Hands On With The New Yamaha CL5

Got an on site demo of the new Yamaha CL5 today.  We have a couple of M7CL’s and LS9’s and we have liked those.  We were curious how the CL5 improved on the other consoles.

First impression is that the console is very similar to the M7CL consoles, just less faders on the surface.  Almost the same center section with the knobs and touchscreen.  You gain some extra knobs to the right of the screen and some buttons above the knobs on the left to make navigating a little easier.

The faders are all new and feel pretty nice.  We did notice that a couple of the fader caps seemed too low and felt like they were rubbing the surface but this is a early production desk.  Above the faders are digital channel labels and colored bars that you can customize to help organize things.  Lastly there’s a knob above each fader that can be gain, pan, or a customized setting.

We were playing with the CL5 which is the largest console in the new CL series.  This has 16 input faders to the left, 8 input or bus faders in the middle, 8 bus faders to the right of the center section, a stereo fader and a mono fader.

The layout is pretty nice with lots of options.  The input faders on the left can access all 72 inputs plus there’s a couple of custom layers.  The custom layers let you arrange inputs any way you want on one layer.

The center section can access all 72 input channels and all of the output busses.  So you could have the left faders on inputs 1-16 and the center section on inputs 65-72 (or whatever).  You don’t have to switch layers on the entire desk at once, each section is switched individually.  This lets you work how you want to work and keep what’s important in front you all the time.

The right section is for output busses and VCA’s, like the center section on an M7.  Lastly the stereo and mono master faders are at the very end.  Since the masters can be accessed though the other bus sections these can actually be changed to input faders if you want.  For example you could have the Pastor’s wireless mic and the backup podium mic always available on those faders.  Then you always have quick access to those channels.

Sonically we didn’t really get to put it through it’s paces but it seems that Yamaha has done their homework.  The head end consists of all new mic pres and the digital snake is handled by a Dante audio network.  We were told that the built in dynamics and EQ on the channels are the same as the M7.

You get tons of graphic EQ’s, factory plugins, and “premium” plugins that can be inserted all over.  Graphics can be stereo 31 band or dual mono 15 band.  The standard plugin rack has effects, eq’s, and dynamics plugins that can be inserted.  The “premium” rack has some Rupert Neve endorsed plugins that model classic EQ’s and compressors.  According to Yamaha they’re the only console plugins that Rupert Neve will be officially endorsing.  You can have up to 16 stereo 31 band graphics or 32 mono 15 band graphics, 8 standard plugins, and 8 premium plugins.  A couple of the premium plugins take 2 spaces in the virtual rack due to the processing power needed.

Overall that’s a lot of stuff built into the box that’s all standard.  The premium rack doesn’t cost extra to unlock or anything like that.  If that’s not enough you can get cards and extra hardware for Waves plugins, Dan Dugan automatic gain control, and Lake processing.  It’s a pretty versatile desk and I like the fact that Yamaha makes it easy for their products to work with other 3rd party products.

Price wise it’s very competitive.  I didn’t get any real quotes but the rep said that it’s not a huge jump up from the M7, about 20% more.  In that case it’s kind of a no brainer considering the number of features that you gain.  The only real drawback would be less physical faders on the surface.  This means working with layers instead of having everything on the surface.

Overall we liked the console, it’s got a lot going for it and it’s a nice step up from the M7.  Our Yamaha consoles have proven to be very easy to use and have rock solid reliability.  They seemed to have spent a lot of effort addressing the audio quality which could be one of the few arrows to shoot at the M7 or LS9.  If you’re in the market for a new console in this price range it’s definitely worth a look.


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