You are here

Yamaha 02R96

Digital Mixing Console
By Hugh Robjohns

After seven years, one of the most successful digital consoles has been completely overhauled, improving the sound quality and ergonomics, and catering for new high-resolution and surround-sound formats.

YAMAHA 02R96 digital mixing console.Photo: Mark EwingDuring its seven-year reign, the original Yamaha 02R (reviewed back in SOS February 1996) has been one of the greatest success stories of the digital revolution. The desk quickly became popular for countless project studios, small post-production houses, and theatres around the world. It offered a unique blend of versatile facilities, a user-friendly control interface, and cost-effectiveness. However, it has been argued that Yamaha didn't place as much emphasis on sound quality as they did on functionality and value — an issue which they have striven to address with the console's replacement.

Of course, technology is forever moving onwards and, despite a major mid-life software revision and new interface cards, the 02R's capabilities were restricted by the standards of some of the more recent offerings from rival manufacturers. Much of the 02R's original customer base has also developed to the point where it is looking for a more capable console to meet current and future business demands — such as surround sound and high-resolution digital audio. Furthermore, the whole concept and practice of digital console operation has evolved considerably since the launch of the 02R.

Yamaha have taken all these issues on board and, as well as upgrading the DSP side of things, the company have decided to improve their user interface to provide more hands-on operation and much less menu dipping. The first product of this new approach sees the light of day as the phenomenal new flagship DM2000, intended to meet the requirements of anyone who's outgrown the old 02R or who wants an up-market desk at mid-market prices.

The second console to be developed from the same technology is the exciting new 02R96. Essentially a cut-down DM2000, the new desk is a replacement for previous 02R installations, but with updated and expanded facilities and features. Despite all the advances, the 02R96 has been priced competitively in the UK and still bears comparison with the cost of the original 02R at its 1995 launch. This new desk is priced very keenly in comparison, especially considering the general inflation over the last seven years.

The Big Picture

Although the new desk enjoys a similar name to its illustrious forefather, the 02R96 is, in reality, a completely new console sharing little bar the size of its footprint with the original. That's not a facetious comment though; by matching the footprint, Yamaha have made it easy for customers to upgrade without having to commission expensive new studio furniture — this really is a drop-in replacement with considerably enhanced functionality and a much improved user interface.

The new Selected Channel control section and User Defined Keys dramatically change the console's design compared to the original 02R, and significantly speed up operation.The new Selected Channel control section and User Defined Keys dramatically change the console's design compared to the original 02R, and significantly speed up operation.Photo: Mark EwingAnd it is the user interface which is the most important aspect of this new desk — the result of feedback from experienced 02R users around the world. The need to delve around in LCD menus is greatly diminished and much more of the desk's functionality can be controlled directly through the new assignable control panel and the various arrays of buttons — some of which can be customised to access functions specific to particular applications. Dedicated controls are available for the EQ and dynamics sections, panning, routing and so forth; and a large bank of buttons provides instant access to a variety of system display screens. Although the original 02R console incorporated a few assignable, physical EQ and pan controls, the functionality was limited and required a lot of button pushing and interaction with the central LCD screen. The new console has been equipped with a very comprehensive channel section and a lot more dedicated controls to provide faster access and control, more like an analogue console or the high-end digital boards.

The console also ships with Studio Manager software which forms an integral element of the desk, providing both an overview and remote control of the desk's status and settings, with superb graphics. This software is an important extension of the desk and should not be considered as a 'freebie extra' — while the desk can be operated without it, life is far easier with it.

The new hardware is based upon Yamaha's latest DSP7 chips for the bulk of signal processing, with DSP6 chips handling the internal effects. These are both very serious number crunchers, the architecture of the DSP6 being optimised specifically for effects duties while the DSP7 handles EQ, dynamics, mixing and routing. In keeping with Yamaha's philosophy, the desk's internal busses are all 32-bit fixed point, with 58-bit DSP accumulators to maintain the highest resolution for algorithms such as EQ. These new devices are roughly four times as powerful as their predecessors, yet cost virtually the same and are much less complex to write software for. As a result, the new 02R96 console is more than five times as powerful as the original, hence all the additional facilities and elevated sampling rates.

