Yamaha's entry-level digital mixer gets an 02R96-style makeover, providing increased digital audio resolution, improved channel and effects processing, and surround functionality.
Around six months ago, Hugh Robjohns reviewed the new Yamaha 02R96, which was so advanced compared to the original 02R that it had little in common with its antecedent other than physical size. This highly evolved desk was part of a major 0-series upgrade that brought 24-bit/96kHz capability, more mix channels, a new and more analogue-sounding EQ, better effects, more transparent-sounding preamps and numerous other improvements, while still retaining the operational paradigm of the earlier models. The 19-inch-wide Yamaha 01V96 clearly supersedes the original 01V, but, in many ways, the capability of the new mixer is more comparable with the 03D than the old 01V. However, like the 01V, automation is only possible via the use of an external computer.
The DSP chips used in the new mixer series are Yamaha's own, with their DSP7 chip looking after mixing and signal processing and DSP6 chips dedicated to effect generation. To allow headroom for processing, the internal signal path is 32-bit fixed point, with 58-bit DSP accumulators, and, in ball-park figures, these new chips pack around four times as much processing power as those used in the original 02R and its siblings. Full functionality and channel count is retained at 96kHz (other than in the effects section, where the effect count is halved), though there are some caveats regarding I/O when working at higher sample rates. A double-channel mode allows digital interface formats such as ADAT and TDIF to be utilised to carry one channel of 96kHz data over two 48kHz channels. The 01V96 slot can handle up to 16 I/O channels at 44.1/48kHz or eight channels at up to 96kHz, while the built-in ADAT I/O can carry eight channels at 44.1/48kHz or four channels at up to 96kHz. There's also a double-speed mode for sending data to and from external devices that support higher sample rates, but the appropriate expander card (MY8AE96 or MY8AE96S) must be installed to support this.
Unlike the original 01V and 03D, the Yamaha 01V96 has full-size motorised faders, 16 to control the channel and group levels, buss out levels and aux sends via 'mixing layers' and one further fader that acts as a stereo master fader. Three fader layers control the inputs, busses and aux sends for the mixer's own signal path, while a fourth is reserved for controlling computer DAWs via MIDI. The user can determine what controller information is sent by the controls in the DAW layer, though the 01V96 comes with templates for Steinberg's Nuendo and Digidesign's Pro Tools software built in, as well as a generic DAW template. Templates for other popular sequencers and audio packages are said to be 'work in progress', though Emagic Logic Platinum v6 provides extensive remote support for the 01V96 and other Yamaha consoles using the Generic DAW template in the 01V96. DAW control goes way beyond fader and pan levels, with access available for virtually all key functions.
Cosmetically, the mixer follows the styling of the new range, making use of blue panels to segregate the various control sections. The only incongruity is that the 320 x 240-dot display is slightly smaller than the one used in the 03D and is green rather than blue, which is somewhat at odds with the overall colour scheme. The familiar Selected Channel section allows direct access to the four-band parametric EQ and channel pan for whichever channel is currently selected, and there are eight user-definable buttons to the right of the master fader that can be set up to directly access internal functions that are used regularly.
The top panel of the mixer houses the XLR and balanced jack mic/line inputs, where inserting a jack overrides the XLR. Phantom power is switchable in blocks of four channels and the 12 mic/line channels have an insert point on a TRS jack as well as a 20dB pad switch and a rotary Gain control. The last four channels have only input jacks and Gain controls, though inputs 15 and 16 also have an associated source select switch that toggles between the input jacks and the two-track input. This enables the two-track input phonos to be routed into the stereo mix without repatching, should that become necessary. That leaves the headphone jack and level control — this output tracks the main monitor signal at all times, which can either be the mix, any soloed channels or the two-track return. When monitoring the mix, Solo always overrides the monitor source in the usual way. Having connections on top of the mixer is a somewhat mixed blessing, because, although it makes casual connection easier, it can look untidy.
