Road Test: Yamaha CL Series Digital Consoles

November 12, 2012, by Craig Leerman

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The CL5 is the largest model in the new Yamaha CL Series of digital consoles.

The line-up comprises three consoles, the CL1, CL3 and CL5, all founded on the company’s Centralogic interface and ranging in scale from 48 to 72 mono plus eight stereo inputs.

All offer 16 DCAs, 24 mix/8 matrix output buses, eight mute groups, 300 scene memories, and recording options.

The CL5 provides three banks of eight channel faders in addition to eight Centralogic and two master faders, as well as an onboard meter section. The CL3 sports two banks of channel faders (plus eight Centralogic), while the CL1 has a single bank of eight faders (plus eight Centralogic) and both smaller consoles, with the meter bridge optional for both.

CL Series consoles can act as stand-alone units and feature on board inputs and outputs as well as the ability to utilize up to three mini-YGDAI I/O cards to expand the number of inputs and outputs, and they also work in tandem with the new RIO rack mountable I/O units.

The RIO3224-D offers 32 inputs and 16 analog outputs plus four stereo AES outputs, and the RIO1608-D features 16 inputs and eight outputs. The consoles connect to the remote stage boxes via Cat-5e or Cat-6 cable and run on Audinate’s scalable Dante network.

The Yamaha CL5 in the author’s shop. (click to enlarge)

While it’s largest of the three consoles, the CL5 is rather compact for the amount of features it packs. Dimensions are 41.5 x 26.25 x 11.75 inches (w x d x h), and weight is just under 80 pounds.

The Logistics
The top surface of the CL5 has two angles – a flat section where the faders and most controls are located, and an angled back section that houses the screen, meters, USB port, as well as the user defined knobs and the selected channel controls.

The large color touch screen is located in the center of the angled section and the selected channel controls for gain, EQ, aux sends, etc are located directly to the left of the screen.

Four user defined knobs are located directly to the right of the screen. The meters are located to the right. To the left is a large area that can hold an iPad or iPod and features a shelf to keep the phone or tablet from sliding down.

A look at the clean layout of the right side control surface. (click to enlarge)

The flat control surface features a Centralogic control section in the center that offers eight faders, each with an ON, CUE and SELECT button, meter and rotary knob. Nine function buttons to the right of the faders allow the operator to select between inputs, DCA, Mix, Stereo, Matrix or Custom layers.

The scene memory section and 16 user-defined keys complete the center section. To the left are two channel banks each with fader, ON, CUE and SELECT button and meter. Each fader also has a rotary knob that can be selected in banks to control the GAIN, PAN or assigned to a parameter. To the right of the channel section are button to choose layer for the channels, Stereo inputs, DCAs, or Custom layers.

The right side of the console contains the last channel bank that allows control of DCA layers, Stereo ins, or six Custom layers.

The far right of the surface sports the master section that includes two faders, each with ON, CUE, SELECT, meters and a rotary knob.

The master faders are also customizable able to become inputs, outputs, DCAs, etc. The front face is outfitted with a headphone jack with volume, as well as a talkback XLR input with level knob.

On the rear panel, there are eight omni XLR mic/line inputs, eight omni XLR outputs, the mini-YGDAI I/O card slots, an AES/EBU digital output, 15-pin GPI connector, two BNC connectors for word clock in/out, MIDI in/out, a pair of Ethercon connectors for the Dante network, an RJ connector for the computer network connection, and XLR lamp connectors.

A locking IEC connector is supplied for power but the CL5 also sports a multi-pin connector for the optional (PW800W) backup power supply.

If the internal power supply has a problem, the PW800 will seamlessly take over.

First Impression
Overall the CL5 has a great look and feel. The fader caps are a new design from Yamaha and are very comfortable, and all the knobs are well laid out and easy to reach. The buttons, knobs and faders have a solid feel and should last for a long time.

Further, the user interface is easy to learn and get around on without spending a lot of time in the manual. The touchscreen allows multiple button selection by simply sliding your finger across the screen, and rotary knobs can be depressed to recall a screen.

Building an effects rack on the touch screen. (click to enlarge)

The console offers a few new tools, including a premium rack that features VCM analog circuit modeling technology, and some Rupert Neve Designs EQ and compressors.

For my evaluation, Yamaha also sent along a RIO3224-D stage box. This unit provides 32 inputs and 16 outputs via XLR, as well as four AES/EBU outputs in a 5RU package. The stage box offers both a Dante primary and secondary connection point that allows daisy chaining additional boxes or the ability to connect a network in a redundant fashion.

In The Field
After checking out the console in my shop and getting comfortable with the patching, I took it out on some gigs. The first was the typical corporate type show for my company, a few presenters with some playback. With all of it’s capabilities, the CL5 was overkill, but the smaller CL1 would be perfect for these smaller (but high end) types of events.

Because I was using only one hardwired microphone as a podium backup, I didn’t feel the need to use the Rio stage box and operated the console as a stand-alone desk. I patched the Omni inputs into some channels and placed the wireless rack next to me at front of house.

I also patched in the outputs from a video deck as well as a computer for walk in/out music.

Interfacing the video deck and computer was easy because I carry a bunch of adapters and DIs to every gig, but I wished that the console also offered a stereo pair of RCA and a SPIDIF input to make it easier to interface “prosumer” gear.

This is understandable because these types of connections aren’t required by everybody.

While I brought a small rack with an EQ for the mains, I just patched a digital EQ inside the console to the mix and used that.

The second gig had a corporate party band playing in a ballroom. I set up the RIO3224-D onstage and ran a single Cat-6 run of about 120 feet to the console. Not being completely familiar with the CL5, I accidentally patched the mix outputs to 2 and 3 – not outputs 1 and 2 – but the great thing about the RIO is that it features signal lights above the output XLRs.

Troubleshooting was as easy as following the flashing lights. I quickly swapped my output cables and was ready for the gig.

Because there wasn’t a lot of time for sound check I didn’t get to really set up a lot of effects, but during the gig, it was easy to go to the menu, choose a new effects unit, assign it and adjust parameters all on the fly.

Front and back views of the Rio3223-D stage box. (click to enlarge)

When word got out that I had a CL5 in the shop, lots of folks stopped by to check it out. Everyone seemed impressed and had nothing but good things to say about it. It sounds fantastic and the new premium rack was a big hit.

Overall the CL5 is an exceptional console. The compact size makes it easy to transport, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space at front of house while still offering up tons of features. It sounds great and is easy to get around on. My only dislike, in fact, is that I have to send it back.

U.S. MSRP for the CL5 is $27,499; the RIO3223-D stage box is $8,499, and the RIO1608-D is $4,799.

Find out more about the Yamaha CL Series here.

Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International and ProSoundWeb, and is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.



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Road Test: Yamaha CL Series Digital Consoles
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