Hands-On Review:Yamaha USB Mixing Studios
Your complete computer studio solution
I've always wanted to get into computer recording, but I've never really liked all the virtual knobs and faders. They just don't seem as intuitive to me as real knobs I can physically turn to get the right tweak on a sound. So when I heard Yamaha—a company well known for building quality analog and digital mixers—was designing USB Mixing Studios with a USB mixer, I knew I had to give it a go. The Mixing Studios will ensure Yamaha's stature as a leading digital sound innovator with these hybrids that merge capable mixers with USB interfaces and come with powerful music software bundles.
Musician's Friend sent me the MW10 and MW12 USB Mixing Studios. Each came with a mixer, Steinberg's Cubase LE, a Yamaha/IK Virtual Studio Suite, and a USB cable. It was everything I needed to start recording right away and I was impressed at the completeness these Studios offer the average musician.
I checked out the mixers first: the 10-input MW10 and the 12-input MW12. The MW10 has four ultralow-noise mic preamps with phantom power; four XLR, nine 1/4" line (three stereo line), and two sets of stereo RCA inputs; insert effects on channels 1 and 2; pan, 3-band EQ, and a high-pass filter for sound-shaping control; aux send and stereo aux return; control room, headphone, and stereo master outputs; and 12-segment meters.
The MW12 is similar to the MW10 with two more phantom-powered inputs; insert effects on channels 1-4; eight channel faders; two aux sends with one switchable pre- or post-fader; stereo and group 1/2 switch; stereo, aux 1, aux 2 returns; stereo two-track/USB return with volume control; and group 1-2 master fader.
Both USB Mixing Studios come bundled with Steinberg's cross-platform Cubase LE software that features 48 audio tracks with 24-bit, 96kHz operation; 64 MIDI tracks; and full VST and VSTi plug-in support. The included Yamaha/IK Virtual Studio added even more goodies to my desktop with IK Multimedia's Sample Tank SY, Sonic Synth SY, Amplitube LE, and T Racks EQ. Included are $400 in coupons for additional software from Steinberg, IK Multimedia, and Arturia.
My friend came over to work on writing a new song the day after I got the Mixing Studios, so I decided to record our session. We both play guitar and sing, so we miked both of our guitars and vocals. We hooked all the mics into the MW12, connected the mixer to my Mac with the USB cable, and just like that we had a recording studio in my living room. We got our sound dialed in and used the grouping controls to put the guitars in one group and the vocals in another. Because the mixer has plenty of inputs, EQ, and effects sends, we could shape our sound in real time without using any virtual controls on the computer. Yet our session was recording directly to a two-track stereo file, exactly the way it sounded to us.
You know those times you're jamming and a moment of inspiration strikes? Well, we had one of those special moments and we were so glad we were tracking the session. Using the notation feature in Cubase, we printed out the score we had just written, and now we'll never forget what we did that one time (as we have so many times before). Plus we could listen to it right away and hear what changes we needed to make. It was amazing—I don't think we'll practice again without it. It's so portable we could take it anywhere and record with my laptop.
Mixing it up
I had more fun with the Mixing Studios after my buddy cleared out. I did a few recordings with just my guitar and vocals through the MW10 and it sounded great. Since Cubase allows you to record multiple tracks, I could overdub as much as I wanted. I loved that I could change the level of my monitor mix with separate control over stereo master and control room headphone outputs.
I still wasn't finished playing. Cubase lets you import video files as well as audio, so I took the home videos on my computer and replaced the crummy audio from my camera's microphone with cool soundtracks and voiceovers. The low-noise preamps made the economical condenser mic I use sound much better.
The versatility of the USB Mixing Studios makes their applications nearly endless. The downloadable low-latency driver for ASIO compatibility (found at www.yamahasynth.com) and Cubase's MIDI and audio tracks would be great for a keyboardist, and podcasting would be almost effortless with the advanced VST engine on Cubase, the mixer's low-noise preamps, and array of inputs. If you want to get audio onto your computer, this is the tool for you.
All you need to start recording today is a Yamaha USB Mixing Studio. Because each Mixing Studio functions as a mixer as well as a USB interface, you can plug in all the gear you already own—your mics, keyboards, etc.—and record into your computer quickly, easily, and painlessly.
Features & Specs:
Yamaha/IK Virtual Studio