Most simple effects processes make use of a single DSP6 chip (which also maintains a 32-bit data path). However, some of the more complex surround effects programs make use of more than one chip — the full eight-in, eight-out surround reverb mode uses four, for example. Hence certain combinations of effects programs reduce the number of internal effects chains available simultaneously.

One of the key features of the new technology is that the desk retains exactly the same feature set regardless of sampling frequency. It is always a 56-channel desk with up to four internal effects processors, whether operating at 44.1 or 96kHz — an impressive feature indeed. The digital I/O is all 24-bit resolution, of course, with options to dither individual outputs down to 20 or 16 bits. The analogue I/O employs full 24-bit/96kHz converters throughout; another significant quality improvement over the previous 02R. The 02R96 also supports stereo, 4.0 (confusingly referred to as 3.1, but meaning LCRS) or full 5.1 bussing and monitoring, and another significant feature is the fully integrated remote control facility for a variety of popular DAWs.

Other new technology includes new touch-sensitive, 100mm long-throw motorised faders, manufactured by Alps. These are very fast and responsive, with 21mm spacing making it easy to operate a lot of faders simultaneously in a single hand span — essential for dubbing, broadcast and live sound or theatre applications. Another new fader-related technology is the ability pair faders for stereo channels either 'horizontally' (the conventional way using adjacent faders), or 'vertically' using the same fader in two different layers. For example, fader one can be paired with either fader two (horizontal) or fader 25 (vertical, on the next layer). This allows 24 stereo sources to be mixed at the same time on a single layer, instead of just twelve — a major plus-feature for post-production users. A (non-motorised) joystick has been integrated into the assignable control section to simplify surround panning operations.

The 02R96's dedicated rear-panel monitor I/O section.The 02R96's dedicated rear-panel monitor I/O section.Photo: Mark EwingThe monitor section has also been engineered with reasonably comprehensive surround facilities, including an independent overall level control, individual speaker muting and attenuation capabilities, separate buss-out/machine-return stem monitoring, bass management, and independent delays in each monitor channel for time alignment. In the 5.1 surround mode the desk monitoring also has provision for additional rear/side speaker outputs to facilitate a more diffuse surround environment. However, there is no provision for a monitoring processor loop to incorporate devices such as the Dolby Pro Logic encoder.

The news is about more than just hardware improvements though — the operating software has undergone extensive updates and improvements compared to the previous generations too. The signal processing algorithms — particularly in the EQ department — have been overhauled, and the effects processes are all new, with many specifically intended for surround applications. Multi-band 'mastering' dynamics processors have been included, for example, in both stereo and 5.1 formats. The automation features some enhanced facilities, although it remains very similar to the earlier system at heart.

Since the underlying technology and much of the system software is common to both the 02R96 and the DM2000, future developments of the flagship console will also benefit its junior sibling — so support for new DAWs or enhancements for existing ones will become available for the 02R96 and DM2000 at the same time. The same applies to the Studio Manager software, as well.

Currently, the console can be integrated immediately with two major DAWs: Digidesign's Pro Tools and Steinberg's Nuendo. Yamaha's software developers are working on support for Emagic's Logic Audio, which is in beta test at the time of writing, and other systems can be controlled by setting up suitable MIDI control mapping. The integration between DAW and console extends to the DAW's transport and mixer sections, with remote control of some types of plug-in directly from the console. The metering of DAW channels is even reflected on the console's meters! While it takes a bit of setting up, the DAW integration is a very useful feature which will further improve the convenience and speed of operation for many users.

