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Yamaha AW4416

Digital Audio Workstation By Hugh Robjohns
Published November 2000

Yamaha AW4416

Hugh Robjohns tries out the very first production unit of the AW4416 — Yamaha's eagerly awaited combination of O‑series digital mixer, hard disk recorder and sampler — and finds even more than he bargained for...

The debut of the Yamaha AW4416 was one of the highlights of the NAMM trade show in Los Angeles at the start of the year and, when I was allowed a sneak preview of a pre‑production model (see SOS September 2000), it already gave the impression of being phenomenally well‑specified. However, the completed AW4416, shipping as we speak to a retailer near you, brings with it a feature set which reads much like the spec of a television post‑production theatre that I was responsible for commissioning only a decade ago!

The mixer incorporates the essential internal gubbins of an O‑series mixer, with similar structure and facilities to the seemingly ubiquitous O2R, complete with its 32‑bit fixed‑point internal processing and 44‑bit equalisation algorithms. There are 44 mixing input channels available, each with four‑band parametric EQ and full dynamics facilities, and there are also plenty of output busses too: eight groups, eight auxes, a stereo master bus, a stereo solo bus, and direct outputs from 32 of the mixer channels. As with O‑series consoles, the AW4416 incorporates two multi‑effects processors based on the upgraded processors of the O1V mixer and with similar performance to the acclaimed Pro R3 unit. These can be driven from Auxes 7 and 8, or can be inserted into specific channels if required. Automation is equally as impressive, with with 96 scene memories per recorded Song and full moving‑fader dynamic automation which includes panning and EQ.

Eight analogue inputs and a stereo digital input are built in, with a further 16 analogue or digital inputs available by installing optional mini YGDAI cards (see 'Card Sharp' box) — a comprehensive input routing matrix allows fast and flexible allocation of inputs, playback tracks and internal effects returns to the available mixer input channels. In addition to the main stereo analogue and digital outputs, there are also four Omni outputs, to which any of the 18 output busses or direct outputs can be routed in manner similar to the 01V. In addition, 16 extra assignable outputs are available with appropriate mini YGDAI boards fitted.

The 16‑track recorder section allows you to record to all tracks simultaneously, storing the data to a completely standard internal 2.5‑inch, 12Gb EIDE drive. The audio is uncompressed and of a high quality, with 16‑ and 24‑bit resolutions supported at either 44.1 or 48kHz sampling rates — word clock inputs and outputs are provided to synchronise the internal clock with any other digital equipment you may have. Although there are only 16 playback tracks, you can store a total of 130 virtual tracks and there is also a stereo master track to which you can mix down, thereby obviating the need for a separate master recorder. An internal metronome is provided, to keep your playing in time with a programmable tempo map, and all the usual audio editing facilities are provided to comp up your best performances. Song data can be backed up over SCSI, though there is also the option to install a SCSI CD‑RW drive directly into the AW4416, which can be used not only for archiving purposes, but also for recording and playing back audio CDs.

As if all this were not enough, Yamaha have also thrown in a high‑quality eight‑voice sampler, capable of storing 16 different sounds totalling around 90 seconds in length. Eight trigger pads fire off the samples, which can be accessed through one of two banks. Finally, a dedicated, if simple, internal sequencer allows patterns of sample triggers to be manually created and replayed in sync with the audio tracks. And all of this is crammed into a neat box measuring only 558 x 148 x 460mm and weighing a little over 10kg!

Plug And Play

Even without any optional mini YGDAI boards fitted, the rear panel of the AW4416 carries a wide variety of socketry.Even without any optional mini YGDAI boards fitted, the rear panel of the AW4416 carries a wide variety of socketry.

Even without any optional mini YGDAI cards installed, the rear panel still sports a variety of audio I/O. The first two of the AW4416's built‑in analogue inputs are equipped with both XLR and TRS quarter‑inch sockets (the former with switchable, but shared, phantom power), as well as having unbalanced insert points on further TRS sockets, whereas the other six inputs are only equipped with balanced TRS input sockets. Nevertheless, these inputs all share the same gain range (set using pots at the top of the front panel), accommodating nominal input levels of between ‑46 and +4dBu. The eighth input has an additional unbalanced socket which provides a high‑impedance (500kΩ) interface suitable for electric guitars.

