Benjamin Wright on MXL Microphones

Monday, May 11th, 2009 | by

I learned in January that MXL had designed the flashy new Gold 35 microphone for a producer named Benjamin Wright. His was not a familiar name.

But a look at his arrangement and production credits told me I knew his music — Aretha Franklin, Earth Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson, The Temptations? A pretty serious chunk of American music history is listed in Wright’s discography.

Still, I needed to know what would inspire MXL to create a one-off vocal mic for a guy. Because, you know, maybe they’d make one for me, too. It wouldn’t even need to be gold.

Alas, I lack Mr. Wright’s 30-year history in symphony halls and recording studios making amazing music and gold records. His recordings have earned a couple more Grammys than mine, too.

Gold 35I had a chance to speak with Mr. Wright about the Gold 35 and the rest of the MXL product line. He’s a real fan of their gear, as you’ll see. This surprised me at first because — let’s face it — no matter how many times a less-expensive mic wins the gig, it’s hard not to believe the hype of the high-dollar microphone. We all know that ultimately what sounds best has little relation to price, reputation, or celebrity endorsements… but that somehow doesn’t temper my lust for vintage Neumanns or even contemporary Bocks or any number of other mics that beckon to me with their platinum-coated pedigrees.

I should put this on a T-shirt:

Joel Hamilton

When you use your gut and heart to choose a microphone, and not your eyes or your wallet or your insecurity, amazing things can happen.

I thought this would be an interview, but it turned out more like a testimony. Here’s Benjamin Wright, Jr., on MXL microphones:

Benjamin F. Wright, JrWe were in Alabama to do a symphony gig. The engineer and the system engineer and I walked in together, getting ready for the rehearsal, and they had like 15 silver MXL microphones and 20 black MXL microphones. At that particular time my thought about MXL mics was, those are the mics that Guitar Center is giving away.

But it was late; there was no way to change anything. So we mic’d everything with the MXLs. Upon completion, we began to play it back, and it was like, damn, it’s good! We were wiped out.

I was so wiped out that as soon as I got back to LA I bought six of those microphones. That was the MXL 2001.

Reggie DozierLater they made the V69. Reggie Dozier (the brother of Lamont Dozier) and I were doing a live gig, a big orchestra situation. “Let’s just try this thing.” Reggie plugged it in, said a few words. Whoa, damn. What is this?

Well, the mic was so hot, so warm, it was unbelievable. We didn’t use it that day, but we decided that it would be great with strings. Lo and behold, I did a fixed string date, I brought my own microphones. At this time I had 12 V69s. Well, the studio didn’t really know me, but I said, “would you be opposed to trying these microphones?”

They were a bit apprehensive, but the guy said, “yeah, we’ll listen to it…”

V69 METhey put up their microphones, and the V69. They had a tube 87, a 414, and then mine. A, B, C. My mic was C. C was much hotter and warmer. Then B, nice. C, C kicked ass again. I’m just smiling. We wiped them out.

Then everybody wanted to be my friend. Nobody was actually carrying the mics at the time, just a couple of stores. They had a relationship with me. All of my friends, everybody who came to the studio wanted V69s.

For the high strings, it was unbelievable. Violins and violas, I’ll take the V69 any day.

I thought, if it’s this good, they have to have something for low strings. We usually use KM-84s. I called MXL and said, “what do you have for my cellos and contrabasses?”

604Phil [of MXL] came over, brought me eight 604s. Wiped the KMs off the map. I’ll not do another date and not use 604s. So, I’m going broke buying MXLs.

V6I did a big-band horn date in my studio. Let me call MXL and see what they have… V6s. Used them on saxophones, trombones. I’m happy.

Now I have a lot of classic microphones myself — three 87s, two 47s, 1 67, I bought ’em back in the day. I spent a ton of money. They’re all on the shelf.

I’m doing the Temptations, they’re talking smack: “I want an 87 on my voice”. Everybody loves the 87. So I said, “I got something you guys should check out.” I put up an 87 and this big brand-new gold mic.

The gold mic, to use Reggie Dozier’s words, kicked the 87’s ass. Night and day! What the hell are they doing with these microphones?

I’ve done at least 4 projects using that microphone. I don’t want it to leave the studio.

I have not used it on instruments, just vocals. I’m satisfied with the old V69s for my violins and violas. I’m extremely happy with my 604s as “KM killers” on low strings. And I’m very happy with V6s for the brass stuff. I’ve turned into MXL Man! Really.

Contact Ben Wright at Ritesonian Recording Studio.

Posted in Interviews, Microphones | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Benjamin Wright on MXL Microphones”

  1. Jason Davis

    May 29th, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    I bought the MXL 35 Gold because of Benjamin Wright’s recommendation. I love the sound of it on Vocals and woodwinds. It is sturdy and beautiful.

Leave a comment