Photos: Mike Cameron
Yamaha, as pioneers of the affordable digital console, have built up a lot of experience both in the underlying technology and in the design ergonomics of compact digital consoles. The original 0-series mixers — the 02R, 03D and 01V, as well as derivatives like the AW4416 workstation and its siblings — found great favour with amateur, semi-professional and professional alike, across a wide range of applications. For example, the original 02R console can be found in countless theatres, small broadcast vans, post-production areas, video-editing suites, voice-over studios, and well-heeled home studios. The two smaller consoles have established almost as wide a user base.
However, after nearly a decade of market dominance with the 0-series desks, Yamaha moved the goal posts. The DM2000 flagship console, which I reviewed in SOS November 2002, was the first example of the company's new technology, and this was closely followed by the 02R96, reviewed in SOS October 2002. These two consoles employed the very latest in Yamaha's bespoke DSP technology and shared very similar internal architectures, the main differences being the amount and nature of I/O interfaces and the size and layout of the control surface itself.
Both the DM2000 and 02R96 offer remarkable value for money and a level of performance that far exceeds all previous digital consoles in their respective price brackets. Every aspect of the digital console has been reviewed and improved: the analogue circuitry, the converters, the DSP architectures and algorithms, the sample rates, the effects processors and algorithms, the internal signal routing, the signal paths and processing, the physical controls and ergonomics, the console footprints, and even the monitoring arrangements — all to make a range of consoles to meet and exceed the demands of current and future audio production.
While many of us were expecting an 03D96 to be added to the range, Yamaha chose to launch the fourth member of the family as the DM1000 — emphasising the link to the high-end, professional DM2000. As expected, though, this latest console does indeed sit between the 01V96 and 02R96 in marketing terms. It is physically larger than the 01V96 (although still rackmountable), but smaller than the 02R96. The desk's operational facilities and UK price are also aimed between its two siblings — although it must be said that both are rather closer to the 02R96 than the 01V96!
Obviously, if you compare the original 02R with the 02R96 you can see significant advances in the range of facilities provided in the new console. A similar step up can be seen between the 01V and 01V96. But when comparing the 03D to the DM1000, the improvement in facilities is disproportionately larger, and it is clear — even after a cursory inspection — that the new model is intended to serve in professional environments rather than the home studio. The price differential reflects this observation too — so it is important, I think, not to view the DM1000 as an upgraded 03D, but rather as a cut-down 02R96!
Like its bigger brothers, the DM1000 is a very impressively specified console, offering broadly similar facilities to the 02R96 in a smaller frame — including 96kHz sampling without compromising the number of channels or processing facilities. The DM1000 has fewer analogue and digital I/Os than its bigger brother, slightly less DSP power, and a much more compact control surface with fewer physical controls. However, the console also boasts some I/O facilities not seen on the other DM-series consoles and runs a slightly more sophisticated operating system providing several theatre and broadcast-related features as standard that only become available to the DM2000 and 02R96 with a cost upgrade to the new v2 operating system.
The physical size of the console is a key element of its design, as a primary design aim was for the console to fit within a 19-inch rack. The result is a surprisingly deep console from front to back, and one which is also pretty tall — the dimensions being necessary to cram all of the controls and electronics into the chassis. For the record, it is 436mm in width, 585mm deep, and 200mm high at the back sloping down to about 100mm at the front. If the optional meterbridge is fitted (a very worthwhile addition), the rear height increases to a total of 295mm, and the overall depth to 635mm. The console weighs a substantial 20kg in its basic form — the optional meterbridge and wooden side cheeks add further to that figure.
One of the acknowledged weakness of the previous generation of consoles was the quality of the analogue circuitry — primarily the mic preamps — and this has been comprehensively addressed in the new range. Although cost and space prohibit the DM1000 from using the same superb preamps developed for the DM2000 flagship, similar technology has been used. While it is still possible to find better outboard preamps, the DM1000's internal offerings are fine and capable performers with nothing to be ashamed about.
