Welcome to part three, and my final post on my experience with the Yamaha RIVAGE PM10.
You can find Part One here and Part Two here.
It seems I have expended a great quantity of words already, and that probably should cover just about everything there is to say, but that is far from true. Only by spending time working with the PM10 can you really peel back the layers and appreciate it. Yamaha spent a long time doing their R&D and engineering to get this desk “right”. There is so much that is new, that Yamaha was very open with us about what actually does NOT yet work. They wanted their dealers and users to know that this product line is in its infancy and there are PM10 features still to come in future software updates. If you have used CL or QL consoles you are already familiar with just how substantial a new software revision can be, and how many new features Yamaha can add. Starting with a platform with plenty of processing reserve to accommodate these updates is another Yamaha tradition.
Don’t misunderstand the previous paragraph. The RIVAGE PM10 is a fully functioning system with every professional function and feature required to support a national tour, or high-end installation with 100% reliability. The consoles we saw in Nashville were not prototypes, but actual production units. A complete system (using both FOH and Monitor desks) is currently on tour with Carrie Underwood (Clair Global). The first few updates to the software will provides updates like expanding the Scene System functions, adding the H-3000 processor, and possibly allowing the outboard monitor to be a touchscreen. There will even be a special customer support number available for PM10 owners exclusively that will be staffed 24/7.
At the end of this post, I’ll highlight a couple other features hinted at earlier. Right now, I have left you hanging long enough. Let me share what I heard.
At the beginning of the first post, I talked about the opinion shared by some that Yamaha makes things that work well, but may not be very exciting to use. I have heard words like “sterile” and “clean” used more as pejoratives than compliments. I do not necessarily share this view, but I understand the perspective. Give me a clean slate, and let me take it from there. In the past that meant outboard gear. Maybe a lot of outboard gear. With the PM10, Yamaha wants the operator to be able to leave the vast majority of that outboard gear at home. The design goal was to have everything you need to get the sound you want inside the console. With the exception of extreme circumstances or very specialized needs I feel Yamaha has met this goal – making this a suitable desk anyone for everyone.
Starting with the hybrid mic preamps, the sound is nothing short of stunning. The high sample rate and 32-bit depth of the internal processing, along with an improved Word Clock means this system provides a completely faithful reproduction of whatever sound you put through the system. As an example, we listened to a professional recording of an acoustic guitar routed through two channels in parallel. With gains and faders set exactly the same, we flipped the polarity on one of the channels and the sound disappeared. Completely. Even the slightest adjustment to either channel audibly revealed the sonic difference that occurred immediately. Just as it should! A very good example of a jitter free clock.
We listened to several different sources through the preamp with no processing, and then added the Rupert Neve transformer into the signal chain, simply by pressing the button, without dialing in any amount Silk Red or Blue the difference was noticeable immediately. But the real magic happened when adding either Red or Blue Silk. I cannot describe using words the audible difference the Silk process delivers. It is not, by any means, like adding an effect. We have all heard how products from the likes of Aphex and BBE change harmonic content and musical overtones. This is nothing like any of those. Yes, one has a greater affect on high frequency content, and the other, lower frequencies, but that is not the whole story. Everything from bass guitar, to vocals, to brass, or drums…anytime you engage the Silk process the sound is immediately deeper, wider, and more vibrant. Details seem to jump out of the loudspeakers. I do not pretend to know a way to quantify the sound that is derived from simply engaging the Neve transformer and applying even modest amounts of Silk processing. Cranking the Silk processing way up just continues to impress. Just the way Mr. Neve intended. This single detail gives the Yamaha Hybrid Mic Pre the ability to rival any analog preamp on the market.
Perhaps, the channel strip feature that really stood out for me was just how impressively the new EQ algorithms really work. Finding the best sounding channel EQ for each source is greatly improved. The option that Yamaha dubs “Aggressive” will be a standard go-to for most engineers on kick drum and electric bass. There will be many hours spent playing with EQ options using the virtual sound check feature for just about everyone privileged enough to find him or herself mixing on one of these desks!
If every other sound altering option is ignored, just the Neve transformer VCM model and the huge color palette offered by the EQ section can get you any type of sound you desire. If you are beholden to the sound of brand “M” or “D” or “S”, or any other brand for that matter, you can get there on a PM10 with little effort. That is by no means a knock on any other brand. We have our preferences because they sound great. We like what they do with their various flavorings. What sets this console apart from the crowd is the ability to achieve your desired sound or something completely different on every single input! You can mix an orchestra today, a pop or metal act tomorrow and a jazz combo tomorrow and use the same desk for them all. That is impressive. Stop and think about this a moment. You can have a single desk that can reproduce audio any way you desire. From the cleanest, purest and invisible to the most aggressive, classic analog sound you want. Or anywhere in between.
