Digital sound consoles have been around for years, and Yamaha has been at the forefront of innovation since the beginning. It all started with an 18-input digital mixing console called the Promix01 in 1991. Remember it? It was a small form digital console with motor faders. Next was the 01V and then the 03D. The 02R was released in 1995. It's like watching the little guy grow up. The 02R is a 56-input digital desk in a compact form. After that, Yamaha moved into the DM series and then released the flagship, the PM1D in 2000, with 96 inputs and 24 matrix and 48 mixes. It is all digital and truly a pleasure to use. The next step was the PM5D, bringing together features from all of the above, with the option for a 48-channel digital desk that was very simple to setup and an easy transition for analog converts. The PM5D has been a popular desk with most users because of its features and cost. But it was too limited for some, until now. With the release of the DSP5D, the 5D is sure to excite designers and engineers.

What It Does

The DSP5D has all the functionality of a PM5D-RH without the control surface. It is a rack-mountable unit that can be controlled from a PM5D-RH console. It has 48 mono and four stereo inputs, as well as 24 mix buses and eight matrix buses. For outputs, there are 24 omni outputs. It also has eight effect processors and 12 graphic equalizers and allows for two mini-YGDAI expansion card slots. It is fully compatible with DSP5D Editor software and can function as a remote stage box via the DCU5D Digital Cabling Unit. Two DSP5D units can be controlled with a single PM5D console. A PM5D plus one DSP5D gives you four input fader layers, with a total of 96 mono and 16 stereo input channels. Two DSP5D units to a PM5D provide six layers with 144 mono and 24 stereo input channels. And the processing power is doubled or tripled, respectively. Like the PM5D itself, all analog inputs and outputs are directly accessible via standard XLR type connectors. After a few connections, the DSP5D becomes an integral part of the PM5D console and can be controlled from the PM5D control surface in the same way as the internal functions.

“It is an input and output expander for PM5D. Or it can be a remote input box if you need to put your inputs away from the PM5D,” explains Marc Lopez, marketing manager Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems, Inc. When you use the PM5D locally, it connects via multi-pin connectors. It is not recommended to use W6 connectors, which is common with the PM1D. To use the DSP5D as a remote input/output box, it is recommended to use the DCU5D that converts the multi-pin cables to Cat5, which is much cheaper and can run for up to 300'.

“It is a PM5D-RH in a box,” continues Lopez. “You could use Studio Manager to control it directly without a PM5D. It has 56 mic line inputs, 24 omni outputs that are assignable, 24 mixes, eight matrices, eight effects processors, and 12 graphic EQs on board. It has two card slots instead of four and a built-in power supply, plus you can use a redundant power supply.”

All PM5Ds are able to add a DSP5D but would need a free Version 2 upgrade to control the DSP5D. This adds over 30 new user-requested features to studio manager including Virtual Sound Check mode. “It allows you to use a recorded source for sound check,” says Lopez. “It has new security features for fixed installation. It allows all outputs features to be locked out and password protected. You can lock out scene memories from ever being overwritten. It can make scene memories read-only, and loading from a card will not erase the current scenes. There is a special version of Studio Manager with PM5D editor to edit offline.” To easily identify the different DSP5Ds attached to the PM5D, there is a different colored screen for each box.

How It Came To Be

The DSP5D was in development for almost two years. “The PM5D is an extremely popular mixer, and now that it has been out for a while, we've heard users wishing the PM5D had more inputs,” Lopez notes. When asked why the PM5D was the chosen desk for creating the DSP5D, he adds, “They could've used another Yamaha desk, but they wanted it to be integrated. It really wasn't hard to take the brains and put it in a box. Also, people wanted to remote inputs. It is not a split box. It is a remote input box.”

What's Next

“More features will be added. You will be able to control the DSP with the LS9, which is about $12,000, making it a very cost-effective system,” explains Lopez.

What End Users Have To Say

“The DSP5D is the best addition to the PM5D that could have been made,” says Randy Lane, FOH engineer for Dream Theatre 2007-2008. “Within a 10-space unit, the processing power and channel count doubles with little increase in the space needed. It is flexible in its design and forward thinking in its concept because it can be placed at front-of-house or on stage. The sound quality is identical with the PM5D, and its ease of control is unsurpassed. I was comfortable working with it after a day.” Lane goes on to explain how he is using the DSP5D at FOH for the Dream Theatre Chaos in Motion world tour. “Currently, its input channels are completely devoted to Mike Portnoy's drum kit,” he says. “This kit takes up 43 inputs on its own on the DSP5D.” He was nervous at first with the thought of using such a new piece of gear. “With most beta releases, there is a sense of trepidation because of the likelihood of bugs in the system or things that have not been completely worked out,” he notes. “None of this was an issue from the first day with the DSP5D. It has performed admirably due to the quality control of the Yamaha organization. They will not release a product until it is ready, and this was much appreciated since we were embarking on the US leg of the tour in July. Any technical issues that were found were relayed to me right up front with no hidden surprises, and fixes were issued rapidly.” When asked what changes or updates he would like to see, Lane replies, “Currently, the DSP5D is not compatible with the Waves Y96K cards. I would like to see this update to allow these cards to be used. I understand that is in the works.”

Sound designer Craig Cassidy has a DSP5D on the current tours of Gypsy and Ring of Fire. When Cassidy decided to use the DSP5D on Gypsy, the unit wasn't even being shipped. “Yamaha bent over backward to get him that hardware in time,” says Scott Kalata, director of sales, Masque Sound. “It was a big leap of faith for him to put them on the show, literally being the first in the world to use one.” But Cassidy had few issues with the new console. “It worked fine,” he says. “I found a few kinks that Yamaha is addressing.” He explains that there is latency when you take a cue. The board takes several seconds to update the information from the DSP5D, but the latency is only visual. The audio updates immediately. He went on to explain how you can eke out more mixes. “You can choose not to cascade mixes in the DSP5D,” he says. “Then you can use them as local mixes. You can still control them from FOH, but you can only send input from the local DSP5D. I put a DSP5D in the pit and used the first 15 mixes uncascaded to feed the Avioms.” His biggest complaint is Global Paste, which he says “could take 15 to 20 minutes. Yamaha's guys have been top-notch, and I know they are working on it.”

Shannon Slaton is a sound designer and engineer living in New York and is currently mixing Legally Blonde, and Spring Awakening on Broadway.