YAMAHA01X - EMusician

YAMAHA01X

01X mLAN takes a giant step forward.
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FIG. 1: The Yamaha 01X combines the functionality of a freestanding digital mixer, two effects processors, a DAW control surface, and an mLAN-based audio and MIDI interface in a single device weighing less than 14 pounds. Impressive flexibility and outstanding ergonomics ensure ease of operation.

Imagine linking all of your audio and MIDI equipment using one bidirectional cable for each device. The mLAN protocol, introduced by Yamaha more than a decade ago, can carry dozens of audio tracks and hundreds of MIDI channels over a single IEEE-1394 FireWire cable (see the sidebar “What Is mLAN?”). No muss, no fuss, and no bother — that's the promise of mLAN. The device that goes the furthest to make good on that promise is the Yamaha 01X.

The Yamaha 01X is many devices rolled into one. It's an mLAN-based multichannel audio and multiport MIDI interface for your computer. It's an 8-input, 24-bit A/D converter that handles sampling rates as high as 96 kHz. It's a freestanding digital mixer with two onboard stereo effects processors and dynamics on every channel. It's a remote control surface with reassignable knobs and motorized faders for your digital audio workstation (DAW) software. Use it to track, mix, and master your studio recordings. Tuck it under your arm and carry it into a nightclub to automate your band's live mixes. I agree with Yamaha's claim that there's never been anything like the 01X.

SCRATCHING THE SURFACE

Considering all of the functionality that is packed into the 01X's silver gray front panel, its user interface is a miracle of modern ergonomics. All of the controls are exactly where I want them to be, facilitating speed and ease of use onstage and in the studio. I'm glad that the layout is so logical, because the 01X does so many things that it would be easy to get lost otherwise.

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FIG. 2: The 01X''s rear panel has eight channels of analog I/O, stereo S/PDIF, 32-channel MIDI, and two mLAN connectors. Mic preamps are provided for all eight inputs, but only two have XLR jacks and phantom power.

The front panel's left half contains eight channel strips (see Fig. 1). From bottom to top, each has a 60 mm motorized fader, an on button, a select button, a channel knob, and a gain knob, which is continuously variable from line to mic levels. The main display, a 2-by-55-character LCD with LED backlighting, stretches across all eight channel strips between the two rows of knobs. Each channel knob changes the value of whatever parameter appears above it in the display, and pressing the same knob selects a displayed value. To the right of the channel strips is the main stereo fader, which also has on and select buttons. Above that is that Name/Value button, which switches the display between showing parameter names and their values. Pressing Name/Value while holding the Shift button lets you toggle from no metering and viewing a vertical bar meter for a selected channel to viewing horizontal bar meters for the stereo output.

The lower-right quadrant contains transport controls, eight function buttons, a shuttle/jog wheel, and a button to enable scrubbing. Additionally there are cursor and zoom buttons, buttons to locate and write markers, shift and flip buttons, and buttons to scroll through fader banks. All are within reach of one another. The Shift button is an important one, because pressing and holding it toggles several other buttons to perform alternate functions. The transport buttons feel like those on an old multitrack tape deck, and their tactile response practically invites you to smack 'em hard.

The gray silkscreened area in the upper-right quadrant contains groups of mode, page, and mixer layer buttons. Two of the mode buttons select whether the front panel controls the onboard mixer (Internal) or external software (Remote), and the remaining three let you select and store Scenes, access Utility functions, and quickly toggle the monitor source between the internal mixer and DAW tracks. The Monitor A/B function is handy; by holding the button and turning a knob, you can adjust the balance of the two sources. A single knob controls the monitor out levels and the headphone levels.

In the Page section, the Selected Channel button determines whether the display shows several parameters for a single channel or a single parameter for eight channels. Four EQ buttons summon equalization settings for four bands. Pressing the Pan button displays each channel's pan position and lets you control panning with the channel knobs. In the same section, pressing the Send, Dynamics, and Effects buttons displays the aux send, dynamics, and effects settings, respectively. The Group button lets you define and disable fader and mute groups and pair adjacent faders.

