During the 1990s, powered mixers, like so many other sectors of the audio field, became more complex, more capable and more powerful. As technological improvements trickled down from high-end products, these all-in-one mixers improved their capabilities dramatically while remaining largely affordable. Several companies have released console-style, powered boards that, in many ways, resemble their larger nonpowered cousins. One of those companies is Yorkville, a Canadian firm renowned for its value-oriented sound equipment. This board, the PowerMAX16, like its stable mate the PowerMAX22, is a feature-packed mixer with a hefty power amp section.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound
Key Features: 12 mono mic/line channels; two stereo line channels; built in effects; three band EQ (two fixed, one sweep)
Contact: Yorkville at 716-297-2920.
+ Quality construction
+ Phantom power, EQ and compression
– Segregated feature set can be cumbersome
The Score: A versatile mixer with plenty of power and features to handle a variety of applications.
The PowerMAX16 is a console-style board that has 12 mono mic/line channels and two stereo line channels in a 16 x 2 configuration, with two internal stereo power amps. The console is 28″wide, 19.8″deep, 5.6″ high and weighs a remarkably hefty 60 lb. According to Yorkville, the PowerMAX has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz (+/- 2 dB), a THD rating of 0.03 percent (main out w/-10 dB input), and a power output rating of 450 W/channel (mains at 8 ohms) and 140 W/channel (monitors at 8 ohms).
When designing this board, Yorkville – like many other manufacturers – chose to employ what I call “selective feature distribution”(SFD). Simply put, this is the practice of adorning only certain channels with features that would often appear on all channels of a more expensive console. The reasons for this are clear – it keeps costs down while still allowing the user to have access to things like channel inserts, phantom power, powerful EQs and even high-quality mic preamps.
A drawback is that this sometimes makes for odd channel groupings. Suppose you had four channels of external compression and wanted to use that on bass drum, snare drum and vocals. You might have to put your vocals next to the kick and snare drum channels since only certain channels have an insert jack. Consequently, the other drums might be spread across the entire control surface of the console.
Bearing this in mind, let’s look at the PowerMAX16’s features. This console has 12 mono channels, all of which are equipped with 1/4″ balanced line inputs as well as XLR-equipped mic preamps. Further, they all have an 80 Hz high-pass filter, input trim control, two pre-fade monitor sends, three post-fade effects sends (two of which are dedicated to the internal effects unit), a pan control, mute and solo switches, clip and solo LEDs, and a fader.
These channels also have EQ sections that are equipped with fixed-frequency low and high controls (80 Hz and 12 kHz) and a sweepable mid control (80 Hz to 8 kHz), all of which can cut or boost 15 dB. In an example of SFD, Yorkville has equipped Channels 1 through 6 with a built-in limiter that is referred to as Channel Overload Protection. Yorkville has adorned Channels 7 through 12 with insert jacks.
The last two channel strips on the PowerMAX are stereo line channels. Each one of these channels has two 1/4″ balanced inputs as well as two RCA inputs. Other than the four fixed bands of EQ and lack of inserts or limiting, these channels are identical to the neighboring mono channels.
The PowerMAX16’s master section is equipped with a variety of patch connections including RCA and balanced 1/4″ main outputs as well as 1/4″ outs for monitor mix one and two. In addition, there are 1/4″ send and return jacks for two of the three post-fade aux sends that allow the operator to utilize external effects units. Should you wish to use the PowerMAX’s internal amps without the console, there are 1/4″ jacks to access the amp inputs too. The master section also has a 12V light socket and a footswitch jack for defeating the internal effects unit.
The auxiliary return section has controls for the three post-fade aux returns. There are solo buttons and rotary controls to send their signals to the main mix and/or to the two monitor mixes. The master sends are located just beneath the returns on the console’s control surface. There are potentiometers for the two monitors and one post-fade aux master send. The internal effects units have corresponding faders for each of their master sends instead of a rotary control. This area is also home to the 12-step LED ladder, headphone volume and solo mode button. The left/right main faders are located here as well. All four of the faders and the three master sends have corresponding clip LED indicators.
