Only a few years ago, the notion of a compact high-resolution 96-channel digital mixer, with total automation, integrated surround monitoring and machine control, would have seemed a fantasy. Factor in excellent sound quality and reliability at an affordable price and Yamaha’s accomplishment seems all the more impressive. If I seem favorably biased, it is because after spending a few months with the DM2000 and its junior sibling, the 02R96, I have had nothing but positive experiences with both.
Product PointsApplications: Studio
Key Features: 24 mic/line inputs; 96 digital inputs; comprehensive digital patching/routing; 5.1 surround sound; onboard DSP; DAW interface control
Price: starts at $18,000
Contact: Yamaha at 714-522-9011, Web Site.
The DM2000 offers nearly double the number of channels of the 02R96 as well as improved ease-of-use due to a greater number of dedicated controls. A welcome amenity is a fluorescent graphic scribble strip for displaying channel names, routing selections, processing choices, and encoder values. Twenty-five touch-sensitive moving faders control the channels and busses through five recallable layers, with all channels operable at 96 kHz sampling.
Extensive I/O capability is provided by six expansion slots each able to transfer 16 channels at single sampling rates or eight channels at double-sampling. New mini-YGDAI interface cards supporting 16 channels have just been released in ADAT, AES, and TDIF formats, so when fully loaded, up to 96 digital I/Os are available. Analog input is handled by twenty-four discrete transistor head-amps (with pre-converter insert points) that can serve as high-quality mic preamps or line inputs.
One of the most useful features is the comprehensive digital patch facility. Any physical input is internally patchable to any channel, while the busses and channel direct outs are all patchable to any physical output. With 96 inputs and 116 possible outputs the desk becomes an able router for a roomful of digital gear. Channel inserts, individually selectable as pre-EQ, pre-fade, and post-fade, can be looped out as well. The three digital 2T inputs and outputs also offer independent real time SRC for easy interfacing outside of the project sample rate.
In addition to the stereo analog outs there are eight additional “omni” analog outs for surround monitoring (or for sends to legacy outboard gear). Selecting the console’s 5.1 monitor mode dedicates the first six busses to the multichannel mix and a single control adjusts the surround playback volume via the omni outputs. The returns from a multichannel recorder connected to any of the expansion slots can be A/Bed against the console’s output for confidence. The DM2000 offers comprehensive 5.1 facilities such as speaker calibration, speaker solo, downmixing and bass management.
At the channel level, surround mixing is properly implemented with a 360-degree joystick, an LCR divergence control and an LFE feed. At the master level, onboard processors can be inserted and grouped across multiple output busses for 5.1 EQ and dynamics. The DM2000 essentially provides a complete surround mixing solution. It is possible to cascade up to four DM2000s (and even an 02R) for up to 384 input channels.
The EQ and dynamics algorithms have been greatly improved since the debut of the first generation 02R. There is a selectable new “Type II” EQ that is smoother and sweeter sounding than the legacy “Type I.” Channel compression and gating (both keyable) are now independent functions, and the compressors initialize with useful settings rather than the old “0” across all parameters.
Extensive grouping is possible for faders, EQs, compressors and mutes. An M/S decoding feature is available for paired channels. Eight internal effects processors are available with algorithms ranging from reverbs and delays, to pitch shifting, distortion, and amp modeling. The processors can be configured as eight stereo, or one surround and four stereo, or two surround effects.
Extending the DM2000’s application to live sound are six 31-band graphic EQs, patchable across any bus, and four 22 x 2 matrix screens. The latter are for deriving submixes from the multitrack, aux and stereo busses. These are useful for creating monitor mixes, stems, and music-minus mixes that be patched to any output. An individual delay setting is available for every channel to compensate for external processing loops, speaker alignment, or simply for an effect (including recirculation!).
