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Yamaha TF Series 4.0

Mike Metlay • January 2020Road Tests • January 13, 2020

The series includes (left-right): the TF1, the TF3, the TF5 and the faderless TF-Rack.

There are a lot of reasons why thousands of live sound engineers around the world consider Yamaha the brand to beat when it comes to digital consoles. From the PM10 Rivage down to the affordable, powerful TF Series, Yamaha mixers combine elegant layouts, next-level flexibility, and pristine sound, all in solid, reliable designs that stand the test of time.

The TF Series consoles been reviewed twice before, in our June 2015 and May 2017 issues. It’s a testament to Yamaha’s commitment to product longevity that the series has received constant updates since, including responses to user feedback.

With version 4.0, Yamaha has once again updated the firmware and software for the TF consoles, adding a host of requested features and expanded capabilities. If you have a TF mixer already, you’ll want to download the firmware and get access to these improvements right away, and if you don’t, well, here are some reasons to consider one.

The main console screen is bright and easy to navigate.

‡‡         New and Expanded Features

One of the biggest additions to the TF architecture is a greatly expanded set of Mute Groups—formerly two of them, now six. These are freely assignable to any channel, and can be set in the channels themselves or in the brand-new Mute Group Assign screen in Setup. Each channel can have its Mute Safe status saved as well.

Version 4.0 also adds optional Fade Time settings that can be programmed into each Scene for gradual changes; the Fade Time setting stored with a Scene applies to the time lapse when recalling that Scene. Each channel can have its Fade Time independently activated or disabled, and fades of up to 60 seconds can be programmed. You can also halt a fader in mid-fade, or force an immediate fader reset by hitting the Recall button a second time.

While the ST 1/2 stereo input channels are mainly a convenience to bring in an external sound source like a portable MP3 player (via rear-panel RCA jacks) or an iOS device or FAT32 USB stick (via the front-panel USB-A port) for things like break music, every once in a while you might find it useful to time-align them with the rest of the board. Version 4.0 now adds up to 1,000 ms of channel delay for each ST channel, which can be displayed as a time, a number of frames or a distance in feet or meters.

The TF Series is well-liked for its implementation of the Dan Dugan Automixer, previously unheard of in mixers at this price point. Version 4.0 adds Group Bypass control to the Automixer, in addition to its existing functions.

The system also supports Yamaha’s StageMix app for wireless remote tablet control.

‡‡         Shortcuts and Streamlining

One of the first V4.0 things you’ll notice is a new display option in the Overview: Selected Channel. This brings together settings for Automixer, GainFinder, EQ, Gate, and Compressor, all on a single screen for fast edits. For more detail, you can still click on a channel in the Channel Strip view and expand its information into multiple Ch View pages.

In addition, there’s new behavior for the Home button: Version 4.0 allows the user to alternate between any two of the three choices (Channel Strip, Fader, Selected Channel) — or rotate through all three. This is easily set in a new Key Function submenu in Preferences, and is a great way to quickly go deep into any channel for EQ, compression and other settings. For most users, Selected Channel will often be more useful than the Fader screen — in fact, the new default Home button behavior is to alternate between Channel Strip and Selected Channel — nice!

New shortcuts for frequently-used operations abound in Version 4.0. In the Graphic EQ, you can now quickly alternate between selecting a band and adjusting its Gain simply by pushing the Shift Key or the Touch and Turn knob. This makes setup lightning-fast and one-handed, with no screen tapping needed. Speaking of EQ, if you’re adjusting a band and want to zero it out, just hold the Shift key — this works for the Graphic and for each of the channel parametric EQs. Finally, many of the new features mentioned above are now mappable to the user-defined keys and footswitch.

‡‡         Bits and pieces

Version 4.0 adds a bunch of smaller features as well:

  • The Aux, Sub, and Matrix channels now have the ability to copy and paste Send levels, and to copy and paste entire channels with their Sends.
  • When you select an Aux bus and map its sends to the faders in Sends On Fader mode, you now have the option to link Send selection to a Cue mix.
  • The list of selectable parameter groups for the Recall Safe function has been expanded slightly — now ON status and Fader for each channel can be set separately.
  • The onboard recorder now offers easier organization of files and folders, with a limit of 150 items in each folder (including audio files and subfolders).
  • New and improved preset choices in the Channel library: over 140 of them, including a wide selection of optimized settings for various Audio-Technica, Sennheiser and Shure mics on a variety of sources — drums to horns, guitars to vocals.
  • Mute control for Yamaha’s DZR-D powered speakers and DXS-XLF-D subwoofers.

‡‡         The Verdict?

I hadn’t used a TF console before starting this review and I spent several weeks getting used to it before putting it to use. In very little time, I found myself flying around the board, admiring its comprehensive features and lovely sound (the D-PRE preamps are worth the cost of admission on their own!) It was a marvelous experience from start to finish.

While I didn’t make use of every single feature that was added in 4.0, the ones I did use were fast, convenient, and reliable, and some — like Fade Time — were just plain fun. I took some time to do routine things like EQ and checking settings without using the new features, and found many of them involved multiple screen changes and two-handed operation to select this while turning that. There’s no question that these new workflows and new features add even more value to an already impressive set of consoles.

Mike Metlay recently left the editor’s desk at Recording Magazine after a 23-year tenure to explore the wider world of music technology as a freelance writer and editor. His most recent project is Pedal Crush, a coffeetable book about the history and application of guitar effects.

 

At a Glance

New Updates Add Power to Affordable Console Series

Yamaha continues to refine and improve its well-liked TF Series of digital consoles with a new firmware update that adds many new features and streamlined operations, making a great console even better.

TF Series 4.0

PROS

  • New features like six Mute groups, Fade Time for Scenes, Selected Channel display and Channel Delay on the ST 1/2 inputs add value to the platform
  • Shortcuts, new functions for user-defined keys and streamlined operations make many common tasks smoother and faster, needing one hand and one display rather than two-handed operations through multiple displays.

CONS

  • Still a few bugs in 4.0 to work out, although these primarily involve the DZR-D speakers, DXS-XLF-D subwoofers and connection to very large Dante networks through the optional NY64-D expansion card. All of these can be fixed with a reboot and all only occur during system setup, not during a show.

MSRP: TF5, $3,500; TF3, $2,925; TF1, $2,350

Manufacturer: Yamaha

More Info: http://usa.yamaha.com/products/proaudio/mixers/tf/

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