There's much more to this mixer than meets the eye, thanks to some cleverly incorporated digital technology.
The MGP-series mixers were introduced by Yamaha last year, and I have used both the 24‑ and 32‑channel versions on several occasions on the Yamaha and Sound On Sound live road tour. During that tour, a number of people expressed particular interest in the idea that the MGP desks were candidates to replace existing analogue setups without commiting to a fully digital solution, and I think that's exactly what this range is aimed at.
In very basic terms, the MGP32X is a 32‑channel, four‑bus analogue board with a whole host of digital signal processing built right in — far more than you'd expect on a 'traditional' analogue desk — with six auxiliary sends on each channel and the ability to play and record from and to a USB stick. Construction‑wise, the MGP32X seems pretty well put together, and I speak as one who has carried it in and out of several venues and accompanied it over many miles around the country! It's a neat and compact mixer, and very much in the classic Yamaha visual style — which, personally, I like a lot. Its appearance is deceptively simple, because although it looks like your usual analogue mixer, it has very much more on offer.
Channels 1 through 24 have mono microphone inputs on XLR and balanced line‑level jacks, plus an insert jack, all on the rear panel. Channels 25 to 32 are stereo pairs (that's 28 input faders in all), and are equipped with pairs of balanced TRS jacks and unbalanced RCA phono inputs. I like the inclusion of the RCA sockets because it just provides that extra bit of flexibility and saves the need to carry a pocketful of adaptors around to every gig. All the input and output connectors are neatly out of sight on the rear panel, which I personally much prefer over the alternative 'top‑panel arboretum' approach.
The best way of exploring an analogue mixer is to roughly follow the signal path from input to output, admiring the scenery as you go, so let's begin at the mono inputs. All mono input channels are equipped with Yamaha D‑Pre high‑gain Class‑A discrete preamps, which employ an inverted Darlington transistor circuit. Each channel has individually switched 48V phantom power and a 26dB attenuator pad, which increases the operating input range of the front end to cater for almost anything you'd reasonably expect to feed into it. There's also a 100Hz low‑cut filter, which I tended to leave switched in on every channel except kick drum and bass. Sixteen of the mono channels, starting at channel 9, are equipped with Yamaha's simple but highly effective 'one knob' compressor, and a single yellow rotary control and a single LED indicator are all you need to bring a fully automatic compressor into play on the these channels. It's something you'd have to use carefully in a live‑sound context, but can be very useful for smoothing the peaks away from particularly dynamic or unpredictable sources, or for flattening out speech content, so long as you're operating well below the overall system gain/feedback point. Because all the parameters are under automatic control, all that's needed is to dial in as much compression as is required — usually to the point where the LED flashes on the loudest signals only — and the job is done.
The EQ section is something Yamaha call X‑pressive EQ, and its characteristics are modelled after vintage analogue circuits. It is certainly smooth and even, and is exceptionally easy to use. The mono channels have a standard three‑band EQ with a swept mid section, and I know that the frequency control is smooth and even across the range, because I spent quite a long time during the Road Tour demonstrating the effect of the controls using a spectrum analyser display. Personal taste does, of course, enter into the debate about how 'musical' (or not) an EQ sounds, but all I can say is that I was very happy working the MGP32X across a range of musical styles. It is predictable and forgiving, yet has a sharp enough mid curve to assist with taming most venue‑related issues without knocking out most of the audio material (though there is graphic EQ available and DSP output filtering in the master section as well). A nice touch is that the swept mid band is also included on some of the stereo channels (29‑32), so only the two control strips for channels 25/26 and 27/28 have slightly reduced functionality, with a fixed middle band.
