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This article was originally published in issue #43
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Yamaha’s Stagepas series of compact, portable, all-in-one PA systems have certainly made a mark among musicians, DJs and corporate AV companies. The range’s original flagship, the Stagepas 500, has now been overtaken by the new Stagepas 600i that comes equipped with new features such as increased power, a new design of lightweight passive loudspeaker and a revised, ten-input mixer/amplifier with SPX digital reverbs, an onboard feedback suppressor and iPod/iPhone connectivity, all of which combine to give the new version increased usability and versatility.
As with its ancestor, to keep portability up and size down the 600i’s loudspeakers do double duty, one carrying the removable mixer/amplifier in a rear recess and the other having a latching cover that creates a compartment with enough space to hold the two supplied loudspeaker cables and mains lead, as well as a couple of microphones and cables.
Setting up the Stagepas 600i is simply a matter of unlatching the mixer from its loudspeaker, removing the speaker cables and mains lead from the other and connecting the three components together. No loudspeaker stands are supplied with the system so you’ll have to purchase those separately if you need them for your application.
Once you’ve got the system up and running, connecting up sources is made simpler for inexperienced users by the graphics that sit above each of the 600i’s four mono and three stereo channels. These graphics show the type of source that Yamaha suggests could be connected to each input. Each of the four mono input channels has an individual mic/line level switch, while the first two have XLR connectors and the other two have XLR/¼” jack combinations. Globally switchable 48V phantom power is available on Channels 1 and 2, and the microphone graphic on these channels denotes their suggested use. Channels 3 and 4 have a guitar graphic, so the suggestion is that you’d be using these to connect the output of a guitar pre-amp or DI, although you could also connect dynamic microphones here as well. Usefully, Channel 4 has an additional Hi-Z switch that allows the direct connection of either an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar with a piezo pickup.
All three stereo channels have twin Left/Right line-level ¼” jack inputs labelled with graphics of a keyboard and guitar, covering inputs 5 & 6, 7 & 8 and 9 & 10 respectively. Inputs 7 & 8 are paralleled by a pair of RCA phono connectors with a graphic that suggests that a CD player as their source, whilst Inputs 9 & 10 have both a stereo minijack (with an iPod graphic) and a graphic-less USB connector for an iPod or iPhone as their parallels. All three channels have individual mono/stereo switches.
The mono and stereo channels are each equipped with 3-band (treble/middle/bass) EQ. A full 3-band EQ on line-level channels is relatively uncommon in compact mixers, and its presence indicates that Yamaha has taken sound quality seriously. The four mono channels have individual sends to the onboard SPX reverbs and individual volume level controls for each channel complete their control complement.
The mono input’s reverb sends feed the four onboard SPX reverbs that had their genesis in Yamaha’s SPX range of rackmount effects processors. On the 600i mixer/amplifier there is a hall, a plate and a room reverb plus an echo, all of which are controlled by an on/off switch, an optional on/off footswitch and one knob. Each effect occupies about 20% of that control’s travel and the intensity of each increases to its maximum just before the changeover to the next effect.
On the output side you’ll find a L(mono)/R stereo monitor output with its own level control that could be used to feed another PA system or a recorder, a subwoofer output if you really need some bass and, of course, the main L/R outputs from the mixer’s amplifiers to the 600i’s two passive loudspeakers. The main output is fitted with a switchable seven-band notch filter feedback suppressor that can help reduce the onset of feedback.
As well as its overall level control and LED meter, the main output also features a unique one-knob Master EQ. You’re probably accustomed to seeing EQ on the outputs of mixer amplifiers - for example 5-band graphics - but the 600i Master EQ is a little bit different in that it acts by varying smoothly the amount of low-frequency content in the main output from a cut at its Speech setting, through flat at the Music position to an increase and finally a boost (indicated by a LED) once you reach the end of the control’s travel in the Bass sector. Just in case you get too carried away, the meter carries a red Limiter LED to let you know that the onboard DSP-driven limiter is active, which means that you’re pushing the system into distortion.
At maximum power the 600i mixer’s amplifiers deliver 340W Peak/ 280W RMS into each loudspeaker, enabling the system to produce a maximum SPL of 129dB from each loudspeaker’s combination of a 10” woofer and a 1.4” voice coil high frequency compression driver. An onboard fan, sitting behind the slots in the mixer’s front panel keeps everything cool and isn’t too obtrusive.
With a specified frequency response of 55Hz-20kHz, you’d expect the Stagepas 600i to sound good, and I’m happy to confirm that it does. Coverage is good, 90° (Horizontal) x 60° (Vertical), making it easy to position in a room. I also was very impressed by its one-knob Master EQ that allows you to very easily tune the low end of the 600i system to both the room and to the use to which it is being put. The new loudspeaker design sounds very good and can deliver a good solid bass as well as clarity in the midrange and a sparkle in the higher frequencies.
The mixer/amplifier is also very impressive, being very easy and intuitive to operate. Its front panel is well-laid out, labelling is clear and there is plenty of room to get at the controls. Given good-quality microphones etc., it will be extremely difficult to get a bad sound from it. Personally, I am sure that the graphics indicating the expected usage will win a lot of friends in situations where inexperienced operators have to set up the system with no real knowledge of what goes where.
Once upon a time, compact all-in-one PA systems were the preserve of the lower end of the corporate AV market and (often rightly) musicians maligned them as being not much better than the average ghetto blaster. Times have changed somewhat, and the Yamaha Stagepas 600i shows just what can be achieved when modern technology and intelligent design are brought together in the service of sound quality.
The Stagepas 600i more than deserves an audition from any soloist, duo, small band, AV company, church or society that needs to amplify speech or music in a small to medium-sized space such as a pub, folk club, restaurant or village hall. I really liked it and enjoyed playing with it - you should check it out if it fits your needs.