I don’t really have to tell you that the VCM modeled plugins sound amazing and authentic. Where Yamaha delivers on their commitment to provide everything within a single platform is in the sheer quantity of available options included and the processing power to support them all. From classic to modern analog device models, there is plenty of room to find “your sound”. Ten inserts per channel is more than enough for even the most mind altering sounds! In real world applications, you won’t be often using that many inserts, but what Yamaha has allowed for is a great way to do comparisons. Because the channel has two separate plug-in chains (each with four plugin slots) you can build two separate sets of plugins, then perform A/B comparisons to see which works best. Or switch them from song to song. And remember, Yamaha allows these insert chains to be placed anywhere in the signal path. Want one compressor pre-EQ and a different one post? No problem.
The reason I call this console a game changer is two-fold. I firmly believe the PM10 will change many opinions about what a Yamaha console has to offer. But more than that, I believe this is first console to bring this level of versatility to the market. Back that with Yamaha’s commitment to reliability and support, and you have an all-around winner.
Way back at the beginning of my day one post, I made reference to other smart details I would address. Let’s touch on those quickly, staring with the dual monitor sections and split console mixing.
Yes, the PM10 is sized very comfortably for a single operator to get around on. With multiple custom fader bays, and custom assignable button and encoder layers, you can easily make the PM10 as personalized as you like. Expanding that even more, Yamaha has two separate and discrete monitor and cue busses available in the PM10. They also allow you divide the fader bays for discrete control. To allow easy access for two operators mixing from the same desk, Yamaha has also added two headphone sections, one left and one right. Each has “A” and “B” monitor jacks, as well as a pull out headphone hangar and a small row of LED lights just above the controls. What this means is quite simply that one operator can take control of (for example) the center and right fader bays, as well as the right touchscreen, and a second operator can have the left hand bay and touchscreen. Maybe operator one is mixing the pit orchestra, sound effects and playback of a musical production, while the other is mixing all the wireless talent mics. Both engineers have their own CUE mix, as well as their own custom faders and encoders, etc. Literally two separate mixing systems on one desk. You could also set up a split for FOH and Monitor operators in a situation where two desks were not an option.
Yamaha scene memories are second to none, again, the PM10 advances that with enhanced features like channel Isolate and Offset. Channel Isolate is more than just mute and recall safe. Setting a channel to Isolate protects the entire signal path, including sends and inserts. Channel Offset is a feature that allows you to offset a single channel’s saved levels (both fader and send levels) from scene to scene by a specific number of dB. Why? Let’s say your lead singer is just a bit off tonight and you find yourself boosting her level 3-4 dB on every song. You have every song in the set on a different scene. You can use channel offset on just her channel to compensate and now each scene will start with her level 3.5dB hotter than normal. Tomorrow night, when she is back in full voice, just turn off the Offset. I can really see this being a powerful asset for monitor engineers!
Other little things one would expect to find are here in spades. Delay settings abound; at inputs, outputs, cue busses… There are 8-band PEQs for the monitorbusses as well. There is now a dedicated 2-track USB record/playback slot, and you have the option to use MP3 or WAV audio formats. USB connectors are provided for keyboard and mouse connectivity – a real plus with so many LCD labels to address. And Yamaha has finally let us store our own channel names in their (expanded) name/icon library. A small, but welcome update. Another tiny thing you will spot quickly, the LED ring surrounding each encoder is shaped more like a horseshoe than a semi-circle, making the LEDs easier to see. Cool, right?
I cannot express strongly enough just how intuitive the PM10 feels when mixing. And with so many custom layers, multiple acts using multiple operators can easily setup the desk for their own comfort level and switch from user to user with a button press. Anyone familiar with Yamaha topology – and even those not familiar – will immediately start to find their way around this desk. Everything you can do on dedicated input sections is also available in the touchscreen, so going back and forth between the two is simple, and efficient.
It is important, I feel, to say again that this is a flagship product and it is designed for the most demanding audio applications, and is therefore priced as such. This is not a console for every venue. The RIVAGE System components are sold a la carte so purchasers can design exactly the system required. Having said that, Yamaha shared with us in Nashville that there are two fully configured options available, starting with a “basic” 64×16 package. The console, DSP Unit, Stage Box, and all required cards will be included at a discounted price from buying the individual components, and Yamaha will build and test each system prior to shipment. There are numerous houses of worship, regional touring companies, and theaters who will find this an attractive offer. The second preconfigured system is a larger package with higher channel count.
While a RIVAGE system may not be for everyone, I believe ANYONE looking to purchase a new large format console should take a very serious look at this new Yamaha offering. If you do get the chance to get your hands on one, I promise you will be impressed
Page link: Yamaha RIVAGE PM10
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