To the right of the window, the Display up and -down buttons let you scroll through parameter pages. Pressing the Page Shift button at the same time lets you jump to particular pages within each category. Below those, the Auto Edit and Auto R/W buttons enable automation in your DAW program. Pressing the Solo button lets you use the channel buttons to solo channels, and pressing the Record Ready button lets you arm recording for each channel by pressing its channel button.

MAKING CONNECTIONS

Rear-panel connections are arranged in two rows, one above the other (see Fig. 2). The top row, from left to right, contains a single stereo ¼-inch headphone output; two unbalanced ¼-inch monitor outputs; two unbalanced ¼-inch outputs for the stereo, record, or aux bus; and eight mic/line inputs. Inputs 1 and 2 are balanced XLR jacks, and inputs 3 through 8 are balanced ¼-inch jacks. All eight inputs have built-in mic preamps; if you want XLR jacks on all eight channels, all you need is Yamaha's optional TRS-to-XLR snake ($29.95). An additional ¼-inch input on channel 8 accommodates high-impedance instruments such as electric bass.

The lower-left side of the panel features the power switch and a connector for a lump-in-the-line power adapter. Two MIDI In and two MIDI Out ports accommodate 32 MIDI channels. Two footswitch jacks let you start and stop transport operations and punch in and out while recording. Next to those are coaxial S/PDIF in and out ports and a switch to enable 48V phantom power on the two mic inputs. Alongside two mLAN ports, an LED indicates mLAN activity.

INSTALLATION AND SETUP

For this review, I tested the 01X using a dual-processor Power Mac G4/1 GHz with 1.5 GB of RAM running Mac OS X 10.3.5. My DAW software was MOTU Digital Performer 4.12 (DP4). My audio sources included miked voice, percussion, and acoustic guitar, as well as synthesizers, electric guitar, and electric bass.

Two installation CD-ROMs labeled Tools for 01X and Plug-In Effect came with the 01X. A helpful tutorial DVD coproduced by Yamaha and Keyfax called The 01Xperience was also included.

I ran the plug-in installer and authorized all four plug-ins with a serial number (see the sidebar “A Sweet Little Suite”). When I inserted the Tools for 01X disc, though, I didn't find any software for Mac OS X. I consulted the documentation and learned that I needed to download OS X installers from www.mlancentral.com. The Web site currently has the latest software for Windows, Mac OS 9.2, and Mac OS X 10.3.3 and up, as well as setup documentation. Yamaha says that future installation discs will have updated software.

An editor application called Studio Manager for the 01X (Mac/Win) comes bundled with the 01X. A version of Studio Manager ships with every Yamaha digital mixer. Studio Manager is a virtual mixer that works bidirectionally with the 01X; whenever you make a change in one, it is reflected in the other. Moving a fader onscreen moves the corresponding 01X fader, and moving an 01X fader moves the corresponding fader onscreen. Studio Manager can access every 01X parameter.

SOFTWARE ISSUES

The Mac OS X version of mLAN Auto Connector that I found on mLAN Central's Web site was version 1.0.2b, a public beta. When I asked my contact at Yamaha why it was called a beta, he said it was because it contained known bugs. Nonetheless, it was a vast improvement over the prior official release. I began my review using Mac OS X 10.3.4, which had many mLAN-related problems that were (thankfully) solved by the release of 10.3.5.

The program mLAN Auto Connector is a necessary component for using the 01X with a computer. It has the means to specify the sampling rate, the word-clock source, and the number of channels.

However, mLAN Auto Connector is a nonpersistent application, which means that you must open it and change its settings every time you power up the 01X. Unless you happen to use the factory defaults, you must manually reset its various parameters and select Connect for the settings to take effect. Then you have to leave mLAN Auto Connector open until you're ready to disconnect the computer from the 01X. It would be a tremendous improvement if Auto Connector did what its name suggests and connected automatically.

