YAMAHA 01X

THE RETURN OF THE CONSOLE Rewind 10 years: It was the dawn of a new age. Everyone had grown accustomed to recording onto tape and mixing tracks back through
Author:
Publish date:

THE RETURN OF THE CONSOLERewind 10 years: It was the dawn of a new age. Everyone had grown accustomed to recording onto tape and mixing tracks back through a console with faders, knobs and buttons. Then, the digital audio workstation entered the picture. Suddenly, you recorded onto a disk, and the console disappeared. Given a graphical representation of the console on a computer monitor, everyone learned how to mix with a mouse. The pundits all said that this was the future. Some people loved it, and some hated it. Many hours were spent by proponents on both sides debating the pros and cons. Either way, you were promised new ways of mixing.Fast forward to the present: It's the new millennium, and the debate is all but over. And the verdict? Many people still like faders, knobs and buttons. Sure, some aspects of mixing are more easily handled with a mouse, but at the end of the day, people like to be able to ride the gain with a hand on a fader. It's amusing to think back and recall the pundits telling everyone that the future was going to be console-free. Nonetheless, the truth has emerged that many wanted traditional controls, and the manufacturers have graciously obliged.One such manufacturer is Yamaha, which has entered the field with the 01X. This device is actually much more than just a control surface, following the current trend. People need interfaces, both audio and MIDI, and it would be nice to have a stand-alone mixer that could be used independently of the computer. Indeed, the 01X is all three of those things: a mixer, an interface and a control surface. This multifaceted performance makes the 01X a powerful tool.TECH SPECFirst, take a quick tour of the physical aspects of the 01X. The main control surface sports nine moving faders (eight corresponding to inputs or individual channel control and one master). These are reminiscent of the faders on the Pro Mix 01, but they have a shorter (60mm) throw. Because this is a digital mixer, the faders only provide control and a visual representation, so the length of the throw is relatively unimportant. Above each is an on/off button; a Select button; and a channel knob, which is both a rotary encoder and a push-button switch to enter data. Just north is a nice backlit LCD in the traditional Yamaha green. And, finally, up top are eight gain knobs.A Name/Value button above the master fader toggles the display through its various modes. There is a main monitor/headphones level knob, along with up/down and Page Shift buttons to navigate through menus in the display. The auto edit and auto read/write buttons are used to activate and control automation. Global Solo and Record Ready buttons are used in conjunction with the individual channel-select buttons to solo channels and arm tracks, respectively. A Remote button activates the unit's DAW control surface function. Its counterpart, the Internal button, negates that function and returns the console to stand-alone operation. A Scene button selects the scene mode, enabling storage and recall of scenes.The Utility button enables global settings for the entire system. The Monitor A/B button is used to set the balance in level between the stand-alone mixer and the output of the DAW controlled by the 01X. A Selected Channel button toggles between Selected Channel mode, in which the display shows many parameters of one channel, and Multi Channel mode, in which the display shows a single parameter for all eight channels in the selected layer. There are also buttons to call up displays respectively for EQ, pan, send, dynamics, group and effect. A bank of Mixer/Layer buttons is used to switch between input layers in stand-alone mode and to switch banks in DAW remote-control mode. Similarly, the Bank Left and Right buttons select layers or banks. The Flip button does exactly that: flips the function of the channel fader with that of the channel knob. A universal Shift button works in combination with other buttons to select alternate functions and operations. There are Edit, Loop, Undo and Save buttons, along with eight programmable function keys that can be used in DAW control mode. Finally, there are transport controls, including Rewind, Fast Forward, Stop, Play and Record buttons. The Scrub button causes the 01X's main data-entry dial to function as a scrub wheel.The 01X's various I/O and control connections are located on its back panel. There are two XLR microphone inputs, corresponding to channels 