The back of the mixer looks fairly sparsely populated, with the main stereo outs on balanced XLRs and the four assignable Omni outs on balanced jacks. Further balanced jacks are used for the stereo monitor output and above these are three slide switches for the phantom power. Conventional Toslink optical connectors are used for the ADAT I/O ports, while the two-track digital I/O is on coaxial S/PDIF only. A full set of In, Out and Thru MIDI ports are provided alongside a USB To Host connector. Word clock I/O is on BNC connectors and the mains is connected via a standard IEC socket with a recessed power switch alongside. A plain metal cover hides the single mini-YGDAI slot. There are no fans inside 01V96, so mechanical noise is not an issue other than the chatter of busy motorised faders whenever you switch Scenes or fader layers.
Out of the box, the 01V96 has 12 mic/line inputs (with switchable phantom power and pre-converter analogue insert points), four line-only inputs, separate stereo and control-room monitor outputs, and four Omni outputs as used in the original 01V, to which any desired output signal can be assigned. Each of the inputs has a dedicated mixer channel, and four further stereo input channels are provided, with slightly streamlined features, for use as aux returns. Once you factor in the onboard coaxial S/PDIF and optical ADAT inputs as well, this adds up to 24 inputs in total, expandable to 40 with the addition of an optional mini-YGDAI interface card. The mixer architecture is therefore sensibly based around 40 mixer channels, eight busses and eight aux sends, where four of these would normally be used to feed the internal effects units. Comprehensive grouping and linking functions are supported for the creation of fader groups, mute groups, EQ linking and compressor parameter linking. Linking can be applied to channels, busses or aux sends.
The architecture also includes digital-domain insert points within the channels, auxes and busses, which can be routed to external devices via the Omni outs or whatever optional I/O card is fitted. There are also analogue two-track ins and outs on phono connectors, plus digital two-track inputs and outputs on S/PDIF. The 01V96 already has one set of ADAT In and Out ports as standard, so adding a dual-ADAT expander card means a 24-track recorder can be accommodated entirely in the digital domain, with the proviso that sample rates of 44.1kHz or 48kHz are used. The digital two-track input can be routed to any stereo channel or pair of channels and so shouldn't be considered just a two-track return. I notice that the auto clock navigation system that was used in my 03D isn't available here, so you have to set the clock source manually when locking to an external digital source. A warning message comes up on screen if there's an obvious clocking problem, such as leaving the console set to internal sync while feeding in an external digital signal.
Having an included ADAT port is hugely useful for anyone using a DAW where the sound card or interface has an ADAT port, or indeed for anyone using a hardware recorder with ADAT compatibility. Should more I/O be needed, there is a single card slot available which can deal with up to eight extra channels of analogue I/O or up to 16 channels of digital I/O. There's also an mLAN card and the Waves Y56K effects expansion card. Since the card slot accepts only the new mini-YGDAI interface cards, it is not compatible with most of the cards used in the original mixer series (the exception being the original 01V, which also uses a mini-YGDAI slot). When the optional dual-ADAT card is fitted, this may be used to run 16 further channels at standard sample rates or can work in 'doubled up' mode to run eight channels at the higher sample rates. It is also possible to cascade a pair of 01V96s in the digital domain.
MIDI plays a large part in the operation of the 01V96 — Scene changes can be automated via MIDI Program Change messages, dynamic automation can be implemented simply by recording the MIDI output of the 01V96 to a sequencer track, and of course there's the dedicated DAW control mixing layer. Furthermore, there's a comprehensive MMC section with on-screen transport controls (these could be mapped to the User Defined keys) and the ability to arm up to 24 tracks on a remote recording system. Eight auto-locate points are included in this section, and MMC sync can recognise frame rates of 24, 25, 30 and 30 drop-frame. There's the facility to turn the transmission and reception of different types of MIDI on or off, but in addition to the features just described, MIDI Note On/Off may also be used to trigger the Freeze sampler effect and, of course, the mixer setup and control value contents can be saved as a SysEx dump. When a valid dump is received by the mixer, the existing settings are overwritten.
