Yamaha appear to be well into their stride now, with their range of low and mid-priced digital desks. The original ProMix 01, launched at the end of 1994, offered all the advantages of digital mixing, assignable control and total automation, and stunned the audio industry with its affordability (see the review in SOS January 1995). The 02R built on the technology and introduced true digital interconnectivity, making it a popular choice for those in professional and home studios, post-pro and video editing suites (check out the SOS review in the January '96 issue). The latest addition to the family line is the sequentially numbered 03D, although this designation belies its true position in the hierarchy, as this desk actually fits in between the ProMix 01 and the 02R in terms of its functionality and pricing [I suppose 01.5D just didn't cut it, though -- Assistant Ed].
If you felt the 02R was impressive and desirable, but a little bit too big and expensive, the 03D could well be the perfect solution to your needs. It's compact, versatile, highly specified, and easy to use, with flexible interfacing -- in fact, it's all the things which have become associated with Yamaha products.
The 03D has been superbly targeted to fill the gap between the ProMix 01 and the all-conquering 02R. The 03D seems to be a natural evolution from its predecessor, incorporating many of its operational practices and concepts, as well as some of the hardware, such as the use of plug-in YGDAI (Yamaha General Digital Audio Interface) cards with customised digital interfaces, although some of the more budget-conscious aspects of the ProMix 01 have also been incorporated, such as the short faders.
The 03D is a solid wedge-shaped unit, measuring 204 x 460 x 516mm (hwd), and weighing a surprisingly heavy 16kg. The rear panel carries all the analogue connections and digital interfacing (a single YGDAI card can be installed to provide a multi-channel digital interface -- see the 'Rear Panel' box elsewhere in this issue) while the top surface features a clear, backlit, 320 x 240 pixel LCD panel in the centre. Parameter adjustment controls are grouped to the right of the LCD, with mode selection buttons to the left, input level controls above, and the operational faders and assignment selectors below.
The visual effect is of a simple, uncluttered layout which can be assimilated in seconds and used confidently from the off. The user-friendly feel is largely thanks to the display screens, combined with the fact that most functions are accessed with a single button press -- or, at worst, a couple of presses -- to cycle to the appropriate menu page within each section. The inclusion of a socket which connects to a standard PC serial mouse (or other pointing device, such as a trackball) allows even easier selection and control of the functions displayed on each graphical menu, and is an extremely useful facility. The 03D is also well specified in terms of its number of available signal paths; it has a total of 16 mono analogue inputs, one stereo analogue input, and 10 analogue outputs. All analogue inputs and outputs (except the two insert points) are electronically balanced.
The desk is equipped with a stereo digital input and output (derived from the main stereo mix buss) and both are provided in AES/EBU and S/PDIF formats. Eight further digital inputs and outputs are available via the optional use of a YGDAI card (formats currently supported include ADAT, TDIF, AES/EBU, and Yamaha Y2, although a number of third-party manufacturers have compatible cards, including a board with built-in sample rate conversion on each channel). For applications involving multiple desks, there is also a YGDAI card which allows two 03Ds (or an 03D and 02R) to be linked together with cascaded functions, the CD8CSKIT.
Configurable dynamics processors are provided on all inputs, outputs and internal effects chains, as are 4-band parametric equalisers. For mixing purposes, there are four auxiliary busses, four mix busses (in addition to the main stereo output), and eight selectable signal sources configured through a matrix system to feed the eight YGDAI digital outputs. Furthermore, every input channel can be independently delayed by up to 200ms to allow accurate time-compensation for microphone placement, or to create simple effects (feedback and mix controls are included).
The control surface is remarkably uncluttered, with sensibly grouped controls; all in all, it succeeds in making such a technologically advanced mixer approachable and relatively easy to operate. The very top of the unit carries a long row of rotary gain controls for the 16 analogue inputs. The first eight of these are accompanied by push switches which engage a 26dB pad, allowing these inputs to accept line inputs as well as microphone signals. Two white knobs on the right-hand side of this row set the level of the monitor and headphone outputs, the former with an associated push button to select the two-track return input in place of the normal stereo/solo buss output.
To the left of the LCD, four groups of buttons are neatly arranged and enclosed in screen-printed boxes, with all the related operations gathered together. At the top, eight white push buttons are grouped under the heading of 'Setup'. These are used to configure the basic operation of the desk, giving access to the Scene Memory stores, various utilities (a line-up oscillator, user preferences, and so on), MIDI functions, digital I/O facilities (including dithering options), channel and fader grouping or pairing, solo monitoring modes, and Automix setup and editing operations (see below).