1 and 2. The remaining six of the eight analog inputs are of the ¼-inch TRS variety, and each one has a gain knob that goes from line to mic level. The input that corresponds to channel 8 has a hi-Z input for electric guitars or basses with passive pickups. The console can operate at 16- or 24-bit amplitude resolutions, with sample rates ranging from 44.1 to 96 kHz. Two multipurpose ¼-inch jacks can represent the stereo bus, the recording bus or auxiliary buses 1 and 2. Two more ¼-inch outputs represent the 01X's main output for control-room monitoring, and a ¼-inch headphone jack is present, as well. The 01X has two IEEE 1394 connectors for mLAN/FireWire connectivity. Rounding out the unit's audio connections is a stereo RCA S/PDIF digital I/O, and two MIDI I/O pairs provide 32 channels of inputs and outputs.MIXER PARTICULARSEach of the 01X's 24 channels features a 4-band fully parametric equalizer. As much as 18 dB of boost or cut is available across a frequency range of 21.2 Hz to 20 kHz. The bandwidth (Q) is adjustable from 10.0 (wide) to 0.1 (narrow), and as you turn the knob to make that adjustment, you will discover that the low-band equalizer shifts into low-shelving mode at the far-left setting and highpass filter mode at the far-right setting. Similarly, the high-band EQ's Q setting provides high-shelving and lowpass filter modes the same way. The 01X stores a library of 200 EQ presets, the first 40 of which are permanent, and the final 160 presets are for user storage.Each channel also features a compressor with controls for threshold, ratio, attack, release, makeup gain and knee. The knee control varies the rate at which the compression is applied, allowing either hard knee, immediate compression for adding bite or crunch to a guitar or drums, or soft knee, which eases into the compression for smoother, less obvious compression for vocals, synth pads or other smooth signals. These are useful, high-quality digital compressors. As with the EQ, there are 40 unalterable presets, and the user can store as many as 88 user-generated presets.The console's pan controls actually control more than just panning, enabling the user to determine whether the channel is routed to the record or stereo buses; the muting and phase status of the channel; or, of course, the panning. Adjacent channels that route stereo signals can also be paired.Each channel has four auxiliary sends: The first two are sent to the two external sends for use with external signal processors, and auxiliaries 3 and 4 send signal to the 01X's internal signal processors. The returns from these processors are represented by faders 7 and 8 in the Master layer. There are 43 permanent effects presets and 85 storage locations for user-generated effects. Also present are several different types of reverb, including halls, rooms, stage, plate and early-reflection settings. Gated reverbs and reverse-gate reverbs are also available, as are mono and stereo delays, modulated delays and a three-tap LCR delay. An Echo delay with a crossed feedback loop is also featured, as are chorus, flanging, phasing and Yamaha's classic Symphonic effect. Auto-panning and tremolo effects are available, too. High-quality pitch shifting can be applied to a single signal, and lower-quality pitch shifting can be applied simultaneously to two channels. A rotary setting helps to approximate the effect of a Leslie speaker, and a ring modulator is also featured. Modulation filters, distortion, amp simulation and dynamic filters are also available, as are effects created by combining modulated delay effects with various reverbs and delays. One of the more powerful effects is multiband dynamics, which is quite useful for mastering-style compression.One particularly nice feature of the 01X is the ability to store group configurations, I/O routing and scenes. This enables, among other things, the ability to use the 01X like a dynamic patch bay. You can make hard connections to various devices in your studio and set up various routing configurations and store them.IT'S ALL ABOUT CONTROLEvery parameter of the 01X is able to be computer-controlled with the included superslick Studio Manager software. A nice graphical user interface displays literally every parameter of the console on your computer screen and allows you to control everything without laying as much as a finger on the console itself. This is far and away the preferable way of working, as the graphical interface on the computer gives a much clearer and more informative display of the console's parameters, particularly for things like EQ, dynamics and effects.The 01X is also a powerful