When PSNEurope interviewed Toshifumi Kunimoto – known to his many friends and colleagues as Dr. K – earlier this year it noted the general overuse of the word ‘legend’ but remarked that in this instance “it seems genuinely appropriate, such is [Dr. K’s] track-record of involvement in historic product development projects at Yamaha’s labs in Japan.”
After formative experiences as an amateur musician, Kunimoto determined that his future lay in audio engineering rather than performance. Having concluded his studies at Hokkaido University, he joined Yamaha in the early 1980s and quickly became involved in some of the decade’s most significant electronic and music synthesizer products, including the VL1, AN1x, EX5 and Motif.
Already gestating ideas about the recreation of analogue sounds in the digital domain, Kunimoto would become increasingly immersed in the concept of what came to be known as VCM (Virtual Circuit Modelling). VCM software made it possible not just to replicate effects, but also provide solutions at the component level, and has been incorporated into numerous flagship digital mixing desks – ranging from the DM1000 to the more recent likes of the CL and QL series.
“There is no doubt that VCM was a huge breakthrough for us, and in fact it continues to inform the work that we undertake at Yamaha today. [One of the overriding priorities with VCM] has been to achieve the general reality of the sound, as well as its ‘behaviours’, and that principle remains unchanged,” says Kunimoto.
In one of its most recent iterations – as an integral part of the RIVAGE PM10 large format desk – VCM is used to recreate the characteristics of Rupert Neve Design transformer circuitry and SILK processing. Already in the process of becoming a stalwart of the high-end touring market, the RIVAGE PM10’s adherents include FOH engineer Kirk ‘Eek’ Schreiner, who described the console as “the first digital desk that sounds analogue to me”.
Dr. K and his team also continue to innovate for those with “small to medium scale mixing requirements”. First showcased at Prolight + Sound 2015, the TF series comprises three compact digital mixing consoles. The TF5, TF3, and TF1 respectively offer 33, 25, or 17 motor faders, along with 32, 24, or 16 rear-panel analogue inputs featuring recallable Yamaha D-PRE preamplifiers for the first time in a digital console. Advanced live recording features include up to 34 x 34 channel recording and playback via USB 2.0 and 2 x 2 with a USB storage device, while the TouchFlow Operation capability combines elements of Yamaha user interfaces with an advanced touchpanel system.
“The TF series is another landmark project for Yamaha, and we are very happy with the results of the R&D process behind it,” says Kunimoto. “All these years later we are still innovating with regard to digital mixing technology and the opportunities it offers for engineers and install clients. I am still finding the work hugely enjoyable and love being in the labs – there is always something new and exciting to be done…”
Pictures: Top: Dr K in his lab. Second: Demonstrating the RIVAGE PM10 to a potential customer. Last: Yamaha TF5: “Another landmark for Yamaha”.
Published earlier this year and sponsored by QSC Audio, Genius!2 is the second edition of Genius!, celebrating those clever people whose inventions have transformed the world of professional audio. The 30-page supplement is also available to read in a handy digital-edition form