The Yorkville has three onboard graphic equalizers, a stereo nine-band for mains and a mono nine-band for each of the two monitor mixes. The mains EQ is also equipped with a “speaker processor,” which is what Yorkville calls a bass boost. The speaker processor can bump either 50 or 80 Hz, depending on the selector switch position. The 50-Hz spike is rather narrow and the 80-Hz boost is broad.
One of the most intriguing features on the PowerMAX16 is the internal effects unit. It has a dual persona that allows maximum flexibility. You can use it in stereo with parameter adjustment or you can opt for mono mode, which yields two processors containing 16 presets each. All the traditional effects are represented here: rooms, halls, chambers, plates and gated reverbs as well as delays, modulation effects and special effects (pitch change and long feedback delays).
The front of the PowerMAX is home to the phantom power switch and the headphone jack, which are tucked neatly beneath the bumper. The rear of the console has the power switch and all the speaker output jacks. There are parallel 1/4″ pairs for both the monitor amp channels and Speakons with 1/4″ for each of the main amp channels. The PowerMAX16’s chassis is ventilated to allow cooling for the amps.
My first impression of the PowerMAX was distressing. It was remarkably heavy and just large enough to be cumbersome. I dreaded the idea of actually taking it on a job – especially without a road case. Once in place and turned on, however, it demonstrated exceptional capability. It passed my “no manual” test with flying colors. The control surface was so clearly labeled and the overall design so sensible, that I had no problems getting full use from the console without consulting the manual.
Fortunately, I was able to use the PowerMAX in a variety of professional settings. The first opportunity was providing sound reinforcement and recording services for a conference at the Food and Drug Administration. There were about 100 people in attendance listening to eight panelists and a keynote speaker. It was a little scary showing up with only the Yorkville and no outboard rack or power amps; I felt naked. I made sure to bring my regular console and outboard gear in the truck, just in case. Once I got everything set up and dialed in, however, I was filled with confidence. It was a liberating experience to be able to adequately cover this job with such a small rig.
The PowerMAX16 performed superbly. It had plenty of channels, ample outputs, lots of EQ and gobs of power. I had no trouble filling the room with intelligible sound. As a matter of fact, one of the on-site video guys came up to me and said it was the best sound he had ever heard in that room. He was also very pleased with the audio feed I provided from the Yorkville.
My only qualms this day were that I had some trouble getting enough gain out of the mic preamps. Also, since there was some noise from the HVAC system, I would have liked to put my eight-channel noise gate to use but as there are only six channel inserts on the PowerMAX, it was not possible to adequately reduce the room noise.
I also had a chance to use the Yorkville for amplifying a full band. It was a local jazz combo playing a corporate function at the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Again the PowerMAX inspired confidence. It had plenty of power to fill the cavernous hall with cocktail music while simultaneously providing two robust monitor mixes. Again, I found the Yorkville’s equalizers most helpful in getting a great sound both on stage and at front of house.
Unfortunately, I still had problems getting ample gain from the mic preamps without inducing some noise. In addition, I had a little trouble getting the headphones loud enough to overcome the sound in the room.
There are many little touches on the PowerMAX16 that merit mentioning. All the 1/4″ jacks are metal, both line channels have gold-plated RCA input jacks, the LED ladder has peak memory, the effects unit can offer up two separate effects and the built-in limiter is great for handling dynamic performers. While I certainly enjoyed using the PowerMAX, there were some difficulties. I found the console’s weight to be a hindrance. A road case is highly recommended to prevent transit damage. The reverbs, which sounded good in reinforcement applications, revealed some noise trails when scrutinized in a studio setting.
The Yorkville PowerMAX16 is exceedingly comprehensive, covering all the bases a powered mixer costing $2,799 should. With 12 mic/line channels and two stereo line channels, it amply addresses most ensembles. With powerful EQs, built in limiting and a competent effects unit, it leaves little need for external equipment. It is the most robust powered console I have seen or used. It is very well suited to both amateur and professional applications where an all-in-one system is desired.