The eighth button in this group is placed in a box of its own, as it activates the MIDI remote mode, where the faders and ON buttons (see below) can be used to control other MIDI equipment using standard pre-assigned MIDI commands.
The next set of buttons (which are grey and blue) are labelled Channel Control, and provide direct access to the signal processing facilities for the currently selected channel (any channel can be assigned by pressing the SEL button above the appropriate fader). Buttons are available to access the delay and polarity-reverse facilities, dynamics, pan and routing (including the surround panning modes -- see the 'You are Surrounded' box elsewhere in this article), and channel overview. The last button recalls a very useful graphical display which shows all of a selected channel's parameters at a glance, and can be quickly navigated if a mouse is attached to the desk. I found I made use of this display mode more than any other.
The four light-blue buttons in the lower half of this section are concerned with EQ functions. Each accesses a separate band of the equaliser (low, lo-mid, hi-mid, and high), but if the two on the left are pressed together, the EQ library is accessed, and if the two on the right are pressed together, the whole equaliser is reset to a flat response. In fact, like many digital desks, the 'bands' are pretty nominal, as they can all cover the range 20Hz-20kHz, although only the top and bottom bands can be switched to proper shelf responses, as opposed to the permanent bell responses of the other bands.
The third section of buttons determines the functions of the motorised faders. These can be paged en masse to control either the channel levels, the aux send levels, or the internal effects sends. Whenever a Setup or Channel control button is pressed, the faders are automatically reset to control the normal channel signals (ie. fader mode). The fourth and final section to the left of the screen contains just one red button, and determines which layer the faders are displaying: either the 16 channel faders are controlling inputs 1-16, or the eight digital YGDAI inputs (17-24) plus the four auxiliary master sends and four buss outputs. The stereo input, effects returns and master output fader always remain accessible.
Over on the right of the 03D, the various controls are concerned with recalling scene memories and navigating the menus to adjust specific parameters. At the bottom of this right-hand section are four cursor keys for moving around the screen. Most items on the display are simple yes/no or on/off choices, and can be toggled by pressing the Enter key directly above the cursor keys. Parameters which have more than two states (such as the pan-pot position) are adjusted by the parameter wheel -- the familiar Yamaha data-entry system.
Just above the wheel are four white user-definable buttons which can be assigned to whatever function you like. Typically, these might be used to send out MIDI Machine Control commands to drive an external transport, or to send MIDI instructions to keyboards or sequencers. Alternatively, they could be used to recall specific setup conditions for the entire desk, or control the Automix functions (of which more later).
At the top of this panel, five buttons look after the Scene Memory system, with facilities to store, scroll up and down through the list, recall and undo or redo the instructions. Finally, a single isolated button activates the Solo function, which may be set up in the software to provide after-fade listen, pre-fade listen, solo in place, single source or mixing solo modes, the appropriate channels being selected with the ON buttons above the faders. I found this system frustrating, as the Solo mode has to be engaged before a channel can be auditioned. A dedicated solo button above each channel fader would have made life a lot easier, especially for live work, and I'm surprised that Yamaha have not made this important facility more accessible.
The fader section of the desk contains 19 60mm motorised faders. I'm not a huge fan of this size of fader, as I find its travel too small for accurate work, and the motor system is noisy when active. However, plenty of people seem to find it acceptable, especially at this price level. Below the faders, a legend details the sources available to each fader for the two available layers. A scribble strip is provided above the faders.
Probably the most heavily-used buttons on the entire desk will be the ON and SEL buttons directly above the faders. The SEL buttons call up the selected channel's settings on the menu screen for parameter editing, but they also perform a number of other functions, depending on which menu screen is active. For example, in Automix mode, SEL selects channels for recording, and in Pairing mode, it selects the channels to be paired. In a similar way, the ON buttons perform a number of different functions depending on the status of other sections of the desk. Normally, these buttons mute the input channels or output busses, but, as mentioned earlier, in Solo mode they select channels for solo monitoring.
The last control is a contrast adjuster next to the LCD panel in the centre of the desk, with a three-colour stereo LED bargraph display above it. The meter covers a 48dB range, with everything below -18dBFS in green and above it in yellow. The top LEDs are red and indicate 0dBFS or clipping.