stand-alone mixer, but the ability to remotely control a DAW is equally important, if not more so. The unit arrives ready to control DAWs such as Steinberg Cubase SX, Apple Logic, Cakewalk Sonar, MOTU Digital Performer and Yamaha SQ01. Presumably, the unit will be configurable in the future to control later versions of these applications and others. One real disappointment here is the lack of complete Mac OS X compatibility. I use Digital Performer 4 on a Macintosh with OS 10.2.8, and the 01X's drivers are as of yet unable to control that particular configuration. Those who want to use the 01X on Mac OS X will need to upgrade to OS 10.3.3 (or higher) and the latest version of Digital Performer (4.5 or higher) because support for mLAN was previously unavailable. For someone in no-man's land, like me, this poses a bit of a problem. I will soon upgrade to Mac OS 10.3, and that will ostensibly solve it. Control of Mac OS 9 — based systems, on the other hand, is not a problem. According to Yamaha's operation manual, the company is currently working with Apple to solve these issues.Nevertheless, the unit does ship with extra software. Macintosh users get the Studio Manager application, an mLAN driver and four plug-ins: the 01X Channel Module (which reproduces the console's channel in your DAW), Pitch Fix (which can be used to correct pitch and change the character of a voice), Vocal Rack (a three-in-one highpass filter, compressor and 3-band EQ) and Final Master (which features a compressor, a limiter, a soft-clip function and 3-band compression). Windows users get all of these things in addition to Yamaha's SQ01 sequencer, the AudioMixer plug-in for SQ01 and TWE (an audio editor). The plug-ins are a significant addition that add a lot of power.ASSESSMENTPreviously, I have had the privilege of reviewing Yamaha's DM-1000 console, and I frequently spend time with the PM1D, Yamaha's flagship digital live console; both are very sophisticated (the PM1D significantly more so). The challenge for Yamaha is to create a user interface in a digital console that isn't ridiculously different from its analog counterpart. It's a daunting prospect because these digital consoles have features that no analog desk does. Yamaha manages to make these consoles easy to use, which is no mean feat. In the case of the 01X, due to its lower level of sophistication, Yamaha has managed to keep the operation really simple. Menu diving is kept to a minimum, and navigating is quite quick. It sounds good, too. The converters are great, and the subsequent digital signal processing is fantastic, including the EQs and, particularly, the compressors. Digital compression has traditionally sounded, well, digital, but Yamaha's compressors sound nice. As with all of Yamaha's products, the effects processing has a pedigree that traces back to the venerable SPX-90. The effects in the 01X are the third generation since then and exhibit higher resolution and higher quality.The 01X is, for all practical intents and purposes, Yamaha's answer to the Digidesign Digi 002 interface and control surface. It doesn't have quite the same complement of analog I/O but makes up for it with mLAN capability. It's simple to operate, with most functions accessible with fewer than three button strokes. It's not necessarily portable, but it's also not huge — it's a nice size for most home studios. If you are a user of Cubase, Sonar or Logic, I definitely recommend the 01X. If you're a Mac OS X Digital Performer user, you may want to wait until Yamaha finalizes the full functionality of the unit for that configuration. The 01X provides a great interface, control surface and stand-alone mixer — items that are necessary for a home studio.Product SummaryYAMAHAO1X > $1,699Pros: Powerful mixer, control surface and interface. Easy operation. Nice plug-ins.Cons: Only compatible with the latest revision of MOTU Digital Performer in Mac OS X.Contact:www.yamaha.comSystem RequirementsMac: G4/dual 450 or G3, G4/700; 320 MB RAM; Mac OS 9.2.2/10.3.3; 175 MB hard-disk space; available FireWire portPC: Intel-compatible/1.2; 384 MB RAM; Windows XP Professional/Home; 500 MB hard-disk space; available IEEE 1394 port


THREE FOR ONE >The 01X pulls triple duty as an audio and MIDI interface, a stand-alone mixer and a DAW control surface with standard analog and digital connections.


CONNECTIONS ARE MADE >The 01X includes two phantom-powered mic preamps, six 1⁄4-inch TRS inputs (with hi-Z input), a 1⁄4-inch stereo monitor out, a 1⁄4-inch stereo aux out, 32 channels of MIDI I/O, digital stereo I/O, two footswitch controls, a 1⁄4-inch headphone output and two FireWire ports.