Long time readers of this blog will know I’m a sucker for a nice valve microphone, and I couldn’t wait to take a look at the Aria: British microphone manufacturer Sontronics’ flagship offering for singers and voice-over artists.
For a single microphone, the Aria comes with a mighty, heavy duty flightcase filled with custom cut foam. My fragile sensibilities forbid me from hurling it down a flight of stairs to check its durability, but it seems incredibly well put together with just enough give to not crack on impact, but rigid enough to not warp under pressure. One nice touch in the case design which edges it over the likes of sE Electronics is that there is ample space for the cables. I seem to be forever trying to precisely wind my sE Z5600a II cable in the only way it’ll squeeze into the case, but Sontronics offer a generous amount of space by comparison.
The microphone itself comes in a beautiful, cushioned wooden box, emblazened with the Sontronics logos. It reminds me of my very nicest pencil case I had when I was little, but now I feel a bit sad because I can’t remember where it went and hope my mum didn’t turf it at a car boot sale. Back to the Aria….
In hand, the microphone feels nice and weighty, hinting at the high quality valve and robust housing inside. It connects via a proprietary multi-pin cable to the accompanying power supply, which then outputs via standard XLR to your pre-amp, mixing desk or audio interface of choice. The power unit contains a mains filter to ensure the microphone receives a very pure electricity supply, guaranteeing a spike & pop free recording experience.
The Sontronics Aria has a very smooth and balanced response. Going by ear rather than a response chart, it has a very realistic high frequency response. Not a huge amount of character, but a present, clear sound with plenty of pleasing, detailed mid-range. Fans of hyped, smiley-face EQ sounding mics look elsewhere – like a fine set of monitor speakers, the Aria seems to accurately capture whatever you put it in front of, just as your ear would hear.
Purportedly very similar – at least sonically – to the fabled AKG C12 and Neumann U47, the Aria was developed over 3 years and beta tested at Abbey Road to ensure its quality against leaders in the field. Solidly aimed at vocalists, it has a single large diaphragm with a cardioid polar pattern, a pad to make sure loud performers don’t distort the signal, and a low frequency cut at around 75hz to reduce unwanted low-end rumble.
So… why might you want to go for the Aria? Well, considering the similarities between it and the aforementioned classic studio mics, the Aria comes in at a much more affordable price for most recordists. Still a premium, but the £899 street price on the Aria puts it in the realms of reasonable spend of for a go-to, workhorse vocal microphone. By comparison, an original AKG C12 will set you back around £4,000 on eBay, and the U47 around £3,000. For those wanting exceptional quality at a reasonable price, the Aria is a serious contender.
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