Yamaha QL5--First Impressions

Photo courtesy of Yamaha.

Photo courtesy of Yamaha.

The Yamaha QL. It’s a console that I’ve been interested in since we first saw it at InfoComm in June. Unveiled without a lot of fanfare, it appears to be a replacement for the LS9. Or maybe the M7. Yamaha hasn’t said that, and both those consoles are still for sale. It is definitely the little brother to the CL series. 

Based on the same basic architecture as the CL, the QL is sort of the Toyota to the CL’s Lexus. The QL has essentially the same drivetrain, but the interior is value engineered. Whereas the CL is mostly useless without a Rio box or two, the QL houses 32 inputs and 16 outputs on the surface. The CL can mix 72 mono plus 8 stereo channels and the QL can do 64/8. The CL has a total of 35 mix busses, and the QL has 27. They both have 16 DCAs and 8 mute groups. They can both use Dante to access Rios and other Dante devices. 

I should mention here that throughout this article, I am referring to the QL5 and CL5. There are other variants with similar features, but reduced channel count. But here, we’er talking 5’s. The CL has more controls on the surface, including the 8 fader CentralLogic bank. The QL makes do with 32 faders plus 2. The 2 are by default Stereo & Mono, but can be customized to anything on the user layers. The CL has more faders and it’s more customizable. But they use the same 10” touch screen and the same software interface. The CL has more GEQs, effects and options for larger shows. But the QL will fit the bill nicely for many churches. 

A Great Starter Car

I keep using car analogies mainly because we just had to by my youngest a car. After she learned she wasn’t getting a 3-series or C-Class, we began looking for a good, reliable and safe first car. The QL is kind of like that first car. For many churches graduating from an old analog board, the QL looks to be a great step into the digital world. According to Yamaha, it has the same user-friendliness we’ve come to love about the M7 with much improved sound quality, and Dante integration. 

In theory at least, it’s easy to use, powerful and expandable. You get start with just the surface and use your existing copper snake then upgrade to Rio racks as you have the funds. I like systems that can do this, and the QL does it well. I’ve spent a lot of time on the QL last week as we just installed one in a church here locally. 

While Yamaha desks are not my personal favorite to mix on, I’ve probably mixed as many services on them as I have anything else; and that includes a PM3500, DM2000, M7, 01V and PM5D. The QL probably stacks up as the best Yamaha desk I’ve used to date, and it makes me really want to get on a CL now. 

The Impossible Review

It’s really hard to review a console in this space, because there are so many things to talk about. I’m not going to waste space giving you all the specs and details of the desk. For that, visit the Yamaha website and look at the CL/QL feature guide. It’s all there. What I want to focus on are my impressions of the desk, what I liked about it and what I didn’t like about it. 

First off, I’ll say that for a relatively affordable desk, it has a lot of power, and is built well. It’s very compact, and not hard to move around. It would make an ideal portable church board. The controls are for the most part legible and easy to see, and the touch screen is bright and fairly responsive. It’s a step up from the M7 in terms of responsiveness. 

Being part of the Dante ecosystem is cool. I’ll probably have to write a post or two about Dante, so I’ll hold off on delving too deep into that for now. I will say this; Dante is both easy and hard. In theory it’s pretty plug and play, but there are a few “gotchas” that if they get you will hose you for a while. 

Complex Simplicity

The great thing about the M7 was that it was so easy to use. All the faders were right in front of you, and the OS was pretty easy to get around on. It didn’t do all that much; it was really almost a digital front end to an analog board. For that reason, it was easy to train novices on. The QL is a different breed, especially when you add Dante. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a knock on the console; it’s just that it does a lot, and is therefore more complicated. There are many ways to do the same task, and again, while that’s good, it’s more complex. 

This is true of most digital consoles, especially the second and third generations. They do a lot more, bring more power to the table than ever, but the trade off is complexity. This is a good thing, but when you put one in, plan on spending a good bit of time learning your way around, especially if you are new to digital. 

Having mixed on so many Yamaha consoles before, I picked it up fairly quickly. But my clients had to work hard mentally to get past the basic tasks. Mixing is easy; set up can be challenging. 

OK, this is already longer than I intended for part one. Next time, I’ll talk about the things I liked about the console, and on Friday, follow up with the things I didn’t like. So my friends at Yamaha can sleep at night, I’ll end with this; I like the console. So, good job!

Roland

Today's post is brought to you by Pacific Coast Entertainment. Pacific Coast Entertainment is the premier event production company servicing Southern California and the western states. PCE offers a complete line of Lighting, Audio, Video, and Staging equipment for rentals, sales and installs. Where old fashion customer service meets high tech solutions. PCE, your one stop tech resource.