Whenever I powered up the Mac and the 01X, I ran mLAN Auto Connector, changed the sampling-rate setting, enabled channel monitoring, and then selected the Connect command. Fortunately, the 01X has a way to save its user defaults — word-clock source, DAW remote assignment, fader levels, panning, and so on — by means of the Utility page's Backup command. Without that function, the startup routine would have been much more complicated (see the online sidebar “Convolution Shuffle” at www.emusician.com).

The current version of mLAN Auto Connector supports only point-to-point connections if you're using Mac OS X; consequently, it works with only one device and is incapable of handling a true network. When Yamaha introduced the mLAN-based Open Network Expansion (O.N.E.) in January 2004, the promise was to be able to link gear from various manufacturers into a unified system. If you're a Mac OS X user with another piece of mLAN-compatible gear such as a PreSonus FireStation or a Kurzweil KSP8, this limitation is a serious (if only temporary) setback. Yamaha assures me that future software will solve the problem and that the Windows and Mac OS 9 versions are already network-ready.

ONE MIXER TO GO

First and foremost, the 01X is a digital mixer in the tradition of the Yamaha 01V96 and its predecessors. Its feature set and price make it ideal for project studios, and it has a lot to offer live performers as well. Although the 01X is advertised as a 28-channel mixer, it gives hands-on access to some additional channels on the Master layer.

In Internal mode, you can access every channel by pressing the four Layer buttons or by scrolling with the Bank buttons. The first layer controls the eight analog inputs. The second and third layers control 16 inputs over mLAN. If you have instruments with mLAN outputs or an mLAN audio interface such as a Yamaha i88X, you can make use of those 16 channels without the need for a computer, even using the 01X onstage as a freestanding mixer; if you don't, you can stream them from your computer's DAW program, using the 01X to control your audio track outputs.

Layer four is the Master layer, which has the record bus out master, four aux bus masters, and two stereo inputs. The aux inputs and the stereo inputs differ from the others in that a single fader controls a stereo channel, they have no direct output, and no dynamics processing is available on those channels.

All of the other channels have compression, expansion, and gating. User parameters give you control over five degrees of knee hardness, as well as the usual threshold, ratio, attack, release, and gain. The 01X has a library of 40 dynamics presets, each tailored for a specific instrument or application, and 88 user presets.

Each channel also has four bands of sweepable parametric EQ: low, low mid, high mid, and high. Center frequencies cover the entire range of normal hearing, and gain allows up to 18 dB of boost or cut. In Multi Channel mode, you can change the EQ for all channels at the same time. As with dynamics, a 4-band EQ library lets you select from 40 factory presets and 88 user presets.

EFFECTS WIZARD

Two pre- or postfader aux buses are available for external effects, and the other two are for routing signals to the internal effects processors. Onboard effects can process any of the 24 individual channels (analog or mLAN), either aux bus, the stereo bus, or the main stereo outs. The limitation is that you can patch only one processor to a channel or bus, which means you can't have ring modulation and a rotary effect, for example, on the same track. Twelve combination presets pair certain effects in series or in parallel, but they might not always be the pair you'd prefer.

The two processors are identical, each furnishing 43 factory presets and locations for 85 user presets, which you create by modifying factory presets. The library has a nice balance of reverbs, delays, and modulation effects. It also features distortion and guitar-amp simulation; filtering, flanging, and phasing that respond to changes in dynamics; and a 3-band resonant multimode filter.

I've always liked Yamaha's reverbs, and the 01X's are as smooth and usable as I had expected. I also appreciated the amp simulation, which gives a choice of ten amp types and five distortion types. All effects present an abundance of parameters to tweak, although none provide any means to control them using external switches, pedals, or MIDI controllers.

MANAGE A DAW

It's safe to assume that most 01X customers will want to use it as the hardware front end for their DAW software. In combination with a digital audio sequencer, the 01X can make recording with multitrack software feel a lot like recording with multitrack hardware. It has faders, knobs, and buttons for controlling most aspects of DAW recording and playback — even controlling plug-in parameters.

In Remote mode, the first three mixer layers give hands-on access to 24 audio or MIDI tracks with full automation capabilities. In addition to a moving fader, each track has an on button that serves as a mute function. You can use the channel knobs for dialing in the values of selected parameters.

