Yamaha PM1D Digital Live Console

With the introduction of the Pro Mix 01 in 1993, and newer products like the 01V, 02R and 03D, Yamaha has established itself as a pioneer of affordable digital recording consoles. The large-format PM1D mixer (from $110,000) marks the company's much-anticipated entrance into the live digital console market.
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With the introduction of the Pro Mix 01 in 1993, and newer products like the 01V, 02R and 03D, Yamaha has established itself as a pioneer of affordable digital recording consoles. The large-format PM1D mixer (from $110,000) marks the company's much-anticipated entrance into the live digital console market. Its automation and recall features, user-friendly work surface and clear sound are sure to be well received by professional live sound engineers.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, remote, broadcast

Key Features: Up to 320 inputs/192 outputs; four-band parametric EQ per channel; 28-bit A/D and 27-bit D/A

Price: $110,000

Contact: Yamaha at 714-522-9011 Web Site

Plus

+ User-friendly work surface

+ Powerful dynamics and effects

+ Overall sound quality

Minus

- Underpowered headphone output

- Loading PCMCIA scene data overwrites existing data (no choice of memory location)

- Mic preamps are a little too bright

The Score: With a pricing structure that begins at $110,000 for 48 channels, the PM1D is quite the bang for the buck.
Features

The Yamaha PM1D live digital mixer and associated CS1D console work surface can provide up to 96 mono input channels and eight stereo channels within dimensions of 75 inches wide by 38.6 inches deep and 16.9 inches high. The console only weighs 260 pounds; a welcome change to conventional 48-channel analog mixing consoles that require up to six people to push and lift into place.

When using the console in the 96-input configuration, the control surface has 48 mono inputs and four stereo inputs and can be layer-switched via a global layer button to operate channels 49 to 96. The 48 mono inputs are set up in blocks of 12 on the outsides of the control surface, top and bottom.

Each input contains rotary controls for mix send, gain and stereo pan, and indicator LEDs for input mix, +48V, insert, phase, A/B input and clip. A select switch allows any single input to be assigned to a virtual input in the central control section.

This virtual input gives the user the feel of a full channel strip, similar to those on an analog console. With knobs for EQ, high-pass filter, routing, compression, gate settings, gain adjustment and fader, the PM1D is user friendly and shortens the learning curve for engineers who have not mixed on a digital console.

The input faders are all motorized 67-mm and 100-mm type and are smooth and responsive. Input metering is handled via five-segment LEDs above the fader or the meter bridge at the top of the control surface. The EQ section for each input is a four-band parametric that spans the range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz in 121 steps and provides 18 dB of boost or cut in 0.5 dB increments. The Q is adjustable from 0.1 to 10 with 41 available steps. The high-pass filter range is 20 Hz to 600 Hz with selectable slope of 6, 12 or 18 dB per octave.

Dynamic control provided for each input includes compression/expansion and gating/ducking. Selecting an input and entering the virtual section engages the compressor and gates. By physically using an on/off switch for either dynamic processor, full adjustments may be made for gain, threshold, attack and release.

The gate also includes an HP/LP key filter. Each of the 48 inputs has simple indicator LEDs for the compressor/gates, which show the operating status and whether the device is below or above its operating threshold. Depressing a button in the virtual input section can link devices.

Next to each fader is a button that assigns the input to one or more of the 12 DCAs. The 12 master faders are located in the center bottom of the control surface and are assignable and indicated as such by a series of 12 LEDs. Each input can be delayed up to 250 milliseconds, which is a nice feature not found in analog consoles.

The PM1D has an LCR panning mode that allows a center channel to be added in addition to the left and right channels. Faders from the input block sections can be flipped via a switch that exchanges the operating channels between vertically adjacent input blocks or vertically adjacent stereo in (ST IN) channels. If there is a need to raise an input for a solo or another adjustment is necessary, this feature moves the inputs at the top of the control surface to the bottom for easier access.

In the center top of the CS1D is an 800 x 600 color LCD monitor. As a control is touched, a screen appears that provides a visual check of all the information pertinent to that function. Parameters can be changed on the screen via a mouse (attached to a port on either the front or rear panel block) or using the track pad on the console.

Yamaha includes a group of LCD buttons providing quick access to frequently used screens within the software for easy viewing. The console accommodates two PCMCIA type II-compatible cards for use in loading or saving scene memories, and various libraries for later performances.

The PM1D also features eight built-in effects processors. Sound engineers who have used Yamaha processors in the past will be familiar with those in the PM1D. Effects can be assigned to auxes or inserted as desired.

Outputs on the PM1D are handled in the same style as the input section, with 24 mix busses and 12 matrix outputs located in the center of the console. With the use of a flip button, the outputs can be layered to provide a total of 48 mix busses and 24 matrix outputs. Each output has a six-band parametric equalizer with a 20 Hz to 20 kHz range in 121 steps. The sub low/high EQ section can be switched between shelving and peaking or can be used as a low- or high-pass filter.

