Sunday, December 2, 2012

Yamaha MG166CX Mixer Review


For live performances I have exclusively used Yamaha mixers for the past five years and have been very happy with their performance. These include a Stagepas 500, a MG102C and a MG124C, all of which have done exactly what they were expected to do. But a few times recently I have needed a bit more than any of these could offer (such as additional XLR inputs and more busses), which is where the Yamaha MG166CX comes into play.

Yamaha markets this as a 16-channel mixer, but it only has 10 XLR inputs. And two of those XLR inputs are also stereo line inputs, so the company counts those as 4 inputs, and there are also two other pairs of stereo line inputs without XLRs. So, if you add these all up, that equals 16 channels in their world, even if 6 of them are paired up so that you cannot adjust levels separately. So, it is really a 12-channel mixer in my world. Other inputs include RCA jacks on channels 9/10 and 11/12 and 2TR so an iPod or CD player can be run through the board.

The XLR inputs each have their own preamplifiers, and there is one switch that turns on phantom power for all of them. There are compression pots for the first six mono input channels, and gain controls with high pass filters for all ten of the microphone inputs. Every channel gets a 3-band equalizer, and channels 1 through 8 have level controls for the mids.

Thoughtful touches for the input channels are the inclusion of illuminated channel ON/OFF switches that let me add or drop channels from the mix without having to move the channel faders. There are also dual AUX send controls for each channel, one switchable for pre- or post-fader operation, and one fixed for prefader send. Lastly there are separate assign switches to add or remove channels from the stereo out or group 1-2 or 3-4 out.

There are quite a few options for outputs too. For the main stereo out there are XLR and ¼-inch outputs. There are also two ¼-inch monitor outs, as well as separate outputs for groups 1, 2, 3 and 4. This really improves my ability to give everybody what they think they need through the monitors. Oh yes, and RCA outputs in case you would like to record whatever you are doing, and even a headphone jack. Locating all of these inputs and outputs on the top of the unit really make setting things up easier and allow much faster midstream changes.

Like other MG-series mixer, the MG166CX has individual compression controls, in this case on channels 1 through6. But as there is an X in its name it also gets Yamaha’s SPX digital effects knob. This includes a selection of 16 different effects, and since there is only one knob you can only use one of them at a time. Most of them are kind of lame, but sometimes it is nice to add a little reverb. You can control the amount of effect that is applied to each channel through individual level pots.

This is a standard sized mixer that fits 12U mixer cases (which are the ones that are usually set into the top of 19-inch wide rack road cases) or into the SKB gig rack which I will be reviewing sometime on this blog. It has a solid feel but weighs in at only 12 pounds, so it is not too porky.

The Yamaha MG166CX works very well in my world. It sounds good with no added noise and it is versatile enough that I can use it for most live sound situations. The channel ON/OFF switches are a godsend, as well as the assign switches for stereo and groups 1 /2 and 3 / 4. This helps keep everybody on the stage and in the audience happy. It is a winner in my book!

To wrap things up here, I have to say that this unit is the best performer and the best value in its class. The MG166CX has a list price of $549 and a street price of $409.99. You are not going to find a better non-powered mixer for the money.


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