Zooming In

Whereas the original 02R was a 40-input, eight-buss console, the new desk features 56 inputs feeding eight mix busses, a stereo main output and eight auxiliaries (the original had only six auxes). The input assignment is nominally 24 analogue inputs, 24 digital inputs (through up to four expansion cards and three dedicated digital two track inputs), and four internal stereo effects returns (the original console only provided two internal effects chains). The new desk is equipped with sixteen phantom-powered microphone inputs — twice the number available on the original desk.

Input channels are accessed through fader paging in the usual way, with three main banks: channels 1-24, channels 25-48, and master, which includes channels 49-56, auxes 1-8 and mix busses1-8. A fourth layer accesses the remote channels nominally allocated to control an external DAW's mixer facilities. The main stereo output has its own permanent fader.

The bad news for anyone upgrading from an old 02R is that the standard YGDAI cards it used are not compatible with the new desk, which requires the smaller mini-YGDAI cards. Although some of these cards already support the elevated sample rates, many still do not — although Yamaha are obviously keen to release upgraded versions as soon as possible. The current options include TDIF and ADAT interfaces, currently supporting the elevated sample rates only in a double-wide, dual-channel mode, plus AES-EBU and various analogue I/O cards with full 96kHz facilities. There is also an mLAN card for standard sample rates, a couple of third-party offerings including Apogee's AD8 and DA8 analogue interfaces, plus the Waves Y56K effects plug-in card. Imminent releases include a card with sample-rate converters to enable the integration of 'legacy' digital equipment within a 96kHz environment. A 16-channel ADAT card should also be available by the time you read this review.

An internal routing matrix enables patching between any physical input and any desk input channel, while any desk output buss or channel direct output can be routed to any physical output — and that includes any installed I/O option cards. All input and output connections can be named for easy identification within the studio, and routing configurations can be saved in 127 patch libraries.

Every one of the 56 input channels enjoys the familiar four-band fully parametric EQ, plus a dynamics section with separate compressor and expander/gate facilities — both with libraries to store and recall regularly used settings. There has been a radical change to the EQ algorithms employed in the new DM2000 and 02R96 consoles. The EQ section can be configured for one of two algorithms on a per-channel basis. Type I is the older algorithm used in previous consoles, while Type II is an all-new, improved EQ design. It has been suggested that the improvement offered by the Type II algorithm is because it always operates at an elevated sample rate, with up and down sampling being used when the desk is operating at standard sampling rates. Such a scheme would certainly justify the apparently 'wasted' and under-used DSP resource when operating at standard sample rates. Whether this kind of technical jiggery-pokery is really going on under the bonnet or not, the new EQ algorithm sounds a little nicer to my ears, and is more analogue-like to use than earlier Yamaha consoles.

The four internal effects processors can be configured to operate in the conventional manner, deriving inputs from the assigned aux busses and returning the processed output to dedicated effects return channels (nominally channels 49-56), or they can be inserted directly into specific channels or busses. Once again, libraries are provided for factory and user presets.

Another new and welcome feature is an enhanced channel delay facility. The maximum delay for each channel is a massive 904.2ms at 48kHz sample rates, or half that amount at 96kHz. The really cool feature, though, is that this section includes facilities to adjust the mix between original and delayed signals, as well as the amount of feedback (with an inverted phase option too). It is therefore possible to create several delay-based effects directly within the channel without having to tie up an effects processor.

The Rear Panel

Like its predecessor, the 02R96 has a busy rear panel. The top half is concerned with the analogue I/O, while the bottom primarily handles digital interfacing and housekeeping functions. The desk's internal power supply is fan-cooled, and is pretty quiet (although clearly audible in my room during silences).

