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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Disconnecting

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.

“Gear

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Input Sheet Examples

Last time, we talked about some reasons to use an input sheet. That post was prompted by a post the previous week on console layouts. The goal with this whole concept is to organize our set up so that it is more productive, efficient and user-friendly. The easier we can make the mixing process for our team, the more successful they can be. We already know mixing is hard, but let’s not make it harder with poor organization. 

Today I’m going to show you a few examples of input sheets so you have some ideas on what information to include and how to organize it. This first one is one of the first I did. Looking back on it, I already see some issues that I would address today. But it served it’s purpose back then, and was a huge improvement over what we had (which was nothing). 

The Basic Sheet

This input sheet could be divided into three groups of information. The first 3 columns provide the patching information. Here, you find the board channel, the stage input and any sub-snake assignment. The next 3 columns provide application information. What type of input is it, who will be using it and are there any special notes to be aware of. Finally, we see routing, monitoring and bussing information, along with a note on phantom power. 

Armed with nothing but this input sheet (and a stage plot), my volunteer set up crew could completely wire the stage for me during the week, and I could quickly verify it on rehearsal night. 

Looking back on it, I would change some things if I were doing it today. I would rearrange the console to follow a more conventional layout, and would color code more. But at the time, it worked well. Equipment-wise, we were using a 32-channel analog console and an Aviom system for monitoring. 

An Intermediate Sheet

This next sheet was developed by a friend of mine, Tyler Kanishero. He’s using an M7 with a couple of cards, and did a great job of putting all the information you’d need on a single sheet. On the left side, you see all 48 input channels on the console and what plugs into them. Inputs are direct, stage and cards. In the middle you have the mixe and matrix assignments. On the right, the Aviom and output assigns are clearly listed. 

This example goes into more detail, but still keeps the information clearly and easy to find. About the only thing I would change on this is to add color. As you can see, he has the same information I had in my basic example, but it’s organized differently. Like a console setup, it doesn’t matter so much how you do it, as long as it makes sense in your context. Of course, there are advantages to doing things similarly to industry standards. But make sure it works for you. 

The Advanced Sheet

This is the sheet I developed jointly with Isaiah Franco. I started it, he did a lot of work on it, then I tweaked it some more after he left. I wrote a series of posts on it some time back if you want to know more about how it works (Part 1, Part 2). We use a lot of cool Numbers features for drop down menus, and a ton of if-then statements to auto-fill much of the content. 

This sheet is four pages long and presents the information in a few ways. The first two pages are for the stage team. They get all the information for patching and set up through the patch list and stage diagram. All the wireless mic and IEM assignments are also clearly spelled out. The second two pages are for the FOH engineer. In reality, most of that info was already dealt with in the baseline show file, but it’s good to know what is there. 

This one was tweaked and massaged over five years, and I’m pretty happy with it. It’s overkill for many situations, however. If you have a smaller set up, you don’t likely need this much information. However, there are principles that should be useful. 

Remember, it’s less important how you do the input sheet, and more important that you do it. Figure out what works for you and start. You’ll be glad you did.

Here are the sheets in PDF version. Everyone is going to ask for the originals; I don't have all of the, so just build them yourself in Excel or Numbers. It's good practice. 

Intermediate Sheet

Advanced Sheet

Roland

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