Strother Bullins Reviews Yamaha STAGEPAS 600i PA - Sound & Video Contractor

Strother Bullins Reviews Yamaha STAGEPAS 600i PA

A good value all-in-one portable PA (PPA) on the market
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As 1000W Class D amps in near-bulletproof cabinets become the unofficial rule in pro-grade PPA, lightweight all-in-one systems are growing up, too—just in slightly different ways. Case in point, the 600i—Yamaha’s latest incarnation of its successful STAGEPAS Series—offers appropriate, thoughtful product refinements to the all-in-one category, as modern PPA buyers have become spoiled by the overall better-sounding, more efficient powered speakers currently in the marketplace. I’ve used previous STAGEPAS PPA incarnations and can attest that this one is—by leaps and bounds—the best yet. 

Out of the box, it’s clear Yamaha has refined their top player for the all-in-one format with a proprietary flair. The company has been manufacturing STAGEPAS rigs for years now, and the careful evolution shows—from overall improved materials and parts (seemingly influenced by their higher-end PPA speakers such as DXR) to the sleek, user-friendly layout of the 600W (280W + 280W, 4Ω @ 10% THD at 1kHz) powered 10-input mixer, which snaps easily into the back of one of the rig’s two Model 600S two-way passive enclosures. Compacting to two fairly balanced pieces for one-trip PPA load-ins, the 600i is a “just add mics” rig, also featuring a perfectly-sized storage compartment to hold four handhelds and cables, plus the included speaker cables and AC cord, in the back of the second Model 600S. 

Key features include “one knob” variable master bus EQ, from “speech” through “music” to “bass boost” settings; “one knob” variable reverb, from “hall” through “plate” and “room” to “echo” settings (available on channels 1-4, each with individual level adjustment); a USB connector for iPhone/iPod stereo playback and charging; and a stereo bus feedback suppressor utilizing a seven-band notch filter. Comprehensive I/O is as follows: four Neutrik mic/line XLRs (channels 1-4), with 1-2 providing switchable phantom power and 3-4 with XLR/1/4in. combo jacks and switchable instrument input on 4; six line-level inputs for channels 5-10, each paired stereo (yet switchable stereo/mono sum), plus two RCA/phono inputs on channels 7/8, and a 8in. stereo mini jack on channels 9/10 (the iOS/USB input also appears on 9/10); 3/4in. outputs (L/R Monitor Out and Subwoofer Out); and L/R Speakers out. The passive Model 600S cabinets are made of notably rugged polypropylene, each with a quarter-inch input; 10in. low-frequency cone behind a sturdy steel grille; and 1.4in. high-frequency compression driver, 129dB maximum SPL and 90/60 degree coverage angles (horizontal/vertical). 

Cutting to the chase, this is now my favorite PPA to recommend to houses of worship for facility-wide multi-purpose use as well as for singer/songwriters and one-to-four person acoustic or vocal-based groups playing small to mid-size bars and clubs. Why? Most importantly, it’s an all-in-one model that provides enough power for “real” performances—in the case of singer/songwriters, those nights where you and the vocalist still have to be louder than two big TVs, dueling bachelorette parties, and that jukebox the bartender keeps forgetting to turn off. In all seriousness, I’m amazed at the power packed into the small 600i mixer, perfectly angled when positioned for tabletop use.

Further, load-ins can now truly be no more than two comfortable round trips—all PPA gear in one, and stands and instruments in the other. Sonically, the Model 600S cabinets are voiced well, if not just a bit carved out in midrange frequencies; I hear low-end power, fullness, articulated thump, and detail in this speaker pair that is more along the lines of Yamaha’s higher-end powered PPA cabinets of comparable size, though not quite as accurate frequency response-wise. Add in its wisely chosen I/O, four channels featuring “actually good enough” Yamaha SPX reverb, and the master bus variable EQ (try cranking to bass boost for between-set dance and hip-hop tunes via iPhone), and 600i users aren’t even breaking a sweat (but sound like it). 

While I mainly used the 600i as the sole powered product in several acoustic gig evaluations, I did pair it with Yamaha’s DXS12 Active Subwoofer for one relatively high-volume cover rock band’s sound reinforcement in a medium-size, long and skinny venue with tall tin-tiled ceilings—a place always ripe for feedback and generally cavernous acoustics. This time around, there was no feedback to be found (I just set and forgot the feedback suppressor) and the additional fullness added by the subwoofer was essentially what I’m used to hearing when gigging via a DXR/DXS speaker configuration. So, in summary, two words: wow, and sold. 

Not that long ago, most all-in-one PPA systems were notoriously underpowered with a comparably “plastic,” hollow sound. The STAGEPAS 600i is leaps and bounds beyond this old stereotype, providing marquee-level features truly designed to serve the modern DIY performance. At $899 street, I attest that there’s simply not a better all-in-one PPA option on the market. 

Strother Bullins is NewBay Media’s Reviews Editor, AV/Pro Audio Group, active musician, recordist, and small-venue sound reinforcement wrangler. sbullins@nbmedia.com

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