The LCD panel conveys a great deal of information, and is consequently pretty congested. The fact that it is monochrome does not help -- a colour screen would have made the graphics a lot clearer, but would presumably have added greatly to the cost. Once you are accustomed to the screen, it is possible to find specific information quite quickly, although during the review period I never really became completely comfortable with it.
The bottom of the display always shows the current function of the faders, indicating when they are allocated to the auxiliary sends, effects sends, channels 17-24 and so on. The top of the screen always carries information boxes detailing the selected function (Utility, Delay, Low-EQ and so on), the assigned channel, the current Scene Memory, and a reminder of the currently-assigned functions of the four user-definable buttons. There is also a tally which indicates when data is received over the MIDI or PC links, or when the Solo monitoring mode is active. Below these information boxes is a miniature meter bridge showing signal levels for the selected fader layer.
The display is taken up with tabbed graphical menu pages, each one providing the controls and displays associated with the selected function. Most functions have two or three pages, each accessed by clicking on the appropriate tab with a mouse, or by pressing the original button again. For example, if the Effect 1 button is pressed, the graphical display shows three tab sections: Effect Edit; Library; and Pre/Post selection. Controls with variable settings are represented as rotary knobs with clear pointers and numerical readouts of the current value, whilst toggled settings are shown by empty or filled boxes enclosing a suitable label (a filled box indicates the 'on' state).
Controlling complex balances is actually quite straightforward on the 03D, and I suspect the requirements of theatre use have had a great influence on some of the facilities, such as fader grouping and mute groups.
Since all but one of the 03D's channels are mono, handling stereo sources might have been a bit tricky, had Yamaha not included a stereo pairing function. This is very easy to use, and simply links adjacent odd/even pairs of faders (1&2, 3&4, and so on). The same system can be used to link the buss outputs and auxiliary sends too. On paired channels, not only the faders are linked, but also the delay, EQ, input attenuators, dynamics, solo, pre/post settings, auxiliary and effects sends, and routing and panning. Either channel of the pair can be adjusted, and the other will follow suit automatically, behaving as a true stereo channel.
There are four fader groups, and any input channel can be allocated to any (or no) fader group (paired channels are automatically allocated to the same fader group when either one of the pair is selected). The auxiliary masters, effects returns, buss outputs and main stereo output cannot be controlled by the fader groups, which is probably a sensible restriction for the majority of applications. Moving any fader within a group will move all the others, maintaining any level offsets that might be involved.
The four mute groups work in exactly the same way as the fader groups, and are set up on the same display page. When grouped, hitting the ON button for any channel in the group affects all other channels. I got caught out here, because the mute group system doesn't actually mute things -- it toggles the state of the mute function. If a particular mute group is set up with some channels already switched on and others switched off, pressing the ON button for one member of the group will reverse the mute state of all other channels, thereby killing those channels which were previously on and activating those that were off! Initially confusing, perhaps, but remarkably useful in practice for switching between alternative channels with a single button.
The channel and output equalisers are very versatile, and can be used for both subtle and creative tweaking, as well as heavy effects. It is a little restrictive to have to use the bottom band as a high-pass filter and I would have preferred a separate (possibly fixed) filter, since this is such a common necessity with microphone sources. However, the three remaining bands are so flexible and controllable that I never found myself wishing for more EQ, and if I did, the equalisers on the outputs are always available for gentle overall tweaking (there are 160 bands of equalisation available across the entire desk!). The ability to store and recall equaliser settings from memory is very handy, particularly in post-production situations, where EQ characteristics optimised for different voice-over artists can be speedily introduced from a pre-defined library. The library stores 40 presets and a further 40 user memories.
The dynamics sections are just as well designed as everything else on the 03D. A specific dynamics process is recalled from a library of 40 presets (with 40 more user memories available), which includes all the basic algorithms such as compressor, gate, expander, hard and soft companders and an auto-ducker, as well as some more elaborate presets optimised for various musical instruments. When the dynamics process has been selected, a full set of controls is made available to fine-tune the sound, including attack and release times, knee, ratio, threshold, make-up gain, range, and so on. A transfer characteristic graph is included in the display to make the action of a particular setting very obvious.
The dynamics menus include input level meters and a gain reduction display, the latter being copied to the channel view display too. The dynamics side-chain signal can be derived from a number of places, and although it would normally be the channel signal itself, it can also be taken from any other channel for stereo linking, ducking or gate keying effects.
