Yamaha LS9-32

In the past year alone, I have viewed and worked on so many different digital consoles that my brain now only spits out ones and zeros.
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FAST FACTS
(click thumbnail)
Applications
Live reinforcement, installation, houses of worship

Key Features
Lightweight; small footprint; fully digital; ease of use

Price
$10,999 (as tested)

Contact
Yamaha | 714-522-9011 | www.yamahaproaudio.com

PRODUCT POINTS

Plus

  • Ease of use
  • Little to no learning curve
  • Amazing flexibility

Minus

  • Only 16 outs without buying an additional card
  • Only up to 48 kHz, not 96 kHz

SCORE
The LS9 is affordable, capable and easy to use — a warm welcome to the digital age for the uninitiated live sound professionalIn the past year alone, I have viewed and worked on so many different digital consoles that my brain now only spits out ones and zeros. Okay, that’s exaggeration, but during these digital mixing experiences many have asked me what stands out as a top digital console in various frame sizes and with various abilities. Well, I hope to now offer an answer in the form of the latest member of the vast Yamaha digital console family: the LS9.

Features

The LS9 comes in two frame sizes — 16-channel and 32-channel — both of which are capable of expansion. The inputs are first sent through digitally controlled analog head-amps. These are the same preamps as in the M7CL and are fully recallable. The inputs are either mic or line level over the same XLR connection. The “head end” structure, plus much of the console, is set up identically as the M7CL. This means you get the same versatile, per channel four-band parametric EQ and dual dynamics processors (featuring selectable compressor, gating, limiting, ducking, de-esser, etc.) as the larger and more expensive M7CL. The internal sampling rate of the console can be either 44.1 or 48 kHz.

The output structure of the LS9 is 16-bus, eight-matrix to stereo and mono, which can also be configured as LCR. All outputs have to be routed to the “Omni” outs. The LS9-16 has eight omni’s and the LS9-32 has 16. There are no dedicated outputs on the LS9; this allows anything to be routed anywhere. This also can be expanded through the MY expansion slots for additional I/O of various types (digital, analog using external pre-amps, CobraNet, even Aviom). The 16 mix busses can be set up as “Vari” for use as auxes, which can be pre- or post-fader per channel send or as “Fixed” for use like a group. This gives amazing flexibility to the use and functionality of this small wonder.

The LS9 offers the M7CL’s familiar virtual FX/EQ rack. This is a full graphic representation of a physical eight-unit rack. You can place up to four of the renowned Yamaha Rev X effects units and four global 31 band EQs in the virtual rack. Or, if you need more EQ, you can place the Flex 15 GEQ units in the rack, which gives you a 31-band EQ of which you can use up to 15 filters. If you don’t need any FX units, you can fill the rack with all Flex 15GEQs and have 16 channels of EQ to insert on groups or over every output like in a full monitor application. (If you need to grab more than 15 filters on a 31-band EQ then you have bigger problems than learning about a new digital console!) This is all in the digital realm, so it’s internal to the console at no extra cost or loss of precious real estate.

The LS9 has one particularly cool new feature that I have yet to see on other consoles. In this digital age, we have done away with the large FOH expanse that used to eat up valuable real estate; now, all we need at FOH is a digital console, CD player or iPod and our laptop. And now we can even throw the old CD player away: the LS9, through its USB port, can operate as a MP3 player and recorder. This means that I can walk in with the show stored and pre-programmed on my USB stick/thumb drive along with all the walk-in/walk-out music. I can then take another thumb drive and record the show for my corporate client to upload to the web. It is like buying a condo then realizing you have a full beautiful yard to play in.

In Use

I received the LS9-32 a couple of months ago, and was able to use it on a variety of shows and in multiple configurations. It functioned wonderfully as both a FOH and a monitor console. Having everything at your fingertips in one small console was amazing. The ease of control and quick set up was a lifesaver in “run, set up and go” situations.

Every engineer that I sent out with the LS9 had never used the console (though they all were very experienced on both the PM5D and the M7CL). They had no problem with the set up, routing or structural layout of the LS9. Everyone I spoke with loved it and asked if we could replace some of our old small frame analog consoles (the Yamaha M2000, circa ‘96, for example) with the LS9.

The LS9 fit my needs for the standard repertoire of corporate galas and one-off musical acts for major conventions that have become my bread and butter. I recently put the LS9 through its paces on a large dinner gala for the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation.

The night consisted of a big band playing the standards, dual lecterns, dual auctioneers on wireless headsets and a dance presentation from the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance. In this instance, you can see how filling up 32 channels is very easy, and how you don’t want a 48-channel analog monster eating up floor space at a charity event — the space could be utilized more effectively with tables and seats. Tim Hartranft — the engineer I placed in charge of the event — had only played with the console in the shop a few days earlier. Both Tim and I were impressed with its ease of fluidity and abundance of features, which helped to limit the amount of outboard gear needed on site. At front of house were the console, a CD player, an iPod, snake end and a “voice of god” mic — a very small footprint. Tim ran everything with excellence and the event was a wonderful success.

A local convention for Lockheed Martin was another high scale event for which the LS9 sounded like a perfect fit. This show had a large contingent of CEOs and higher-ups and the audio had to be clear and absolutely flawless. For this event, the console was left running for four days straight with multiple meetings running throughout each day and dinner receptions at night. The basic setup used 14 wireless lavaliers, four wireless handhelds mics for Q/A sessions, six video playback devices and four podium mics plus the CD and Instant Replay at front of house. Outputs were much simpler: left, center and right; foldback for the stage; video record; and teleprompter monitor.

Billy Martin was my choice of high-end engineers for this event, since he was familiar with the digital structure of previous Yamaha digital consoles and with the client’s needs. The LS9 performed throughout its heated workout with great efficiency, exceeding expectations. Its versatility was the saving grace in having the multiple functioning rooms of this style of convention. Billy did note that the flexibility and logical layout made it a great purchase for a large number of events that we work, and for some of our clients looking to purchase a digital console to replace one (or sometimes two) of their old analog consoles.

The sound of the console was beautiful. But while the preamps and EQ are well rounded and sonically ideal, it didn’t quite have the full, gleaming presence of the PM5D. The LS9-32, however, lists for an astonishing $10,999, a fraction of the PM5D’s $50,000+.

Summary

Digital consoles and audio in the digital realm are here to stay … and to take over. They are showing up on nearly every artist’s rider. Every new church install I see has a digital console sitting at both front-of-house and monitors. Digital desk prices have come down to the place where anyone can afford to own one, and the ease of use doesn’t require a PhD in computer engineering.

If you have never used a digital console before and are reluctant or fear you can’t overcome the learning curve, the Yamaha LS9 is the board for you. Nothing is hidden or more than two steps (or clicks) away, which makes it great for churches and small club-style venues.