Yamaha MM10 Portable Mixer & MA10 Headphone Amp.
After being spoilt by constant exposure to professional audio equipment, it is easy for the reviewer to look upon items such as these as little more than unsophisticated toys, but remember, they are designed for a specific market and fill the needs of that market admirably.
The MM10 is a simple four inputs into two outputs mixer which operates at line or mic levels and incorporates a stereo auxiliary input enabling existing programme material to be added to the mix.
Apart from the mic/line selector switch, each channel has only a volume and pan control, no EQ facilities whatsoever being provided. The stereo auxiliary input has a single level control and the mixer output level is governed by a master volume control, separate line output being provided which is independent of this level setting.
Powered by a single PP3 battery (or mains adaptor), the mixer is moulded from grey plastic and measures only 223.5 x 52 x 129.5mm, weighing a mere 500gm.
The main input and output connections are made by means of quarter inch jacks whilst the Aux In and Line Out connectors are good quality phonos.
Internally, the construction is sound and typically Japanese, all the pots and switches being mounted directly onto the PCB and the case bears the usual warnings about not leaving the unit in direct sunlight, washing it in paint stripper or attempting to service it with a pair of stilsons!
All the controls have a reasonable 'feel' to them and the MM10 should provide long, reliable service provided that it isn't mishandled or dropped. It's main area of application would be the low end of the cassette-based home recording market, either basic multitrack or sound-on-sound, but, in conjunction with the MA10 Headphone Amplifier, the MM10 also provides a convenient way in which electronic music enthusiasts can rehearse in privacy.
Constructed in a similar style to the mixer (with the exception of the black finish), the MA10 offers the facility of combining a stereo monitor input, a stereo auxiliary input, and an instrument input. Monitor and line outputs are provided but the main attraction of the MA10 is likely to be its capacity for driving two sets of headphones simultaneously, the maximum output power being 40mW into 8 ohms.
The instrument input is voiced for guitar having bass, treble and overdrive controls, a further refinement being a pseudo-stereo processor incorporating time and phase manipulation circuitry in order to produce a synthetic stereo image.
Any signal connected to the monitor input is passed through the system without being subjected to the stereo processor, and the monitor output provides a totally untreated mix of monitor, auxiliary and instrument inputs, the line output being a pre-fade (fold-back) version of the headphone input.
The MA10 can either be used as a straight headphone amplifier in a recording situation or for instrumental rehearsal. If high impedance headphones are used, it should be OK to use splitter jacks so that more than two pairs can be driven, the only criterion being that the load on each output should not fall below 8 ohms.
Used in this way, and in conjunction with the MM10 mixer, an all-electronic band can plug into the system, monitor their efforts on headphones and record the results in stereo directly onto a cassette machine, all without disturbing the neighbours.
Subjectively, the instrument channel sounds very effective when used with an electric guitar, the overdrive being useful if not exactly subtle. The synthetic stereo works quite well and could be used to good effect on other instruments or even vocals.
The technical specification of these two units makes them suitable for use in conjunction with cassette-based recorders, whilst the MA10 makes a good personal practice amplifier in its own right.
Although the facilities are very basic, they could certainly open up new worlds for anyone who wants to get into recording using his or her existing hi-fi set-up, and nearly everyone starts out at this sort of level anyway, before progressing to greater things.
My only criticism is that the headphone outputs are probably not powerful enough for serious studio monitoring, but for the all-electronic enthusiast, they should be more than adequate.
Summing up then, Yamaha seem to have achieved what they set out to achieve in a neat and affordable package.
Prices as follows (inc. VAT): MM10 £95; MA10 £79.
Further details from Yamaha, (Contact Details).