Another major improvement introduced with the two larger consoles has been greatly improved ergonomics. However, the far more compact nature of the DM1000 and 01V96 inevitably restricts the number of physical controls, and so the ergonomics are rather more of a compromise. Even so, early impressions would suggest that the DM1000 is easier to operate than the 03D, thanks in part to the trio of EQ knobs, dinky panning joystick, and assignable encoders above every channel fader. The supplied Studio Manager software also enables remote computer-based operation if required, just as with the larger consoles — see the review of the 01V96 in SOS August 2003 for full details of how this works.
The rear panel is divided into four distinct rows of connectors, with the top two rows providing all of the built-in analogue I/O. Sixteen female XLRs on the first row provide access to the electronically balanced inputs, which can accept mic or line signals. Phantom power can be provided individually for each input via top-panel slide switches. Unlike the other consoles in the family, there are no TRS input sockets at all, and no insert points on the channel front ends. Of course, with the sophisticated digital EQ and dynamics available internally on every channel, such insert points are of less use than might otherwise have been the case — although the alternative uses in providing direct channel outputs and line-level returns straight into the A-D converters may be missed by some.
The second row of connectors is also made up entirely of XLRs. Four more female XLRs are provided for line-level inputs (with fixed gain), referred to as Omni Inputs. These can be allocated as necessary to any console input path, accommodating additional monitor returns, effects returns, analogue insert returns, talkback, and so on. Twelve male XLRs complete the row and provide assignable Omni Outputs, which can once again be freely assigned to carry mono, stereo or surround monitor outputs, main stereo outputs, auxiliary sends, analogue insert sends, or whatever else might be required as an analogue output. The idea of assignable Omni connections first appeared on the original 01V, and the flexibility of this arrangement has proved very successful in practice, enabling a standard, 'one size fits all' console to be easily configured to meet a huge range of alternative requirements and working practices.
The third row of connectors incorporates a pair of mini-YGDAI card slots. Whereas the earlier YGDAI cards only supported eight channels in and out, Yamaha has recently launched some new digital I/O cards providing 16 channels, and all of the new quartet of digital desks are able to make full use of the additional I/O capacity. So a pair of 16-channel cards can potentially add a further 32 channels of digital I/O to the desk (at 48kHz sample rates), or sixteen channels at 96kHz rates. Not only are Yamaha's range of mini-YGDAI cards usable with the DM1000, but the Waves Y56K DSP effects card and Apogee AP8AD and AP8DA interfaces are also fully compatible. On the third connector level, alongside the YGDAI slots, is a compact power-supply heat sink. There is no cooling fan in the DM1000 (hurray!) — this is a totally silent console — so the heat sink does get quite warm after prolonged use.
The bottom row of rear-panel connectors contains the rest of the digital I/O, along with various remote-control facilities. Starting on the left is a power button and IEC mains inlet. A D-Sub connector provides a dedicated meterbridge port, and a larger D-Sub socket accesses the GPIO (General Purpose Input and Output) facilities. These GPIOs consist of four contact closure inputs for remote control of various desk functions (such as a remote talkback enable facility), and eight switched outputs to control external facilities (like fader starts and 'mic open' lights). The handbook lists 155 different parameters that can be activated via the GPIs, including monitor source selections, monitor dim, talkback, channel on/off, buss and aux on/off, and the twelve user-defined button functions. On the output side, there are some 221 possible trigger sources to generate GPOs, such as open channel, buss, and aux faders, the twelve user-defined buttons, remote record transport mode, and when the console is powered. That little lot should make integrating the desk into a small broadcast, post-production or theatrical installation very straightforward indeed, with comprehensive functionality that normally requires a great deal of external bodgery!
