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

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