The built‑in stereo analogue outputs include the main outputs on ‑10dBV phono sockets, the monitor outputs on +4dBu balanced TRS sockets, and a headphones output on a quarter‑inch jack socket. In addition to these, there are four unbalanced mono quarter‑inch jack sockets, labelled Omni Out, which replace the more conventional dedicated auxiliary outputs — an idea first seen in the O1V. Omni signals are assigned through the output matrix (accessed from the Setup screen) and would typically be used to supply auxiliary, channel direct or disk outputs, extra cue feeds and so on — albeit only four at a time. There are a total of 50 different signals which can be allocated to the Omni Outputs, which makes it a very flexible facility.

Built‑in digital I/O on the AW4416 is limited to a pair of S/PDIF digital connectors, which provide stereo input and output. However, word clock input and output BNCs are also provided, allowing a high degree of integration with other digital equipment.

A trio of MIDI sockets is provided, though not in the usual configuration — here the Out and Thru sockets are combined (with software switching between them) and the third socket is used for an MTC Out which carries only synchronisation information. The AW4416 can be synchronised from or to an external sequencer (or other equipment) via MTC or MIDI Clock, but there is no provision for handling EBU/SMPTE timecode directly. Transport and track arming can be controlled through MMC from a sequencer or other system and the AW4416 can operate as either MMC master or slave. The To Host connector above the MIDI sockets provides a direct serial link to PC or Macintosh computers and negates the need for the usual MIDI leads. However, MTC is not transmitted over this link and so the dedicated MTC Out should be used in addition to the serial link if MTC sync is required.

Driving The SCSI bus

The optional CD‑RW drive can be installed directly within the casing of the AW4416.The optional CD‑RW drive can be installed directly within the casing of the AW4416.

The internal hard drive is mounted in a plug‑in cartridge which is secured into a rear‑panel slot with a couple of screws. The supplied 12Gb drive can be swapped with any similar approved drive with a capacity of up to 64Gb — separate drives could be used for different projects, for example. A 64Gb hard drive can store up to 30,000 Songs with the largest Song file occupying 6.4Gb of disk space. A Song file consists of two distinct sections: a fixed 2Mb portion stores information such as the Song name, the library files, and the scene and automation data, while the other portion contains the audio.

The problem with having an internal drive, and its associated cooling fan, is that this can cause considerable noise in some cases. Donning my anorak briefly and powering up my Terrasonde Audio Toolbox, I discovered that the AW4416 generates around 40dBA of noise at one metre — which, if broadband, would be pretty respectable. However, the hard drive tends to issue a narrow range of frequencies centred around 900Hz and I found this to be fatiguing after a while and difficult to exclude from acoustic recordings in the same room.

All of the Song file data recorded to the hard drive — audio, sample data, automation, effects libraries and so forth — can be exported and re‑imported through the onboard SCSI interface to any storage device compatible with SCSI 2. However, this is strictly for backup purposes — you cannot hang a string of SCSI drives off the back of the machine to increase the recording capacity, I'm afraid. If archiving a Song which exceeds the capacity of the particular SCSI media in use, the backup will automatically ask for a second volume and continue as necessary. However, once a backup or restore process is activated, it cannot be interrupted until finished — there is no background tasking capability.

The SCSI buss is also used to interface the optional internal CD‑RW drive, which is a very worthwhile addition and was installed in the review machine. The drive not only enables convenient archiving to cheap CD‑R or CD‑RW media, but also allows completed Song mixes to be mastered to a conventional red‑book format suitable for CD pressing plants. What's more, you can also use the drive to play back audio CDs and to import WAV files into the sampler.

When using the CD‑R for mastering, audio can be written in either the track‑at‑once or disc‑at‑once modes — the latter being required by CD pressing plants, as it avoids problems with block errors at the track boundaries. For disc‑at‑once sessions, an image file is created on the hard drive and so there must always be sufficient space remaining (typically 650Mb for a 75‑minute disc) to allow this. There is no sample‑rate conversion facility in the AW4416, so you have to make sure that any material destined for CD is recorded at a 44.1kHz sampling rate in the first place. However, 24‑bit recordings can be dithered to 16‑bit resolution during the stereo mixing process if required.