The DM1000 is also equipped with a Sony nine-pin P2 serial remote control port for external machines, and an XLR timecode input for the dynamic automation. A pair of five-pin DIN sockets caters for MIDI In and Out, while a USB port links to a host PC or Mac for remote control from the Studio Manager software. In addition, this USB port can be used to drive DAW software such as Digidesign Pro Tools or Steinberg Nuendo from the desk's faders and other controls. A pair of BNCs look after word-clock input and output, while two digital two-track interfaces are catered for: one via AES-EBU interfaces and the second on S/PDIF interfaces.
The buttons grouped in the bottom right-hand corner of the control panel are the twelve user-defined keys, plus an associated Menu Display button. The handbook lists 205 possible functions which can be allocated to any of these keys, and up to eight separate banks of keys can be programmed, enabling different function sets to be recalled for different tasks. Options include recalling settings from the various EQ, dynamics, channel, patch and effects libraries; muting each of the surround monitor outputs; enabling/disabling fader and mute groups; various automix functions; oscillator on/off; channel parameter copy and past functions (very useful!); external MIDI Program Change messages; machine transport controls and track arming; and a host of DAW transport, edit and mixer functions.
Although immensely flexible and powerful, once again, many of these functions can be 'mission critical' and the positioning of the user-defined buttons does make them rather prone to accidental pressing while mixing or operating other desk controls. It's a great facility, but the ergonomics aren't quite all they could be here.
Although far smaller and with fewer physical controls, much of the operation of the control surface is similar to that of the larger consoles. Indeed, the family resemblance makes it easy to navigate given any previous experience either of the larger consoles or even of the previous-generation of desks. So rather than repeat myself too much, I would encourage you to refer back to reviews of the DM2000 and 02R96 for more information about the operational paradigms.
In terms of the number of channels, the DM1000 can be thought of as half a DM2000 — it embodies 48 mixing channels (controlled by seventeen touch-sensitive motorised long-throw faders arranged in three fader layers) instead of the 96 channels and 25 faders provided by its big brother. However, in almost every other respect the console is more closely related to the 02R96 (which boasts 56 mixing channels, incidentally) — sharing the same complement of eight auxiliary sends, four internal effects processors and 16 mic inputs. However, while the DM1000 is provided with just two YGDAI slots, the 02R96 features four and the DM2000 has six.
Across the top of the control surface are all the non-automated channel controls relating to the analogue inputs: phantom power switches, pads, gain controls and overload LEDs, plus talkback and headphone level controls. Pretty much everything else on the console relates to the digital processing, and can be automated, stored and recalled in some way. The familiar blue monochrome LCD screen dominates the centre of the control surface, with four function buttons plus left/right scroll keys along the lower edge, and high-resolution stereo bar-graph meters running up the right-hand side.
To the left is an array of sixteen buttons which, in typical Yamaha fashion, accesses various menu display screens directly, such as the automix facilities, input and output patches, digital I/O configuration, panning and surround functions, and so on. A section of nine buttons below enable the control and configuration of the eight auxiliary busses, and below those five more buttons determine the operating mode for the channel encoder knobs and the faders themselves. The encoders can be switched to control one of three things: pan; the currently selected aux send level; or Assign, which can be any one of 49 different channel parameters. For example, should you often need to adjust the compressor threshold, or the channel delay, or the front divergence, any of these parameters can be accessed by simply selecting the Assign mode, bringing the required parameter to the encoder knob. It's not as user-friendly as a complete assignable control panel à la DM2000, but it is very versatile and enables the job to be done perfectly well nine times out of ten. The faders can be assigned to control the normal channel level or the currently selected aux send level.
