingly for guitar; while finally D is a darker, more vintage voicing, reminiscent of classic ribbon mics. In our tests we found that all the voicings performed admirably on their appropriate sources and some even better when on the unintended, the message being to take time to experiment. “The intended setting will do a fine job,” said reviewer Mike Hillier, “but in a couple of instances, we found ourselves preferring the darker sound of the D voicing.”
Overall though, this is an incredible microphone and Mike put it up against a number of other microphones and just found it a much more exciting proposition. “The Aston Stealth is a fantastic mic. The advantage of having four voicings should not be underestimated – it’s like having four microphones in one, and at this price is a quick and cheap way of expanding your mic closet. Aston is reconfiguring the microphone industry, providing exceptional microphones at entry-level prices.” No wonder, then, it can now add MusicTech’s Best microphone of 2019 award to its list of achievements.
Highly commended: Warm Audio WA-251
The WA-251 is a condenser microphone based on the Telefunken ELA M 251E, one of the most revered – and also very expensive – valve microphones. It offers cardioid, figure 8 and omni-directional polar patterns and is a worthy winner of our Highly Commended award. When he tested it, John Pickford discovered a high quality, versatile mic, perfect for vocals and a wide range of instruments. “It performs exceptionally well and offer superb value for money – genuine vintage character without the vintage-market price tag.”
Tul Microphones G12 Retro
If you’re a guitarist who has spent a lot of time crafting a unique tone that relies on a specific amp, cab or speakers – or indeed someone who records that kind of musician – then this is for you.
Alternatively, if you just want to sidestep software models and emulations in favour of pushing real air molecules, the G12 Retro is an excellent choice. It’s a versatile dynamic microphone for the price, and it’s among the most Instagram-worthy mics on the market. In use, we found its tonal character was natural with a smooth top end and punchy lows, perfect for capturing every nuance of a guitar amp.
Chandler Limited TG Microphone
The TG Microphone is the latest mic to come out of Chandler’s fruitful partnership with Abbey Road Studios. This time around, the company has employed tape equalisations systems from the TG12410 Transfer Console, used for mastering. There are five EQ curves available, plus A and B systems for a total of ten sonic characters, before taking into account the built-in high-pass filter. The benefit is that you have a vast range of different tonal characters available to you at the point of recording. So, while the price may initially seem high, once you consider that it may be the last mic you ever need for single-source material, it reveals itself as being rather better value for money.
The wide variety of tonal characteristics that can be dialled in makes the TG mic a great choice to record just about anything. It can be configured to capture the most delicate audio signals precisely, or be placed up close to the loudest, filthiest-sounding electric-guitar amp without overloading. Our reviewer said that “within one shell, it contains some of the best microphones I’ve ever heard.” But will it come out on top?
Audix DP7 Drum Microphone Pack
This one is stretching the category somewhat, but we were so impressed with Audix’s DP7 Drum Pack that we had to include it. By offering a mic specifically for each element of the kit, the DP7 pack does away with that head-scratching associated with trying to assemble the ultimate combination of drum mics. The range is specifically optimised to work together, bringing out the best of their individual characteristics and, most importantly, the drum kit.
Not only is the collection also super convenient, it’s also great for capturing a fat, close-mic’d kit sound. Oh, and it’s ideal for both live and studio work. Need we say more?
Warm Audio WA-251
Based on the ELA M 251E – one of the most revered (and expensive) valve mics going – the Warm Audio WA-251 is an attractive beast and not just for its looks. With its vintage CK12-type capsule and three polar patterns, it’s a high-quality, versatile mic, perfect for vocals and a wide range of instruments.
We praised the WA-251 saying it would “likely please anyone looking for a lovely large-diaphragm condenser mic”. Is it your top pick?
Golden Age Premier GA-251
Another mic going after the Telefunken ELA M 251 sound is the Golden Age Premier GA-251. This comes in at a slightly higher price than the Warm Audio take, above, but that’s down to the components used and the fact that it’s handmade in small batches of 50 units per production run, with point-to-point wiring using silver-plated wire and Mundorf M-Solder Supreme Silver/Gold solder.
We loved the GA-251 for its “even-handed” tone and the fact it sounded accurate and transparent on both acoustic instruments and vocals. Essentially, it could easily be the crowning glory of your microphone collection.
Lewitt LCT 140 Air
This durable little pencil mic does what two other mics on this list do – that is, offer more than one sonic character. On top of standard 80Hz HPF and -12dB pad switches, the body also has an Air switch that transforms the flat frequency response, adding a high-frequency boost. Lewitt says this produces a “record-ready sound from the start”. We described it as “sparkling treble boost, adding presence and a spot-lit brightness.”
We were surprised by how full-bodied acoustic guitar recordings were with the mic, noting the warmth of the low-mid tones, silky smooth highs – unlike so many other affordable pencil mics – and the precision of transient capture.
The LCT 140 Air provides professional sound quality at affordable prices and is a great choice for all types of acoustic-instrument recording, especially the guitar. Will it top your list?
Sontronics has attempted to perfect the dynamic vocal mic with the Corona. Ideal for studio and stage with its supercardioid pattern, the Corona is not only visually striking but also has a voicing that’s suited to vocals and SPL handling that makes it excellent for recording drums, brass instruments and electric guitars.
Its frequency response with rolled off top end and presence boost both help sources recorded with it cut through the mix. We described its character as “bright” and “honeyed” noting that it’s also a great choice for harmonica and percussion.
Check out all the Gear Of The Year 2019 categories here.