Through The Square Window...

Yamaha AW4416

The main window into the AW4416's wide range of functions is the large LCD screen, which will be immediately familiar to anyone who's used an O‑series console. This display provides a wealth of visual feedback for the mixing, recording and editing functions, and in much the same way as on the O2R. The four cursor keys and the Enter button at the far right of the unit are used to select and confirm on‑screen functions. However, a new feature which works extremely well here is a new row of five soft‑keys underneath the LCD. These provide direct access to different functions according to labels shown above them in the display. In addition, the adjacent Shift keys sometimes reveal further labels for less‑common functions on certain screens. For example, on the equalisation page, the Shift keys reveal soft assignments for flattening out one or all of the EQ bands.

To make using the operating system even easier, a serial mouse can be connected to the machine for screen navigation and parameter selection. I use this facility with my O3D and find it far faster and easier than using the cursor buttons, for most things. What's more, there are assignable rotary encoders to the right of the LCD which allow quick access to any channel's pan control and to the frequency, gain and Q controls for any individual EQ band — the adjacent buttons select the relevant band. There is an option to cause the appropriate EQ or panning display page to automatically appear as soon as one of these controls is moved.

A bright three‑colour fluorescent display above the transport controls complements the LCD window, providing clear timer and metering displays. Absolute, relative or remaining time can be displayed as Time (hours, minutes, seconds and milliseconds), Timecode (hours, minutes, seconds and frames), or Measures (bars and beats). The bar‑graph metering is switchable for a 60dB (normal) or 26dB (fine) metered range, and indicators below each meter show which tracks are armed and which are switched to input‑monitor status. Information across the top of the display notifies the user of the current scene memory, the sample rate, and the synchronisation settings and status.

The left hand side of the console contains an array of 24 buttons designed to speed up navigation around the operating system. Three‑quarters of them relate to the mixer functions, providing access to the various fader pages, aux sends, EQ, dynamics, panning and routing, and channel overview screens. The row of buttons above these access the nitty‑gritty configuration details of the machine and, once set, the buttons will rarely be touched. A Setup button calls up a series of pages to determine the input and output patching, word clocking, dithering and so forth. The File key provides the means to back up and restore Songs, as well as dealing with the management of external SCSI storage devices, whilst the Utility button accesses such functions as an internal line‑up oscillator and various user preference settings. The fourth button accesses a MIDI screen for configuring the manner in which MIDI controllers and synchronisation data are sent and received via the rear‑panel MIDI sockets.

However, it is the top four buttons which are the really important ones, encompassed in a section headed Work Navigate. The Song button allows the user to create new Song files and manipulate previous ones. You also have to go through this page to shut the machine down, forcing you to save or discard your work. The Quick Rec key provides a speedy method to assign eight‑channel blocks of inputs to the recorder's 16 tracks, so that you can quickly get on with the job of recording. Once tracks have been recorded and a satisfactory stereo mix created, the button labelled Mastering provides the means to transfer the finished stereo track to the optional internal CD‑RW drive. The last of these four buttons is labelled CD Play and allows audio CDs to be accessed and played from the CD‑RW drive, for example if you wish to load samples into the sample pads.

Inside The Mixer

The user interface of the AW4416 has been made very quick to use by the inclusion of soft function keys below the display and assignable pan and EQ rotary encoders to the side. The screen visible in the display is the main track view.The user interface of the AW4416 has been made very quick to use by the inclusion of soft function keys below the display and assignable pan and EQ rotary encoders to the side. The screen visible in the display is the main track view.

The structure of the basic mixing signal path within the AW4416 is fairly logical, but retains considerable flexibility, and is very similar to that of the O‑series desks. The signals from the physical analogue and digital inputs, plus the outputs from the two internal effects processors, the eight sampling pads and the internal metronome, all arrive at a virtual input‑patching matrix, from whence they can be allocated to the various channels on the mixing console. The stereo digital input can be configured to feed the stereo bus directly, forming a cascade connection if required, and the signals feeding the 16 recorder tracks can be selected to be any of the eight group‑buss outputs or any of the direct outputs from the first 16 channels.