All 24 analogue inputs provided on the basic 02R96 are equipped with TRS line inputs, sixteen of which also offer balanced XLR mic inputs and unbalanced TRS insert points.All 24 analogue inputs provided on the basic 02R96 are equipped with TRS line inputs, sixteen of which also offer balanced XLR mic inputs and unbalanced TRS insert points.Photo: Mark EwingAs already mentioned, the desk boasts sixteen balanced mic inputs on XLRs with individually switched phantom power. The XLR signal is effectively routed through the break contacts of an adjacent TRS socket before being passed to newly designed preamps. These are derived from the DM2000 and, whilst not quite matching the latter's performance, they represent a significant step up compared to earlier designs. The first sixteen inputs are also equipped with an unbalanced analogue insert point on a single TRS socket, the insert being post mic preamp and pre A-D converter.

A further eight balanced line inputs are provided on TRS sockets, making up the total of 24 analogue channel inputs. The desk's monitoring section has dedicated stereo inputs for two analogue two-track machines, one at +4dBu (TRS sockets) and the other at -10dBV (phono sockets). The main stereo console output is provided on both balanced XLRs and unbalanced phono connectors, the latter at -10dBV. The dedicated studio and control-room stereo speaker feeds are both via balanced TRS sockets at a nominal +4dBu.

Between the power supply section and the four mini-YGDAI card slots are three rows of assorted connectors. The top row starts off with a 25-pin D-Sub connector providing eight GPI outputs and two GPI inputs, the functionality of which can be configured to suit a variety of purposes including red-light switching, playback machine control, and remote talkback activation. Completing the row are eight balanced TRS sockets labelled Omni Out. This is a feature which was first seen on the 01V and provides eight freely assignable analogue outputs which may be used to provide aux sends or surround sound monitoring outputs, for example.

The middle row of connectors includes word-clock input and output BNCs, the former with a 75Ω termination switch. Three stereo digital two-track recorder I/Os are provided, with inputs normalled to the monitoring and outputs derived from the stereo output buss by default. One of the three interfaces is AES-EBU via XLRs, while the others are S/PDIF on phono connectors. Two computer interfaces — a multi-pin serial port and a USB port — are next on the list, intended to couple the desk to a computer running the Studio Manager software, and to transmit remote control data for a DAW. Software updates can also be loaded via these ports. Finally, two timecode inputs are available to synchronise the desk automation. Balanced SMPTE/EBU timecode can be input through an XLR, or MIDI MTC code via a DIN socket.

The bottom row of connectors comprises a pair of high-density multi-pin connectors for Cascade links between consoles, the familiar trio of MIDI sockets (In, Out and Thru), plus a 15-pin D-Sub connector which links with the optional (but desirable) meterbridge. The console mains supply is via the ubiquitous IEC connector with a switch above — there are no accessible fuses for this single-voltage supply which draws 200W of power.

The cascade ports fitted to both the DM2000 and 02R96 consoles are fully compatible, so the latter can be connected to expand the former. As well as the audio busses, these ports also transfer data to facilitate fully integrated automation, scene recalls, layer switching, solo functions and so on. In other words, cascaded consoles really do behave like one big desk. N

ot only can the DM2000 and 02R96 be interconnected, but multiple desks of the same type can also be linked together — the system supports up to four desks and (to save you working out the maths) this means a massive total of 224 channels with a quartet of 02R96 consoles, or a completely ludicrous 384 channels with four DM2000 consoles! I don't think I would want to find myself in front of that many live sources, thank you...

Control Surface

The arrangement of operational controls on the 02R96 is familiar and practical, but offers much better overall ergonomics than its predecessor. The non-automated analogue input controls are grouped along the top of the panel immediately below the meter bridge. The first sixteen channels are equipped with switches for phantom power, a 26dB pad, and Insert On/Off, plus a rotary Gain control ranging from -16dB to -60dB, (or -10dB to +34dB with the pad engaged). Two LEDs illuminate at -20dBFS (Signal) and -3dBFS (Peak). The eight line inputs are equipped with just a gain control (-10dB to +34dB) and the Signal and Peak LEDs.