MIDI data may also be transferred via the USB port if the included drivers are installed, and this port is capable of supporting eight MIDI ports for a total of 128 MIDI channels. This means that, if an mLAN card is installed and one of the connected devices is an mLAN MIDI interface, up to seven ports will be available for the connection of external devices — the mixer takes up one port. A MIDI setup page allows the transmit and receive ports and MMC mode to be set to MIDI, USB or Slot, with choices of MIDI or USB port available for Studio Manager and the DAW layer.
When controlling Scene changes via MIDI, Scenes may be assigned to specific MIDI Program Change messages rather like the patch map in an effects unit. Real-time parameter control may also be set up to work via SysEx messages or MIDI Continuous Controller messages.
To make using the basic I/O and optional interface cards as flexible as possible, the console includes a comprehensive routing system that allows any physical input to be routed to any signal path, including internal insert sends and returns. Similarly, any channel direct output, insert send or buss output can be routed to any physical output. Routing setups may be stored in a routing library, and the current library setup may be stored as part of a Scene. Importantly, though, the internal automation system does not include either dynamic or snapshot-based automation — this can only be accomplished by automating the fader movements or Scene changes from a sequencer or other software package suited to the task. Scenes may be mapped to MIDI Program Change messages so Scene switching via a sequencer is extremely easy and doesn't require the mixer to be locked to timecode. As far as I can see, this lack of integral dynamic automation is the only area where the 01V96 obviously falls behind the 03D (it is an 01V replacement after all), but, for those working mainly with computers, this needn't be a drawback. It is more of a limitation for those users teaming the 01V96 with a hardware recorder in a computerless environment, though Scenes can still be stepped through manually.
Unlike the 02R96, the fader caps are not touch sensitive, but then automatic channel selection via touching fader caps is often more trouble than it is worth, and many users of such systems find themselves switching that particular function off. Nevertheless, there is a user preference that, when active, automatically selects channels when a fader is moved. The faders used are made by Alps, and seem smoother and more responsive than the short-throw faders in my old 03D.
Scene mix data is stored internally and must be dumped to an external MIDI device for storage if the internal memory capacity of 99 Scenes is exceeded, though the included Studio Manager software can be used to organise mix data as well as other libraries. Studio Manager is actually a very serious piece of software that communicates bi-directionally with the mixer and provides an expanded graphical interface of the mixer's controls, libraries and settings both at global and channel level. Changing either a Studio Manager control or a physical mixer control updates the other party (see box for details).
Naturally, adjacent odd/even channels can be paired for stereo use, in which case the aux sends, EQ, dynamics and fader group are also linked, but, to simplify the control system in cases where a lot of stereo signals are being mixed, it's also possible to choose vertical pairing. This feature is best described by example. Let's say you have the left channel of a signal coming in on input one, you can choose the right input to be fader one on the next layer (input 17) so that only a single fader need be moved in layer one to control a stereo signal. This is potentially confusing, as your stereo pair now comprises inputs one and 17, but, thanks to the 01V96's flexible input routing, you could easily create a routing library setup and Scene especially for stereo mixing, where input one feeds channel one, input two feeds channel 17 and so on.
The internal effects are based around four independent multi-effects engines that can be used via any of the mixer's eight aux sends or be connected to a digital insert point via the routing system. However, this is one area where there's a penalty for working at high sample rates, as the effects count drops to two. The outputs from the effect processors are most conveniently routed back into the mix via the console's four sets of stereo inputs, though the flexibility of the routing system means you don't have to be bound by this. All four effects may be used as mono-in or stereo-in, and all have stereo outputs, though there is dedicated stereo-in reverb and stereo multi-band dynamics processing. As before, effects are fully editable, with the facility to store the edits in an effects library and a large number of presets provided including reverbs, delays, modulation effects, dynamics and guitar amp/speaker emulators. There are also several dual effects, such as chorus/reverb, delay/early reflections and so on, as well as a multi-filter, the simple Freeze sampler and a stereo dynamics processor. There are no dedicated surround effects, as there are in the 02R96, though there's sufficient routing flexibility to use pairs of effects processors to set up your own surround reverbs or delays.