This desk is equipped with a useful range of pre-programmed reverb simulations and other more dramatic effects. The use of third-generation DSPs (the same as those used in Yamaha's ProR3 and REV500 effects units) has provided the 03D with some very high-quality programs, and all of them can be easily modified to create the perfect sound or acoustic illusion. Effects which place heavy demands on memory, such as the high-quality pitch-shifter, are only available on the second effects channel, but this is unlikely to be a problem in practice. Each effects channel can be based around any one of 64 preset programs, with a further 32 user memories available for custom settings.
In general use, I found the Channel View display page to be possibly the most useful, and it was certainly the page I found myself referring to more than any other. Here, every aspect of the channel is displayed so that you can see EQ, aux sends, dynamics, fader pairing, mute and fader groups, panning and routing, and signal levels, all at a glance. Everything except the dynamics and EQ settings can be changed directly on this page too, which is very handy.
The only slightly confusing thing is that the equalisation and dynamics sections always show their settings, even if they are bypassed. Now, whilst it is useful to be able to see what the processing is going to do before it is switched in, I found it rather disconcerting to catch a glimpse of a strange EQ response on a channel which I thought I had bypassed (the EQ plot is much bigger and more obvious than the small and empty ON box!). Furthermore, the dynamics section always drives the gain reduction meter, whether it is in circuit or not, and seeing it banging up and down when the process was out of circuit threw me into mild panic now and again. I appreciate the problem here -- the LCD panel is limited in that it cannot 'grey out' the appropriate display sections when these are bypassed, as could be done on a normal colour screen, but perhaps the filled bargraph segments in the meter could be hollow, and the EQ plot could be an outline rather than a solidly filled shape?
One very useful aspect of the Channel view page is the Channel Library, which allows complete channel settings to be named and stored. The most immediate use I found for this was that I was instantly able to reset a single channel to a known reference state with flat EQ, no auxiliary sends and so on. The library can also be used to copy settings across a number of channels.
The 03D is very well equipped when it comes to automation. There are 51 so-called Scene Memories which can store every aspect of every channel (except for the mechanical analogue controls, such as the input gain controls) and can be recalled in an instant, either manually, via an external MIDI command, or under the control of the Automix system.
The housekeeping facilities for Scene Memories are excellent and settings can be edited, ordered, protected and so on. When a Scene Memory is recalled, the desk settings will either change instantly, or you can set a time for a gentle crossfade between the memory settings. The system is very elaborate, and allows different fade times to be applied to different faders -- and independent values are stored with each scene memory. There may be a couple of channels that you don't wish a newly recalled scene memory to affect, and this is catered for with a Safe mode which protects the designated channels (these are set as a global 03D default, and are not part of the scene memory system). This whole aspect of the 03D may sound a little complicated, but is actually easy to set up and is very useful indeed.
Automix is an fully automated mixing facility which relates its actions to external MIDI timecode or MIDI Clock (normal SMPTE/EBU timecode is not catered for, which is a shame). The Automix system records and replays fader moves for all inputs, and all Scene Memory, EQ, dynamics and effects library recalls, as well as the channel auxiliary and effects sends, channel mutes, EQ settings, and pans (but not the aux masters, effects returns, buss outputs or main stereo output).
Driving the Automix system is very easy and entirely logical, with all the necessary facilities to set up timecode offsets and initial mix scenes. Individual channels can be selected for recording by pressing their SEL buttons so mixes can be built up in stages, and, as you would expect, an Automix session can be dropped in and out of to tidy up specific sections, or fader moves can be adjusted and overwritten 'on the fly' as a mix is replayed. On the whole, the system is very powerful and flexible, but remains easy to use.
After a few intensive days with the 03D, my impressions were generally very positive indeed. To get the negatives out of the way first, though, I found the lack of dedicated, immediate solo buttons rather frustrating -- having to select the solo mode first felt very unnatural and cumbersome to me. The least pleasing aspect of the desk for me was its use of short-throw faders (as in the ProMix 01) which I didn't really get on with. The faders have a slightly notchy action and because of the need for such minuscule movements, they seem to make accurate balancing and 'arty' fades much harder work than they should be (technically, the faders are capable of 128 steps, giving a resolution of 0.6dB per step, which should be perfectly adequate). The fader motors often 'grumbled' when switching between the fader pages, so that after the faders had jumped to their new positions, they continued to rattle for up to five or six seconds, and even regular fader re-calibration did not cure this irritating practice! I have not come across this idiosyncrasy before on ProMix 01s or 02Rs, so I think it unlikely to be an intended feature, and suspect a simple software bug is at fault!
