Review: Yamaha MG166C-USB
Nov 30, 2010 12:10 PM, By John McJunkin
A mixer with powerful PC connectivity.
It is highly advantageous for a contractor or AV firm to have the capacity to offer nearly immediate upload of conference, tradeshow, or private business meeting recordings to the Internet. Many of the mechanisms that exist to facilitate this type of service involve multiple transfers between devices, sometimes even time-consuming realtime transfers. Aside from the increased labor overhead, clunky means for getting a client's audio online can also cost a contract when the competitor has a slick, lightning-fast way of accomplishing the same goal. For that matter, the organization that offers good and fast—not just good—can justifiably raise the fair market price for the service, hence increasing profits. Even if immediate upload is not necessary or desired, there's simply no point in incurring additional labor overhead and unnecessarily slowing the process.
Yamaha offers its MG166C-USB mixer as a useful tool for mixing sound in a live PA or AV scenario, but it brings one more valuable trick to the game: It facilitates a USB connection with a computer so that audio can be directly recorded from the mixer in realtime. Upon completion of the recording process—and after light editing such as topping, tailing, equalization, and dynamics processing—the recording can be quickly encoded as an MP3 file and uploaded to the Internet. Even in the case of an hour-long lecture, panel, or seminar, this process could be theoretically completed in minutes, so long as a reasonably fast Internet connection is available. This is the kind of offering that the business world, clipping along at a breakneck pace, likes to see getting in the second decade of the 21st century.
There are other reasons why this mixer fulfills this particular role so well, but the main attraction is the built-in USB interface. It's perfectly plausible to use an outboard interface fed by the outputs of a console, and for critical applications that require multitrack recording and/or high-quality A/D conversion, an external interface coupled to a high-end console may be preferable. While Yamaha's converters are sufficient for a multitude of applications, they're not the finest in the world, so the MG166C-USB will not meet every possible demand. But I would submit that this mixer would do the trick for a large number of AV or live sound applications. For that matter, the analog mixer component of the MG-166C-USB system is not the finest mixer in the world either, but the combination of a good mixer with a good A/D converter and USB interface make this system quite powerful and useful. You can record from the console to the included Cubase AI4 software on both Windows and Mac computers, but the USB interface facilitates the use of any recording application you'd like.
The analog mixer sports eight mono and four stereo input channels, each with a good 60mm fader, group routing buttons, a PFL button, and an "on" mute switch. Each also has a pan knob, three auxiliary sends (one pre-fader, one post-fader, and one switchable), and equalization. The EQ is three-band across the board and is sweepable on the eight mono channels (from 250Hz to 5kHz; boost and cut is 15dB for all EQs). Channels 1-12 have peak indicator LEDs, but stereo pairs 13/14 and 15/16, inexplicably, do not. All channels have gain knobs and buttons that toggle an 80Hz high-pass filter as well. Channels 1-12 have XLR balanced mic inputs along with balanced ¼in. TRS line-in jacks and TRS insert jacks. (The mono inputs feed the left channel only of the stereo inputs.) Stereo pairs 13/14 and 15/16 offer stereo RCA and ¼in. balanced input jacks. The three auxiliaries are available as external sends via ¼in. balanced TRS jacks as are the outputs of the mixer's four groups. Main and monitor outs are also available as ¼in. balanced TRS jacks, and the mains are also represented by balanced XLR outputs. A stereo (or mono) effects return is represented by a pair of balanced ¼in. TRS jacks, and there is a ¼in. stereo headphone jack as well.
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