The hard disk tracks and the CD‑RW drive have dedicated monitoring channels in the mixer and so require no routing matrix. However, the console output busses and channel direct outputs do require a further routing matrix to route them to the various output ports. For both routing matrices, frequently used signal‑routing paths can be defined and stored in a library as part of the Song file, for instant recall at a later time.

The notional signal path for each of the 24 main inputs begins with an internal insert point, which can access either of the internal effects processors, or an external effects processor — all you have to do is allocate a spare output to send to it and a spare input to return from it. Following the insert point is a digital attenuator and a phase‑invert switch — the former can be adjusted to avoid audio clipping of high‑level signals within Yamaha's fixed‑point equalisation DSP.

Next in the signal path is the four‑band parametric equaliser, each band of which can provide ±18dB of gain at any frequency between 21Hz and 20.1kHz, with Q variable between values of 0.1 and 10 — however, the Q controls of the outer bands also provide options for shelving and filtering curves. Together these facilities provide plenty of flexibility, while retaining good resolution. A point made frequently about Yamaha's equalisation (and that of many other digital console manufacturers as well), is that it often seems necessary to dial in considerably more gain to achieve a certain audible effect than would have been the case with an analogue console. The prevailing theory appears to be that phase shifts — or rather the lack of them in digital equalisers — are to blame for this curious effect but, whatever the cause, the AW4416 equalisers share the same characteristics as those in Yamaha's O‑series digital consoles.

The dynamics section has algorithms including compression, limiting, expansion, gating, companding and ducking. The processor can be keyed from before or after the equaliser, or from any other channel, and there is a very comprehensive range of user‑adjustable parameters to play with. Like the equalisation, Yamaha's dynamics processing is technically and mathematically accurate, but often needs to be driven far harder to achieve a certain level of audible effect than might be expected. Both the equaliser and dynamics sections allow the user to store libraries of favourite settings which can be recalled and stored at the press of a button.

To complete the channel there is a precision delay line (up to 59ms with single‑sample resolution), followed by the channel fader, pan control and routing switches. One significant departure from the larger O‑series consoles is that the AW4416 has no provision at all for surround‑sound panning or monitoring – mono or stereo is all that is on offer. The channel direct output can be derived pre‑EQ or pre/post‑fader, though this output is not available for the last eight inputs. Eight aux sends are available, each individually switchable for either pre‑ or post‑fader operation.

The 16 monitor channels for the recorder have exactly the same resources as the main input channels, except that the direct output is fixed pre‑EQ. Depending on the recorder's monitoring status, these channels will carry either the disk replay signals or the input signals. However, if the stereo master track associated with the Song is selected for playback, it feeds tracks 1 and 2 whilst 3‑16 are automatically muted.

The two effects return channels normally employed by the internal effects processors can be reallocated to accommodate other input sources if required, but they do not have dynamics processing or direct outputs, and only offer restricted access to Auxes 7 and 8 (to avoid feedback howlround, as these auxes normally feed the inputs to the effects processors).

The main stereo output has similar signal processing facilities to the main inputs, along with an insert point just prior to the master output fader. However, the group and auxiliary busses are devoid of any signal‑processing facilities.

Here, There & Everywhere

The bank of buttons at the left‑hand side of the AW4416 form the base from which setup, utility and mixer functions are accessed. The lower 12 of these determine which parameters are currently controlled by the 16 channel faders.The bank of buttons at the left‑hand side of the AW4416 form the base from which setup, utility and mixer functions are accessed. The lower 12 of these determine which parameters are currently controlled by the 16 channel faders.

The faders of the AW4416 may be short‑throw 60mm versions, rather than the full‑length types employed in the O2R, but these have quieter and more precise servo control characteristics than any of the O‑series desks, which is a very worthwhile improvement. They comprise a main stereo output fader and 16 assignable faders which can access and control signals organised onto one of three main layers. With inputs 1‑16 selected, the faders nominally handle the eight fixed analogue inputs and those from the first optional card slot. The 17‑24 page promotes the second optional YGDAI card inputs to the first eight faders with the next six faders being held against the back stop by their motors. On this fader page channels 15 and 16 control the internal effects return levels. The third fader page is labelled Moni and accesses the monitor returns from the sixteen hard disk tracks.