The mLAN network has five virtual ports called plugs. Before using the 01X with DP4, you must create MIDI devices and make connections in Audio MIDI Setup (AMS). Plug 1 is used to control DAW software with the 01X, but DP4 is the only program that requires you to connect an 01X device to plug 1. Plugs 2 and 3 connect to the 01X's physical MIDI ports; if you want to use those, connect appropriate devices there as well. Plug 4 connects to Studio Manager, and plug 5 controls Scene changes; neither requires that you actually connect them.

The documentation and DVD have plenty of information about using the 01X with Steinberg Cubase SX. If you use another multitrack recording program, a remote function list in the owner's manual conveniently lists 01X functions specific to several other DAW programs. When you press the Remote button on the 01X's Utility page, you can select templates for Logic, Cubase, Sonar, or Digital Performer; a general DAW template is also supplied. Pro Tools support is conspicuous in its absence, however, because Pro Tools requires Digidesign audio hardware.

To use the 01X with Digital Performer, my first step was to specify the mLAN network in DP4's Configure Hardware Driver window. I then opened Control Surface Setup, enabled the Mackie driver, and specified a connection to the 01X. After that, when I opened a song file, its tracks corresponded to 01X channels: the first track was the first channel, the second track was the second channel, and so on. Changing their order in the Tracks Overview changed the assigned 01X channel, which meant that I was able to determine which fader controlled which track by changing the order of tracks onscreen — a nice feature. I assigned the first eight channels to the 01X's analog audio inputs, but beyond that, anything was possible.

Whenever I pressed an 01X Bank button to scroll to the next set of eight channels, DP4's Mixing Board window changed after a two-second delay to display only the corresponding eight tracks. I discovered that if I had more tracks than would fit in the Tracks Overview, pressing the 01X's Display up or -down buttons shifted the window to display the tracks located at the top or bottom. The function buttons were handy for opening and closing various edit windows; in most cases, that was a two-finger operation using the Shift button.

Controlling transport functions and mixing with the 01X quickly became second nature. According to the owner's manual, I should have been able to add and jump to markers using dedicated 01X buttons. With the Marker button enabled, pressing the Rewind or Fast-Forward button did jump to the previous or next marker as expected, but pressing the Write button didn't add markers as it was supposed to. I checked with Yamaha, and the problem appears to be a limitation of DP4 rather than the 01X.

AGONY OR 01XSTASY?

The Yamaha 01X is an amazing machine that makes more of mLAN's potential than anything else, providing high-quality sound, flexible functionality, and logical operation at a remarkable price. Its crystalline sound gave my projects a nice transparency that I had hoped for. The mic preamps are good, especially when you consider the 01X's price. And once you get going, operating the 01X is a breeze.

Software notwithstanding, there's not much I would change about the 01X. I wish it had balanced XLR outputs; for some users, unbalanced ¼-inch outputs will relegate it to the semipro category. In addition, the documentation could be better organized. Despite a well-written manual, a supplementary DVD, and third-party online support (see Fig. 3), I had a hard time learning how to do what needed to be done at a given moment. Information about how to perform certain operations, such as saving Utility defaults, was buried in the manual.

If you're a project-studio owner in need of a DAW control surface with motorized faders, you're bound to like what you see in the 01X. If you're convinced that mLAN is the wave of the future for studio data communications, the 01X provides an opportunity to get started in that area. If you're a live performer who wants to automate your show, the 01X's Scene capabilities can store and quickly call up setups for up to 99 songs. The 01X combines a lot of desirable functions in an attractive, ergonomic, and portable desktop device. It will undoubtedly find its way into many studios and onto many stages.

EM Associate EditorGeary Yeltonlives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Despite his best efforts, his software-based electronic-music studio continues to depend on new hardware.