Additionally, each of the 32 main fully-featured input channels includes its own delay that goes up to 984.1ms. This type of delay is often used to compensate for mic position time delays in large-scale orchestral recordings and suchlike, but this time Yamaha have added a feedback control so that it may also be used to set up straightforward DDL echo effects. For use as a time delay compensator, the delay time can also be set in feet, where the delay time is worked out automatically, taking the speed of sound at 25 degrees Centigrade (around 340m/s). The effects capability of the mixer may be further augmented by fitting a Waves Y56K mini-YGDAI card into the expansion slot, though this precludes adding any more I/O over and above the eight channels of ADAT I/O that are built into the Y56K card.
I mentioned earlier that the EQ has been updated, but you still have the option to use the original Type I EQ where that might be more appropriate. As you may recall, the original mixer series had a very transparent, uncoloured sounding EQ that behaved rather differently to most analogue equalisers and seemed to require large amounts of cut or boost before it made much subjective difference to the sound. Type II is rather more analogue sounding and in general needs less cut or boost applied to get the job done. As with earlier Yamaha models, EQ libraries with factory presets for particular jobs are available, but, in my view, every EQ task is different and so should be set up from scratch for the best results. The only exception is where you have created an EQ setting that works for a specific client in a specific situation (such as recording voice-overs) and where you may need to repeat the result at some time in the future.
During testing, I noticed that the Type II EQ quirk discovered by Hugh Robjohns in his 02R96 review is still present, though it is of little consequence in normal usage. What happens is that, if two EQ notches are set to the same frequency and bandwidth, and are made as deep as possible (maximum cut), then the curve develops two negative peaks either side of where you'd expect the centre frequency to be. It's also the case that setting up two bands to be identical, except with one applying cut and the other the equal amount of boost, the curves don't actually cancel out, though this could be due to the use of a proportional-Q EQ curve.
The channel dynamics section is similar to that found in the 01V/03D insomuch as there are compressors and gates, but in the older mixers only one dynamics processor could be used in a channel at any one time. In the case of the 01V96, each channel can have one gate-type processor and one compressor-type processor (which includes expanders and duckers) running at the same time, which is a big improvement.
Currently, the Studio Manager software is available for Windows PC or Mac, but not yet for Mac OS X. Because the software can offer a much more detailed graphic overview of the mixer and its functions, it can be used off-line to create routing setups or other desk configurations. This is very valuable because, although nothing about setting up the 01V96 is actually complicated, there are lots of user preferences to choose from and routing options to set up, which can be time-consuming at the outset. OMS and USB MIDI drivers are provided for Mac OS 9 users, while the necessary Windows counterparts also come on the installation CD. Any computer less than three or four years old should run Studio Manager comfortably, provided that it has a graphical resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. I tested Studio Manager on a Mac G4 via USB and found that it worked with no problems once I'd discovered the 01V96 page that let me define USB as the communication preference for Studio Manager.
An overview window shows all 16 bank channels at a time, so the screen is quite busy, but the sumptuous graphics rather make up for this. Communication with the Studio Manager software can either be via the USB port or a conventional MIDI cable and interface, and one clear advantage with using software like this is that there is effectively no limit to the amount of patching or library information that can be stored.
Studio Manager is based on a series of windows or pages relating to different console views and libraries, including a detailed channel view and a timecode read-out. It doesn't offer any direct means of dynamically automating the 01V96, but as a tool for making adjustments, creating setups or managing libraries, it is excellent.
The front panel of the mixer is about as clear and intuitive as possible, given the huge number of features is accesses. Perhaps more important, though, is that the operation of the interface is largely consistent, regardless of what task you're doing. A Home button brings up the main metering page and sets the faders to control levels (hardware meters are only provided for the main stereo output, and there's no obvious provision for a meterbridge option). Above it are eight Aux buttons that assign the correspondingly numbered aux send to the faders. Above these are 12 Display Access buttons that get you directly into EQ, dynamics or effect pages, as well as accessing the MIDI, routing, digital I/O and global settings pages. Below the Home button are four further dedicated buttons for selecting the four mixing layers, designated as Ch 1-16, Ch 17-32, Master (busses and aux sends) and Remote, the latter being the MIDI controller layer. Note that aux send controls are not available on the Master layer, only on the two layers of input channels.
