by Jamie Rio
It may be a little hard to believe but Yamaha has been building live sound digital mixing consoles for more than 25 years.. The PM1D which really started it all for large format live digital mixers is no longer being made but is still the console of choice for monitor engineers including Kevin Glendenning on Maroon 5. Ask most rental company owners and they will tell you that the PM5D is still in the top handful for consoles on the gig riders they receive. The company is such a force that when the CL system was introduced last year, one rental company owner who was heavily invested both financially and emotionally in the Midas Pro Series told us that he knew he would be buying at least one CL because it was destined to show up on riders. To say that Yamaha is a dominant force in pro audio is a massive understatement.
That said, this is not a history lesson. I would like to talk with you about the new CL Series Digital Mixing Consoles. Yamaha offers three models of control surfaces in this series. The CL1 supports 48 mono and 8 stereo inputs, the CL3 supports 64 mono and 8 stereo and the CL5 supports 72 mono and 8 stereo inputs. Yamaha sent me a CL1 mixing console along with a Rio3224-D stage box. The box features 32 inputs and 16 outs plus 4 AES/EBU outputs. I was flattered that Yamaha named their stage box series after me (just kidding). Rio actually stands for Rack I/O and these Dante-enabled stage boxes are the backbone of the system. The stage boxes are the typical way most will use to get signals in and out of the console, along with the 8 Omni ins and 8 Omni outs on the back of the console. Up to 8 Rio units can be controlled by a CL console.
The RIO boxes come in 8, 16 and 32 input versions and you can mix and match them up to the channel count limit of the system. The boxes are designed with the same expertise as the consoles and deliver the same clean natural sound. I can personally say that the Rio’s are well-built, handsome and very smart. They can all exist on the same Cat5 backbone, which means you can use the smaller ones as back line or drum “sub-snakes.” This offers a nice flexibility to the system. Side Note: Yamaha’s recently announced Nuage recording system can use the same Rio boxes as it’s I/O (along with its Nuage I/O) which offers some very cool options in an install setting and in particular for houses of worship.
Ok let’s take a quick look at the control surface.
The CL1 is also well-built and handsome but saying that it is smart is a definite understatement. Yamaha has poured those many years of digital R&D into this model and it shows. CL stands for Centralogic and you might remember another CL in the Yamaha world. If you have ever used an M7CL, this will be very familiar, very fast.
Starting with 8 faders in the left section, 8 in the center section and 2 in the master section it has a fairly typical digital board look. Of course the faders are motorized but it is the touch screen that makes this board a breeze to use. There is so much sound shaping and processing at your fingertips, it is hard to take it all in at one or two gigs. Yamaha has created VCM (virtual circuitry modeling) to digitally re-create some famous and fantastic analog outboard gear. VCM sounds and acts like the real thing. And Yamaha has teamed up with Rupert Neve so you know all the Neve gear is exact in its sound shaping.
So, why don’t we check out the set-up and performance of the CL1?
The mixer connects to the Rio box via a CAT5E or CAT6 cable (With 2 cables, this could’ve been set up in redundant mode, fyi, but typically users will use daisy chain for such a simple system.)
The system can be connected and configured in either a daisy chain mode, or a redundant mode. Having just one console and one stagebox, I chose to simply connect via daisy chain. In this configurations, the Dante ports on the CL and R series (Rio) devices are in parallel mode. Devices in this mode basically connect from one to another, to the next, and so on.
If redundant mode is used, the Primary and Secondary Dante ports on each device are separate and are independent of one another. In this configuration typically gigabit network switches are used. The secondary connections provide a backup network path for redundancy.
The 3224 32-Input Rio Box
So, I selected the “rack” button on the touch screen, the “Dante set-up” button and then checked the status of the “secondary port”. Once I confirmed that I was in “daisy chain” mode I turned off the mixer and Rio box and then connected my cable. I set the “unit ID” with the unit ID selector and then made sure my dipswitch was set for “daisy chain” mode. This set-up was the most difficult part of the system. After turning the board and box back on they connected via the Dante audio network protocol developed by Audinate and the rest was cake. Dante carries buckets of information back and forth between the mixer and stage boxes at a latency that is selectable.between .25ms, .5ms, 1ms, and for testing 5ms. . My biggest challenge was getting the mixer to talk with the stage box. Once that was accomplished mixing was a piece of cake.
System Setup Screen
A unique feature to CL is the bundling of Nuendo Live and Audinate’s Dante Virtual Soundcard (DVS) with each CL. This gives the user up to 64 channels in and out for recording and playback. The really cool part about it is that your computer just shows up on the network as another Dante device, there is no hardware interface, DVS is the interface. Transport control and metering are available on the touchscreen as well as being able to set markers on the fly and arm tracks from the screen. Additionally, Nuendo Live will take the channel colors and names from the CL and put them into the .wav files it creates.
CL Nuendo Live Screen
I was mixing a three-day fair gig in Alhambra, California with everything from rock bands to Mariachi groups. Having scenes stored for each “genre” of artist made things way easier when switching over acts.
The board sounds very natural or maybe clean is a better word. There was so much audio processing that I started to lose my mind. However I really wanted to use the Neve Portico products. The EQ and Compression sound awesome but for that matter all the different EQ’s, dynamic processors, and effects sound great. I honestly don’t know how the gear compares with the original ones. I never used a Neve Portico 5033 but I am sure the one in the CL1 sounded like a real one.
Very simply after a relatively short learning curve the Yamaha CL1 and Rio stage box are amazing audio tools and fun use. All this gear is scalable. So, the sky is the limit if you have the cash.