The 320 x 240-pixel monochrome LCD is mounted off-centre in the new console, a reflection of its less significant role. The screen displays are much as expected, though, with the same idioms as previous 0-series desks. Most screens have multiple pages indicated by tabs along the bottom edge of the display, and four soft keys below the LCD can be used to select any particular tab. When more than four pages are available, left and right buttons scroll to the additional page tabs. As with the previous generation, repeatedly pressing the relevant display access button also cycles around the pages.

Four encoder knobs below the tab buttons only become active when the effects and plug-in windows are displayed — accessed by a group of buttons to the left. The plug-in options become available if the Waves Y56K card is installed (for more details on this option, have a look at the review in SOS May 2002). The encoders are used to adjust parameters, in conjunction with a pair of cursor up/down buttons to select the relevant row of virtual knobs shown on the screen. In these screen modes the tab buttons adopt the role of automation write-enable switches for the current effects parameter knobs.

Above this effects control section, another two rows of buttons select the fader and channel encoder modes. Faders can be switched between channel and aux send levels (the relevant aux being selected from the bank of eight aux buttons grouped above). The single encoder knob incorporated into each channel strip can be switched to serve as a pan or aux level control with dedicated buttons, while two further assignable buttons allow the user to customise the knob's function with 40 options. These include input attenuator, input patch, phase, delay (on, time, feedback, or mix), any single control in the EQ or dynamics sections, LFE level, or scene crossfade time — enough options to satisfy just about any operational requirement.

A quick point about Scenes might be worthwhile here. As might be anticipated, the 02R96 allows various elements of a channel to be isolated from Scene changes, but an interesting new feature is that crossfade times can be programmed independently for each channel and for each Scene. However, the crossfade only applies to the fader level, and not to the channel's EQ or dynamics processing — these change instantly upon Scene recall. Shame...

YAMAHA 02R96Photo: Mark EwingAt the top of the large array of buttons is a group of 12 that provides direct display access for a variety of key functions, most of which will be familiar to 0-series users. Pressing any of these buttons will recall the relevant configuration screens to the LCD. The channel strip buttons will also hold no surprises for existing 0-series users. The channel fader provides 10dB of gain above the nominal unity point and can be configured so that the Selected channel follows whichever fader is being touched — I actually found this annoying and disabled it! As mentioned above, faders can be paired horizontally or vertically, and allocated to any one of eight fader or mute groups. Channels can also be linked in sets for 5.1 stem working in the surround mode.

The desk's revolutionary facilities are located to the right of the LCD — the Selected Channel controls, the User Defined Keys and all the monitoring and machine control facilities. The Selected Channel section provides buttons for buss, direct and stereo output routing; phase, insert and delay switching; stereo and surround panning (complete with joystick); five encoder knobs switchable between the compressor and gate functions; and eight encoders for the EQ.

The EQ Frequency controls can be pressed to toggle them to adjusting the Q value, and if you hold one pressed down the corresponding band's gain is reset to zero. The complete EQ section can be zeroed by depressing the Frequency knobs of both the top and bottom sections simultaneously — a feature not at all obvious from the control surface but mentioned in the handbook, and it makes operation very fast once discovered. A numeric display below each pair of knobs shows the value of the parameter currently being adjusted, and a global EQ bypass button is also provided. Each section of the Selected Channel has its own Display key which recalls the relevant menu screen to the LCD, although there is also an automatic mode which does this when any control is moved. This assignable control panel makes the desk operation much easier and faster than before, although I found it slightly frustrating that not all parameters had dedicated controls or displays. That said, the Studio Manager software does address this issue from a display point of view.

The 16 User Defined Keys nestle between the channel strips and the assignable channel controls. These buttons can be programmed in any one of four banks and assigned to more than 150 specific functions, including accessing particular Scene memories or the various libraries, bypassing the effects chains, muting individual surround speakers, enabling fader or mute groups, switching the oscillator on or off, various automation functions, and remote track arming. These buttons can also be programmed to control the functions of an external DAW. The only negative aspect here is that the bank selection has to be performed through the LCD or Studio Manager screens — there are no physical banking buttons.

