The Genesis of the New MG Mixers
The Yamaha team in Japan behind the new lineup of Yamaha MG mixers tell us more about their vision and extra-ordinary attention to detail during the development of this new series of analog mixers.
An audio mixer is needed in almost all areas of music production and live performance - from detailed classical acoustic recording to hardcore electronica its often the most important device in the chain. The new Yamaha MG Series delivers outstanding quality, and here the Yamaha team explains how they created this new series.
Mr. Tashiro: Engineering Manager
For us the new MG series had to be more than just “new.” It had to deliver meaningful features and performance that actually meet or exceed the customer’s needs and, as always, that turned out to be a difficult process.
Mr. Tanaka (Iggy): Supervisor
We started by researching the ways that the previous models were being used throughout the world, and ended up with 10 models that comprehensively satisfied the real-world use requirements.
Mr. Nonaka: Engineering Manager
This applies to all of our products, but the size of the Yamaha organization contributes to high product quality in a number of ways. There’s the direct legacy from the PM series analog mixers, as well as technology developed for our digital products ranging from synthesizers to digital mixing consoles. And there’s a healthy atmosphere of competition in each department that contributes to continued technological growth. This is all part of our strength as a general sound related manufacturer.
We maintain the same quality standards from PM series consoles costing tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds right down to mixers like the MG series models that cost only a few hundred pounds. They’re all made at the same factory. We built one of the largest and most advanced electromagnetic emission testing facilities in the industry in the same area as the design department, and that has resulted in a huge improvement in our quality control capabilities.
Every operational amplifier, transistor, and capacitor we use is chosen for high sound quality and reliability. In analog mixers like the MG series, we’re able to take advantage of the expertise we’ve acquired through many years as leaders in the field, while applying the most advanced circuit design tools available today. While other manufacturers use outsourced, general purpose DSP chips, we develop our own DSP chip the most suitable for our needs. That translates into unbeatable cost versus performance.
I’m sure that there are always difficulties, but what were some of the obstacles encountered in creating the new MG series?
As always, achieving the required standard of quality was the main issue. We use the same quality testing standards that apply to consoles costing tens of thousands of pounds, and that’s a tough challenge for models that will sell for just a few hundred pounds. The pressure is on us, designers and hardware engineers. But unless we can overcome the quality issues without compromise, the product cannot be released.
Mr. Nishizawa: Mechanical Engineering Group Manager
For example, some manufacturers promote the fact that they use a high-quality microphone preamp, but then they use cheap circuitry in the following stages that negates any sonic benefits the preamp might offer. In the MG series we’ve made sure that parts and circuitry are optimally selected and matched throughout. Just the fact that a design uses high-quality parts doesn’t guarantee that the overall performance will be correspondingly high. An appropriate balance must be found through trial and error and actual listening tests.
Mr. Tanaka (Iggy):
Another advantage of being a world-wide organization is that parts can be sourced from the many branches we maintain in various locations around the world, plus the fact that we have access to parts acquired for other products such as electronic musical instruments. This means that for the same cost Yamaha can use parts that are a rank above those available to other manufacturers.
That’s very true. Our motto is to make affordable products, but never “cheap” products. And since we have access to such high-quality parts we are able to maintain the same level of quality that the pros expect in our most expensive console in affordable mixers like the new MG models. We’re using Neutrik™ connectors in the new models, and have completely redesigned the faders as well. We used CT scans for non-destructive structural analysis, and as a result have even employed a new type of grease for super-smooth operation.
New Environmentally Safe Finish
It looks as though the new models had a different type of finish.
That’s right. This time we used a powder finish that significantly cuts VOC usage.
“VOC” stands for “Volatile Organic Compounds,” right? Come to think of it, we’ve always tried to be easy on the environment. Of course we’ve cleared the very strict new European standards.
The special metallic blue finish used on the new MG models was developed in cooperation with specialist powder finish manufacturer. This powder finish is extremely durable compared to standard liquid finishes. It will last for a long time. Whereas with liquid coating equipment about 70 percent of the material evaporates into the air as volatile organic compounds, powder coating equipment produces essentially no VOC pollution. The panel of a mixer is subject to constant handling, and the extra durability of the power coating prevents wear and damage from sweat, cosmetics, and a range of other common causes of damage.
At that point there were continuous product design requests. Every time a strength issue was found, the design had to be revised. It was a very tiring period. I remember re-drawing the rack ear screw contact area many, many times.
I seem to remember people running up and down the corridors quite frequently at that particular time.
We ended up with four rack ears, and added reinforcement at that point that resulted in a sleek look while making the unit easy to carry. The latest analysis tools have enabled us to see that although it provides more contact area with the rack, the normal straight configuration is actually weaker in several ways. The rack-mount models having 16 or more channels were particularly challenging, and we were delighted when all the elements finally fell into place and we had a good-looking design that was also easy to carry.
Control Layout and Feel
We also redesigned the knobs, and significantly improved readability and feel.
Right. The powder finish made it necessary to increase the size of the lettering, which resulted in better readability.
The meters are brighter, too. We used high-output LEDs that are easy to read even outdoors on a bright day. There are no other mixers in this class that offer separate multi-colored meters for different functions.
Mr. Tanaka (Iggy):
Yes, I remember everyone crowding around one of the new mixers to check out the meters in a bright section of the corridor.
Weight, Strength and Durability
This is just about the right weight for hand carrying.
Mr. Tanaka (Iggy):
That’s a very important point in a utility mixer.
Mr. Nagai: Mechanical Engineering Group
It’s easy to achieve sufficient strength if you use steel or other heavy metals, but since the MG mixers were intended for utility use, we had to consider the portability and handling aspects. What’s more, if you give priority to rack mounting in the rack-mountable models that have 16 or more channels, you end up with strength problems. But if you add reinforcing ribs you’re faced with manufacturing problems. So we went back to the design and repeated structural analysis until we had a body with the ideal combination of design and strength.
In many cases other manufacturers claim “heavy duty” or “high-reliability” as an excuse for the fact that they went with manufacture-friendly heavy-gauge steel and readily available oversized parts. But here at Yamaha we have access to the latest analysis tools that allow us to achieve superior strength in more refined designs, as well as source smaller parts of higher quality from all over the world. The trend towards smaller and lighter products is obvious in the latest computers and personal music players. This points to a fundamental growth in technology that reflects the needs of the market, and does not require any compromises in sound quality. Our small, lightweight mixers deliver the same sonic quality as our professional PM-series consoles. People want utility mixers to be small and light while sounding great, and that’s just what the MG mixers provide.
Mr. Tanaka (Iggy):
So these are products that strike a perfect balance between cost and performance. There’s absolutely nothing “cheap” about them in any way. By the way, what kind of durability testing do the mixers undergo?
We begin with number crunching on the computers, comparing different metals and manufacturing methods, and end up with the inevitable durability testing of the actual product. There are many tests we employ, but the main process involves an impact test, a secondary transportation test, a drop test (we drop the packaged product from a height of 74 centimeters), a vibration test, and finally another impact test. The current one-piece rackmount chassis design has passed all of these tests, and patents are pending.
Although each member of the MG design team clearly has individual goals within the project, the team is thoroughly united in terms of motivation and “Yamaha Vision.” The confidence they convey is a good indication that the new MG-series mixers offer something special to users who are serious about sound and quality.