CTA Review: Digital Audio Labs Livemix Pt. 4

This is our final installment of the Livemix system from Digital Audio Labs. We’ve taken an overview look, dug into the system components, looked at some features and today we’ll wrap it up with the remaining unique features and a conclusion. 

On the Beat

The Livemix also includes a built-in metronome. One person can configure it and trigger the start stop while all others have individual volume control. Actually, anyone on the network can run it, but I suggest leaving it in one person’s hands. 

Load and Save

It’s easy to save and later load mix settings. If you have some musicians who rotate in and out, they could save their presets and quickly load them back up. The presets are global, so it doesn’t matter which mixer they get when you set up. You can also load and save presets from Mirror Mix mode, which means if you have a mixer at FOH, you could quickly configure everyone’s mixer during the week without leaving the booth.

 What’s Not to Like?

As I said at the beginning of this, I really like this system. Overall, it’s very solid, and I’m sure I will be recommending them often. There are a few things I’m not crazy about, however. First, like the dreaded Aviom, when the system first boots up, all the channels are at half volume. I understand the reasoning for this, but it is a bad idea. Most people forget the volume knob also goes down, and as they try to build a mix, they will end up with all channels at full, not being able to hear anything.

I would use one of the presets to turn all channels off, except for the talkback. It would be easy enough to use Mirror Mix to turn up each person’s channel(s) before rehearsal starts so they at least hear themselves. But let them start at 0 for everything else. 

Second, while the dual mixer concept is great for many situations (and they’re really not even that expensive at $525 or so…) You’re going to have a lot more “mixers” on stage than needed. At my last church, we could have gotten away with two units for the front line—the worship leader could have shared with a BGV and the other two BGVs could easily share. But while drums and bass were right next to each other, the way the platforms were set it would have been a pain to try to share a mixer. Same with keys and perc/winds. So we would have ended up buying individual mixers for each and not using one side.

I guess the other way to look at that is you end up with more capacity for bigger events. In those cases, people just have to learn how to work together, even if it’s a bit inconvenient. With eight duo’s on stage, having 16 mixes is a nice bonus. Still, I’d love to see a single unit at some point. And while the mixers are not that expensive, the input module is (about $1000) and the Dante card will set you back another $800-900. Still, you only need one, so overall the system price is very competitive. 

The Bottom Line

The system sounds great, has a ton of features and is easy to use. I didn’t even really get into the touch screen functionality or how fast and easy it is to build a mix. If you’re interested, download the manual and read it. It’s actually well written and illustrated and gives you a great way to understand the feature set. With the analog input module, this is a good system. With Dante, it’s really good. I can see using a lot of these.

Roland

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CTA Review: Digital Audio Labs Livemix Pt. 3

 So I thought I could do this in one more post. But it turns out there is just so much to say about this cool little system that I had to break it up into two more so they don’t become too long. Today, we’ll consider how it really works. What makes this product different from the rest? Next time, we’ll wrap up with the final set of features and a bottom line. 

Remote Mixing

Select the mixer you want to work on, and you now have full access to the mix on another mixer. 

Select the mixer you want to work on, and you now have full access to the mix on another mixer. 

One of my favorite features of the Roland M-48 system is the ability to put a mixer at FOH then select any mixer on stage and hear that mix. We can even make changes if a musician is struggling with getting set up properly. Livemix takes this concept a step further allowing any mixer to control any other mixer on stage. By selecting Mirror Mix, you can listen to and adjust any mixer in the system. This would be great for a FOH engineer to help out a musician, but there are other advantages. Say you have one musician who is really good at putting together a mix. He or she could be a resource to anyone on stage with a simple button press. Or the worship leader could help a vocalist or player who can’t quite get it dialed in right. This is a cool feature with lots of possibilities. 

Share the Aux

I’m sure this has happened on your stage. The band is trying to figure out a song and they need to hear the recording. Most times, one of our singers will hold a mic to their iPhone and play it back. It’s horrible and I’ve tried to tell them we can play it from FOH, but it’s easier for them to do it this way. With the Livemix, anyone can plug a phone into the Aux In jack, then share it to the network. A separate volume control on each mixer gives the musicians individual control over how loud the aux channel is. This is another cool feature.

Built-In Ambient Mic & Intercom

Most personal mixers these days come with an ambient mic. And while they’re not great, they do give at least some sense of ambience on stage. Personally, I don’t find our folks using them much as we have house mic’s piped back into the system for ambience, and they sound much better. Still, if you don’t have that, a small mic on the mixer is better than nothing. 

