ADK Pro Audio LYVE Tracker

The widespread acceptance of Yamaha digital consoles amongst live sound professionals has spawned the need for a compatible and easily interfaced digital recorder — one that provides engineers with the ability to capture both live and studio performances.
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FAST FACTS
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Applications
Live, installed sound, studio, audio post

Key Features
Yamaha digital console-accompanying recording system with Cubase or Nuendo DAW; House System allows 64 tracks at 48 kHz/32 tracks at 96 kHz; Studio System allows 192 tracks at 48 kHz/96 tracks at 96 kHz; pre-proven durability via custom ADK DAW systems already on tour

Price
House System: $4,999
Road System: $6,799
Studio System: $10,799
Cubase 4 to Nuendo 3: $1,200

Contact
ADK Pro Audio | 859-635-5762 | www.adkproaudio.com

PRODUCT POINTS
Plus

  • Simple to interface with select Yamaha digital consoles
  • Already proven performance on the road (via custom live DAW systems)
  • Reasonably priced for installed sound, live sound and studio/audio post applications

Minus

  • None

SCORE
The LYVE Tracker is a simple, affordable and reliable DAW for Yamaha console-based live and studio rigsThe widespread acceptance of Yamaha digital consoles amongst live sound professionals has spawned the need for a compatible and easily interfaced digital recorder — one that provides engineers with the ability to capture both live and studio performances. Yamaha, well known for great live and studio products, has never fully ventured into the recording arena. Recognizing the need for a software-based DAW at some point, Yamaha had the foresight to acquire Steinberg in early 2005. As the need developed for Yamaha to interface an integrated, one-step recording system to over 2,000 PM5D consoles — not to mention big brother PM1D and the growing number of DM Series consoles currently in use — the company decided to bring in ADK, a proven entity, to develop the hardware and interface.

ADK (Advanced Design of Kentucky, not to be confused with ADK Microphones) has nearly 10 years of experience in building custom high-end, PC-based DAWs. Their client list is a who’s who of high-level recording acts and audio engineers including U2, Peter Frampton and Chuck Ainlay. Point being, ADK has staying power, reinforcing Yamaha’s decision to team with ADK in developing the LYVE Tracker.

Features

The LYVE Tracker is a pre-built recording system designed to easily interface primarily with the PM5D, although it can be tied into any Yamaha digital console that allows for digital interface cards. The LYVE Tracker is available in three configurations ($4,999 - $10,799)designed to fulfill different needs — from houses of worship to live tours to even audio post-production facilities. All of the systems are based on the latest available Intel core processors. The “House System” employs a MADI interface allowing up to 64 tracks at 48 kHz or 32 tracks at 96 kHz with 320 GB of recording storage and four hot-swap removable bays. The “Road System” doubles the MADI cards, track capabilities, and storage and still offers the four removable bays. Finally, the “Studio System” has a total of three MADI cards offering 192 tracks at 48 kHz or 96 tracks at 96 kHz with storage capacity of 1280 GB in a RAID 0 configuration. Again, four hot-swap bays are in place. The systems are designed to be ready to record right out of the box with no need for the end user to install software or hardware. Included with the system is Acronis backup software, XP Professional (or Vista when it has proven the test of time) and an internal DVD burner. Other connections available on the system include IEEE1394 Firewire 400 ports, USB 2.0 ports and Ethernet. The four-space rack-mounted computer is a well-built workhorse and has proven durability (based on the number of tours that rely on ADK to provide recording hardware).

Each LYVE Tracker comes equipped with Cubase 4 (or the latest version) by default, and is upgradeable to Nuendo for $1,200. If the console is already equipped with ADAT interface cards, the system is still viable with the addition of a RME ADI 648 MADI/ADAT converter for an additional $1,900. Yamaha has started to incorporate Ethersound cards into the system, which will provide the same track capability via CAT5 cabling. There are also some processor upgrades available for each system.

Should a client’s needs vary from one of the standard setups — such as a third-party PCI DSP card — ADK is available to customize the LYVE Tracker and will consult with the client to find the combination that works best. The LYVE Tracker ships with a comprehensive one-year warranty, which is upgradeable to three years.