The Scene Memory and Machine Control sections include eight dedicated locate memory buttons and are chunky, robust affairs — as is the dial wheel and the quartet of cursor buttons. The Enter key seems strangely remote from the others at first, but it quickly transpires that it falls under the thumb when the fingers are prodding the cursors or twirling the wheel.

At the top of the monitoring section is a built-in talkback mic and level control (an external mic can also be connected to any of the analogue mic inputs and routed appropriately). The talkback key is slightly lost amidst the rest of the monitoring controls (the DM2000 uses a chunky button near the transport controls instead), but its output assignments and latching/momentary status are configurable. It is also possible to operate the talkback switch remotely via the GPI port.

Separate level controls are provided for headphones (a single outlet), studio and control room monitoring, while the studio and control room also have separate source selection panels — the former accessing Aux 7 and Aux 8 for cue feeds, the stereo mix buss, or the control-room selection. The latter has dedicated source selectors for three digital two-track machines, two analogue machines, the stereo buss and two user-assigned sources. Options include all eight auxes and mix busses — individually or in stereo pairs — but sadly, critical monitoring functions such as mono or phase inversion can't be assigned. For surround working, two source options are provided: either the desk buss outputs or the recorder returns through one or more of the four mini-YGDAI slots. Separate volume controls are provided for the stereo and surround control-room monitors.

Extra Functionality With The Included Studio Manager Software

The Studio Manager software is not just a 'nice to have' optional extra, but an important and integral element of the console. It provides bidirectional control of the console — desk settings being displayed on the screen, and parameter and configuration changes being passed back from computer to console. It is even possible to run the program off-line to design and store desk configurations in advance of a project.

The software is supplied on a CD-ROM and runs on both PC and Mac platforms once the supplied drivers are installed. These comprise a CBX serial and USB MIDI driver for the Windows platforms, and an OMS and USB MIDI driver for the Mac. It is not a particularly processor-intensive program — a 433MHz PC or G3/300MHz Mac are the minimum specs — so it will run happily on virtually any half-decent machine. A good graphics card is important, as the minimum screen resolution is 1024 x 768 pixels and, because of the density of the display, the larger the monitor the better — the overview window shows the settings for 24 channels at a time, which is a heck of a lot of information to cram into a 15-inch screen.

Although most people will probably use the USB interface, the dedicated serial port or the MIDI In/Out interface can be used instead. The handbook gives precise information about configuring the system for each kind of interface and each operating system. Although the software will happily coexist with other active software (when I visited the Yamaha R&D centre, its was running on the same machine that was hosting a Pro Tools DAW), the screen refreshing can suffer. The result is that the audio metering display may become sluggish if the computer is overworked.

Running Studio Manager on an external computer provides far more functionality than a simple console-based system could. For example, a computer can be networked with other machines to share data in a multi-studio complex, or connected to the Internet, enabling data to be shared worldwide and software upgrades downloaded. The storage capacity of a computer also far exceeds that of the console's internal memory, providing greater resources for managing libraries, Scene memories, and automation mix data, for example. The program shipped with the 02R96 is derived from that supplied with the DM2000, and data is therefore compatible between them. However, these two consoles differ in their specific facilities, so consequently the missing or irrelevant parameters are ignored when transferring data from one console to another.

Studio Manager's console window.Studio Manager's console window.The interface comprises a number of separate but interrelated windows or pages, navigated with a mouse in the usual way, or via specific keyboard shortcuts. The one which would probably be displayed most of the time is the 'Console Window' which provides an overview of 24 channels at once. Each channel's parameters are displayed to resemble an analogue console channel strip, and settings can be viewed or edited quickly and simply on screen. To the right of all the channels is a stereo master section with large meter displays (stereo or multi-channel depending on the current console format), and fader layer switching buttons. If the master layer is selected, simpler channel strips are displayed for the buss and aux masters.