Most times, our team would turn the ambience mic up only when others were speaking during rehearsal. This saves them from having to pull their ears out. Livemix obviously understood that and added an intercom function to the system. Press and hold the A or B mix button and it routes the ambient mic to everyone’s intercom channel (with a separate volume control, ‘natch). I tried this out and while not as good as say a handheld mic, it’s certainly very usable. 

More Me

Sometimes when a musician is playing along, they just need to turn themselves up a little bit, and rather quickly. The Me knob makes it easy. You can assign any of the 24 channels to the Me group and the Me knob will act as a master control for those channels. So a worship leader who plays guitar can have both his vocal and guitar in the Me group and quickly get more me. Of course, you could also use this for any other source or groups of sources that would need regular, easy adjustments, the click for example.

Speaking of Groups

You can create up to four additional groups after the Me group. You could use these for simple things like tying together two stereo channels of a keyboard, or grouping all the drums together. When you adjust the level of one member of the group, all are adjusted. You still have individual control of each channel, however, so you’re not stuck with that mix forever.

OK, we’ll call it there for today. Next time around, the rest of the cool features and a wrap up.

“Gear

Today's post is brought to you by Pacific Coast Entertainment. Pacific Coast Entertainment is the premier event production company servicing Southern California and the western states. PCE offers a complete line of Lighting, Audio, Video, and Staging equipment for rentals, sales and installs. Where old fashion customer service meets high tech solutions. PCE, your one stop tech resource.

CTA Review: Digital Audio Labs Livemix Pt. 2

Last time around, we took a look at the Digital Audio Labs Livemix system in overview. It’s an easy to use system that offers more than meets the eye. Today, we’ll start digging into some of the features that make it unique.

DSP in the Brain

As always, there are different ways to design a system. Some systems, say the Roland M-48, use a lot of DSP in the mixer itself. This affords great flexibility and they can do a lot of things very well. But that power comes at a price. First, there is the actual price of the unit, which is on the high side. Second, they are complicated to set up to fully utilize all that power. 

The Livemix takes a different approach. Instead of loading up the surfaces with a bunch of DSP, they put most of it in the Central Mixer. This allows them to do some interesting things. For example, each of the inputs has a 3-band EQ, and dynamics control. Unlike the Roland, the channel EQ and dynamic settings are global for every mixer. This sounds like a limitation on paper, but in practice, I found our musicians rarely delved into the channel EQ on the M-48s anyway. Instead, they usually adjusted the main bass and treble controls—something the Livemix also offers. Except here it’s a 3-band EQ and mix dynamics that are local to each mixer. 

The Central mixer also offers an adjustable HPF on each channel. While not fully adjustable, there are enough set points to be useful. When using the Dante input module, you can choose any 24 inputs from the Dante network. Again, this is a global setting; all the mixers get these 24 channels. However, you can assign those channels from any mixer in the system or Dante Controller. 

More Than Meets the Eye

The Central Mixer is a simple-looking affair. It’s 1 RU high and looks like a network switch. The front panel contains eight RJ45 jacks (not EtherCon), a USB port, a power switch and data indicator. If you are using the Dante option, all you have to do is plug the Mix-16 into the Dante network, and patch the channels. It’s pretty simple. If you’re using the analog input module, a shielded Cat5 connects the AD-24 to the Mix-16 (and then it takes up 2 RU). The USB port allows you to route a 2-track mix of any of the mixers on the network to that port for recording. Plug in up to eight CS-Duos and you have 16 mixes at your fingertips. 

The Mix-16 supplies not only audio data but also power to each CS-Duo, which keeps the cable clutter to a minimum. There are also two more RJ45s on the back of the Mix-16 labeled Livemix Data Out 1-16 and 17-32. The manual states those are for future use. At InfoComm a while back, they were suggesting those could be used for sending the 2-channel mix from each mixer back to a D/A box for use with wireless IEMs. Guess we’ll have to keep our eyes open for that one. 

On the Surface…

The CS-Duo itself contains the aforementioned controls as well as a few inputs and outputs. Of course, we have two 3.5mm headphone jacks in the front, one for each side of the mixer. There is also a 3.5mm Aux In jack that can be very clever (more later). On the back, we have a pair of 1/4” TRS jacks that can be configured either as stereo headphone outs or balanced line outs (one for the A and B side). A TRS foot switch jack also hangs out back there. It’s a multi-function foot switch available from DAL that does all kinds of cool things. Finally there is the RJ-45 (non-EtherCon) for data and a USB port for loading and saving settings. 

By now, you would be forgiven for thinking this is really similar to other products on the market. The ability to mix 24 channels is a nice upgrade from other 16 channel systems, but other than the dual mixers, what’s really unique? Stay tuned!

Roland

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