Yamaha Crams a “Swiss Army Knife” into a Compact Broadcast Mixer

Yamaha’s AG series mixers streamline the package of gear needed to do remote broadcasts, webcasts or podcasts. Almost pocket-sized, these mixers run on little power and feature a “Swiss Army Knife” of features for a range of audio applications.

As one who grew up working in radio in the 1960s, doing a remote broadcast meant lugging around at least 80 pounds of heavy gear to hook to a leased phone line. Moving that gear up shaky ladders to stadium press boxes or on unstable carts was always just a moment away from a serious accident. And even with all the hassle, the audio quality was poor.

Coming from that early experience was one of the attractions of Yamaha’s compact new AG series portable audio mixers. The company has crammed a myriad of useful tools into a multi-purpose, high-resolution mixer and USB audio interface designed to work for broadcasters, webcasters, podcasters and musicians from virtually anywhere.

What’s most fascinating about Yamaha’s pair of AG mixers is their incredible flexibility for the size. They can be used by a range of users in a true “Swiss Army Knife” fashion — getting rid of several extra pieces of gear typically needed for such tasks.

Each mixer is “plug and play” compatible with a range of new online applications that allow immediate realtime live broadcasting with USSTREAM and YOUTUBE LIVE or offline video or audio podcasts. The uses are limited only by the imagination.

To begin with, both the AG03 and AG06 models sound first rate. Each model offers high resolution (192kHz / 24bit) playback and recording capability. The premium D-PRE mic preamp offers high gain and low noise and has 48 volt phantom power. Each preamp offers a one-touch compression and reverberation hardware control and there are line-in inputs for musical instruments and other devices.

Front panel of AG03

Front panel of AG03

Both models have a rugged metal chassis and are very meager on power usage. When plugged into a Mac or PC, they can be fully powered off USB. When connected to an iPad, the mixer can use five volts of power at 500 mA. That means it can run on a typical mobile phone charging battery or the tiny AC adapter used to charge iPads or mobile phones. Typical cables work. This means either model can work anywhere without power connections.

The main difference between the two models is channel capacity. The AG06 (2.2 pounds) supports six channels, while the AG03 (1.8 pounds) supports three channels. The larger mixer offers two XLR inputs with the controls for each plus other inputs from a range of accessories, including headsets with microphones. Plug and Power voltage is supplied to the headset mic. The smaller AG03, which we reviewed for this article, is more compact with a single XLR input. It’s so small it can fit into most large jacket side pockets.

Beyond the commonality of the two mixers are the range of features for different users. For traditional radio broadcasters, any broadcast microphone can be plugged in and used for top quality broadcast audio. The compression and EQ can make virtually any voice sound good. There are also extra inputs for playback of other devices and for recording.

Yamaha AG DSP Software Controller

Yamaha AG DSP Software Controller

The AG DSP Controller software app for Mac and Windows allows easy access and more refined control of the compressor, EQ, high-pass filter, reverb and an amplifier simulator. There’s both an “Easy" and ”Expert” mode. The advanced mode offers graphical interfaces for compression and EQ on two channels. Plus there are presets with settings for male and female voices with different types of microphones, speech, headset mic and acoustic instruments.

Outputs allow connection to a pair of powered loudspeakers and direct USB allows for computer streaming. The mixer is all that’s needed for a remote broadcast on location.

For webcasters, podcasters or game broadcasting, the system adds a loopback function that enables live broadcasting of all the microphones, instruments and other audio sources along with background music or sound from the PC / Mac or iPad. Both models feature volume knobs on the front panel (the AG03 comes equipped with a 60mm fader) for manual control of voice, background audio or sound effects. Users can add reverb from an external device at will.

AG03 rear panel

AG03 rear panel

Another specialty is music production. The mixers can be used with production DAW application for iPads or standard computers. The AG mixers come bundled with Cubase AI (downloaded) that condenses the composing, recording, editing and mixing functions based on Cubase music production software, letting users start the music production process right away. Since the mixers can be run on batteries, audio and instruments can be captured anywhere.

Either mixer can be used as the front end to a computer. These computers can use iTunes, Media Player or foobar2000. If users have ASIO compatible playback software, the internal Kernal mixer can be bypassed and the original sound can be faithfully reproduced.

The AG03 was a breeze to set-up. I did it at first without reading the manual and all the systems were intuitive enough to easily figure out. In fact, the ergonomic design and tiny pictures on the controls make operation a total no brainer. The software worked beautifully and was also very logical in its functionality.

Depending on your needs, either of the Yamaha AG series mixers are excellent candidates for anyone doing remote broadcasting on the web or air who wants extreme portability, easy powering and easy operation for novice operators.

Check out an earlier article we did on these mixers at AES.

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