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This article was originally published in issue #54
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Like other premium reflection filters, the Halo is not particularly cheap, but it’s a lot more cost-effective (and portable) than trying to make a not-good room sound like a good one
Simple and easy to use stand-mount
It’s not particularly cheap
Providing 360-degree filtering, a massive 40 percent increase in surface area coverage than other leading reflection filters and featuring a striking purple finish the Aston Halo Reflection Filter is making a real impact in the world of home and studio recording, however, what does Andi Picker think of it? Let's find out.
Every room has a sound: it’s partly to do with background noise and partly to do with the way pressure waves bounce around the walls, floor, ceiling and any objects that are inside the room. If we like the sound of the room, and some studios are famous for the quality of their live rooms, then we’re good to go, but in most cases, our room ends up adding a not very attractive “box” around our recording. Sure, we can add ambience to simulate that perfect space, but we’re then processing our boxy room-sound as well as our vocal/drum kit/piano/guitar….. The answer is to somehow deaden the room, which we can do by installing extensive (and often expensive) acoustic room treatment or to reduce the amount of non-direct sound that actually reaches our microphone.
The original sE Reflexion Filter came out just over ten years ago, and I remember the forums being full of reasons why it was all wrong and couldn’t work. Jump forward a short while and they were working very-well in studios all over the world, and being copied by any number of manufacturers. I tried a number of the look-alike models and was generally pretty unimpressed: most of them took the look of the original but used very basic designs and cheaper materials that either didn’t absorb sound very well, or in the worst cases actually caused pretty horrible reflections and phasing problems. The originals did sound good but were heavy and rather difficult to use because their mounting brackets threw the combined mic/filter off balance on most normal weight mic stands.
Aston Microphones produces mics that look like nothing else, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that their Halo reflection filter is a bit different too. The Halo is made out of a multi-layered, lightweight, rigid PET felt material that is largely manufactured from recycled plastic bottles; it’s larger than most of the competition, curves both vertically and horizontally for improved isolation, and has a dead-simple mounting mechanism that takes just a few seconds to attach to a stand and fit with a microphone. The inside surface of the filter has molded ridges to help diffuse higher frequency reflections and increase the absorptive area, and it’s purple!
The easiest way I’ve found to test this type of filter is to leave-out the microphone for a moment, and to move my head towards the centre of the unit. With the Halo I hear a very noticeable reduction in the background sound of the room, and if I speak as I move closer to the filter I can hear the reflections and ambience of the room being sucked out of the sound of my voice (that’s really what it feels like to me). The Halo does a great job of hiding the room from a microphone without adding its own character, and if I need even greater isolation I can just hang an old sleeping-bag on a spare mic stand behind the vocalist (and the mic).
I did mention the purple? When I originally saw pictures I thought that this was just an attempt to stand-out from the herd, and as I tend to gravitate to the deep-black to dark-grey sort of colour-scheme, I was quite unsure about it. I suspect that other folks feel the same way because there is also an all black version called the Shadow, but what surprised me is how much more uplifting it is to sing into that purple shell than into the typical none-more-black chasm: it makes the experience a little less “empty” for the vocalist (and if they do need a bit of misery, we can still dim the lights so that everything turns to grey).
Like other premium reflection filters, the Halo is not particularly cheap, but it’s a lot more cost-effective (and portable) than trying to make a not-good room sound like a good one, and I would suggest that it will make more difference in many studios than spending several times its price on upgrading mic pres and microphones. I’ve tried a number of different types of acoustic filters over the years and never really stuck with any of them, either because they didn’t work very well (or even made the sound worse) or because they were too awkward to set-up when someone just wants to get-on and perform. The Halo works very well: it’s as at least as good as the best of the others I’ve tried, is easy enough to set-up that it WILL get used, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s recommended!
Size: 53cm (Wide) x 45cm (high)
Weight: 1.85 kg