Sonic LAB: Yamaha O1V96i Digital Console

Digital workhorse with built in USB Audio      12/06/12

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10:19 mins    

We're now into the third generation of the O1v range, with Yamaha's extensive history of producing digital desks, we'd expect it to be a corker. So what is so special about the O1v96i?

First up, Yamaha have taken the O1v96 and added a 16 in and out USB audio interface. Quite how it manages 16 streams at up to 96kHz/ 24-bit over USB 2.0 I’m not entirely sure, but I can confirm that it does work.

Then we have the VCM effects which add up to four stereo modelled effects - including EQ, compression, stompboxes and reverb addition to the all the usual on board digital SPX class effects.

These effects can be routed to work in inserts as well as the usual send return configuration.
But lets get the basics out of the way:

The O1v96i has up to 40 mix channels, 16 analog, 8 ADAT, plus four effect return channels. Each of these channels has 4-band EQ, Gate, Compressor, patchable insert and direct out. These channels can be routed to 8 subgroups and 8 auxiliaries - each of these also has EQ, Gate and Compressor, in the case of the subgroups, they also have patchable insert points.

The Old In Out
The O1v96i comes with an ADAT I/O as standard, pus an additional YGDAI expansion slot into which you can slot any of Yamaha's IO expansion (ADAT, AES, Analog, audio networking etc).

With 12 of their new studio grade mic amps (which I thought sounded very good on our SeElectronics VR-1 Ribbon), 2x analog stereo inputs, plus 2 track return, you can plug in up to 18 analog inputs. Plus there’s SPDIF digital IO for 2-track or other use depending on how you patch it internally.

On the output you have four OMNI outputs which can be assigned where ever - AUX out, SUB out, insert out. And that’s the beauty of this digital desk, you can patch pretty much whatever you want, wherever you want - with a few exceptions.

Patch Away
This includes the USB interface, if you have a DAW running on your computer routing any of the 16 DAW returns into any channel is a breeze - ditto the desk outputs into any of the 16 DAW inputs. And that includes insert points. I was able to run DAW plug-ins over live analog, digital and even DAW return channels to add additional processing via software plug-ins within my DAW. Admittedly, there is a delay aspect to this, but still it's an impressive capability.

I must admit, I do like the Yamaha digital desks, I use a DM1000 in the Sonicstate studio - it's  just so configurable - and with complex routings and delays required for our video setup, it fits the bill well. However, the DM1000 is now getting on a bit and although it does offer more inputs and outputs, to my ears, the mic amps on the O1v96i have it trumped.

But there are a couple of flies in the digital ointment.  One area where the DM1000 wins over the 01v96i is with the channel routing. With the O1v96i, you just cannot easily see what channel is routed where, without flipping to the right screen, unless of course you have the Studio Manager V2 edit software running on a host computer. If you do, it’s possible to see a selected channel or pair’s overview on a larger display as well as edit to your hearts content. You also get pretty pictures of the VCM plugins and the ability to save and recall the data from your host. The other niggle is that the routing of the Digital SPDIF, it would be nice to have been able route the Control Room output to it for hooking up to monitors with a digital input for instance.

Yamaha have not skimped on features here and as a result are not aiming for the cheapest possible desk, but something that can get the most amount of features into the O1V size.
Even so,  at £2620 it's a considerable investment - as traditionally most mixing desks that are at the heart of your setup usually are.  
Unfortunately for us Brits, our US friends get the better deal with it priced at $2699 - curse you currency variations. But still, its a hell of a lot of desk for the money.


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