REVIEW: Yamaha AG03 Audio Mixer

Don't tell Yamaha but these new music mixers are perfect for your video edit suite and an absolute bargain, says ADAM GARSTONE.

There are times when someone does something fantastic for one market, when they thought they were doing it for another. WD-40 was originally designed to protect the fuel tanks of the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile. Play-Doh was intended to be used for cleaning coal residue from wallpaper – which may explain why my two year old smears it on the walls.

Yamaha’s new AG series mixers are intended for the music and webcasting market, but they make pretty much perfect mixers for the video edit suite.

There are currently two models in the range – the AG03 and the AG06. Both feature a USB computer interface, analog mixer section, and digital effects. They have a sturdy metal chassis, stereo monitor and headphone outputs (each with independent volume controls) and can be bus powered from the USB. The AG03 is a three channel mixer with a line/mic input (featuring Yamaha’s excellent D-PRE mic preamp) with phantom power, a line/guitar input (stereo in line-in mode) and the input from the USB.

The mic/line input has a linear fader and features some of Yamaha’s digital effects in line. These add a compressor/EQ and reverb/echo to the channel – the delay effect is basically a stereo SPX reverb, which can be found in top notch studios around the world. The digital effects only have one control on the chassis of the AG mixer – on and off. You need to run a free configuration application on the host computer (Mac or PC) to adjust the (many) parameters of the effects.

The AG06 has all the features of the AG03 – except that the linear fader on channel 1 is rotary to save space – plus you get a second mono mic/guitar/line input (no phantom power on this channel) and another stereo line input. The second mono input also features SPX reverb effects and a guitar amp simulator, again configurable through the app.

The mono inputs of both devices are hybrid jack/XLRs with 1/4” jacks for most other inputs (except the second stereo line-in on the AG06 which is RCA/phono for a CD player or the like).
Both units also feature 3.5mm jacks for a webcast headset – i.e. headphone and microphone combo – which replaces channel 1 if used, and a 3.5mm, stereo AUX input with no fader.

There’s a single, stereo mix bus feeding master outputs, monitor outputs, headphone outputs and the USB to the PC/Mac. This USB feed has an interesting switching function – it can be just channels 1 and 2 dry (post-trim, pre-fader and pre-effects), or the stereo bus, or the stereo bus mixed with the USB output of the PC/Mac (loopback).

All of which makes for a very flexible mixer with a very small desk footprint. In an edit suite, where you are unlikely to need anything more than the AG03, you can have a mic in channel 1 for recording temp VO, which you send to the Mac/PC over USB. You can monitor the output of the NLE though the USB, driving the suite’s monitors, and headphones for when the Director’s on the phone. You can even flatter their voice a little when they are recording that VO, with a little EQ.

In use, the AG03/06 audio quality is fantastic for a mixer of this size and price. The USB I/O handles up to 24bit/192kHz and sounds considerably better than either the standard PC/Mac audio outputs, or even the dedicated video/audio I/O cards from the usual suspects. The mic input is certainly better than you really need for temp VO, and there is plenty of gain there for insensitive microphones or timid Directors (if such a thing exists). More usefully, perhaps, there’s a 26dB pad for really shouty Directors.

The only real compromise suffered by the AG series is a lack of level meters, though there are signal present LEDs and both input and output peak LEDs. The app has meters, if you really feel the need. I’m not sure that I would want a bigger unit on my desk just to have better indication of level.

The AG03 is available on the internet at an astonishing £75 plus VAT, the AG06 is just £90 plus VAT.

Posted on March 18, 2016 and filed under adam garstone, audio, reviews.