Above each fader are the familiar On (mute) and Sel (assign) buttons, the latter recalling the relevant channel's details to the LCD display. The channel solo facilities are similar to those found on Yamaha's other digital consoles, with the On button doubling as a Solo button once you've activated the Solo mode button to the right of the master fader. It sounds a little cumbersome, but works well enough in practice, particularly because the Solo mode button is now in a sensible place — O‑series desks have it tucked away in a corner somewhere!

The logic of the solo mode can be selected to be either PFL, AFL or destructive in‑place solo, and the action of the individual Solo buttons can be made exclusive, where only one channel can be soloed at a time. Channels used for signals such as effects returns can be made safe from muting when the mixdown solo mode is active. Fader grouping and mute grouping (each with four groups available) and fader pairing are all available and operate exactly as you'd expect.

The monitoring system, for the headphone and balanced monitor outputs, is quite elaborate and defaults to duplicating the signal at the main stereo output. However, this is overridden by any soloed channels and these are further overridden when recorder tracks are selected for cue monitoring using the recorder section's Cue button in conjunction with the Rec Track Select buttons. If the metronome is selected, clicks will be mixed in at a user‑determined level on top of whatever else is being auditioned.

Double Act

The internal mixer automation will be familiar to anyone who has worked on O‑series mixers, and combines static and dynamic facilities to powerful effect.The internal mixer automation will be familiar to anyone who has worked on O‑series mixers, and combines static and dynamic facilities to powerful effect.

Two effects processors are available within the AW4416, derived from those first seen in the O1V — and jolly good they are too! All the usual reverbs, delays and modulation effects are here, along with a rotary speaker simulator, various amp and distortion models, plus much more besides. These Yamaha effects might not be worthy competition for high‑end Lexicon or TC Electronic machines, but they are certainly very usable and flexible and will keep most users very happy most of the time. Of course, if you happen to have an old Lexicon 480L system in the corner of your room then integrating it with the AW4416 signal paths (either in addition to the internal effects or in place of them), is very easy thanks to the input and output patching matrices.

The internal effects processors can be configured in two ways. The usual arrangement is with each processor picking up its input from the Aux 7 or Aux 8 buss, returning the processed signals via the dedicated channels to the stereo or group busses. This setup allows multiple input channels to share each effect processor at levels determined by their respective aux sends — the ideal arrangement for reverbs and the like.

However, there is an alternative mode which allows a processor to be inserted into a specific channel — any of the 24 inputs, the 16 track monitors, the two nominal effects return channels, or the stereo output. This is often more appropriate for effects such as chorus, flanging, or rotary speaker and amplifier modelling. The reconfiguration for this is a little long‑winded as an effects processor has to be deselected from its default allegiance to Aux 7 or 8 (through the input patching screen) and allowed to roam free as an insertable effect. Then, from the appropriate channel, monitor or output view page, the required effects processor can be switched into the signal path. Bear in mind, though, that the processors are of a mono‑in, stereo‑out design, so inserting one into a stereo channel will sum the audio to mono before it reaches the effect, even though the output of the effect may still be stereo.

Recording Real Estate

Yamaha AW4416

The disk recorder controls are all grouped on the right hand side of the machine, with conventional transport buttons at the bottom. A numeric keypad and various locate keys are situated below a large dual‑concentric Jog/Shuttle/Data wheel in the centre of the panel. The top half carries the individual track record‑enable buttons with a couple of recorder mode buttons and the dynamic automation and scene memory facilities. The timer and metering display completes this side of the machine, with its two associated buttons to switch the meter peak‑hold mode on and to select absolute or relative timing in the display. A red LED above these two buttons illuminates during disk read/write activity.

The red Rec Track Select buttons perform the obvious task of arming tracks for recording, with buttons for all 16 tracks plus the stereo master track. However, when the Track Cue button to their left is pressed, they also serve to select specific tracks for independent auditioning, overriding the previous monitoring signal. An All Safe button cancels any previous track arming.