For a more detailed view of a specific channel's parameters, the Selected Channel window can be opened. This effectively replicates the assignable channel section of the console and displays the channel's gate, compressor, EQ (all three with corresponding transfer and response graphs) and delay settings, output routing, panning, aux sends, fader and mute grouping, fader position, and so on. The main advantage of this screen is that everything can be seen at once — something which isn't possible on the console. When the console is being used for surround work, a dedicated Surround Editor provides detailed displays and controls for each channel's surround panning facilities, including centre divergence and separate LFE level controls.

Studio Manager's selected channel view.Studio Manager's selected channel view.The Effect Editor is another major asset, as it enables on-screen editing of the appropriate effects parameters relating to each of the four effects processors. I have to say I preferred using this facility to the traditional method involving the desk's LCD screen in conjunction with the cursor buttons and dial wheel. Quicker, easier, and a lot less frustrating. Although rarely used in the studio after the installation phase, the System Setup page provides access to the console's configuration parameters. However, the inclusion of these facilities in the Studio Manager program allows the user to design and save desk configurations off-line, which could be handy in some situations. There are also pages for managing channel and effects setting libraries, as well as input and output routing.

Finally, a Timecode Counter can be recalled to display the system SMPTE/EBU timecode value in either a traditional hours:minutes:seconds:frames format, or in bars and beats. Given that a timecode read-out is otherwise only available via the LCD (even if the optional meterbridge is installed), the Studio Manager display will prove very useful to post-production folk and anyone using the mix automation.

So How Does It Perform?

After the ten-second bootup sequence, configuring the desk is a straightforward, if lengthy, process. There are a lot of user preference options to configure the way the desk works, the signal paths, metering, monitoring and so forth. The complexity is somewhat greater than previous generation desks, but that is hardly surprising given all the new facilities and processing capabilities.

I confused myself a few times with the fader and encoder modes — particularly the former, since the illuminated button which indicates the current fader mode is small, inconspicuous, and is at the other side of the desk if you're working with the first few faders. Generally, though, I picked up the desk's operation very quickly and found the availability of so many physical controls a real boon to getting work done. Whereas the original 02R lacked a professional air in terms of its styling and ergonomics, the new 02R96 is a lot more credible and stands up to comparison with high-end consoles far better.

The new console's mic amps are quite obviously quieter and smoother-sounding than its predecessor, and the A-D converters sound very good too, at both standard and elevated sample rates — a reflection of the advance in converter technology as much as anything. The majority of the channel processing facilities remain broadly as before, but there is a noticeable change to the EQ. While the Type I seems to sound the same as the rather curious algorithms of previous generation Yamaha consoles, the new Type II has a slightly softer, more refined and mellow quality — I wouldn't go as far as to suggest it was analogue sounding, but it is heading in that direction. How audible this improvement is seemed to depend on the source material, but in general I found I preferred the Type II sound for the majority of applications.

However, when I attempted to stack the two bottom or top bands on top of one another at the same frequency to achieve an exaggerated degree of high- or low-frequency cut, for example, a peculiar 'fold-over' effect occurred. As the amount of cut was increased in one band (the other already having maximum cut) the EQ curve suddenly began reversing direction, with clearly audible results. In the end, instead of the expected combined effect, the result was a pair of separate closely-spaced notches. Reverting to the Type I mode without changing the EQ settings restored the EQ curve to the expected condition. I presume this odd behaviour is an algorithm bug, and it only affects extreme EQ settings, so there is little cause for concern.

All other aspects of the desk are exactly as expected. Yamaha have a long track record in getting their designs right and, on the whole, the 02R96 is another testament to that. Everything seems to work just as required, the controls are grouped logically and the console status is fairly clear. The Studio Manager is a great asset in this context and, although not essential, it would be foolish to install an 02R96 without including the appropriate computer facilities.

