Launched in September 2005, M7CL is Yamaha's 3rd digital mixing console designed for live sound and follows in the footsteps of the successful PM1D and PM5D.
It offers straightforward operation by a new user interface called Centralogic(TM). It is extraordinarily lightweight at less than 50kg for the 48 mono +4 stereo channel version and also much smaller than any similar spec mixer. It has the wealth of on-board features we have come to expect from digital consoles, but perhaps most significantly it has outstanding audio quality that makes it a strong contender in the discerning mid-sized console market. M7CL's entry into this last stronghold of analogue consoles indicates the beginning of a big digital groundswell coming to take over the mid and small-size sound reinforcement market. Digital mixing is becoming the sensible choice at all levels.
Yamaha's own Taku Nishikori wanted to know how and why it was created, so he interviewed the M7CL Development team at Yamaha Corporation of Japan headquarters, in Hamamatsu-city, Shizuoka, Japan.
Nao: We didn't know what other manufacturers were working on, but from my personal point of view, I felt that they were likely to be a version of "analogue-like" operation. We thought differently. We had the advantage of a 33-year history of mixing console manufacturing, and experience of several different interface concepts but we wanted to create an all new, ultimately simple user interface which could only be achieved by extensive research and reliable digital technology. It was a great challenge and between us we came up with an elegant solution; named Centralogic(TM).
Early in development, we visited lots of venues such as US churches and small to mid-size installations worldwide. We had great results through the research. The most encouraging thing was that I got confidence with my opinion: "Analogue operation is NOT always the best in all situations".
For example, an analogue console has all the pots on the mixer surface. This is actually what they thought of as the core of "analogue intuitiveness", but this has another implication; because the "entire console"s settings are always there at all times? you can easily make mistakes when you tweak a pot surrounded by a massive number of similar pots. In reality there are many cases that an acrylic cover is attached to a mixer to prevent unwanted changes of settings especially for head amp gain and output levels. I grew even more confident about providing a feature which hides unnecessary parameters, or locks them.
The choice of touch screen was kind of natural. It works at the centre of the extremely flexible user interface and it doubles as both display and controls.
On the other hand, there are, of course, other advantages in analogue console operations. For instance, you don't need to take extra care of "modes" or "layers". We tried to create a mixing console with non-layered faders and pots, which should reduce distractions and aid concentration on the "Art of The Show" itself.
Of course we learnt many other things and have many other points to investigate, but I'd better stop talking to keep our secrets? :-)
Kotaro: I can't recall how many screen and panel layout samples I've made, but final designs were decided through lots of discussions with various sound engineers and contractors.
The number of parameters in a mixing console defies the imagination. Looking into just one input channel, you have headamp, fader, ON switch, HPF, the 12 EQ parameters, HPF, compressor, noise gate, AUX sends, and on and on? it's a huge list, and then you have to multiply it by 32 or 48 for the horizontal channel count. Then there's the output side, effects, scene memories and user management? it really was dizzying. The key was how logically and simply I could do the layout.
We believed the touch screen could handle this but, in reality we found it a double-edged sword. Relying too much on a touch screen didn't make the console "instant" enough in every situation. So we repeatedly went through the workflow which sound engineers do, each time determining how many real pots were needed and where they should be, what works well on touch screen and what works best as a switch. There were also many other aspects like size of icons, colour and contrast, etc. We've spent an unusually large amount of time on such investigations, but we think it was worth it.
Mick: Centralogic(TM), in fact, has compatibility with the common user interface for all other existing Yamaha digital consoles. There is a complete inheritance that you can see; you change parameters using a virtual channel strip by selecting a channel. Centralogic(TM) provides an additional viewpoint and access to the channels by calling an 8-channel block onto the Centralogic(TM) area using the Navigation key.
I am really confident that the user interface is extremely friendly to both Yamaha users and those who are not familiar with it. Give it a try!
Kunihiro: M7CL is a very clear concept and a professional tool based around the Centralogic(TM) idea. I wanted to paint a really straightforward design layout. Function and beauty come from the simple "cross" motif; a vertically laid out "Overview" and a horizontal "Selected Channel View".
Then when you look at the desk as a whole you can see thick side cheeks expressing warmth of sound and system stability while the sharp aluminum beams represent cutting-edge technology.
In fact my designs for the M7CL cosmetics took inspiration from the "DMP7" - which was Yamaha's very first digital console back in 1987. In the very early days of digital mixing consoles, DMP7 made a big impact on the professional audio industry with its sophisticated user interface and lightweight / compact body. From a cosmetic viewpoint, it was really clean-cut and a functional beauty. I hope you feel the M7CL shares that same philosophy which Yamaha have been developing for over 18 years.
[Yoshihiro] We have been very proactive in achieving the groundbreaking mechanical design. We got various specialists involved, not only from Commercial Audio but also from tennis rackets, golf clubs and musical instruments. It's one of the great things about Yamaha - that we can draw from such diverse experiences. We put the ideas from these different points of view together and achieved all our targets: low weight, small footprint, reliability, strength and ease of maintenance. Innovative 3D CAD and structural analysis worked very well to achieve the exceptionally lightweight, yet rigid body.
Ken-ichi: During the electronic circuitry design, we aimed for a major reduction of internal wiring and a standardisation of parts. This makes it not only cost-effective but also really efficient in the assembly factory. Easy assembly is instantly reflected in significant quality control improvements: that means the product is really reliable! In addition, if a fault develops - perhaps through mistreatment or a rare part failure - the design helps save servicing time and money. Sadly you never see these contributions on the outside, but we are pleased with the result.
Taku: Thank you very much.
Written by: Taku Nishikori
Written by: Taku Nishikori
Manager, Yamaha CA Support Centre Europe
Since joining Yamaha back in 1991 Taku worked as a software engineer / GUI designer for various digital mixing consoles such as the ProMix01, 02R, 03D, PM1D and so on. Currently he heads the Yamaha CA Support Centre Europe in London reinforcing Yamaha's pan-European technical support capability.