As already mentioned, the recording resolution can be selected between 16‑ and 24‑bit, and the sampling rate set to 44.1 or 48kHz , but the bigger the numbers, the shorter the recording time. With the standard 12Gb drive you can store around 90 minutes of 16‑track audio, though the actual continuous 16‑track recording time will be around half this, because of the 6.4Gb maximum Song size. The data rate on and off the EIDE drive is sufficient to permit up to 16 tracks to be recorded simultaneously, though the number of tracks that can be played back while recording varies depending on both the number of tracks being recorded and the Song's bit resolution. For example, when recording eight simultaneous tracks at 24‑bit resolution, this only leaves sufficient data throughput for a further eight tracks of replay — however, this is perfectly adequate for most overdubbing and track‑bouncing operations, so I don't suppose that will upset too many users.

Immediately below the track arming buttons, under a Recorder banner, a pair of keys are labelled Track and Edit. The first of these accesses a page which shows a graphical representation of the recorded tracks, and from which virtual track assignments can be made. The second recalls a page from which tracks can be edited. Over to the right a pair of Undo/Redo buttons allow sixteen previous recording or editing operations to be cancelled or reinstated.

The main track display is in the form of a table presenting the track number, name, recording source, and selected virtual track. Above the table there is information concerning the Song title, the sample rate and bit resolution, and the tempo and time signature. The right‑hand part of the screen shows a series of horizontal bars indicating the periods of time when the corresponding track was in record

The available virtual tracks are configured as 16 clusters of eight, all effectively layered underneath one another. These virtual tracks can be selected for record or replay as necessary through the corresponding output, although switching between virtual tracks can not be done on the fly, unfortunately. The advantage of these virtual tracks is that multiple takes can be recorded and then the best version (or the best bits from multiple takes edited into a composite track) can be used in the final mix. There is also a stereo track associated with the Song to record the final master mixdown.

Razor Bladerunner

The Edit button allows audio material recorded on the drive to be manipulated and edited at all levels, from moving or deleting complete Songs, entire tracks, individual takes or selected regions within individual tracks. The process is very straightforward with a variety of commands depending on the scale of the edit. For example, at Track‑editing level the available command options include Erase, Copy, Exchange (swapping the audio between two tracks) and Slip (moving a track in time relative to the others). At the Region‑editing level the options are expanded to include Delete, Move, Divide, and Trim. Time‑compression and expansion, and pitch‑shifting are also available to help make that elusive 'best take' fit into the available space or tuning. These commands are sufficient to permit quite sophisticated editing when tidying up recordings or comp'ing vocal tracks. All editing is non‑destructive with 15 levels of undo/redo.

The Rewind, Forward‑wind, Stop, Play and Record transport controls are all pretty standard and operate in the expected manner. For example, double pressing the fast wind keys doubles the winding speed from eight times the play speed to 16 times. Holding Play while pressing Rec during playback creates a punch‑in, and hitting Play when recording punches out, but continues the playback. A socket on the rear panel caters for a footswitch to toggle between Play and Stop, or to manually punch in and out — a very important facility on a machine of this type.

In addition to the chunky transport buttons, the AW4416 includes a jog/shuttle dial, the inner ring of which normally acts to change the selected parameter in the current display page. However, when the Jog On button is pressed, this dial operates as a fine nudge control for the current time position. While in Jog mode, the AW4416 repeatedly plays a short audio section, whose length is selectable between 25 and 800 milliseconds, either directly before or directly after the current time position, so this facility is invaluable for locating precise edit or cue points. The outer Shuttle wheel operates as a variable‑speed wind/rewind control, spanning the range from 0.25x to 16x speeds in either direction. However, when the Jog mode is active it acts instead as a coarse nudge control.

A waveform display can be accessed from the main track view page, and this can be useful for finding exact edit points visually, particularly when editing regions for assigning to the sample pads. This display is scrolled using the rotary dial, and the view can be zoomed both horizontally and vertically. Once you've found the spot you're after, you can locate the current time position to that place for editing purposes and return to the main display. However, there is no facility to enter Jog mode for audio scrubbing while in the waveform display, which limits its usefulness a little.

The numeric keypad consists of an array of sixteen buttons most of which are dual‑function, though still fairly intuitive in use. For example, the button labelled RTZ returns the recording to the user‑definable zero position; Num Locate allows a numerical value to be entered as a locate point, using either the numeric keys or the Jog dial; and Mark stores the current position as a Mark point, enabling quick navigation around your Song using a pair of Mark Search buttons.

