Yamaha QL5--First Impressions; The Good

Photo courtesy of Yamaha

Photo courtesy of Yamaha

Last time, I gave you an introduction to the relatively new QL from Yamaha. I recently installed a QL5 at a local church and spent a good bit of time on it, setting it up and mixing a weekend. Overall, I’m impressed. I’m not ready to give back my Digico jacket, but I wouldn’t turn down a gig mixing on a QL. And in fact, I’m kind of really interested in getting on a CL now. In this installment, I’m going to talk about what I like about the QL. The guys at Yamaha are always giving me a hard time about giving them a hard time, so I’m starting with the good stuff. 

It Sounds Good

One of my biggest knocks against the M7 and PM5D is that I didn’t think they sounded that great. While M7’s get better when you externally clock them, I’m not a huge fan of the mic pre’s and I don’t love the EQ. And the comps on the M7 were not my favorite. The QL changes all that. The pre’s sound good, especially on the Rios. The EQ seems improved and the comps are much more transparent. I had one vocalist this weekend who had a big range. When she got loud, I was smashing her channel pretty hard, and it hung in there nicely. So good job on that. 

It’s Powerful

Being part of the Dante ecosystem means you can do a lot of routing with it. Yamaha has done a good job building an interface that can handle the Dante patching inside the console, which is good because Dante Controller is horrible. However, as a side note, my buddy Jake Cody showed me some tricks that make Controller a little less horrible. More on that later. 

You have 64+8 channels that you can process, and patching them in from internal inputs or Rios is pretty simple. Once you find your way around, anyway. With two insert points per channel in addition to the two dynamic sections and EQ, you have a lot of channel processing options. 

They even included most of the premium effects rack from the CL, though those are for your money channels; you don’t have enough instances to do the whole board with LA-2As for example. But, their, LA-2A sounds pretty good, though I didn’t think it was as easy to get the sound I wanted as the Waves version. 

It’s Compact

The QL packs a lot of power into a small footprint. This will be a boon to portable churches and those with small tech booths. We find we are moving a lot of tech booths out of balconies and closets lately, and not having to dedicate 6 lineal feet to a console is a big deal. And like I said, you can drop it in place of a 32 channel analog system and use it right away. That’s pretty cool.

It’s Flexible

I am sort of addicted to custom fader layers. Having spent a lot of time on the Digico series, I’m pretty used to putting whatever fader wherever I want. If I want to mix and match inputs, DCAs, groups and auxes, I can. The QL lets me do that. The scribble strips are pretty clear, and I like the color coding. You can even assign custom colors to the channels. With 12 user-defined keys and 16 dedicated sends on fader buttons, you can set the console up pretty much the way you’d like. 

I walked into a church I had never been a part of, installed the QL, integrated all their wireless, playback and stage inputs, built the config and mixed a service without any major problems. I was able to find the controls I needed quickly and got the entire band plus 7 vocals and a choir dialed in enough for a service in about 45 minutes. So that’s not bad. And keep in mind, this is the first time I’ve spent any real time on the console.

I was happy with the sound, and more importantly, the church was happy. They noticed a big improvement from their old system, and once they get comfortable with it, they are going to love working on the console. I rarely recommend products I haven’t used at least in some capacity, but I have specified the QL for several of our upcoming jobs. I’m happy to report it did not disappoint. 

For the most part. There were a few things that bugged me, and we’ll hit those next time.


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!


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We all know what happens when we disconnect a signal line; the signal stops flowing. Unplug a mic and it doesn’t work anymore. Unplug a speaker and it doesn’t make sound. Unplug power from a board, and it just sits there. I don’t think is coincidence that often the fix for a computer is to shut it down, or unplug and power it back up. Sometimes, you just have to shut it all down, clear our the registers and start fresh. 

I think we all need a reboot once in a while, too. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to do just that. 

Running Hard and Fast

As TDs I think most of us are pretty driven people. We like to work hard, and enjoy the challenges we are faced with. But sometimes, it can get to be too much and we need some down time. Down time can be a challenge, too, because we really don’t know what to do with ourselves. My current job has me running pretty hard. I have installs and proposals stacked up like flights coming into LAX. It’s exhilarating and exhausting at the same time.

When I was a TD, life was similar but different. The weekly pressure of weekend services, special events and maintaining all the equipment and systems could be exhausting. And when the big weekends rolled around, it was crazy time.

While I can take weekends off now, I still find myself working on something. It’s easy with all the connectivity we possess. I have two laptops and a Mac Mini, an iPad and iPhone. Broadband and VPM access lets me work from home as efficiently as at the office. As a result, I rarely unplug and reboot. 

Off the Grid

But a few weeks back, I actually did. About fifteen years ago, my Dad, brother and I started rebuilding an old fishing camp on a tributary to Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Park in New York. After a few summers of hard work, we had a great camp to enjoy. I haven’t been there since I moved to Minnesota in 2007, and I was missing it dearly. Thankfully, we have a great client in New York, not far from White Plains. As it turns out White Plains is only about 4.5 hours from our camp. So I did what anyone who travels a lot would do. I extended my return flight and planned on driving up to camp after the install was done. 

It was actually fantastic to drive up into the mountains. There was almost no traffic and the trees were just starting to turn. Once I arrived at camp, I had no cell signal, no wi-fi and no real way to connect with the outside world. It was just my brother and me, sitting by the lake. 

Real Interaction

As my brother lives in NY and I in CA, we don’t see each other much. Through Facebook, we keep up with what we’re doing, but our schedules don’t give us much time to talk. But up in the woods, with nothing around to distract us, we could just sit in the great room, and talk. Face to face. I think this is becoming a lost art in today’s hyper-connected world. We can reach out to all 500 of our “friends” at a moments notice, but we have a hard time sitting and talking for a few hours without checking in on our network. 

I found this weekend to be incredibly refreshing. Between the interaction with my brother and the downtime in the car (almost 10 hours in total), it was a great way to recharge. I’ve talked about the needy to get away and get refreshed before, but it’s become ever more apparent that when we get away, we really need to go off grid.

My friend Stephen told me he was going to go off grid for a week just to recharge. The thought is probably terrifying to some of you, but I know he’ll come back more refreshed, more creative and more ready to do what God has called him to do. This is something we all need. We can only run so hard for so long before we need to reboot. If you’re feeling foggy and like you need a restart, plan the time away and do it. But don’t cheat; leave the phone off, the laptop at home and disconnect. You’ll be the better for it.


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