Author Topic: Yamaha 01X (2004) Firewire Interface, Digital Mixer & Control Surface  (Read 6568 times)

Offline chrisNova777

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Yamaha's 01X is a digital mixer, hardware controller, audio and MIDI interface that promises an unprecedented level of integration with computer-based DAWs. But can this one silver box really do it all?

It is now around a year since Yamaha previewed the 01X, a combined digital mixer, audio/MIDI interface and hardware control surface intended to be used with any Mac or PC sequencer. It is designed to work on any computer with a Firewire connection, and will eventually run under Windows XP, Mac OS 9.2 and Mac OS X. Even though the 01X has arrived on the market a little later than expected, Mac OS X support is still not available, but we are expecting an announcement of forthcoming availability at the Winter NAMM show in January, which will already have taken place by the time you read this. It's unfortunate that the Mac OS X driver wasn't available at the time of this review, but this is such an important product that we decided to review it with Mac OS 9 now and to do a brief follow-up piece when the Mac OS X drivers become available.

It's no secret that Yamaha's big crusade over the past few years has been to promote their mLAN system. Using an IEEE 1394 Firewire connection, mLAN is able to send multiple streams of audio, MIDI and sync information over a single Firewire cable, but mLAN is more than a simple repurposing of Firewire — it requires a dedicated mLAN chip set in the connected mLAN device. An obvious use of mLAN is to allow Yamaha's existing digital mixers (fitted with an mLAN card) to function as audio I/O devices for computer audio software, but in the 01X, all its talents are put to good use, as the unit provides everything needed to complete a digital studio other than the computer/software package, the monitor speakers and the microphones. Furthermore, the 01X can be added to using other mLAN devices — for example, you could plug in a Presonus Fire Station to add more mic inputs.

01X Overview

The 01X combines a computer audio interface, a fully automated, moving-fader digital mixer, two MIDI interface ports and a DAW hardware control surface. It connects to the host Mac or PC computer via a Firewire cable and utilises Yamaha's latest-generation mLAN chip set to provide low-latency audio interfacing, though it can also be used in a stand-alone mode for live sound mixing if required. It can work at up to 24-bit, 96kHz, has the same kind of built-in effects and signal processors as Yamaha's stand-alone mixing desks, and can handle a maximum of 28 audio channels. It comes with a set of software tools, including a dedicated Studio Manager application, plus a suite of host-powered plug-ins that will work in most of the popular audio sequencing packages. All the necessary installation and driver software is included on CD-ROM, including a copy of OMS 2.8.3, which Mac OS 9 users will need in order to get the MIDI side of the 01X up and running.

Physically, the 01X has eight analogue mic/line inputs, two of which are on XLRs with switchable phantom power, with the remaining six on balanced jacks. A further 16 inputs can be accommodated via mLAN and these will normally be fed from the mixer section of a computer DAW application, though the 01X can also be connected to other mLAN devices. A pair of S/PDIF in and out connectors is also fitted as standard. Two further master mLAN return channels are available, so it is possible to mix a maximum of 28 inputs. Though the faders are 60mm rather than 100mm, they are smooth and fully motorised, and there's a generous display running the full width of the input channel section.

As a remote controller for a software DAW, the 01X comes ready-configured to work with Cubase SX/SL, Nuendo, Sonar, Logic, Digital Performer and many popular soft synths via its dedicated 'remote mixing layer'. You just dial up the sequencer you're using on the 01X and the job is done. In addition to the obvious fader levels, pan positions, transport control and record-ready arming, the unit can also access the scrubbing functions of the host software, re-scale the screen zoom resolution and even access plug-in parameters, so it comes very close to the functionality of a dedicated unit such as Mackie Control or Houston.

The two physical sets of MIDI ports are augmented by additional 'virtual' Firewire-based MIDI ports for controlling the DAW software and also for communication with the Yamaha Studio Manager software, so you don't lose either of the physical ports when using the 01X as a control surface.

When it comes to processing, the 01X is structured much like Yamaha's dedicated digital mixers, insomuch as it has independent dynamics and four-band parametric EQ on every channel plus two high-quality multi-effects blocks, which means you're no longer restricted to using underpowered native reverb plug-ins. In fact the 'mixing engine' is based around the same chips as developed for use in Yamaha's current range of 96kHz mixers (including the 02R96), and it is this chip set that provides the two 32-bit DSP effects engines, each capable of producing various types of effects, including reverb. As is the case in most digital mixers, if you use the 01X at high sampling rates, the effects capability is halved.

In addition to the 01X and its support software, the package includes three host-powered plug-ins in VST/AU format that can be used within your host DAW software. These comprise Vocal Rack, a set of vocal polishing tools including compression and EQ, Pitch Fix, which does much the same job as Auto-Tune, and Final Master, a multi-band mastering compressor with limiter and soft clipping. These are also available to purchase separately, and as such they were reviewed in last month's Sound On Sound. Pick up that issue or surf to for a detailed description. Windows users also get Yamaha's SQ01 v2 MIDI + Audio sequencer software, the TWE wave editor for modifying audio recordings and a Multi Part Editor for the Motif Rack synth module.

System Requirements
On the PC platform, the 01X currently works with Windows XP (Professional or Home Edition) and requires a computer capable of running the host software, with an IEEE 1394 Firewire port. Mac users can run the 01X under Mac OS 9.2, though Classic Mode is not supported. OS X support is in development. Again, a Firewire port must be available, and in the case of laptops, Processor Cycling should be disabled.