Virtual sound checks are most definitely growing in popularity and the LYVE Tracker enables the engineer to utilize this desirable feature. What is a virtual sound check? Basically, the engineer gets microphone levels and a basic EQ set, then records a few songs of the band who are then free to go on their way. The engineer can then play back the songs through the console and get a mix set up for the house. Granted, there are some drawbacks to virtual sound checks — the engineer is not dealing with sound created directly from the live instruments — but when doing a multi-show tour, this feature has proven to be worthwhile in dialing in a rough mix night after night before the band arrives.

Another application for the LYVE Tracker — particularly the Studio system — is in audio post-production houses. The more common Yamaha console for this application is the DM2000 (due to its controller and automation capabilities for Nuendo).

Engineers will appreciate that the LYVE Tracker has the dongle for Cubase/Nuendo installed inside the case. The software is rendered useless without the dongle, and some of the smallest details can stop a show in its tracks. But not this detail in this case.

In Use

I was able to comprehensively test the LYVE Tracker at Franklin TN’s CTS Audio in their demo suite. Upon arrival, a Yamaha PM5D was set up and ready for interface. All I had to unpack was the ADK system along with its LCD monitor, wireless keyboard, mouse and the Audio-Services MADI cards.

The first step was to properly set the dip switches on the MADI master card, which basically told the card to work with a PM5D. Other desk options included the PM1D, DME, DM2000, DM1000 and 02R96. Once the card was set to the proper configuration, I had to power down the PM5D and remove the four slot covers from the back of the console. I was then able to install the MADI master card in slot 4 and the three slaves in the remaining slots. The slots interface with each other via ribbon cables and although it takes a bit of maneuvering to get the connections complete with a doghouse on the PM5D, the install of the cards only took a few minutes. The MADI master card actually sticks out of the back of the console by about half an inch, so there is a frame that goes in around the card to prevent debris and dust from making it into the slot.

The only other configuration on the master card is the dip switch to determine the sample rate. There are three options on the card: 56ch, 64ch and DFS. 56ch is for support of an older MADI format and is not applicable to the LYVE Tracker. 64ch supports 64 channels at 24 bit/48 kHz and DFS supports 24 bit/96 kHz. The PM5D is capable of 64 tracks at 48 kHz and 32 tracks of 96 kHz, but multiple consoles can be linked to provide for more tracks. LEDs on the master card indicate proper lock once all of the cabling is attached.

To verify the successful installation of the MADI cards in the PM1D, we scrolled to the Word Clock page and looked for the MY16-AT cards listed. This is actually the model number for the ADAT card but is also the generic model number listed for any non-Yamaha proprietary card successfully installed in the system. Once the MADI cards were installed, we opted to interface with the LYVE Tracker via BNC coaxial cable although Optical LC connectivity is an option. The sample rate needs to be set from within the console and the physical switch on the back of the master MADI card. The Word Clock page on the PM5D console provides lock indicator lights to validate the digital chain.

The LYVE Tracker configuration for the MADI is even simpler to configure as the cards are preinstalled in the system. Launching the Hammerfall DSP interface, the user can customize the configuration or set the clock to the incoming MADI, which will automatically align the settings with the incoming MADI input. The lock status was instantaneous and we were ready to record.

The LYVE Tracker is configured to automatically open Cubase when booted up, so all we had to do was arm all of the tracks and hit record. The entire system was a breeze to set up, and once all of the components are installed and the sample rates set the only requirement from show to show is the cable connection. The LYVE Tracker could not be more user friendly, and allows for the fewest steps possible for worry free recording.

Summary

If a PM5D is already in use, whether for an install or on a tour, the LYVE Tracker is a no-brainer as it can become a reality for $5 -11k (depending on the chosen system and interface) including the software, recording and interface hardware. For any facility or tour considering the PM5D (or any of the other supported Yamaha products) the next obvious choice is to interface a LYVE Tracker with the system. The LYVE Tracker is exactly what is needed for DAW accompanying a Yamaha digital desk front end: it’s simple, affordable and, most importantly, reliable.

Special thanks to Chris Adler and the team at CTS audio for the use of their facility and providing the PM5D and interface cabling for the review. CTS is a full service company providing audio/video installations, retail sales and consulting firm located in Franklin, TN. They can be reached online at www.ctsaudio.com or their online store www.roaddogonline.com.