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Yamaha 02R

Digital Recording Console (Preview) By Paul White
Published August 1995

June 20th saw Yamaha's world launch of the 02R at Air Lyndhurst Studios, London. Paul White spoke to Yamaha's engineers to get the lowdown on this appealing 8‑buss digital recording mixer.

Yamaha make no secret of their long‑term aim to develop digital mixing consoles for the project studio sector of the market; their Promix 01 stereo mixer offered moving fader automation, recall and internal digital effects, all for under £2000. It was inevitable that this technology would eventually find its way into a recording console, so the announcement of the 02R came as no real surprise.

Styled very much in the same vein as the Promix 01, the 8‑buss 02R has a total of 40 channels plus two stereo (analogue) effects returns. The 24 main channels (16 mono and four stereo) have dedicated analogue inputs and the first eight channels have both line and mic inputs with switchable phantom power. The second group of eight channels are general purpose jack inputs, which can still accept mic levels. The remaining 16 channels are accessed via optional interface cards and function much like the monitor section of a regular in‑line desk. Cards will be available to interface with the Alesis/Fostex ADAT, Tascam DA88 and Yamaha's own Y2 digital format, as well as AES/EBU or analogue. In addition to the 8‑buss routing to the multitrack outputs, direct channel outputs may also be used to give a total of 16 tracks of simultaneous recording.

The price is expected to be very close to £6000 (ex‑VAT) with the meter bridge adding between £800 and £1000 to the package.

Inside Story

The 02R includes two multi‑effects units, dynamics (compressor/limiter or gate) on every channel, and internal dynamic and snapshot automation up to a maximum of 64 snapshots. Mix data is stored in internal memory, which may be expanded to 2.5 Megabytes as required, and mix data may then be dumped to a computer via RS422 or to any suitable MIDI storage device. Over 3000 parameters can be automated and the console can run against either SMPTE/EBU or MTC timecodes. The stereo outputs from the console are available in the analogue domain via 8x oversampled, 20‑bit converters, or in AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital format at up to 24‑bit resolution.

The input converters have a 20‑bit resolution while Yamaha's latest 32‑bit DSPs handle processes like EQ and effects generation. RISC technology is used to keep the cost down and the processing speed up.

Every input on the 02R (and the stereo outs) has 4‑band, fully parametric EQ, and the user interface is relatively straightforward, most actions being accomplished by first selecting the desired channel, then tweaking the physical channel controls to the right of the console. A large, bright LCD display is provided to present the necessary information and this intelligently flips to the appropriate screen whenever a control is manually adjusted. EQ and dynamic curves are displayed in graphical format on the display where appropriate.

Access is provided to a staggering number of parameters; each channel has eight aux sends, two dedicated to the internal processors and six routed to analogue effects send outputs — and then there's the 50 sets of dynamic processors. You can also programme up to a 60ms (max) delay on each channel (in single sample increments) to compensate for mic positioning when recording with multi‑mic setups.

A Mac‑based Project Management program will be released with the 02R, enabling multiple 02Rs to be run together as one large mixer. The software will also act as an archive for mix and project data. The 02R may also be controlled directly via MIDI, and a Local Off mode will allow the 02R's faders to be used to send MIDI data for controlling external devices.


Although the 02R has 40 input channels, you can only access 24 of them without buying additional interface cards. Furthermore, without these interface cards, no multitrack work is possible. However, if the cost of the cards is as projected (around £250 +VAT), I don't see this as a major setback.

On the face of it, the 02R is a technological miracle which is priced to strike terror into the hearts of those companies still striving to produce low cost, moving fader analogue consoles. After all, moving faders don't provide anything like the same total project recall ability as something like the 02R, and for me, the fact that you can very quickly recall a three‑year‑old session exactly as it was is more important than being able to make every virtual pot and fader change in real time as you mix. However, whether the 02R really does signal the end of analogue multitrack depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is the delay between a signal coming off tape and being audible in the monitors. Using modern technology, this can be very fast, but it's still not instantaneous, and just a few milliseconds of delay may be enough to affect the feel of a good drummer. If you're monitoring off digital multitrack in the digital domain, it should be possible to keep the delay to a couple of milliseconds or less which, in practical terms, is equivalent to standing two feet further from the monitors than the rest of the band.

