Yamaha has been a leader in digital audio mixers since the mid 1980's, beginning with the revolutionary DMP mixers that led to the O2R digital console in the mid 1990s. This year, Yamaha has introduced the AW4416 Professional Audio Workstation. This product is called a workstation because not only is the AW4416 an automated digital mixer with moving faders and built-in effects, but it also contains a hard disk recorder, editor and sampler and has the ability to burn CD-Rs from it's hard disk to an internal CD-R. All these features are packed under a good looking, compact mixing surface that measures only 18 inches deep and 22 inches wide.
Modeled after the O2R, the AW4416 has 44 audio channels each with 4-band parametric equalizers and its own dynamics. There are two built-in digital effects processors. The board houses a sixteen-track hard disk recorder and eight sample playback pads. Digital audio can run at 16 or 24 bits and at a sampling rate of 44.1 or 48 kHz. The AW4416 ships with a 12 GB IDE hard drive which mounts on a removable tray for easy upgrade to 64 GB. The internal CD-R drive can play back audio CDs and burn both audio CDs and song data backup CD-ROMs. A SCSI-2 port is thoughtfully provided for connecting external hard drives or removable media drives such as JAZ or ORB drives. SCSI drives are used for data backup only, as all session audio must be restored to the internal IDE drive for playback.
The AW4416 comes standard with eight, balanced line or mic inputs using TRS phone jacks. Channel one and two also have XLR mic inputs with phantom power and channel inserts, while channel eight provides an additional high impedance instrument input. Two expansion slots on the back of the mixer accommodate optional input or output cards, which include XLR or TRS analog audio or AES, ADAT or TDIF digital audio connectors. The mixer can handle a combination of any 44 inputs chosen from up to 24 external inputs, 16 tracks from the hard disk, 16 returns from the built-in sampler, plus the two internal stereo effects processors. There are eight aux sends, eight busses and sixteen direct outputs, any of which may be routed to the hard disk recorder or to a set of four "omni" jacks on the rear panel of the console. These unique omni jacks can be assigned as outboard effect sends, monitor mixes sends or outboard recorder sends. The digital routing flexibility is impressive and allows for many different set-ups to be created and stored. A headphone jack is provided on the rear panel as are speaker outputs, analog and digital mix outputs and a SPDIF stereo tape return.
Much like the O2R, the AW4416 displays its setup and automation information on a large, bright LCD display, while the recorder's level meters are handled by a separate fluorescent display. A number of dedicated buttons provide direct access to the console's operating screens and additional function keys speed access to any nested pages. The recorder's control section contains dedicated track arming buttons, standard tape transport buttons and a jog/scrub wheel. The on-screen cursor is controlled with an optional serial mouse or by using the cursor arrow keys and the enter key.
The built-in automix system allows total automation of the motorized faders, equalizers, dynamics and effect sends on any channel, including the master fader. Even the sampler pads can be sequenced along with the automation data for a song. The console reads and transmits MIDI time code for synchronizing the automated mix to a sequencer, or tape machine. Conveniently, time code numbers can be viewed as code numbers or bars and beats if a tempo map is created. Automation data, tempo maps and all console settings are saved with each song.
The onboard recording functions are very straightforward and it is possible to record all sixteen tracks simultaneously or overdub tracks as needed. Each of the sixteen record tracks contains eight virtual tracks for additional takes that may later be edited and combined into a master take/track. Hard disk audio editing functions include copy, slip, clear, trim, pitch shift and time compression, and there is waveform data display for intricate editing. In order to mix down to the internal drive, an additional stereo track is provided for each song. Later on, stereo tracks are compiled, mastered and sequenced for subsequent CD-R burning.
The manuals are very thorough and well written and a video is included that covers the basic functions of the AW4416. Yamaha has announced several updates for the AW4416 including software version 2.0 due out this fall, which will provide new function key shortcuts and MIDI control of many popular computer-based audio programs. Also available soon is the Waves Y56K DSP card that expands the unit's recording, mixing and mastering capabilities.
Based on the success of the O2R, the AW4416 would be at home in a project studio, a jingle or post production facility, a songwriting setup or even as part of a live recording or performance system. The suggested retail price is $3,799 complete with CD-RW drive. Check out the Website at www.aw4416.com for the most current updates and information.