Below the display, which has a physical contrast control, are six buttons, two of which function as arrow keys and the other four of which correspond to tabs shown in the display window, enabling the user to go directly to one of up to four display pages. Where there are more than four pages, the arrow keys are used to shift to the next or previous set of pages. Pressing the Display Access button repeatedly also steps through all available pages. Data entry is by the now standard means of a data wheel, four arrow keys and an Enter button, though there are now also increment and decrement buttons that do much the same as the wheel, but in small steps. Holding down one of these keys while pressing the other causes the value to change at a constant rate until the buttons are released.
The Scene Memory buttons will also be a familiar sight to all Yamaha digital desk users and comprise Up/Down buttons plus Store and Recall buttons. Up to 99 Scenes can be stored and any externally controlled dynamic automation sequence must also start from a Scene, as that defines all the starting parameters of the mix. Placing a MIDI Program Change message at the start of the track to recall the appropriate Scene helps avoid confusion and also resets the start values when you play the track from the beginning. Scenes store all the fader, aux and buss levels, phase switch and attenuator settings, channel delay and dynamics settings, EQ and pan settings, channel routings, fader groups and channel linking. These settings are also stored along with the Scene title and fade time, the effects settings and the I/O routing library Patch number. As with earlier systems, Scene settings can be made to crossfade from one to another (not routing of course — now that would be weird!). Note that any routing changes made when setting up a Scene must be saved to the Patch library, otherwise they will not be recalled correctly when that Scene is revisited.
Below the data wheel is the Stereo In section, with a button that selects between controlling Stereo In channels 1/2 or 3/4. Below this are two sets of Select, Solo and On buttons, as well as rotary encoder-type level control for the two selected inputs. The Stereo In sources are configurable, but might best be used as effects returns, as their level is controlled by knobs rather than faders. They have the same output routing as all the other channels, except that they can't be set up as direct outputs and can't be assigned compressors. Below this section are the eight user-definable keys.
For adjusting EQ settings, there are four buttons corresponding to the four EQ bands, plus three rotary controls addressing Q, Frequency and Gain. These reside in the Selected Channel section to the right of the display, along with a Pan control, and relate to whichever channel is currently selected. Each channel has its own illuminated Select, Solo and On buttons. A master Solo warning LED shows when one or more channels are soloed, while an adjacent Clear button switches off all Solo buttons in a single action.
- 01V96 digital mixer, £1729
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
- MY4DA four-channel 20-bit analogue output card, £209
- MY4AD four-channel 20-bit analogue input 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
Yamaha were one of the first console manufacturers to include surround support as standard and, although the 01V96 has no dedicated facilities for monitoring surround, there's a surround page that enables you to configure the buss outs to carry the surround mix components. These may be routed to any of the available outputs for monitoring or recording, with a dedicated option to route the front left and right feeds to the console's stereo outputs. If you wish to record the surround mix to an ADAT-compatible device, you can have record outs and surround monitoring outs available at the same time by using the analogue outputs as monitor feeds. Using fader grouping to group the buss faders used for the surround mix would enable all the monitor levels to be adjusted using a single fader, which is useful when you're using active monitors.
Various surround modes are included, supporting what Yamaha call 3-1 (I'd call it 4.0 as it comprises three front speakers, one rear and no subwoofer), 5.1 and 6.1 (like 5.1, but with a rear centre speaker as well). Surround panners are available on screen, but, as there's no surround joystick for panning, you either need to set up a static position using the virtual joystick on screen or pick from a list of preset surround pan trajectories. These are controlled from the data wheel, where you can adjust the rate of panning, width, depth and offset in both left/right and front/back directions. An on-screen control allows the LFE (subwoofer) level to be set, and there's also a divergence control that determines how centre-panned sounds are balanced between the centre speaker and the left/right speakers. Because dynamic panning is accomplished using the data wheel, it is necessary to record pan movements into a sequencer to achieve dynamic panning of more than one channel (or linked channels).