Two keys labelled Last Rec In and Out locate to the position at which the corresponding action occurred, while A and B keys provide a further pair of locate memories. The current time values can be stored under the A, B, In, Out and RTZ buttons by first pressing the Set key.

The A and B locators can be used in conjunction with the Repeat button to define a playback loop. The Auto Punch button enables an automated record pass to be made between the In and Out times (with user‑definable pre‑roll and post‑roll around the recording). Pressing Play with Auto Punch selected provides a rehearsal mode; pressing Play and Record commits to a recording pass.

Finally, a couple of useful buttons either side of the RTZ key provide instant access to the start or end of the Song and the Roll Back key rewinds a short amount — normally five seconds but determinable in one of the preferences menus.

Behind The Scenes

The scene memory and automation systems of the AW4416 are similar to those of the larger O‑series desks and are controlled through six buttons under the track‑arming keys. The dynamic automation menus are accessed by pressing the Automix button, whilst the scene memory screens appear when the Scene button is pressed. A row of four keys immediately below these recall and store scene memories selected by a pair of up/down buttons. The current scene number is always displayed in the top right hand corner of the meter display, and the numerical sequence of the saved scenes can be reordered, enabling them to be recalled in a specific order — useful in theatre or live sound applications.

Setting up an automix pass from the relevant page is simply a case of highlighting the required parameters — faders, mutes, pan controls and EQ controls. Absolute or relative fader positioning and the ending mode (Stop or Return) can be selected as appropriate. An Auto‑rec button allows the automation system to jump into record as soon as the Song playback starts and the write‑enabled channels can then be adjusted (the channel Sel buttons perform write‑enabling when Automix is active). At the end of each pass a screen message asks whether to save the acquired fader, mute, pan and EQ moves. Minor mistakes can be sorted out through both real‑time and off‑line automation‑editing facilities. All in all, the automation system is both logical and effective — building a busy mix presented no problems and was surprisingly quick and easy to do.

MIDI program change and control change messages, for example from an external sequencer, can be assigned to operate a wide variety of features in the console, including the scene memories. However, Yamaha recommend using the internal automix facilities for complicated automation passes, simply because of the amount of data that would have to be transferred to and from the sequencer.

Session Notes

Despite its powerful facilities, getting to grips with the AW4416 is far from daunting. Okay, so it's not exactly trivial either, but I found I was recording and overdubbing tracks within a few minutes of turning the machine on for the first time. I have to say that being an O3D owner gave me an advantage when approaching the AW4416 for the first time — I was able to find my way around most of this machine without ever needing to refer to the manuals. However, even if you're not familiar with the O‑series mixers, getting to grips with everything will not take long — the three handbooks (Operational, Reference and Tutorial) are written very clearly with a logical progression through the facilities and plenty of appropriate technical detail.

Yamaha deserve considerable praise for making the effort to address the issue of the novice faced with a professional‑standard recorder and mixer for the first time. A pre‑recorded demo Song is available on a CD‑ROM and can be uploaded to the hard drive as example material for the Tutorial. This leads the user carefully through the whole process of refining the original recorded sound of individual instruments, building a rough mix, dialling in suitable effects, and then working up an automated mix. It even covers the processes of mastering the finished stereo track to CD‑R with some excellent advice, hints and tips. After working through the Tutorial, everyone should be able to achieve results of a high standard with the AW4416.

Navigating the operating system is made considerably more bearable by the soft keys and assignable controls, though the on‑screen keyboard used for titling Songs and tracks is much more palatable when using a serial mouse. In spite of this, I still think that it is fair to say that the AW4416 is fundamentally very intuitive to use.

Another important point to make here is that the stability of the AW4416's operating system was exemplary during the time I had the unit for review — it didn't crash once, and when you take into account that this is the first software release version for a feature‑packed all‑in‑one workstation, this is pretty impressive. What's more, tying the AW4416 up with a sequencer was very simple and I had no problems at all in locking it to a Cubase VST system.

If I have any niggles at all with the machine it is over the acoustic noise generated by the internal hard drive and fan – especially the hard drive. I know this is inevitable given the nature of the device, but it is still a little noisier than I would really like. Having said that, I don't think most potential purchasers of the AW4416 will find the acoustic noise much of a problem in practice, and the old duvet trick works well. But if you were planning your first session to be a solo album of pianissimo lute music I would buy a footswitch with a very long lead!