Although the internal signal processing capability of the 03D is impressive, the provision of insert points on the first two input channels is useful, and adds an extra degree of flexibility. However, the inclusion of insert points on the main outputs might have been even more useful, so that specialised overall processing could be performed (eg. the application of an enhancer or multi-band compressor across the final mix).
Other than these couple of gripes, there is very little to be critical of on the 03D, and for many applications, both of the above comments might be seen as irrelevant. I know cost is a key issue with this desk, but it does seem rather unfortunate to compromise the undoubtedly very high audio quality with inferior control devices. After all, aside from the input gain controls and the parameter wheel, the faders are the only other variable controls, and they are certainly the ones which will be used the most and have the greatest influence on the audio signals.
The analogue inputs and outputs all seem to be of a high standard in terms of their distortion, bandwidth, crosstalk and noise performance, particularly at healthy line levels. I have some slight reservations over the noise performance of the mic amps, particularly at high gains, but they are quite acceptable given the 03D's price. It is probable that some users would prefer to use an outboard mic preamp for high-end applications, and others may not find the mic amp noise to be an issue within the confines of a home studio setup anyway.
As a straight digital signal path I could not fault the 03D at all. Clocking and interfacing is very simple, and as foolproof as it is possible to be. Although it is possible to run out of headroom if you do silly things with the equaliser (eg. stack up all four bands on the same frequency with maximum boost!), in normal operation the desk is hard to 'break' and the noise floor is effectively non-existent. One trap to watch out for is that the channel signal metering can be derived from a number of places in the signal path -- and most come from after the digital input attenuator. If the attenuator is set to a healthy figure, it is remarkably easy to overload the analogue input and AD stage without the signal meters getting anywhere near peak level!
At its sub-£3000 price point, the 03D is a superb piece of kit, and although I've made a few niggly points, this really is a very well designed, powerful and, above all, high-performance machine. I had little trouble finding my way around from the start because the whole desk is so intuitive, and on the occasions when I did get stuck, the excellent 285-page handbook quickly got me back on track.
The 03D is ideal for the home studio or small project room, small post-production rooms (especially track-laying and pre-production rooms), video editing suites, theatres and potentially live sound work -- although I have a few reservations about the suitability of a desk with such a high level of assignability in this role.
If you are in the market for a new mixing desk, this is definitely one to take a close look at. It is extremely keenly priced, and must be considered something of a bargain, being almost as powerful as the 02R, but with the operational simplicity of the ProMix 01 -- and that's before you take into account the high-quality effects, comprehensive MIDI facilities (especially that useful direct PC link), total recall and automation, and its range of digital interfacing options. Yamaha will have an enormous hit with the 03D -- I guarantee it!
Although many digital devices operate with 16-bit resolution, signal processing of the type inherent in a mixing desk really needs considerably greater resolution than that to avoid unacceptable degradation of the signal within the console. Most Yamaha equipment, the 03D included, operates with a 32-bit internal signal processing accuracy, giving an internal dynamic range of 192dB. This is sufficient to ensure that an audible build-up of mix noise is very unlikely, and that internal signals will not be degraded by normal level attenuation and mixing operations. Complex and critical digital signal processing such as equalisation actually requires much more accurate numbers than even 32 bits can provide, so the 03D has been designed to perform all of its equalisation calculations with 44-bit numbers.
Internal processing at this resolution can present a few problems for the unwary when attempting to record the desk's output digitally. (Note that the analogue outputs are not a problem in this respect, since their resolution and quality are determined by the converters, which in this case are 20-bit, or 18-bit in the case of the auxiliary and buss outputs.) AES/EBU digital output can potentially accommodate up to 24 bits of audio data, so the bottom eight bits of data have to be removed from the mixer, at the very least. However, typical digital recording formats are only capable of 16 or occasionally 20-bit resolution, so in practice up to half of the bit resolution achieved by the desk will have to be removed! The maximum peak level at 0dBFS is consistent across all digital recording formats, and so is the low-level information which is affected by the limited resolution of the recording format. To simply lop off the bottom few bits would result in very unpleasant and granular distortion, but this is avoided by a process called dithering, which linearises and optimises the process of bit-length reduction.