The MGP32X provides six auxiliary bus feeds from every channel, and they can be configured as six external sends or as four external sends plus two internal effects sends. Pre/post switching is applied in pairs for auxes 1/2 and 3/4, and auxes 5/6 are always post‑fader. All six sends have master controls and AFL monitor buttons over on the right in the master section, and the effects outputs can be applied to these buses. A total of six sends (albeit only four potential pre‑fader ones) should be enough for most live applications, and the option to defeat the dedicated internal effects routing is an attractive feature — I suspect most users will find the on‑board effects more useful than the extra pair of external aux feeds, but the option is there if needed.
Each channel fader is accompanied by several routing switches that dictate the destination of the channel output. As the MGP32X is a 32:4:2-format desk, the signal can be sent to any or all of the four subgroups and also the main mix bus. Although the subgroup mixes can be sent on to the main output, they can also act as independent output buses, which appear on back-panel connectors, so the MGP32X can operate as a 32‑into‑6 mixer if required. There's a large and obvious channel on/off button for each channel: as with all Yamaha mixers, the convention is to switch the channel off if no output to any bus is required, which is in effect the same as muting it, so when this button is lit up the channel is live, and when it's not there is no output sent to any buses, including auxiliaries. I prefer conventional mute buttons, but this arrangement works fine too. It would have been nice to have 100mm faders, but the 60mm ones here operate smoothly without any digging or sticking, and have a solid enough feel.
Stereo channels 25/26 and 27/28 are straightforward strips for introducing stereo line sources to the mix, but channels 29/30 and 31/32 are switchable to control the USB and iPod sources, and are able to perform extra tricks: ducking, levelling and stereo‑image adjustment. Any input up to channel 24 can act as the ducker's trigger source, which is used to dip the material coming via these stereo channels. Used in conjunction with the leveller control it's possible to achieve a well‑balanced and effective result when announcements or a DJ must take precedence over an already playing track, without having to alter any existing levels, and the leveller is useful on its own for automatically evening out different playback tracks.
The stereo image control is a handy tool for bringing the stereo width of a pre‑recorded track more in line with the venue, such as when audience members are spread out to the sides and may not hear a decent balance. There are three settings: 'stereo' does nothing and the input image is passed as‑is to the output buses; 'blend' narrows the width a little; and 'mono' creates a simple mono output by combining left and right input channels.
The main stereo bus is controlled by a single fader, and there's also a mono output which has an adjustable low‑pass filter for connection to a subwoofer, accessed via the DSP section. The stereo and mono outputs, and all six aux buses, have balanced XLR output connectors, and the group outputs appear as balanced TRS jacks. The rear panel is stuffed full of I/O, but everything is well labelled and sensibly spaced out so that it's obvious where everything is, and easy to access individual connectors even when everything is plugged in. For even more flexibility, any of the four group or main stereo outputs can be mixed to two independent mono matrix outputs, which appear on TRS jacks, and the monitor section is also output on TRS jacks, adding to the impressive number of options provided by the MGP32X.
Many functions within the MGP32X are accessed via the digital display section. Here you can control all the DSP functions using a bank of selector buttons and a pair of rotary encoders, and although you can only access one section at a time, it's an easy process and shouldn't cause any problems for users migrating from an all‑analogue setup — in effect it's just like adjusting various outboard processors, but instead of having them in an external rack, they're all under your fingertips in the display section.
The MGP32X is equipped with two sets of large, clear, dual LED‑ladder meters which can operate in two modes: either as stereo output meter plus monitor bus (over‑ridden by any PFL/AFL selections), or as group bus output meters. When using the MGP32X on tour I spent much of the time standing to the side of it, to the left of channel 1, and it was easy to read the meters even from that angle.
The graphic EQ section is applied to the master L/R bus and offers a choice of either a straight 14‑band EQ, or a nine‑band selective EQ, which allows gain adjustment of nine selected bands within the whole range. Some user presets are built in but you can (and almost certainly will) create and save your own, ready for use next time you're back to do that gig. Independent left and right channel editing is possible, but they can, of course, be linked.
