Yamaha Celebrates 30 Years of Digital Mixers

by George Petersen
in Milestones
Yamaha’s 1987 DMP7 was the company’s first digital console.
Yamaha’s 1987 DMP7 was the company’s first digital console.

Three Decades of Trailblazing Excellence

In 1987, Yamaha unveiled the DMP7, a groundbreaking digital mixer featuring channel parametric EQs, two internal effect processors, a stereo compressor, advanced scene memory that allowed instant recall of multiple mix setups and unique motorized faders that moved with each recall. The DMP7 also represented a significant company milestone as its first digital mixer, providing a solution for professional keyboard players and also for those mixing in live and studio situations.

Like many “first” products in any genre, the DMP7 definitely had its share of shortcomings. It offered eight unbalanced ¼-inch line inputs; no mic preamps; and the channel trims were located on the rear panel. However, what it did provide was a glimpse into the future of live sound mixing. Under its simple top panel were three Yamaha effects engines, and channel level, pan, EQ, phase and onboard DSP effects that could all be stored in 30 (or 97, with the optional memory cartridge) user presets for immediate recall. Among the early adopters of the DMP7 was FOH engineer Stanley Miller, who found it to be ideal for automating effect and channel settings for Neil Diamond’s tours.

In the three decades since that time, Yamaha has continued to define and redefine the art of the digital console for live applications, with some 22 unique products along the way.

‡‡         The Early Days

Yamaha got an early start in the field of professional mixing consoles with the introduction of its first PM series analog mixer in 1972, which led to a string of extremely successful launches. Yamaha’s first pro audio mixers — the PM series — made an inauspicious debut in 1972, with the PM200, a mono mixer with unbalanced inputs and outputs. That was followed by the PM400, which took it up a notch with balanced I/Os and stereo operation, but the revolution arrived with 1974’s PM1000 — an analog board whose modular design, transformer-balanced I/Os, 4x4 matrix, 3-band channel EQ and rock-solid construction truly laid down the future of Yamaha as a world standard. Although long-since replaced by the newer PM2000, PM3000, PM4000 and PM5000 analog designs, the PM1000 lives on today as a popular DIY project, with enthusiasts rack-mounting and re-capping individual input modules, used as channel strips.

Having built an enviable reputation for reliability, Yamaha’s segue into the digital realm was a natural, and easily proved that a digital mixer was as reliable as, or even more, reliable than an analog mixer.

Many commonplace features found on today’s digital mixers were pioneered by Yamaha, and its 30 years of digital-mixer history was punctuated by several key products.

The 02R was a hit on its release in 1995.

‡‡         The 02R (1995)

Although intended as a 20-bit studio board, at $10,000, the O2R was also incorporated into live performance sound reinforcement applications, with 44-channel mixing capacity with 4-band parametric EQ, limiter/compressor/gate on every channel and output bus, input delays, four I/O card slots accommodating ADAT, DA-88, S/PDIF and AES/EBU signals; and two SPX-quality internal effects processors. Perhaps one of the 02R’s coolest features was a simple cascade port on the rear panel, which allowed multiple consoles to be linked for more I/Os, creating a fully loaded 80-input board for less than $20,000. And as the 02R was software-based, later updates added new functionality such as surround mixing. It was an immediate — and worldwide — hit.

Eventually, the 02R was replaced with the 02R96, a 56-input, 24-bit/96kHz board with full mix interfacing with popular DAWs.

 ‡‡         PM1D (1999)

The first of its kind in digital mixing systems, this console was designed specifically for live sound reinforcement. The PM1D sparked a digital revolution in live sound after its debut at Carnegie Hall in New York City; its worldwide popularity resulted in significant sales and the beginning of a new era.

 ‡‡         PM5D (2004)

While the PM1D paved the way for acceptance of the digital in high-end sound reinforcement, the PM5D solidified that digital was the right choice for touring and festivals. Because of its ease-of-use and intuitive operation, it was an obvious drop-in replacement for an analog console. At the time, the Yamaha Commercial Audio Training Seminars staff worked overtime to keep up with demand on training on this system. It was claimed by many rental companies to be the most “rider-friendly” digital mixer, and still today, some 13 years later, it remains as an acceptable substitute on many riders.

‡‡         M7CL (2005)

This proved to be another landmark product, designed specifically for simple operation and creating a smooth transition for analog users — primarily targeting the house of worship market.

All this innovation paid off in 2007, when Yamaha was awarded a Technical Grammy by the Recording Academy, which recognized the company’s long tradition of highly-successful recording products, including the REV series digital reverbs; the legendary NS-10M studio reference monitors and HS monitors, as well the Yamaha DMP7, DMC1000, ProMix01, 02R and DM2000 digital mixing consoles.

 A 2012 video of Yamaha’s CL5 by FRONT of HOUSE-TV netted more than 141,000 views on YouTube.

‡‡         Into the Future

Today, the Yamaha legacy continues more innovation, including:

The Yamaha CL series digital mixing consoles, which deliver a clean, natural sound, plus a comprehensive range of “coloring” options that give the mix artists who use them extraordinary creative freedom.

Simple operation, such as this QL5, has always been a hallmark of Yamaha mixers.

The QL series consoles, which offer all-in-one mixing, processing, and routing capability for small to medium scale live sound, corporate speech events and installations.

The Yamaha TF series consoles, featuring a unique TouchFlow Operation interface that has made digital mixing a much simpler and more accessible practice, allowing users to respond to the music and artists on stage with unprecedented speed and freedom, and opening sound engineering up to amateurs and volunteers.

The Rivage PM10 is the company’s flagship live console.

‡‡         The Current Flagship

The legacy continues with the Rivage PM10 CS-R10, a refined flagship that continues the company path of direction of digital mixers in terms of sound quality, operation, functionality, reliability, expandability and more. Building on the heritage of the PM1D and 5D models, the Rivage PM10 significantly increases the qualities and capabilities of both models. Earlier this year, Yamaha unveiled another entry in the Rivage family — the CS-R10-S, a smaller mix controller for its Rivage PM10 digital mixing system. The new control surface is about two-thirds the size of the existing CS-R10, with the same operability for limited space applications.

“Yamaha has held a deeply-rooted commitment to the music products industry for 130 years [back to its earliest days of making pump organs], and for the past three decades, has built an extraordinary legacy for superior sound quality, innovation, craftsmanship and reliability in our digital mixers,” said Yamaha’s, professional audio general manager Alan Macpherson. “The accolades we’ve received from engineers around the world, inspire us to make quantum improvements and refinements for many years to come.”

For more information, visit www.yamahaca.com.