The 03D provides very versatile facilities for setting the truncation and dithering values on its digital outputs through the Digital I/O menu page. The main stereo digital output and each of the stereo pairs from the YGDAI output can be independently set to any resolution between 16 and 24 bits, with or without dithering. Note that the resolution selected for the main stereo output is common to both the AES/EBU and S/PDIF connectors, so if you have a 20-bit recorder hanging off the pro connectors and a DAT on the domestic ones, the best ploy would be to set the resolution and dithering to 16 bits. If set to 20 bits, the DAT recording would sound pretty horrid on reverb tails and other low-level signals.
The 03D has been designed with future presentation formats very much in mind, and is equipped with a full set of panning and routing systems. The panning mode for each channel can be selected from normal stereo (two front outputs), quad (two front and two rear), Matrix-style LCRS (three front and one rear), and Discrete (three front, two rear, and sub-bass). In the surround modes, the additional routing outputs are obtained by using one or more of the buss outputs and these, together with the main stereo output, would be sent to a recorder and the monitoring system. In the surround modes, monitoring would have to be controlled externally, as the 03D's monitor system can only handle a stereo signal. This is not going to be a major problem, although you will need an additional speaker system if you want to retain the solo monitoring facilities.
In surround modes, the pan position is represented by a two-dimensional graph, the available pan positions being shown as a circle. The panning control normally moves the sound source to any position around the circumference of this circle, but it is also possible to manually set the horizontal and vertical pan values to find any other valid position inside the circle. This works a lot better when a mouse is connected to the desk, as the mouse can be used like a joystick to 'fly' the sound source around in real time. The panning menu page also has a number of pre-programmed 'trajectories' which determine how a sound will move across the available sound space. The surround modes are very well thought-out and proved to be very powerful and flexible in practice. I particularly liked the facility for blending the centre channel signal into the side channels (in the surround modes that support three front channels) -- this produced smoother panning effects in some conditions.
Digital synchronisation is one of the 'new-world' issues that many engineers are still coming to terms with now that digital mixers and recorders are so commonplace. The 03D actually makes configuring the clocking system very simple with an 'Auto Navigate' function. This examines the system to discover potential sources of clocking signals (including the desk's own internal clock generator), and then advises on what it considers to be the most appropriate course of action.
The desk can operate from its internal clock at 44.1 or 48kHz and the handbook claims this is accurate enough to use as a system master (although I can find nothing quoted in the specifications which state its accuracy or stability). The internal wordclock is available on a BNC on the rear panel. Alternatively, the desk can be clocked from any of its external digital inputs: the AES/EBU or S/PDIF stereo inputs, any pair of the YGDAI inputs, or the wordclock BNC socket.
Although it is perfectly possible to navigate the 03D's screens with the cursor keys, enter buttons and parameter wheel, driving the machine with a mouse or trackball is so much easier! Once again, anyone even vaguely familiar with the operation of Windows, Macs or Ataris will find the 03D completely intuitive under mouse control. Standard drag and click operations are used to adjust or select functions, although these basic operations have been extended to make life even easier. For example, on variable parameters, holding down the right button and dragging provides a fast-but-coarse adjustment, whilst dragging on the left button provides fine resolution control. Similarly, clicking on a variable parameter with the left button will decrement the value by a single step, while clicking the right button will increment it. The mouse integration is quite superb, and I was very reluctant to go back to pressing the control surface buttons. However, there wasn't actually much need to, as all of the setup and function buttons (to select the EQ or dynamics pages, for example) can be accessed in graphical form by clicking on a special function menu button tucked away just to the left of the tabs on the menu pages. When this button is clicked, graphical representations of the Setup, Channel Control and Fader Mode button groups are displayed, allowing the desired function to be accessed very quickly and easily.
The MIDI implementation on the 03D is very wide-ranging, making it extremely powerful. Basically, anything which can be stored as part of a Scene Memory can be controlled via SysEx commands from an external MIDI controller or sequencer, and program change messages can be used to recall the active Scene Memory. For your 'mission-critical' data, all Scene Memory, Automix and user library data can be downloaded or restored from a standard MIDI data filer. The four assignable buttons mentioned in the main part of this review may also be used to send MIDI Machine Control functions or any other MIDI command to internal or external destinations.
