First Impression: Yamaha QL Series Digital Consoles
Compared to LS9, the new QL Series has the ability to connect simultaneously to two devices, like an iPad running QL StageMix and...
[Editor's Note: Article updated 3/24/14 1:125PM Eastern. Several references to the new QL series were mixed with mentions of the older CL series.]Last week at Europe’s Pro Light + Sound trade show, Yamaha introduced the QL1 and QL5, two sleek and feature-laden digital consoles with an uncanny family resemblance to Yamaha’s recently introduced CL Series. Yes, the QL’s are smaller and primarily one-piece units, but the list prices hit a sweet spot for mid-size churches: $8,499 for the QL1 and $16,499 for the QL5. With 16 and 32 analog mic/line inputs respectively, and with input/output doubling easily accomplished via built-in Dante networking, these consoles will offer an attractive step up from…what? That was my first question when I talked to Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems Marketing Manager Mark Lopez.“I think with CL and QL we’re crossing a threshold where most churches will be replacing an earlier generation of digital consoles,” he says. “Now it’s not so much about offering the basic advantages of a digital board, but convincing users to take advantage of upgraded performance and new features that will enable church sound engineers to produce better-sounding mixes and work more efficiently.”Still, it can be a tough decision for us tech folks when we have to face tight-fisted budget folks. We’ve been watching the trends, and we know that if we wait another year or two we’ll be able to land even more console for even less money. However, these new QL boards counter with a strong argument for upgrading now rather than later.Let’s look first at the compact, rack-mountable QL1. It has 16 analog inputs and eight freely assignable analog outputs, 18 faders, and via Dante expansion offers mixing for up to 32 mono plus eight stereo channels. The network also facilitates a 32 x 32 matrix capability.The QL5 won’t fit in a rack, but extra space on the overbridge sports an iPad holder. Here we have 32 analog inputs, 16 outputs and a 64+8 mix capacity. Both boards also have an AES3 digital master output.Much of what the two QL boards have in common they also share with the CL Series, including the same operating system, the same channel layout, same bus structures, and the same high visibility channel “scribble strips”. CL and QL file exchange is direct, with no need for a file conversion program. Also found in both Series is Yamaha’s Premium Rack, which incorporates the Neve Portico 5033 equalizers and 5043 compressor/limiters as well as Yamaha’s own VCM (virtual circuit modeling) for a wide range of subjective sound modulations, from subtle to extreme.“The basic advancements in QL result in a cleaner, more transparent sound compared to first-generation boards,” says Lopez, “but with our wide base of users we wanted to supply a tool kit that creates any kind of ‘color splash’ you want for your particular sound.”Another big news item for churches that do drama, or spontaneous interactive discussions with multiple open mics, is the inclusion of Dan Dugan Sound Design automixing as a standard feature. (It is a pricey plug-in card option on other Yamaha boards.) Dugan’s proprietary circuit is the gold standard for automixing, and the digital emulation here could be a lifesaver in multiple mic situations where you don’t know what’s going to happen next.