Yamaha AW-2400 Professional Workstation

See my Home Recording Studio page for my basic setup and equipment list.

I have been super pleased with the performance of my Yamaha AW-1600 workstation and for many months it served me well. In fact I could have kept it instead of upgrading to the AW-2400. You can read the reviews on these units in a multitude of places so I won't cover all the basics, just my experience with going from the Yamaha AW-1600 to the AW-2400. I realize there are a lot of really great recorders out there and that the Yamaha series is a little pricey. Over time and many recordings, I have found the Yamaha effects to be as good as my stomp boxes, the ease of editing and mastering to be just awesome, the availabillty of dynamics and 4 band EQ on each input AND track channel and the USB interface to be flawless. With the USB interface being so fast, I never burn CD's on the workstation for mixes or backup!

With the AW-1600, I ended up recording everything in 16 bits (as opposed to 24 bits of resolution) as I could not tell the difference in sound quality between the two and going with 16 bits allowed me to use all 16 tracks for recording and keep file sizes small. Since I normally used tracks 15 and 16 for drums, and maybe 13 and 14 for stereo keyboards, I ended up putting the bass guitar on track 11/12 and the rhythm guitar on 9/10. This left me 8 mono tracks (1 - 8) to put all lead instruments onto. Note that in my applcation tracks 11/12 and 9/10 can only be used to record 2 mono tracks so I lose 2 tracks to record on. A typical song might have 4 verses with 4 lead parts and easily 4 overdubs. In fact it is common for me to require the 4 lead parts broken into 8 pieces plus overdubs of some difficult passages. This led to a nightmare of controlling levels for all the pieces of parts recorded on the same tracks when it came to mix down to the final stereo track. It can easily get more complicated than that because as you progress, you find yourself wanting to record the drums as 3 or 4 separate parts to control the drum mix a little better. This all led me to want the AW-2400! (Review continued below)

With the AW-2400 I gained the use of all 24 tracks, each independent, without having to pair the upper tracks. I also now have 4 stereo effects units, a bigger LCD screen, separate headphone and monitor level controls, motorized faders, longer fader throws for more precise control, individual input overload LED's, and the ability to save "scenes". Scenes allow you to save the state of the entire AW-2400 as a scene and recall it later. So the dynamics, EQ, pan settings, fader levels, effects and effects routing can all be saved as a scene and recalled later. This allows you to work on multiple songs and instantly recall the settings for each song thus saving you hours of rework trying to recall how each song was set up. I use this a lot!

Here's how I usually end up using the tracks:

Note that this lets me record all the lead parts including overdubs, mistake fixes and pieces of complex passages on separate tracks. Then I set the level for each track, save it as a "scene", and mix it down to the stereo track with no on the fly level adjustments. When I re-load the song later, I also recall the scene, and pick up exactly where I left off with no change in any of the AW-2400 settings. In fact it is even possible to automate the mix my having the scenes change automatically as the song progresses!

If you are new to recording, or have just started using an 8 or 16 track recorder, don't view having 24 tracks as overkill! As your ability to play and record increases, and you desire to make better sounding recordings, you will begin to realize that home recording can sound much more impressive and be accomplished much faster with 24 tracks.

A word on EQ, effects and dynamics. I record "wet" using the same effects I gig with. This makes patching in a part later, in the same track, later, a real nightmare. With 24 tracks this problem mostly goes away. It's not unusual for me to record with a certain amount of reverb and find out later that "the mix" has swallowed up most of the reverb and I will then add more reverb using the AW-2400 effects units at the individual track level. I also use the AW-2400 effects to add the snare drum reverb. I use 2 channels to record the TOMS because each TOM drum has a different left to right pan mix, just like a real drum set has. This makes the drum machine tracks sound a lot more real! I add no reverb or dynamics to the final stereo track and never use any of the canned mastering routines. I have had better luck adding all of this to the individual tracks. For Dynamics, I usually end up boosting each lead track about 10 db (for some reason I end up being too low on my record levels, easy to fix!) and add 5:1 compression starting at -8 db's with a soft knee and all other settings stock. I try to record all instruments to sound the way I want them on the final track so that minimal EQ is necessary. I do end up adding (usually cutting) the high EQ on some of the lead parts. The AW-2400 records the inputs with noticeably more highs than the AW-1600 as the two machines have different preamps.

A word on preamps! The AW series workstations built-in premaps can be noisy when set past 2 o'clock gain and used with dynamic mic's like a Shure SM-57. I amp my guitars and feed the mic's into a Yamaha MG8/2 mixer which only costs $100 and has inaudible preamp noise. The bass guitar gets recorded direct into the MG8 as does the piano. Rhythm guitar goes into a condenser mic then into the MG8. Everyone says you need to buy a bunch of external preamps. My Fender Steel King and Hot Rod Deluxe IS my external preamp and sounds just fantastic when mic'd. The accoustic guitar and bass sounds great also with no amp simulators. My bass guitar has active pickups set to pretty high treble and I also use a medium pick to get good definition of the bass notes and sometimes I tac-tac the bass part on standard electric guitar.

You will notice that my monitors are now Yamaha HS80M's mounted on stands. Mounted up higher, the amount of bass is reduced and I am getting less warmth than I had with the Rokit KRK-8's. However I can hear a lot more detail now and my mixes sound very close to what I hear in the headphones and on my computer dolby speakers. Overall this seems to have been a good move!

This review is based on my experiences and represents my opinions but your mileage may vary. I certainly hope that someone else can benefit from my experience and I don't claim to be a recording engineer. There are many times when I get frustrated with my results just like everyone else and it does take a few months of trying different things to get off the ground with a home setup like this. However, I have NOT found mic placements or premaps to be overly critical and you don't have to be an expert to get EXCELLENT home recordings. You can discover what works , and end up getting professional results yourself, it's not rocket science. And with the steel guitar, you can avoid all of the over compressed, sterile sound that you hear on most commercial recordings that were recorded and mastered by "professional" engineers!