The 03D can directly control ProMix 01s, 02Rs, or another 03D console over MIDI. It is also equipped with the necessary instruction sets for ProR3 and REV500 effects units, GM and XG tone generators, and even Digidesign Pro Tools systems! In other words, the 03D has been designed to form the heart of a MIDI installation, and to control a wide range of peripherals.
The rear panel of the 03D is liberally scattered with connectors for inputs, outputs and remote control facilities, and the mains power switch and captive main lead is also located here. The connectors are broadly arranged on five horizontal levels. The top two cater for the input signals, the third provides the analogue outputs, the fourth and fifth are for digital interfacing and the various MIDI and remote control facilities.
At the top, a row of eight XLR sockets are provided with individually switched phantom power for channels 1-8. These connectors are wired in series with TRS A-type jack sockets directly below (the latter taking priority) and can accommodate signals in the range -60 to +20dBu, making them suitable for microphone inputs. The first two inputs also feature unbalanced insert points on TRS sockets (wired tip-send, ring-return).
Channels 9-16 only have TRS sockets on their inputs, and a reduced input sensitivity (-20 to +10dBu) making them ideally suited to the inputs from keyboards, drum machines, analogue tape machines and the like. Although electronically balanced, the input circuitry is, of course, perfectly happy to accept unbalanced connections.
At the left-hand end of the row of TRS sockets is a further pair for the stereo line input, followed by a pair of phono sockets, which provides a two-track return to the monitor section (at a nominal domestic level of -10dBV). Finally, a standard stereo headphone socket is fitted, although I would have preferred this to have been on the front of the console somewhere.
The third level of connectors provides stereo monitor outputs, the four mix buss outputs, and the four auxiliary outputs, all on balanced TRS sockets and at nominal +4dBu professional levels. The main stereo mix buss outputs are on XLRs, and an adjacent pair of phono sockets provide a record output at -10dBV. The latter can be switched between the stereo mix buss and the output of busses 1 and 2 by means of a small slide switch beside the sockets. All the analogue inputs are handled by 20-bit analogue-to-digital converters, as are the main outputs (auxiliary and buss outputs use 18-bit converters).
The lower part of the rear panel carries the stereo digital inputs and outputs, each equipped with an XLR for the AES/EBU format and an adjacent phono socket for S/PDIF format signals. Both output formats are available simultaneously, but only one input format can be used at a time (selected in software). Below the stereo digital interfaces, a removable metal plate reveals the single YGDAI slot. Word clock input and output connections are provided on BNCs just above.
Apart from the ubiquitous three MIDI sockets, the remaining connectors may be rather unfamiliar. An eight-pin mini-DIN socket, labelled 'To Host' can be used to link the desk to a PC running MIDI software for remote control and general MIDI operations. This facility removes the need for a separate MIDI interface in the PC, and allows the desk's own MIDI sockets to be used as the central interface point for other MIDI equipment.
Finally, two 9-pin D-sub connectors are fitted; one is for future interfacing with video editor controllers (but this facility is not available with the current software release), while the other is for connecting your PC-compatible mouse.
Builds on the established technology of the ProMix 01 and 02R.
Compact and manageable, but still very versatile and capable.
Good sound quality through analogue I/Os, and faultless digital signal processing.
Clear, uncluttered and informative user interface makes the
'assignable control surface' design approach acceptable.
Assignability with just one parameter adjust wheel makes live
operation a bit tricky, unless snapshot or dynamic automation can be used.
60mm faders make accurate balancing awkward.
No insert points on main stereo and buss outputs.
No longitudinal timecode input or output.
Headphone socket on rear.
The 03D is a highly integrated digital mixing desk with total automation
capabilities, flexible I/O configuration, effective signal processing and
an intuitive user interface. It offers decent audio performance, thanks
to its quality AD/DA converters, and it has an exemplary digital signal
processing path. The 03D's design is very well targeted, and the desk
is keenly priced to appeal to a wide range of potential users. It's probably
Yamaha's best-looking digital desk, too!
£ 03D £2999; CD8AE/S AES I/O card £299; CD8AT ADAT I/O card £299; CD8TD TDIF card £299; CD8Y 8-channel Y2 I/O card £299; CD8CSKIT Cascade card £799. All prices include VAT.
A Yamaha-Kemble Music (UK), Sherbourne Drive, Tilbrook, Milton Keynes MK7 8BL.
T Product Info Line 01908 369269.
F 01908 368872.