Yamaha’s AG03 and AG06 USB mixers are compact, versatile for podcasters, and even customizable. Here’s my review.
AG03 and AG06 features
Thanks to Yamaha for loaning these mixers to me for review. If you like what you see and want to purchase either of these, please use the link below this video.
Both the AG03 and AG06 offer the same basic features. They each have decent microphone preamps that are powerful and clean enough for most dynamic microphones. You can also connect a condenser microphone to only channel 1 and turn on +48V phantom power. Additionally, both mixers have stereo 1/4” inputs for line-level audio.
What seems unique about these mixers is their support for 3.5 mm audio devices. Both mixers accept an auxiliary stereo 3.5 mm input, which you can use to play music or sound effects from a mobile device. Even more interesting is two 3.5 mm jacks for an analog headset for separate input and output. This makes it easy to monitor through any pair of headphones, without needing a 3.5 mm to 1/4” adapter. But this also means you can connect any 3.5 mm lavaliere microphone to the headset input on the mixer. These kinds of lav mics usually require plug-in power, which most mixers don’t natively provide, but these mixers from Yamaha provide that necessary power. Plugging into the headset input will cut off and take the place of incoming audio from channel 1, and plugging into the headset output similarly cuts off and replaces the outgoing audio to the standard headphones jack.
Both mixers offer two buttons for easy audio processing on channel 1. One button for compression and equalization (EQ), and the other for SPX reverb effects.
Mixers with USB input and output aren’t new, but Yamaha makes the AG03 and AG06 stand out with a couple extra options in the USB interface. On either model, connecting to a Windows or OS X PC via the USB cable allows you to play audio from your PC into the mixer, even with its own input level knob. But Yamaha didn’t stop there! Both models have a three-stage switch. In the first position, you can send a dry and split output of channels 1 and 2 back to your PC. Thus, channel 1 would be on the left and channel 2 on the right. (However, monitoring through headphones or speakers would sound normal with both channels centered.) In the switch’s second position, a stereo mix of all inputs, except for the PC’s USB audio, is sent back to the PC. The third position is a loopback that sends all inputs, including the audio from the PC’s USB connection, back to the PC through the USB. And all without ground-loop interference! This makes it really easy for podcasters to live-mix audio from their PC in the loopback setting for recording or live-streaming from the same PC; but it’s not ideal for live-mixing when you have guest or cohost audio also coming from the PC’s same USB output, as that would send their voice right back to them.
Both models are powered via USB when connected to a computer. They can also be connected to iOS device via USB connection kit and then be powered by any micro-USB power source (such as a pocket battery or AC power adapter).
If you want to use the mixer as your PC’s audio output device, there’s a handy mute button that will silence the input audio from channels 1 and 2, while continuing to let your PC sound through.
In addition to the USB output, both the AG03 and AG06 offer a stereo 1/4” headphone output, plus left and right 1/4” monitor outputs. There are also main left and right RCA outputs on the AG03, or main 1/4” outputs on the AG06.
Differences between AG03 and AG06
Speaking of differences, the AG03 is a 3-channel mixer (excluding the stereo auxiliary input). But the AG06 is a 6-channel mixer (again, excluding the stereo auxiliary input). The AG06 has an additional 1/4”-XLR-combo input for a microphone or guitar, and a stereo RCA input. That additional combo input has a built-in guitar amp simulator and its own compression, EQ, and reverb options. Also, the AG03 has a level slider for channel 1, but the AG06 has a knob. Other than that, the features are the same on both mixers.
Customize audio effects via software
Being a digital mixer, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the compression, equalization, reverb, and guitar amp simulator controls can all be customized through Yamaha’s AG DSP Controller software, available as a free download for Windows and OS X. While the mixers have simple buttons to turn the audio processing on and off, the software allows much greater customization in easy or expert modes.
In expert mode, you have extensive and real-time control over the compression, parametric equalization, reverb, and guitar amp simulation. You can even customize the two XLR channels differently on the AG06! When you get the settings the way you like, you can save them to any one of 10 presets for easy loading later.
What do I like about these USB mixers
- I like the compact design that doesn’t seem to sacrifice audio quality.
- I really like that I can customize the compression and EQ for each XLR input.
- I like the dry, input mix, and loopback options for the USB output.
- I like that it’s powered via a computer's USB or any micro-USB power source.
- I really like that I can easily connect 3.5 mm audio devices, even a plug-in-power lav mic.
What I don’t like about these USB mixers
- First, I don’t like the prices. While they may seem reasonable by themselves, it’s very easy to get a lot more features in a mixer at the same or even lower cost. But maybe most of the cost for these Yamaha mixers is in the USB loopback and USB power options, which do seem to be what set these mixers apart from others.
- I don’t like the lack of individual muting options for each channel. This is especially annoying because leaving the gain up on the AG06’s second XLR input will result in more hiss in your audio, even if there’s no microphone connected to the second input. The only way to mute it is to turn down the gain or level.
- I don’t like that the USB loopback option lacking the flexibility most podcasters would need. You could switch back and forth from Input Mix to Loopback when you need to play a sound for your remote participant to hear, but they would not be able to talk over that, and it’s something extra to think about when you’re recording. This isn’t the ultimate solution for all live-mixing, live-streaming podcasters, and I don’t think Yamaha was trying to do that, anyway. The alternative would be to connect your PC output to the mixer via an analog connection, and then your guest or cohost can hear the sound without hearing themselves.
Is either of these Yamaha USB mixers for you?
I might recommend the Yamaha AG03 or AG06 for solo podcasters who live-mix their audio while recording or they live-stream to the Internet. I might also recommend either of these mixers for podcasters who don’t want to mess with “mix minus” but still need a solution for remote guests or cohosts. These mixers might also be good for mobile podcasters.
But I can’t recommend these mixers for podcasters who want to live-stream and have a remote guest or cohost. That’s where a larger mixer with more mixing options would be a better choice.
Please comment below with your thoughts and questions on these mixers, and use the link below if you would like to purchase one of these for yourself.
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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.