A useful little gem lies within this section, and provides a quick way of finding potential feedback frequencies and applying some remedial adjustments. The two rotary controls are used to set a frequency point and then apply a gain offset at that frequency. Then, by a simple process of setting a positive gain offset and sweeping through the frequency range, feedback hotspots can be picked out and then dealt with by simply reducing the offset gain at that point. Simple, effective, and once again, highly practical.
One of the very best features of the MGP32X is the dual effects section, which contains two separate engines (Yamaha Rev‑X and SPX) that can be used singly or together to create effect combinations. Each effects path has a dedicated return fader in the master section, and detailed parameter adjustment is possible using the screen and encoders. I've always liked Yamaha Rev‑X and SPX processors, and it's great to have them both built in to this desk, ready to deploy with no additional patching or having to reuse other return channels. For most of my live work I stick to simple reverbs and delays, and there are some very nice‑sounding treatments available here. What is impressive about the MGP32X setup is its flexibility. For example, there's a blend control, for sending one effect into the other, and the effect returns can be assigned to the group buses as well as the main stereo mix.
In addition to the one‑knob compressors on 16 of the mono input channels, the MGP32X has a master compressor section that allows more detailed adjustment of various parameters. There are two compressors available ('normal' and three‑band), and they operate on the man stereo output bus. Three preset programmes are built in to cover most basic setups, but you can also save five more user programmes. Having a good compressor with this level of functionality and control integrated into the mixer is an excellent feature of the MGP32X, and this one is easy to use and offers enough control for most requirements. As with the channel compressors, a 'just enough and no more' approach is advisable for live sound; I tend mostly to use master compressors as soft limiters with no make‑up gain, especially if someone other than me is driving my rig.
The MGP32X can record the stereo or matrix buses directly to a USB memory stick, or use one as a playback source either into channels 29/30, or directly into the stereo bus. Standard WAV and MP3 files can be recorded and played, and the USB connection is compatible with external hard disks or pen drives, although it's always a good idea to check compatibility with your chosen device before the event. I found that playback and recording was stable and reliable, and the transport controls are just like on a stand-alone recorder.
At live events I'm often asked if I can record a band's set, and I'm presented with all kinds of devices — but these are almost never accompanied by the necessary connecting leads, so the ability to simply capture the mix on a stick solves all that and leads to more happy customers. In terms of playback options, the MGP32X also has a dedicated iPod/iPhone input connection, which can be routed for direct stereo playback or controlled via channel 31/32.
For iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch users, there is also the MGP Editor app, which can be downloaded from the iTunes store. This offers user‑friendly editing access to many DSP settings within the MGP32X, which many will prefer to using the display section controls.
In mixer terms, the MGP32X occupies a place between analogue and digital which could be the perfect answer to those seeking analogue‑style channel control with the convenience and power of digital processing. I'm tempted to say that it represents the best of both worlds, as all the familiar channel‑strip controls are there with no need to use the digital 'select and adjust' method, and practically all the expected master section DSP is there too. Apart from software routing and channel‑based DSP, the MGP32X provides many features normally only found on digital mixers, and from what I've seen, all this is implemented in an effective, stable and practical design. It's hard to see how Yamaha could have put any more features into this product, and for sheer convenience and flexibility, it's impossible to fault. For my money, it's one of the most practical 'go anywhere' mixers I've come across, and for anyone tempted by digital bells and whistles but still wanting analogue‑style interaction, the MGP32X has got to be at the top of your things‑to‑try list.
All the major manufacturers, including Mackie, Allen & Heath, Soundcraft and Behringer, offer competing mixers, but the feature sets between them vary massively.
- Massive feature set.
- Easy access to detailed DSP settings.
- USB playback and recording.
- Ability to store graphic EQ and other settings.
- I wish it had 100mm faders.
- I'd prefer channel mute buttons rather than on/off buttons.
A hugely flexible yet easy-to-use console that provides far more features than a typical analogue desk.
Yamaha UK +44 (0)8448 111116.
Yamaha +1 714 522 9011.