Options & Pricing
DM1000 digital mixer, £4083.13
MB1000 meterbridge, £734.38
ANALOGUE MINI-YGDAI INTERFACES
MY8AD96 eight-channel 24-bit/96kHz analogue input card, £359
MY8DA96 eight-channel 24-bit/96kHz analogue output card, £329
MY8AD24 eight-channel 24-bit analogue input card, £289
MY4AD four-channel 20-bit analogue input card, £209
MY4DA four-channel 20-bit analogue output card, £209
DIGITAL MINI-YGDAI INTERFACES
MY16AT sixteen-channel ADAT I/O card £299
MY16AE sixteen-channel AES-EBU I/O card £449
MY16TD sixteen-channel TDIF I/O card £299
MY8AE96 eight-channel AES-EBU 24-bit/96kHz I/O card, £369
MY8AE96S eight-channel AES-EBU 24-bit/96kHz I/O card with sample-rate conversion, £479
MY8AT eight-channel ADAT I/O card, £219
MY8AE eight-channel AES-EBU I/O card, £209
MY8TD eight-channel TDIF I/O card, £209
MY8mLAN mLAN interface card, £379
All prices include VAT.
Above each fader are three buttons: Sel, Solo and On. The functions of the last two will be obvious, and the Sel button, for anyone unfamiliar with Yamaha consoles, selects the corresponding channel for Automix recording and playback, channel pairing, and configuration of fader, mute, EQ and Dynamics groups. In addition, this button causes the LCD screen to display that channel's parameters.
Over to the right of the display screen is a grid of ten routing buttons, used to allocate each channel's output to any of the eight busses, main stereo output, or the corresponding direct output. Next to these are the only other encoder knobs on the console — Q, Frequency and Gain — with buttons to allocate these controls to the high, high mid-range, low mid-range or low EQ bands. A miniature joystick is also provided for surround-panning duties, and despite its small size it enables surprisingly accurate control and positioning. My only complaint — and this extends for almost all of the console's buttons — is that it is very easy to press a button while operating or adjusting something else. The most annoying was when adjusting the data wheel — the heel of my hand often rested on the fader layer selector buttons, often changing the fader bank unintentionally! This is a consequence of the densely packed control surface and, although firmer buttons might help, it is hard to see any real way around the problem besides familiarity with the desk and taking more care!
Below the routing and EQ control section are the familiar Scene Memory selection buttons and numeric display, while to the right on the outside edge of the desk are the four menu navigation buttons, increment/decrement buttons, data wheel and Enter key. The monitoring section immediately above provides source selection keys for the main stereo buss, both of the digital returns (one of which can be assigned to a pair of Omni inputs instead if an analogue replay source is required), and the surround sound buss outs or slot returns. There are further buttons to clear selected channel solos, dim the monitoring and activate the internal talkback system, and a Display key provides direct access to the control-room monitoring configuration menu options. The monitoring level is controlled by a large and easy-to-find rotary knob.
Filling up the last of the panel space adjacent to the main stereo output fader are two more arrays of buttons. The top group determine the fader layer: channels 1-16, 17-32 and 33-48, plus two layers for remote control and the master layer (eight aux send masters and eight mix buss masters). The two remote layers can be set up to control the faders, switches and other functions of a USB-connected DAW or any MIDI-controllable device — the desk is pre-configured to control Pro Tools and Nuendo systems directly. Although rather tedious to program, the faders, On buttons and encoders can be set up to generate any required MIDI messages to control alternative DAWs, external MIDI effects units, synths, or pretty much anything else, making this a very powerful and flexible feature. I even managed (after a considerable time) to program the faders and buttons to control my Drawmer DC2476 mastering processor via MIDI, providing real-time control of the input and output levels, multi-band compressor thresholds and release times, stereo width and so on.
Furthermore, the remote layers can be configured to control a specific subset of channel, aux master and buss master faders in any desired order. So, for example, you could create a fader layer that provided real or VCA-style subgroups of certain channels, alongside some specific channels, with a couple of aux outputs alongside those. This kind of flexibility is ideal for theatre, live sound and broadcast applications. Although it requires a clear head to configure, it is immensely powerful and practical — top marks to Yamaha for having the foresight to include such functionality.
The DM1000 is very easy to navigate and, although highly configurable, it is simple to customise — either on the console or off-line using the Studio Manager software. In many ways I think the new operating concept of this latest range of consoles is even more intuitive than the previous generation. Although the larger consoles undoubtedly benefit from far better ergonomic design, and less need to drive the desk through its LCD screen, the DM1000 is a joy to use for recording and post-production, and I would even be confident running a live theatre show or broadcast with it — something I wouldn't have been very happy about with the 03D!