Sound quality is also a major factor. Despite the technical spec of the Promix 01, there were users who felt it didn't deliver the same noise and headroom performance as a typical analogue desk. And even if the 02R's technical spec does hold up on paper, there are still the subjective aspects of sound to take into consideration. We already have users who don't like the sound of digital multitrack or DAT, for whatever reason, and I'm sure the debate will continue over mixers. Similarly, digital EQ can sound quite different to analogue EQ, so there's plenty of leeway for subjectivity there.

If the sound of the mixer does meet expectations, and there's a good chance that it will, are you happy with a user interface that requires you to select channels one at a time and then adjust them from a single common control panel? There are bound to be those who still want knobs for everything, but with so many parameters on the 02R, that would be totally impractical, not to mention prohibitively expensive. There must inevitably be a compromise, but have Yamaha made the right one?

Personally, I think they've got things pretty much right, but you may not agree. Similarly, because it isn't practical to put analogue insert points on every channel and group of a digital console, Yamaha have gone the route of building in dynamics processing. This provides either gating or compression type functions, but from my own viewpoint, I like to use compression with gating. However, there are analogue inserts on the 02R's first eight channels, so you could always patch in your trusty Drawmers. Obviously any restrictions have to be seen in the light of the benefits 50 channels of dynamic control gives you, and at current prices I reckon you save over £50 just in rack bolts, let alone the gear itself!

Finally, the user interface means that you have the equivalent of a serious studio console in a remarkably compact package, but do your clients still expect to see a mixer that crosses three time zones? True, you can make a small mixer look very

hi‑tech and futuristic, but for my money Yamaha have chosen a rather uninspiring style which looks a little dated, especially with the wooden end‑cheeks. What's more they haven't even provided an arm rest, even though everyone knows that an automated mix takes at least four times as long as doing the same thing manually. Anyway, you have a while to make up your own mind, because the 02R isn't due to hit the shops until late autumn. One thing's for sure, if Yamaha really have got it right this time, there are going to be some very worried mixer manufacturers out there, as well as a very buoyant 'used mixer' section in the SOS reader ads. Watch out for our full hands‑on review later in the year.

02R Features

  • On‑board automation of all digital mixing parameters, referenced to SMPTE/EBU timecode or MTC.
  • Instant and total reset of all digital mixing and signal processing parameters.
  • 40 input channels and two full‑featured stereo internal effects returns.
  • 24 'built‑in' analogue inputs equipped with 20‑bit, 64‑times oversampling AD converters, 16 of which are equipped with high quality mic preamps and 8 with individually switchable phantom power and analogue insert points.
  • 8 output busses, stereo analogue (20‑bit, 8 times oversampling DA converters) and digital (S/PDIF and AES/EBU) outputs.
  • 16 digital outputs to multitrack (8 busses plus direct outs).
  • 100mm motorised faders.
  • 4‑band fully parametric automated digital equalisation on all input (and stereo output) channels.
  • Comprehensive 32‑bit programmable dynamics processing on all input channels and output busses (equivalent of 50 stand‑alone processor units).
  • 8 aux sends (pre or post fader) on every input channel; two directly routed to internal multi‑effects.
  • Programmable fader groups, mute groups, and stereo pairs.
  • Digital cascade of multiple consoles with full 24‑bit precision.
  • Interchangeable digital I/O cards, providing direct digital interfacing with Alesis ADAT, Tascam TDIF, AES/EBU and Yamaha formats, as well as multiple analogue I/Os.
  • Comprehensive input and output metering and parameter status monitoring.