A Worthy Successor

Many of the plus points of this new console are immediately obvious — features like higher input count, more aux sends, double the number of effects processors, uncompromised 96kHz operation, and so on. However, it is the more subtle operational advances which are most important. The provision of a lot more physical controls make the desk more intuitive, easier and quicker to use. The new touch-sensitive faders are a delight as well — nicely weighted, ideally spaced, quick, and quiet — and automation passes are easier and quicker too, with touch-sensitive write enabling on faders and many of the control knobs.

The target marketplace for the new 02R96 is much the same as for the original desk, but although the ethos of the original desk has been maintained — extensive functionality and good value for money — the new console provides a great deal more in the same space, and with improved audio quality. This is a very comprehensively equipped console — and not only has it taken advantage of the rapid development of DSP technology, but it has also been designed to accommodate all present and predicted operational requirements including high sample-rate support and surround sound mixing and monitoring. That Yamaha have listened to their vast customer base is obvious in the new user interface, which is so much more intuitive and immediate than the previous version — and that wasn't all that bad! The Studio Manager software extends the functionality and user-friendliness further still.

This console has been well worth the wait and will bring smiles to the faces of all those who find themselves sat in front of it. While it is still possible to nit-pick the ergonomics in a few places (and there may be a few minor gremlins in the initial operating system), the new control surface is leagues ahead of previous offerings and delightful to use. The ergonomic advantage enjoyed by the high-end digital console manufacturers is looking a lot more tenuous after the introduction of the 02R96, and there never was much of a technical advantage anyway! This new generation of console is redefining the quality/functionality/price ratio in just the same way as the previous generation. The king is dead — long live the king!

Options & Pricing

  • 02R96 digital mixer £7,799
  • MB02R96 meterbridge £949

ANALOGUE MINI YGDAI INTERFACES

  • MY8AD96 eight-channel 24-bit/96kHz analogue input card £349
  • MY8DA96 eight-channel 24-bit/96kHz analogue output card £319
  • MY8AD24 eight-channel 24-bit analogue input card £279
  • MY4DA four-channel 20-bit analogue output card £199
  • MY4AD four-channel 20-bit analogue input card £199

DIGITAL MINI YGDAI INTERFACES

  • MY8AE96 eight-channel AES-EBU 24-bit/96kHz I/O card £359
  • MY8AE96S eight-channel AES-EBU 24-bit/96kHz I/O card with sample-rate conversion £469
  • MY8AT eight-channel ADAT I/O card £209
  • MY8AE eight-channel AES-EBU I/O card £199
  • MY8TD eight-channel TDIF I/O card £199
  • MY8mLAN mLAN interface card £369

All prices include VAT.

Pros

  • Hugely expanded facilities compared to the original, with significantly improved mic preamps.
  • Better, more immediate control surface with Studio Manager software providing an excellent graphical user interface.
  • Full 96kHz support without losing channels.
  • Integral surround sound facilities.
  • Ideally spaced, nicely weighted faders.
  • Improved automation.
  • User-configurable function buttons.
  • Identical footprint to original.
  • Vertical and horizontal fader pairing.

Cons

  • Slight fan noise.
  • Studio Manager requires external computer.
  • No dedicated surround sound monitor outputs.
  • YGDAI interface cards from the 02R are not compatible with the 02R96's mini YGDAI slots.
  • Type II EQ algorithm anomaly when stacking two EQ bands for aggressive filtering.

Summary

One of the most popular digital consoles has just had one hell of a makeover! The all-new 02R96 shares little bar the size of its footprint with the original version, but brings considerably more facilities, a vastly improved control surface, far better sound quality, and full 96kHz and surround sound compatibility. If you don't lust after one by now, you're reading the wrong magazine!

information

See 'Options & Pricing' box.

Yamaha-Kemble Brochure Line +44 (0)1908 369269.

www.yamaha-music.co.uk

www.yamaha-music.com

Published October 2002