Since the underlying software is the same (or at least very similar to) the other family consoles, the DM1000 shares many of the same advantages and disadvantages. For example, the lack of dedicated high-pass and low-pass filters in the EQ is disappointing, given the amount of DSP available here. Another disappointment (and one which applies to all the desks) is that you can't patch mini-YGDAI card inputs straight through to mini-YGDAI outputs. You can dial up the aux, buss and stereo master outputs, any of the channel, buss and aux insert sends, surround and control-room monitoring outputs, and cascade busses — but not the card slot inputs!
So why would you want such a thing? Well, with 32 digital I/Os potentially available through the card slots, the console is the central hub for all digital replay and record sources. It would therefore be useful, for example, to be able to patch one machine directly to another via the console's YGDAI interfaces, without having to go through the desk channels. Indeed, the desk could even be used to mix or record using other sources and outputs at the same time while making a clone backup tape in the background! Such a facility would add a lot to the versatility of the console, and by recalling different patch memories equipment could be interconnected in lots of ways very quickly and easily. Of course, it may be that the console has not been engineered in such a way that this kind of facility can be implemented, but a high-quality 32 x 32 router (such as the Z-Sys Detangler) costs roughly £4000 in the UK, so having this kind of facility built into the console would make it even more cost-effective and versatile. One for the software boffins to work on, hopefully.
As far as sound quality is concerned, I have nothing to complain about here. The mic amps might be simplified versions of those in the DM2000, but they certainly sound respectably quiet and clean, with a neutral overall character. While I would probably still reach for an outboard preamp when seeking to add a little character to a recording, or where I need unusually high gain, I have no qualms over the internal preamps for general recording duties, which I wouldn't have said for the previous 0-series consoles.
I still find the new Type II EQ to be a useful improvement over the original Type I, and I gather that the algorithm has been designed to emulate the parallel-band processing structure of many analogue equalisers. The Type I implementation employs a serial structure, and the way in which the different bands interact when working in parallel and serial sounds very different — the parallel mode sounds more natural and analogue-like to me, and I need less gain to achieve the desired effect.
I am extremely impressed with this desk. It has the same quality and features (in only a little less quantity) as its two bigger brothers, but with a much smaller footprint and with a significantly lower UK price tag. Of course, the smaller size compromises the control-surface ergonomics, and the price tag is still a very big step up from the 01V96 (and indeed, the old 03D) — but the fact remains that this is still an immensely powerful and usable desk, which represents astonishing value for money. It is clearly aimed at the professional market — those with 02R96 aspirations, but with only half the budget allocation, perhaps! — as can be seen from the all-XLR interfacing and P2 serial remote-control facilities, for example.
This console would be absolutely ideal in on-line video-editing and post-production suites, theatres, small broadcast studios and OB vans, mobile recording setups and, yes, aspirational home studios. Like many readers, I have waited a frustratingly long time to get my hands on the DM1000, having already been bowled over with the DM2000 and 02R96. I have to say that the wait has been worthwhile and I can find nothing here that disappoints (given the compromises that are inherent in the design aims of the desk) and a great deal that's very impressive! The desk is fast and simple to configure and operate, amazingly well equipped and versatile, and the Studio Manager software ices the cake to perfection, providing the facility for intuitive off-line configuration as well as on-line control and display.
With the promise of an imminent software update to accommodate the new plug-in effects processors as well, this really is a fantastic product which redefines the expectations for this sector of the market, just as its bigger brothers have already done for the sectors above it. Those expecting a simple 03D replacement (and I was one of them!) may be disappointed at the relatively high price of the DM1000, but the console is far, far more than an 03D and easily justifies its asking price. I'm trying desperately to resist the urge to own one — for my bank manager's sake — but I just know I'm going to lose the fight. I can hardly wait!