Hands-On Review:Yamaha EMX Mixers
Yamaha EMX Mixers
Fully integrated, portable live sound
By Johnny Brickwell
Yamaha's EMX mixers have established themselves as a benchmark of high performance and high power in a compact, portable presentation. Always looking to improve their products, the engineers at Yamaha created three new EMX units for 2005—the EMX212S, EMX312SC, and EMX512SC. Each eight-channel mixer has a versatile input system that actually gives you up to 12 input channels, SPX digital effects, and dual power amplifiers. There's a lot to talk about, so let's dive right in.
The new generation of EMX mixers share a core set of features that demonstrate improvements over past models. Staying true to the series' commitment to portability, each mixer weighs only 22 pounds. Combined with compact dimensions and convenient handles, this makes for easy transport and setup. There's even a rackmounting adapter available for more permanent installations.
Yamaha has integrated DSP effects from their legendary SPX series processors into the new EMX mixers. Each model boasts 16 digital effects, including numerous reverbs, echo, chorus, flanger, phaser, auto-wah, and distortion. The effects are impressive and far exceed what I would expect from such value-priced powered mixers. Having so many available is great too—I like to run my acoustic guitar through the mixer with separate chorus and overdrive pedals, but with the excellent SPX effects at my disposal, I was able to leave the pedals at home.
Anyone that's been at the mercy of squealing feedback during a set will appreciate the Feedback Channel Locating System on these mixers. A simple LED at the top of each channel strip lights up if there is feedback present, letting you quickly find the source of the problem and save the ears of your audience.
The 312SC and 512SC have a single-knob compression option on the monaural input channels that's really effective and easy to use. Rather than fumbling with numerous parameter controls, Yamaha has made compression simple. Just turn the knob to elevate vocals, add authority to guitar and bass, or boost the kick drum. Compression is a great way to enhance just about any individual element, creating a tighter, punchier mix overall.
Yamaha Speaker Processing is available on all the new EMX mixers also. When used with Yamaha Club series speakers, YSP smoothes out the higher frequencies and enhances the low end, adding even more fullness to your sound.
In order to increase the power options available, the new EMX mixers feature dual power amplifiers (2x200W in the 212S, 2x300W in the 312SC, 2x500W in the 512SC). The dual amplifiers can function in stereo for your main speakers or as separate mono channels for mains and monitors. The latter is ideal if you have smaller mains that don't require the maximum wattage of the unit and you have stage monitors. The power mode switch makes this process effortless. Three-band equalizers on each input channel provide instant mix adjustments and seven-band graphic EQs for both the main and monitor power channels allow easy optimization for different rooms and material.
I put the 512SC to use at a ballroom gig and it performed wonderfully. I used the dual amps as individual mono amps, with one going to our mains and the other running our monitors. The ability to independently adjust the main and monitor mixes was invaluable and really sped up our setup time. There was more than enough power to handle our needs. In fact, I remember thinking afterwards that the 312SC would have been sufficient for the mid-sized venue we played.
Though they are technically eight-channel mixers, each EMX mixer actually offers 12 input channels. Channels 1-4 have monaural mic inputs with phantom power and 1/4" line-level inputs. The remaining channels all have microphone inputs as well as stereo input pairs. Channels 5/6 and 7/8 have 1/4" stereo inputs, while 9/10 and 11/12 have stereo RCA inputs. The advantage to having stereo inputs available on one channel is that you don't need to use up two mono channels for each of your stereo sources. Even if all four stereo pairs are used, there are still four mic/line inputs available for other sources. I thought this was an outstanding option to include on these mixers considering their price range. There's also a handy Stand-By switch that mutes all channels except for the RCA stereo inputs—perfect for playing background music in-between sets, and stereo RCA outputs so you can easily record your performances.
The right choice
After spending some time with Yamaha's new line of EMX mixers, I'd definitely recommend them. Despite their value price, they are packed with power and a number of pro features. The 16 SPX effects benefit instrumentalists as well as vocalists. The ability to tailor the power output to your particular setup is extremely valuable and allows easy expansion of your PA setup. Combine that with loads of input options, a compact design that's easy to transport, and the reliability that comes with any Yamaha product, and you've got stellar live sound at a great price!
Features & Specs:
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