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Innovations: Yamaha TF Series Digital Mixing Consoles

When Yamaha set out to create the TF series, the company decided to take a different tack than we had in the past.

When Yamaha set out to create the TF series, the company decided to take a different tack than we had in the past. Although we pioneered affordable digital mixing in the mid-1980s, several competitors recently released models that offer higher-end features in a price class that was unreachable just a few years ago. But for us, adding technology just for the sake of the spec sheet made little sense.

When reimagining the digital mixer, we decided to start at the beginning and take the standpoint of the user into account. The goal: to take advantage of our accumulated knowledge about mixing and incorporate the latest developments in control to make the technology more accessible to people whose first job might not be audio. The overarching concept of the TF consoles—TouchFlow operation—provides intuitive set up and use, allowing for better sound faster.

We imagined that one type of user might own a P.A. system, but he or she is the drummer, guitarist or some other player in the band, so audio needs are often considered to be secondary to that of the music and the performance. Another potential customer we focused on was the house-of-worship volunteer tasked with audio duties. To help these kinds of sound operators, we decided to improve on the digital mixing concept and make it easier than ever to get good sound quickly.

The first challenge centered on setting input channel gain. Novice users are often confused when using this parameter, so we came up with a completely new visual design. Gain-Finder utilizes a five-segment meter with slower ballistics that conveys the look of a guitar tuner and is much faster to adjust. A peak reading meter is also displayed for users who prefer a more traditional display.

We also paid a lot of attention to the EQ section. The TF series offers 4-band, fully parametric EQ and HPF on all the inputs and outputs. Customers commented that because there are a lot of intimidating controls and too many chances for mistakes and bad sound, they are often reluctant to make changes or adjustments. Even with the multi-touch screen that allows for pinching and sweeping, we knew the process could be made simpler, so we developed the 1-Knob EQ for this type of user. Quite simply, it adds or subtracts from all four EQ filters—all with a single control.

A second, more complex function, one knob Vocal EQ, dynamically creates a generic vocal EQ setting with the twist of a knob that first adds a HPF, then gradually reduces the lower midrange and adds some boost to the high frequencies, creating great starting points for almost all kinds of vocal microphones. Of course, these features are defeatable if the user desires, so more experienced engineers can disable them at any time and then make and save their own settings.

And, the EQ screen also allows users to superimpose a piano keyboard if they are more familiar with musical notation, which is a great feature for teaching or for the more musical operator. A Real Time Analyzer is also available as a visual aid on this screen.

Moreover, Yamaha completely redesigned the idea of adding presets into the console. Previously, presets usually consisted of hastily developed generic settings that led most users to dismiss their effectiveness. To combat this, we reached out to microphone manufacturers directly to make QuickPro Presets that not only use specific models from Audio Technica, Sennheiser and Shure, but also specific applications, as well. For example, a user can now choose a Shure SM57 to be used on a snare drum. Detailed descriptions are available with each preset to describe how they were created.

Our engineering team provided users with a proper EQ curve and set the input gain at a conservative level. They also added a compressor, when needed, making it easy to dial in a great starting point. Even phantom power is applied. We took great care to make sure the user can trust these presets. Pro engineers who have tried these settings (and generally don’t like presets anyhow) gave them a thumbs up for saving time and for delivering great sound. More presets are planned, which can easily be added to the console via a USB thumb drive.

By adding output presets as well, we were able to address problems that often occur in performance spaces and our engineers realized that they always had to make some minor adjustments in most every venue. These presets are available for various room sizes and are easy to select and insert on the outputs. Further, there are output presets for in-ear monitors with loudness contours and multiband compression available for Shure models, with more to come.

To add even more ease-of-use functionality, Yamaha developed proprietary apps. The ability to control the whole console wirelessly is addressed with TF StageMix for iPad, allowing remote control freedom throughout the whole mixing environment, using almost the same user interface that is on the TF itself. Further, the MonitorMix app allows individual control of aux busses for personal control of mixes onstage. Up to 10 instances of this application can be used simultaneously.

Uncompressed 24-bit/48kHz recording can be done two ways—first, in a simple stereo format with the USB connection on the top of the console directly to a USB hard drive, or via multitrack. Steinberg’s Cubase AI ships with the console and accommodates up to 16 track recording or the user can upgrade the software, allowing for the recording of up to 34 tracks with a DAW.

Yamaha’s goal when designing the TF was to make it easy for novice mixers to get up to speed on a digital console, but also to provide plenty of depth for more seasoned users. Based on reaction in the field to date, our instincts and execution are on target.

John Schauer is product manager, MI Pro Audio, Yamaha Corp. of America.

Yamaha TF Series