01X Specifications

Sampling Rates 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz Sampling Resolution 16-, 24-bits Analog Inputs (2) balanced XLR, 48V phantom powered; (6) balanced ¼" TRS; (1) unbalanced ¼" TS Analog Outputs (2) unbalanced ¼" stereo/aux; (2) unbalanced ¼" monitor; (1) ¼" stereo headphone Digital I/O (1) coaxial S/PDIF I/O; (2) mLAN ports Other Connectors (2) MIDI In; (2) MIDI Out; (2) ¼" footswitch Faders (9) 60 mm motorized EQ (28) 4-band parametric Display 2 × 55-character LCD with LED backlight Effects Processors (2) multi-effects, (43) factory presets, (85) user presets Dynamics Processors (26) compressor, expander, gate Preset Libraries (100) scenes, (128) effects, (128) dynamics, (200) EQs, (33) input patches, (33) output patches, (129) channels Power 100-240 VAC to 16 VDC adapter Dimensions 17.83" (W) × 4.57" (H) × 15.39" (D) Weight 13.67 lbs.

SWEET LITTLE SUITE

The Yamaha 01X ships with a suite of four VST and Audio Units (AU) plug-ins with individual PDF manuals. Whereas the 01X Channel Module (Mac/Win) is specifically for use with the 01X, the other three modules are general-purpose plug-ins that are available separately: Vocal Rack ($199), Pitch Fix ($299), and Final Master ($199). You can use them with any compatible host in Windows, Mac OS 9, or Mac OS X.

Channel Module lets you edit EQ and dynamics within your DAW software and transfer those settings to and from the 01X. The plug-in provides a graphic interface for controlling parameters, and it has all of the presets from the 01X's dynamics library. Channel Module's greatest advantage is that you can specify EQ and dynamics parameters even when the 01X is not connected. Additionally, you can transfer those settings to the 01X later when it's time to record.

Vocal Rack furnishes compression, 3-band EQ, a noise gate, a de-esser, and a simple delay with a range from 0.1 to 50 ms. A Harmonic Enhancer slider boosts a track's overtone content. A simple highpass filter and a phase-inversion switch are also included. Twenty presets are optimized for lead vocal, background vocal, radio effect, and so on.

Final Master is a multiband dynamics processor that is optimized for use in a final mix. Graphics sliders let you divide the frequency spectrum into three bands. Each band supplies a compressor and a limiter, and you can apply one of three soft-clipping curves to the entire spectrum. Fifteen factory presets are available to get you started.

Pitch Fix is a sophisticated pitch-correction plug-in that lets you apply manual controls or assign a MIDI track to control an audio track's pitch (see Fig. A). You can shift formants and pitch simultaneously, which preserves the natural timbre, or you can shift them independently for special effects. Pitch Fix can automatically create vocal harmonies, change a singer's gender, or keep a vocal track in tune.

The bundle has additional software for Windows users. SQ01 is an audio sequencer, and TWE Wave Editor is a multitrack audio-editing program. If you happen to own a Motif Rack, a dedicated editor lets you control its functions from your PC screen.

PRODUCT SUMMARY

Yamaha

01X
digital mixer/mLAN interface
$1,699

FEATURES4.0EASE OF USE3.5AUDIO QUALITY4.5VALUE4.0

RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5

PROS: Compact size. Solid construction. Motorized faders. Flexible routing. Superb audio quality. Excellent effects.

CONS: No XLR outputs. Lackluster support for Mac OS X. Documentation needs better organization.

Manufacturer

Yamaha
email: infostation@yamaha.com
Web: www.yamaha.com

WHAT IS MLAN?

First proposed by Yamaha in 1993, mLAN is a digital communications protocol that uses an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) connection as a pathway for high-speed data transfer. By design, it can carry multichannel audio, multiport MIDI, word clock, video, and control data bidirectionally on a single cable. mLAN adds to the usual point-to-point FireWire protocol the ability to intelligently handle audio application-specific data and manage multiple devices in a network. Like the MIDI protocol, mLAN is an open standard that is not proprietary to a single manufacturer. Numerous other companies, including Kurzweil, PreSonus, and TerraTec, have joined Yamaha in producing mLAN-compatible hardware.