Yamaha EMX Bundle Sound System

1/16/2007 [Live Sound]

Church Production Magazine reviews the EMX62M Powered Mixer with AS108 Loudspeakers.

CPM Review of EMX Bundle

Yamaha has long been known for speakers and electronics that bring high-quality sound to lower price points. Their EMX62M and AS108 mixer/speaker combo, tested in this issue of Church Production Magazine, certainly continues this tradition. It bundles Yamaha's EMX62M powered six-input mixer with a pair of AS108 eight-inch two-way speaker for just $839 list (around $500 street price).

One-Handed Mixer

Yamaha's EMX62M mixer is a compact, transportable unit with built-in power amplifier and effects processor. The mixer has a sturdy plastic case designed to withstand the rigors of mobile use, and its faceplate and knobs are recessed far enough to avoid damage. Though designed to be carried easily with its large plastic handle, a rack-mount kit is available.

The EMX62M is a mono mixer with six input channels; each has high- and low frequency shelving EQ (10 kHz and 100 Hz respectively), monitor output level control, effect send level control and rotary master level control. Inputs 1 through 4 offer XLR and balanced 1/4-inch high-impedance inputs, along with a 30-dB pad switch. A single phantom power switch routes 15-volt DC to all four XLR jacks for powering condenser mics.

Input 5 sums a pair of high-impedance 1/4-inch inputs, which are perfect for a synthesizer, sampler or electronic drums. The sixth and final input offers a pair of "Super Hi-Z" high-impedance inputs suitable for direct connection of an electric guitar, acoustic guitar or bass. These two inputs are summed together and can be used simultaneously, though the mixer gives you no individual control over the inputs.

The EMX62M's output section includes a seven-band graphic EQ on the main output, which is useful for fine-tuning the sound for various speaker systems. A master output level knob controls overall volume, and a five-stage LED meter tracks output signal level. At the top of this level is a "Limiter" indicator, which flashes when the mixer's built-in limiter is working to control overload distortion at the amplifier.

The EMX62M's master output level knob drives the mixer's internal power amp, a mono main output (for running an external power amp, among other uses) and a headphone output. The headphone output sits in parallel with the main speaker outputs, and has no dedicated volume control.

SW500



To fill out the bottom end of the Yamaha EMX62M/ AS108 bundle, we also test Yamaha's powered 15-inch subwoofer. For details, see sidebar at the end of this article.

The built-in reverb effect offers three different programs: vocal reverb, large hall and small hall. You can't adjust any parameters of the reverb, but you can control return level to the main output. A footswitch jack mutes and un-mutes the built-in effects unit at both input and output. If you'd prefer to use an external effects unit, the mixer has an effect output jack and auxiliary input jack (with level control) for this purpose.

The built-in reverb effect offers three different programs: vocal reverb, large hall and small hall. You can't adjust any parameters of the reverb, but you can control return level to the main output. A footswitch jack mutes and un-mutes the built-in effects unit at both input and output. If you'd prefer to use an external effects unit, the mixer has an effect output jack and auxiliary input jack (with level control) for this purpose.

The EMX62M offers a one-mix monitor output with a monitor level knob on each input channel (pre-fader and post-EQ) and an overall monitor output level knob. Near the mixer's master monitor output level knob sits the effects return knob, which adjusts the amount of reverb returned to the mixer's monitor bus. Being able to return effects to the monitor mix is a pleasant surprise on a mixer at this price point. The mixer's Aux input doesn't go to the monitor bus, however, so you won't be able to hear effects in the monitor mix if you use an external effects unit.

The mixer's 2-track inputs are on RCA jacks, which make them perfect for amplifying audio from a CD, Mini-Disc, cassette, VCR or other -10 dBV source. The EMX62M isn't really set up for performing along with pre-recorded music though, since you can't route its 2-track input to the monitor mix. Too bad. Two more RCA jacks carry the mixer's (mono) record output, from which you can record the full master output of the mixer.

