30 years of basic research and product innovation. Industry leading physical modeling technology underlies the strength of K’s Lab.
The first person we spoke to for this article was Mr. Hayato Ohshita, the researcher who was in charge of MBC4 development. At university Mr. Ohshita was involved in research aimed at developing technology that could differentiate between the sounds of musical instruments, automatically transcribe music, and more. After joining Yamaha he was assigned to VOCALOID research and development, and became a member of the K’s Lab team in 2010. Mr.Ohshita started work on the MBC4 in around 2013.
Mr. Ohshita begins: “The use of multiband compression in digital mixers for music production and live sound reinforcement was not unusual, but many users were confused and even intimidated by the extensive array of controls that such devices involved. Even using a basic compressor can be daunting. We wanted to solve the problem, and began work on the MBC4.”
Kenji Ishizuka, the researcher who was in charge of Dynamic EQ4 development, explains: “CL series digital mixing consoles include two-band Dynamic EQ that is easy to use and very highly regarded. The only problem is that two bands aren’t enough in some cases. Development of the four-band Dynamic EQ4 was initiated with the goal of providing four bands while retaining the sound quality and operability of the original two-band version.”
While much of the VCM technology that emerges from K’s Lab ends up in professional equipment, some has reached a wider spectrum of users. THR series guitar amplifiers are one example. K’s Lab researcher Takashi Mori was responsible for the development of the THR series. Although Mr. Mori was primarily occupied with research on simulating the physical properties of semiconductors in university, a subject that is fundamentally unrelated to sound, his first major assignment after joining Yamaha was the THR series.
Mr. Mori recalls: “I started out working on firmware for the THR amplifiers, but was later assigned to K’s Lab where I began working on the signal processing. Unlike other products that include VCM technology, there was no plan to use VCM in the THR amplifiers when the project was initiated. The original idea was to create a unique guitar amplifier that would stand out amongst the innumerable amps that already existed. Our discussions led to the concept of a guitar amplifier that would not be out of place on a desktop. These days many guitarists play while watching YouTube or while using a DAW program like Cubase, so a small amplifier that could be placed on a desktop and yet still deliver authentic big-amp sound seemed like a good idea.”
Mr. Mori: “It was eventually decided that the full force of Yamaha technology was to be applied to the THR amplifiers, and an original DSP LSI manufacture in-house by Yamaha was selected for the job. That chip embodies large variations of audio processing technology, plus USB communication functionality, which was an advantage both in terms of computer connectivity and cost. We also adopted Hi-Fi audio technology from the Yamaha audio division for the amplifier’s speaker section. And then when it came time to actually create the amp’s sound, we chose amp simulators, flangers, chorus, and other effects based on VCM technology developed by K’s Lab.”
Mr. Mori: “The seven guitar amplifiers, four effects, and compressor included in the THR10 are all VCM models. The delay doesn’t use VCM, but one of the reverbs is a VCM model. And it is not just circuit modeling. Six physical cabinet models are included as well. The cabinet models aren’t new though. Basic models that existed in the K’s Lab library were specially tuned for the THR amp.”
One of the strengths of VCM is that it is not simply a collection of “presets.” It provides frameworks that can be easily tuned to achieve the desired sound, and that is why it is possible to create a unique, character-rich amp like the THR in a relatively short period of time.
Mr. Mori concludes: “Many users have commented that it is a very analog-like, serious amplifier, but inside it is all digital. These days, extremely high-level digital technology is essential to the creation of analog-like sound. The fact that you can connect a THR amp to a computer for detailed editing is also an important feature. In that sense THR amps are ideal for DTM recording, and we expect users to find new ways of using them that suit their individual working style.”
The compact THR10 and its variations are not the only models in the THR series. There is also the larger THR100 with separate head and cabinet that is a favorite of many guitarists.