Portable production has been given another leg up with Yamaha’s new AW range. Steven Somerhill stretches out.
Say if, just completely by chance, you ran into the hi-tech department of any music store blindfolded, crashing into the software displays, smashing holes in nearfield monitor drivers and screaming at the top of your lungs: “Anything! Just sell me anything to record with”. In that situation there’s a good chance that, as the sales assistant discreetly hits the hidden talk-back button to summon security, they’ll quickly usher you towards the portable production studio department of the store.
Why the ‘portastudios’? Well I imagine they’d never want to see or hear from you again. After your court hearing for unprovoked sabotage and wanton ruination, the adroit sales person can rest easy knowing they won’t see your stark raving maniacal face ever again. You’ll be sitting at home cheerfully recording and mixing tunes, lamenting your good behaviour bond, and never once will you have to call up the sales assistant for any technical assistance, or worse, to bellyache about your software not ‘talking’ to your hardware. You see, unlike computers, these recording machines are hard-wired to record and mix music. That’s what they do. So if, like me, you prefer to stay well away from the world of perpetual system updates and computer crashes, perhaps a production station like Yamaha’s AW2400 is exactly what you’re after.
Box of Tricks
As you probably know, this style of system provides everything in one box; from hard disk recording through to mixing, effects processing and CD production. The AW2400 utilises tons of technology from the 02R console legacy. So much so that if you’re used to driving an 02R, 01V, 01X or any of Yamaha’s recording consoles built in the last 10 years, you’ll have no trouble getting around the AW2400. In fact, size-wise the unit lies somewhere between these two devices. Not too huge and not so small that operation becomes fiddly. Mind you, at 11.4kg the 2400 is not the lightest portable workstation available and is possibly best left in situ the majority of the time. Those unfamiliar with the Yamaha way will welcome the 02R-sized screen, real-world data readouts and dedicated controls. The screen has been moved a tad to the left to allow the EQ control pots to also act as dynamics, auxiliary and effects send controls. The 13 firm and friendly faders are motorised, quiet and offer a full 100mm in throw. Because the AW2400 offers 24 playback tracks, fader layers are arrange as two banks of 12. An updated 24-track recording system – each with up to eight associated virtual tracks or takes.
The AW2400 also breaks away from the 16-bit stranglehold and provides full 24-bit sampling resolution. There are, however, restrictions on just how many tracks are possible at 24-bit. At the higher bit rate only 12 playback tracks are possible and only eight tracks can be recorded simultaneously. Only at the lower 16-bit resolution can you simultaneously record 16 tracks and play back the full complement of 24 tracks. The sampling frequency can be either 44.1 or 48k and makes no change to the playback or recording track count. An extra stereo track is available simply for mastering or bouncing requirements, leaving you with your full complement of 24 playback tracks (in 16-bit).
Another interesting quirk of the AW2400 is its ability to be constantly in record. The ‘Soundclip’ function allows the unit to be set up such that up to 180 seconds of stereo recording can be kept, edited and replayed. Keep playing past the 180 second mark and the AW2400 will only keep the last 180 seconds – a perfect tool for jamming with ideas. The Soundclip length can be preset when you set up a new song file.
Initially the AW2400 provides eight microphone/line inputs. The mic pre XLR inputs are separate from the ¼-inch jack inputs with inputs 1&2 sporting insert points. To gain the ability to record 16 sources you’ll have to expand the AW2400 with one of the many I/O cards available for Yamaha systems. There are quite a number of options apart from standard analogue I/O, including the recently released mLAN cards. Phantom power is available to all eight XLR inputs via two slide switches at the rear of the unit, providing power in two banks of four. There are four dedicated auxiliary outputs – labelled as ‘Omni’ outputs, as is Yamaha’s want. When I first looked around the AW2400 I figured these could perhaps be used to organise a surround monitoring situation, but no, they’re simply auxiliary outputs for feeding external processing devices. Digital I/O comes as a standard feature in the form of coaxial S/PDIF. Monitoring is via balanced +4dBu jack outputs, as are the stereo outputs. Midi In and an Out/Thru port, along with a footswitch jack and the headphone output, complete the rear panel’s connections.
Drop-In Pitch Fix
When it comes to effects the AW2400 provides plenty of options. Each track (including the stereo bus) has dedicated four-band EQ and dynamics. Dynamics and equalisation functions can be applied to an input signal so you can record with processing – a large plus point. Then there are four independent effects processors for the usual array of reverbs, delays and time domain effects. Effects can be inserted directly into a channel path or accessed via the four dedicated sends and return channels. When inserting an effect you can choose between pre-EQ, post-EQ/pre-fader or post-fader – quite professional choices for this style of recorder. Another addition of interest is the ‘Pitch Fix’ function. In much the same fashion as the oft’-abused Autotune, Pitch Fix allows a vocal to be retuned and bounced with control of formant, scale and overall tuning. The feature also allows chorused and double vocal parts to be created… a definite ‘world first’ for the portastudio form factor.
Like its bigger (‘0’ Series) brothers, the AW2400 provides full automation services and moving faders, but the faders can be utilised as a Midi-based controller surface for many popular sequencing programs. Presets exist for Cubase, Logic, Sonar and ProTools. If you care to get a little more involved you can set up your own Midi strings for controlling any piece of Midi gear you like. Storage is taken care of with an internally mounted 40GB hard drive, which I’m sure could be swapped out for a more capacious drive further down the line – 40GB isn’t going to last you long at 24-bit. There are other storage options however. You can simply hook the AW2400 up to your computer via USB2 and access the unit’s data from your desktop – handy for storage, editing or creating sounds to be downloaded to the AW2400.
Overall, the AW2400 does offer quite a number of enhancements over previous models. What’s most important is the ease with which the unit is operated. If you’re familiar with the Yamaha MO then you’ll doubtless hop straight in without a second thought. In terms of actual fidelity and audio reproduction there’s nothing to sniff at with the AW2400. With a typical dynamic range of 110dB from A>D and D>A, and a monitoring D>A system giving you a 115dB dynamic range I’m sure you’ll be very happy with any recordings executed on this keenly priced workstation.
• Yamaha Music Australia
Phone: 1800 805 413