Finally, the EMX62M has a switch that engages something called "Yamaha Speaker Processing." Basically a very low bass boost, this equalization helps fill out the lower octaves with speakers that don't offer a great deal of deep bass. As Yamaha suggests in the manual, the only way to find out if its effects are appropriate for the source material and speakers used is to try it.

The Speakers

In keeping with the compact, affordable theme of this bundle, Yamaha includes a pair of their smallest live sound speakers. The AS108 two-way speaker houses an eight-inch woofer and one-inch horn tweeter in a sealed cabinet just 17 inches tall. A single-hinged handle sits on the back of the 27-pound speaker, making a pair of them an easy haul even for nonroadie types. The AS108 has a pole-mount socket on its base for stand mounting.

Instead of a grill covering the whole front of the speaker, the AS108 has a round grill that covers just the woofer. Though the speaker's horn is flush-mounted to the faceplate, the woofer grill extends from the speaker's faceplate almost 3/4 of an inch. This makes it quite vulnerable to dings and scratches.

The AS108 cabinet is made of heavy MDF board, with rounded corners on the front and back panels. The whole cabinet is covered with a textured sprayon ACX Dura-Finish, which is all but impervious to scratches and scuffs. The speaker's back-panel input jacks feed an internal passive crossover, which joins the woofer and horn at a rather high 5 kHz (12 dB/octave).

This high crossover point is necessary to protect the horn from the greater excursions of lower frequencies, the main benefit being an increase in power handling. With a crossover point almost two octaves higher than most larger speakers, the AS108's woofer handles a very wide portion of the sound spectrum. This has some implications, which we'll discuss later.

One drawback of smaller components (especially woofers) is that they usually result in a speaker with lower sensitivity. A speaker with low sensitivity works harder to achieve a given volume level (requiring more amplifier power), and usually won't get as loud as a more efficient design. The AS108 suffers from this malady, with a one-watt/one-meter sensitivity of just 88 dB. It's not uncommon for a 12-inch or 15-inch two-way speaker to beat this by 10 dB or more, meaning the AS108 requires roughly 10 times the amplifier power to achieve the same volume level as a larger speaker.

Speaking of a larger speaker, for added bass response we also ran Yamaha's SW500 self-powered subwoofer through its paces for this review. See the short sidebar article that accompanies this article.

To the Test

Setup of the EMX62M mixer and AS108 speakers is very simple, so we listened to the Yamaha system in indoor and outdoor settings. The EMX62M offers a good complement of controls for its price category, with the seven-band graphic EQ really proving its worth in smoothing out the sound of the AS108 speakers. The mixer's two-band EQ on each channel sounds clean and allows for some basic tone shaping of inputs. Overall sonic quality of the mixer is quite good for this class of product.

The built-in digital reverb won't be mistaken for even a moderately priced outboard unit, but it definitely falls into the "far better than nothing" category. Reverb tails are rattly and sparse, especially at lower frequencies. All three algorithms sound very similar, and even the shorter "Vocal Reverb" rings out too long for my tastes (its decay time is more than three seconds). All this said, it's quite amazing to have an effects processor of any type included on such an affordable mixer.

On the other side of the coin, the EMX62M suffers from at least one glaring oversight-the inability to fold the 2-track input back into the monitors. I'm not sure what one more knob and a few resistors would have cost, but I think most any EMX62M user would pay a little more to have this capability.

The AS108 speakers do an admirable job of delivering good sound from compact enclosures. Bass response from the AS108 is surprisingly good, considering the size of the cabinet and woofer. Top end is crisp (bordering on brittle), but this is usually preferable to a muddy, dark-sounding speaker.