You Are Really Spoiling US, Ambassador...

I think it is worth taking a moment out to think about the fact that just over two and a half thousand pounds will now buy you a complete, professional‑quality recording and mastering package in a very compact and convenient box! A decade ago the equipment necessary to provide similar facilities at a comparable quality would have set you back well over ten times as much and probably would have filled the room! Sometimes it is too easy to take the advance of technology for granted...

The AW4416 is a fabulous machine. It does pretty much everything you could possibly want it to, with minimal fuss and plenty of flexibility. Everything about it exudes quality, from the quiet mic preamps to the versatile effects processors, and from the solid physical controls to the clear menu screens. It is remarkably fast and easy to use, it sounds wonderful, the mixer is superbly powerful, and you can master your album directly onto a red‑book CD all in the same machine. Ever since playing with the preview model, I've been trying to come up with a plausible reason for the wife as to why I have to have one. Do you think Yamaha would notice if I forgot to send it back?

Card Sharp

The AW4416's two I/O option slots use the same mini YGDAI cards that can be found in units such as the O1V, which means that there are currently six to choose from. If you're looking for digital connectivity, there is the MY8AT ADAT optical card, the MY8TD TDIF card, and the MY8AE AES‑EBU card — all of these provide eight‑channel input and output. The analogue options include both four‑ and eight‑channel A‑D cards (MY4AD and MY8AD), and a four‑channel D‑A (MY4DA).

A Sample Of What's On Offer

The built‑in sampling section is a luxury which many will find extremely useful. The eight finger pads below the LCD panel are not velocity sensitive, but I don't think that is going to worry anyone unduly! The samples are organised into one of two memory banks accessed by an A/B selector button, and to the right of the eighth pad there is a button labelled Edit which recalls a menu allowing sounds to be imported from various sources, assigned to appropriate buttons and trimmed as necessary.

Sampled sounds can be derived from the audio on a pre‑recorded CD (if the optional CD‑R/RW drive is installed), from material on the hard drive, or from standard WAV files imported through the SCSI port or from a sample CD‑ROM. Total sample memory amounts to 8Mb, which works out to around 90 seconds at 44.1kHz, 16 bit.

The triggering of sampler pads can be recorded in a simple sequencer integrated with the recorder. There are crude but effective facilities here to copy and repeat portions of a sequence, allowing a complex pattern to be constructed in sync with recorded audio on the hard disk — however, this is perfectly adequate to create drum loops and the like.

Taking On The Competition

There are a number of competitors for the AW4416 in the digital audio workstation market at the moment. Firstly there is Roland's VS1880, the new flagship of their pioneering VS range. This was reviewed in SOS July 2000, retailing at just under £2900 for a fully expanded model, complete with optional second effects board and proprietary CD‑RW drive. Korg's D16 provided the first 16‑track competition to the VS brand (see SOS February 2000), and retails at £1499 — however, you'd be looking at spending a couple of hundred pounds more once you add an external SCSI CD‑RW drive to go with it. The same applies to the Akai DPS16, (reviewed in SOS September 2000 and retailing at £1700 complete with optional effects board), which also has CD‑writing capability to external SCSI drives.

However, although all these systems are very good in their own ways, none can really match the AW4416 in terms of its mixer features and functionality — the routing flexibility, the powerful automation, and the sheer quantity of equalisation and dynamics processors. On the other hand, the Yamaha doesn't offer as much multi‑effects processing as the competition, and its waveform display has no audio scrub which limits its usefulness during editing.


  • Near‑ideal feature set.
  • Fast and intuitive to use.
  • Superb audio quality.
  • Optional CD‑RW drive.
  • SCSI archive facilities.
  • Configurable interfaces.
  • Rattle‑free motorised faders.


  • The inevitable hard drive whine could be frustrating.
  • No facility to record directly to external SCSI devices.


Professional‑quality hard disk recorder and fully integrated digital mixer with O‑series facilities. Extremely fast and easy to use, with powerful signal processing, versatile signal routing, familiar static and dynamic automation and an eight‑voice sampler thrown in. A complete professional studio package at a home‑studio price.