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Review: Yamaha MG166C-USB

Nov 30, 2010 12:10 PM, By John McJunkin

A mixer with powerful PC connectivity.

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The mixer's master section features three principal faders: group 1-2, group 3-4, and a main stereo fader. All three are 60mm in length. There are knobs for three returns: aux 1, aux 2, and a stereo RCA input as well. There are also three knobs representing the masters for the mixer's three auxiliaries. Another knob controls headphone and monitor levels, and yet another determines the level of the two-track return, whether it is fed by the mixer's stereo RCA inputs or the highly useful USB return from the computer (for overdubbing or live Internet streaming production). A 12-segment stereo LED meter can represent several different levels, and a power LED and 48V phantom power button are close by in that section.

In my estimation, the most important and useful knobs on the mixer are the six yellow comp knobs on the first six mono input channels. I've saved these for last because I think they actually increase the value and usefulness of this mixer even more than the USB interface. Yamaha has devised a clever one-knob compressor control scheme: As the knob is turned clockwise, the compressor's threshold is reduced from +20dBu to -5dBu, effectively increasing the amount of compression. Simultaneously, the make-up gain of the compressor is increased from 0dB to +9dB, counteracting the effect of the increasing compression. The result is that even a neophyte with no clue about how compression works can engage the compressor and enjoy its benefits. While these channels could be used for musical instruments, the real power of this mixer is for voice-oriented applications. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to quickly list a few applications for where it would be nice to blend up to six human voices together employing equalization and dynamics processing, while feeding that blend directly to a computer for recording. And as before, the resulting recording could be quickly edited, polished, encoded, and uploaded, possibly in minutes. These six compressors tame input levels simply and inexpensively, making a quality recording plausible for nonprofessionals and a cakewalk for pros. Getting that recording online quickly is icing on the cake.

The Yamaha MG166C-USB sounds great, considering its price—$659. The equalizers are wisely placed in the spectrum, the noise floor is low, the mic pres sound good, and the clever compressors are smooth and transparent—shockingly so. The complement of I/O and controls make it particularly useful for producing roundtables, conferences, panels, lectures, seminars, or other voice-oriented events. The potential bang for the buck of this product is high, so I strongly recommend taking a look if you do this type of production, and in particular if you'd like to offer your clients the option of a rapid upload for online consumption, such as a podcast.

Product Summary

  • Company: Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems
  • Product: Yamaha MG166C-USB
  • Pros: USB interface to computer, easy-to-use compression on six channels.
  • Cons: No per-channel metering, no direct outputs.
  • Applications: Conferences, panels, lectures, and seminars.
  • Price: $659


  • Total harmonic distortion (THD+N): < 0.1%, 20Hz-20kHz
  • Frequency response: 0, +1, -3dB, 20Hz-20kHz
  • Equivalent input noise: -128dBu
  • Residual output noise: -98dBu
  • Crosstalk: -70dB @ 1kHz
  • Power consumption: 40W
  • Net weight: 11.7lbs (5.3kg)

John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Podcasting in Chandler, Ariz. He has consulted in the development of studios and installations and provides high-quality podcast production services.

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