Additionally, 24 internal one-third-octave equalizers can be patched to any input or output as desired. Delay is provided for every output with a range of 0 to 1,000 milliseconds.

The heart of this digital system is the DSP1D. This powerful digital signal processing engine is a nine RU rack that houses the power to handle up to 320 inputs and 192 outputs including insert sends and returns. An optional input-processing card is required for the DSP1D to handle the maximum I/Os.

The DSP engine connects to the control surface using dual 50-ohm coaxial Ethernet cables, plus a 68-pin SCSI cable per 32 channels. The durability of this SCSI connector is questionable for road use, so Yamaha offers an adapter that can be mounted within the road case to provide more stability.

Additional racks, usually located at the stage, house card frames for modular input (AI8) and output (AO8) and digital interface (DIO8) cards. The LMY2-ML analog input card is a two-channel four-mic/line-connection card with A and B inputs for Channels 1 or 2. The AI8 holds mic pre cards (LMY2-ML) or line input cards (LMY4-AD). The AO8 output rack (3 sp.) is loaded with line level output cards (LMY4-DA). The DIO8 rack (4sp.) can be loaded with analog or digital Yamaha MY cards. If only digital cards are used, a 64 in/ 64 out digital interface results.

Yamaha offers an assortment of digital cards to interface with TASCAM, ADAT or AES/EBU I/O. When using insert points for an analog console, a technician can insert two jack fields (send and return) from a device to the console. When the internal signal is digital, it involves a complete set of converters. The Yamaha PM1D's well-thought-out design uses the same line level input and output cards for analog inserts. The insert is then patched via the software to any input or output required. This same flexibility is also used for direct outs as desired.

The PM1D uses a pair of 24-bit devices per input to achieve 28 bits in the A/D conversion process and 27-bit output converters. The internal clock speed is selectable between 44.1 and 48 kHz; internal processing is 32-bit.

In use

I used the Yamaha PM1D for three shows with Tony Bennett and the Ralph Sharon Quartet. It was easy to get the hang of the work surface, selecting inputs or outputs and using the virtual input to make EQ, gain and processor adjustments. Moving one of the faders to link inputs and outputs so the piano's high and low microphones track together a nice feature. A copy feature lets you transfer EQ settings from one instrument to as many as desired, which was quick and efficient when setting up an orchestra mix.

The center of the console is a little wider than normal, so the input banks felt further from my fingertips than they do on analog consoles I have used. Raising a single trumpet for a solo located on the top bank of inputs was uncomfortable until I got the hang of using the flip buttons to bring that input down to the bottom bank right before the solos. With 12 DCAs in the center section, however, most instruments can be mixed using sub grouping.

Advance planning is critical to ensure through time is allocated for preprogramming this console prior to a show. Since inputs and outputs are patched internally via a digital matrix type system, all programming should be done prior to the show, as well as input/output labeling. Yamaha is developing an offline software program to help this process so shows can be preprogrammed on a computer and then loaded into the PM1D. Sound companies that typically do one-off shows and take a console from one show directly to the next without prep time might not find this type of console the best choice. Yamaha recommends creating basic templates for these types of situations.

After a show is completed, the settings can be stored via the PCMCIA slots to a Flash card. Unfortunately, storing a show on a scene memory that has internally stored a show in the same scene-number locations will delete the show stored internally. It would be nice if the software prompted users to ask if they would like the settings stored to the next open memory. It would also be nice if the software had the ability to print an I/O patch list for expediting setups.

The microphone preamps provide a very clear, bright distinct sound. The open, transparent sound of this console is unlike any I have used in the past. I initially thought the console had almost a brittle kind of sound. By the third time I used the console, however, I was accustomed to tailoring the system EQ to work better with the console's inherent sound and was very pleased with the results.

When mixing a show that is dynamic in nature, the Yamaha PM1D's ability to bring out sounds at low levels with distinct clarity is impressive. Certain subtleties in the mix jump out at you in the PA. Idid find, however, that the built-in headphone amp could not provide enough gain to be useful during a show.

The preciseness of the EQs offered on the inputs and outputs is a welcome change not found in most analog consoles. To zero in on frequencies and adjust the gain and parametric width within 0.5 dB increments is a pleasure for any engineer. The range and location of the metering is excellent with the use of the supplied meter bridge. Assigning channels to DCAs, setting up input and output muting and storing settings is straightforward and easily done. The PM1D's automation is functional and can accept SMPTE or generate its own timecode, making this work surface a natural for production or industrial shows that are synched to video-related cues.

Summary

The Yamaha PM1D is a well-designed professional mixing product for sound reinforcement, remote recording or broadcast applications. From my initial impression of its ease of setup to its total recall, central control and sound quality, I believe the end user will not be disappointed. The PM1D combines the analog hands-on feel with storage, processing and automation features only found in a digital product.