Empire Sound Studio, located near Dallas, Texas, has recorded some of the biggest acts in music in nearly every musical genre — and one of their favorite mic brands to use in the studio is MXL. MXL Microphones got a chance to talk to Alex Gerst, engineer and founder of Empire Sound Studio, about how the studio got its start and why MXL Mics have remained mainstays in the mic locker throughout the years.
MXL Mics: When did you found Empire Sound Studio?
Alex Gerst: I founded Empire Sound Studio back in 2004, and it first started out in my garage. I had just bought an SSL 4048 E/G+ console and needed a place to put it. But at the time I was working with my father, Harvey Gerst, at Indian Trail Recording Studio and we were full with equipment. There just wasn’t any more space for another console.
So I built my garage out as a mix room and put the SSL at the center of it all. That lasted there for about 10 years, and then I found a 4,000 sq.-ft. building that would become the Empire Sound Recording Studio as it sits today, offering three complete studios.
MXL Mics: How did you first learn about MXL Mics and what was your first experience with them?
Alex Gerst: My father happened to come across an MXL V67G that was for sale and decided to buy it, and we were just blown away by how awesome it sounded. Then we started wondering if maybe some of the other MXL Microphones might sound as nice as the V67G. So we bought more MXL Microphones and did microphone shootouts to post the results online.
MXL Mics: You have a lot of MXL Mics listed on the website, which MXL Microphones are used the most? For what purposes do you use other MXL Mics?
Alex Gerst: The MXL Microphones I use the most are the MXL 604 Condensers [discontinued, replaced by MXL 606]. I use these primarily for acoustic guitars and drum cymbals, but I’ll even use a 604 on a snare drum as a second microphone and the 604s sound great on tom-toms too.
I use the MXL Revelation [discontinued] for female vocals and the MXL Genesis for male vocals. The MXL V69 is a great mic for vocals, acoustic guitar, and as a drum room mic. The MXL A-55 is great on bass guitar, kick drums, and floor toms.
MXL Mics: Do you have a favorite MXL Mic and why?
Alex Gerst: I would say my favorite MXL Microphone would be the Genesis because it is so versatile for a wide array of recording situations. The Genesis is a great mic for vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and as a room mic for drums.
MXL Mics: What has been the response from artists in the studio when they use MXL Mics? Are any of them familiar with MXL before recording?
Alex Gerst: I mainly use the Genesis or the Revelation for vocal recording and everyone who’s used those mics in my studio has been blown away by how amazing they sound! When I talk to clients about MXL Microphones, they don’t associate the affordable price with quality and awesome sound. But once I show them some of the recordings we’ve done with MXL Microphones they are always blown away!
MXL Mics: What kinds of artists and musical acts record at Empire Sound? Have there been any big names or notable tracks that were recorded lately through MXL Mics?
Alex Gerst: Here at Empire Sound Studio we record a wide range of musical styles, everything from rock, country, Christian music, to rap/hip-hop, and voiceover work. There have been many big-name artists to use MXL Microphones in my studio that include: Ellie Goulding, André 3000 from OutKast, Damian Marley (Bob Marley’s son), Cassandra Peterson, Addison Agen (second place finalist from last year’s NBC TV show The Voice), Latin pop superstar Karol G, rock band Seasons After, southern country rock band Hillbilly Vegas, and country star Toby Keith’s band — just to name a handful of the clients who’ve used MXL Microphones in my studio.
MXL Mics: Have you ever used MXL Mics in a unique or interesting way for recording instruments or vocals?
Alex Gerst: Yes I have. My father and I started using MXL condenser mics on drums, but not as overheads, but for the individual toms, snare drum, and kick drum. I’ve also used the MXL V69 and the Genesis as handheld mics for “screamer” vocalists in hard rock bands. These kinds of vocalists like to hold the microphone when they’re really getting into it, and it’s hard for them to get into the vocal vibe with the mic on a boom stand.
MXL Mics: How do you feel about the current state of studio condenser microphone technology and how do you think studio microphones might change over the next five years?
Alex Gerst: Well, I think the market is saturated with a lot of companies importing the same Chinese microphones made from the same factory with just different packaging, and not quality checking their microphones before they hit the marketplace. However, there are some new and exciting microphone modeling technologies just now coming out that are very interesting to me. I haven’t personally used them in my studio, but I’ve heard sound clips online and was impressed with the results. That is something I will be keeping my eye on in the future.
Check out some more photos from Empire Sound Studio in the gallery below:
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