In addition to its processing and routing resources, the DM2000 includes a comprehensive touch-to-update moving fader automation system. There are also recallable libraries for every operational block of the mixer. The automation covers virtually every parameter on the desk either directly or through scene recalls. Automated parameters include fader levels and mutes, aux levels and mutes, stereo and surround panning, EQ gain/frequency/Q, and matrix sends while internal effects, dynamics, mini-YGDAI effect plug-ins and DAW remote control are automated by library recalls. An auto button above each fader can be used to drop a channel in and out of record while simultaneously showing channel status as play, armed, recording, or takeover. Faders operate in either absolute or relative mode and punch-out modes include “return,” “takeover,” and “to end.”
A fader screen displays positions in bar-graph format with arrows indicating which direction to move for manual match-back into the existing mix. Offline editing is also available. Various timecode frame rates and formats are supported including LTC via an analog input, or MTC via the MIDI, MTC, USB or serial ports on the back panel. Eight GPI event triggers can also be automated and are connected to the outside world through a 25-pin D-sub connector. A smart-media slot provides exchange of all libraries for easy transfer between consoles.
Even an impressive feature set such as this would be of limited value without the single most important feature – sound quality. I’ve found the mic preamps and the converters in this desk to hold their own against the best high-end stand-alone units.
My experience with the sound of the DM2000 matches that of other friends and colleagues who have used it. The sound is rich, detailed, and musical. The audio is clean and there is no audible digital noise from the internal control system or the automation. (The same holds true for the 02R96. Although the converters and the pre-amps on the DM2000 have slightly better specs, the sound of the two mixers is practically identical.)
There is now a dedicated knob for each parameter in the EQ, compressor and gate control blocks, and every channel has a rotary encoder that can be globally defined as pan, or aux, or up to four user-selected controls. Typical uses might be trim level, patch-point, bus assign, insert on/off, etc. One nicety is that pressing or turning an encoder displays a pop-up window in the main screen without switching away from the current page.
Pressing the “diamond” button associated with each control block accesses the various functions of the mixer. The display then switches to the corresponding screen for editing. The display also switches automatically when certain controls are adjusted and in these cases the screen history key comes in handy for quickly returning to the last screen viewed. The channel copy and paste buttons provide another significant time-saver. Yamaha has included “Studio Manager,” a PC/Mac software application, free-of-charge with the console. This is a welcome break away from the current trend of expensive a-la-carte license options found on some of today’s high-end gear.
The Studio Manager application really speeds up the operation of the desk, so much so that it would be worth dedicating a notebook computer just to run it if no other computer is available. The application provides full archiving of all libraries and automixes, full metering, a quick way to name channels and, most important, an easier way to operate the internal patching scheme.
For those with space or budget restrictions, Studio Manager will also allow you to get by without the console’s optional meter bridge. (For set-ups where a computer is not available, the console’s keyboard port allows the use of a standard keyboard within the title edit window.)
I used the DM2000 for the multichannel mix-to-picture of a two long-form DVD projects. The onboard “Type II EQs” and compressors produced a rich and clear tone for the vocals and acoustic instruments. The patching facility allowed digital connection of both a TC M6000 and a Lexicon 960L, each in surround format. The onboard reverbs were good sounding and served to provide some track-specific effects. The automation behaved dependably and handled all the manipulations of a 48-track mix extending over an hour twenty minutes of run-time. This was probably not the best strategy since I maxed out the 1MB of automix memory with the last few moves. It would have been better to work in smaller sections and off-load them to Studio Manager. But, the full pass approach did work, and ended up saving me precious time. Yamaha says there will be an automix RAM upgrade available for the desk in the very near future. Taking time to name all the channels at the onset paid off because the scribble strip made it easy to stay oriented as I shifted layers, and the names appear in the parameter screen, lessening the chance of adjusting the wrong channel. As I listen back to the results, I can only smile and marvel that this was all possible without even leaving home.
The DM2000 and the 02R96, which I own, are exemplary models of advanced technology, excellent ergonomic design, and extraordinary sound quality. An unprecedented level of production power is now within reach of the individual end-user, the small and mid-sized facility alike. I think I’ll take mine with me to the studio.