As far as I can tell, the effects chip here is the same one used in Yamaha's latest generation of hardware effects units, and the quality of effects is a definite step up when compared to the 03D and 01V. The reverbs are particularly strong and have 14 editable parameters, which is a sensible compromise between flexibility and ease of operation. The reverb algorithms are mainly mono-in/stereo-out and include the ability to balance early reflection and reverb tail levels, something I find particularly valuable. There's also a dedicated early reflections algorithm for creating ambience effects.
The remaining algorithms cover all the usual delay and modulated delay areas, including Yamaha's famous Symphonic chorus, plus there's auto-panning, tremolo, pitch-shifting and rotary speaker emulation. If you like your 24-bit, 96kHz audio to sound nasty, you have ring modulation, resonant filtering and distortion at your disposal, as well as amp emulation, plus a host of dual effects, several of which combine either reverb or delay with other effects. The delays include a facility for setting delay time by tempo, while the Freeze sampler can be triggered manually or via input signal level. The sample may also be looped and the number of loop playbacks specified. Additionally, there's a true stereo reverb and a stereo three-band dynamics processor that offers simultaneous compression, limiting and expansion.
During this review I had to keep reminding myself that the 01V96 is a replacement for the entry-level 01V and not an updated 03D less the automation. Having used Yamaha mixers before, I found navigation relatively straightforward, though there are a lot of preferences and routing options that you may need to set up before use if the straightforward default routing isn't suitable for your needs. Having said this, the manual is very clearly written and Studio Manager makes setting up and library management considerably easier. Nevertheless, I'm surprised that Yamaha didn't go the extra mile and include dynamic mix automation capability in Studio Manager, as that would have been rather more friendly and easier to edit than automating via a sequencer.
The quality of sound available from the new preamps is definitely better (and quieter) than from the old mixer range, which is hardly surprising, as all the preamps in the new range are now versions (simplified in various ways) of the preamps used in Yamaha's new high-end consoles. You may still get better performance from a really good external preamp, but there's nothing about these preamps to worry about in typical studio applications. The effects quality has also moved up a gear, and having four processors available at 'real world' sample rates should be more than enough for anyone.
So why would you choose the 01V96 over a straight analogue console, given that there's no on-board automation? Part of the answer has to be the UK price, and when you factor in the value of the four excellent effects processors, the mixer almost comes for free. The ability to recall static mix snapshots and routing setups is also something you can't do with an analogue desk and, of course, an analogue desk won't let you connect up to 24 channels of ADAT using lightpipe — and going optical means no ground loop problems. The 16 faders should allow you to control a typical 24-track mix in real time without constantly flipping between layers, given that you'll probably want to group the drums and that some tracks won't need their levels adjusting.
In the computer-based studio, the 01V96 can function as a central monitoring controller, a signal router and a DAW hardware controller as well as giving you a means to integrate two-track and multitrack hardware recorders into the system. It has enough input capability to mix multiple channels of computer audio with MIDI hardware instruments, and it provides a cost-effective means of routing and monitoring surround mixes. The high-quality effects help take the load off your plug-ins, and in the case of reverb, the quality is likely to be considerably better than a typical native reverb plug-in. Similar benefits derive from having comprehensive dynamics on every channel. The high-quality mic amps provide a clean way into your system and, if you fit an mLAN card, the mixer can become the audio interface in any studio based around a computer with a Firewire port. Furthermore, sequencer users can use a track to record mix data, giving them the benefit of full dynamic automation, where the mix moves get stored with the song.
To sum up, the 01V96 may be Yamaha's entry-level digital mixer, but its sound quality and facilities are anything but entry level. The only advanced feature it lacks is onboard automation, but in all other areas, including I/O count, it exceeds expectations while remaining very affordable.
- Huge amount of functionality for the price.
- Good audio quality.
- Comprehensive routing capability.
- Can mix up to 40 inputs.
- Dedicated layer for MIDI DAW control.
- Lack of automation makes it less attractive to those working in a computerless environment.
The sound quality, I/O capability, routing ability and onboard processing make the 01V96 very attractive to anyone who doesn't need integral automation. Ideal for use as a monitoring and control centre in a computer-based studio.