The eight-inch woofer is asked to perform beyond the frequencies where its response and dispersion pattern are smooth, but this is necessary to protect the small horn from damage. The AS108's woofer gets somewhat midrange-heavy in the 1 kHz to 2 kHz range, but EQ tames this buildup effectively. I actually found the AS108s to sound best with the EMX62M's 1 kHz, 2 kHz, 4 kHz and 8 kHz EQ bands all dropped slightly.

The Verdict

Th EMX62M/AS108 package won't fill a large sanctuary with sound, but it's fine for smaller rooms such as a 50-seat classroom. Acoustic worship, perhaps in a coffee shop environment, is a great application for this system.

The low volume limit of this system has more to do with the inefficient AS108 speakers than it does the mixer's output power. You can almost think of the AS108s as the live sound equivalent to bookshelf home stereo speakers. They're small, light and affordable. They don't get very loud, and don't sound as good as most larger speakers (especially in the deep bass area). But they definitely have their niche when cost, size or portability come into play.

Keeping in mind its extremely low price, the EMX62M/AS108 bundle offers great bang for the buck. It's hard to believe you can pur-chase a system complete with speakers and a powered mixer (with digital effects and seven-band EQ, no less) for about $500. Yamaha even throws in a pair of speaker cables!

Special thanks to Leo Gunther Enterprises (Orland, CA) for assistance with this review.


WANNA ADD A LITTLE THUMP? YAMAHA SW500 15-INCH POWERED SUBWOOFER

To fill out the bottom end of the Yamaha EMX62M/AS108 bundle, we also test Yamaha's powered 15-inch subwoofer (SW500, $1099 list). The SW500 mates a 15-inch speaker to a 500-watt amplifier. In contrast to subwoofers that hide their driver inside the cabinet in a "folded horn" design, the SW500's driver is front-loaded and clearly visible through the speaker's grill. The ported cabinet stands roughly 24 inches tall, 19 inches wide and 23 inches deep. Thanks to its internal amplifier and power supply, the SW500 weighs in at a healthy 93 pounds. A pole socket sits on top of the subwoofer, allowing a smaller satellite speaker to be positioned directly above the SW500.

All inputs, outputs and controls sit on the back of the subwoofer; all audio connections are stereo on balanced XLR connectors. In addition to the stereo inputs, the SW500 has full-range stereo XLR outputs (wired in parallel with the inputs for signal pass-through) and high-pass outputs for driving mid/high amp(s) and speakers. Though the SW500 has a sweep-able low-pass filter, these high-pass outputs have a fixed crossover point of 100 Hz.

Controls on the SW500 are simple, and include a power switch, phase invert switch, level knob (input sensitivity) and cutoff frequency knob. The latter control offers a very narrow range from 80 Hz to 100 Hz. LED indicators, also located on the back panel, include power and clip.

Adding the SW500 subwoofer to our EMX62M/AS108 bundle requires little more than running a line (balanced, preferably) between the mixer's Main output and one of the subwoofer's inputs.

The SW500 subwoofer offers a dose of deep bass that will brings smiles to faces and set toes tapping. As its price might imply, the SW500 is actually in a different league from the other products tested here. It matches the output of the EMX62M and AS108 combo with headroom to spare.

My only quibbles with the SW500 involve the incredibly narrow span of the cutoff control (80 Hz to 100 Hz — why bother?) and the placement of the clip LED. It makes much more sense to place an important indicator like this on the front panel, not the back. These issues are not showstoppers, and don't diminish the simple fact that the SW500 offers solid, high-output bass from a compact cabinet.

The SW500 is a solid performer that really complements systems in need of some low-bass reinforcement. It's in a different price category than the EMX62M and AS108, one where it has some stiff competition from the likes of Mackie Designs and others. Still, it puts in a very good showing and is worthy of an audition for those in the powered subwoofer market.

AS SEEN IN NOV/DEC 2002 - CHURCH PRODUCTION MAGAZINE

EMX62M Powered Mixer
AS108 8" Two-way Acoustic Suspension Loudspeaker
SW500 Powered Subwoofer

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