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There are so many ways to do personal (headphone) practicing, but getting a band to practice in a headphone environment is problematic at best. Yamaha has hooked us up with their unique SessionCake unit that aims to solve this.
So, it’s quite small and ridiculously easy to use, with four big knobs to deal with on the top panel. The SC-01 (the red version) is meant for guitar players, while their SC-02 (the blue version, $30 extra) is meant for stereo inputs (like keyboards) as well as for mic inputs. The general idea here is to daisy-chain multiple (up to 4) SessionCakes together, and have each individual player use headphones for personal mixing/monitoring. A drummer with an electronic kit, a bass player, and singer each with one of these can be connected together and practice at headphone level, with the ability to have a personal mix for each player. Now, how many bands wish to practice in silence remains to be seen – [ed note – we have the feeling, after viewing the SessionCake marketing materials, that this was developed initially for the Japanese market where perhaps that’s a better selling point?]
Only time will tell how the concept is received here in the States.
We got only one of the SC-01 units, so we were not able to check out the linking function, but connecting our BeatBuddy drum machine into the aux in, and running a guitar signal through the Hotone Xtomp Mini running an amp simulator, it worked really well. The small footprint was very nice, and didn’t need a lot of extra cables or adapters to pull everything together. Overall sound quality was great, with no issues to report. So, in that regard, it might just be what practicing guitarists are looking for, especially if inspiration strikes late at night and you don’t want to bother roommates or neighbors with loud amps.
A great unique application of this would be as a mini mixer for solo performances. Connect the headphone out to an amplifier’s aux in, and run an instrument and a drum machine or mp3 player in the aux input – it makes for a great busking tool on the subway or for a small solo setup.
It’s powered by two AA batteries, which is nice, but the ability to have a separate power supply would be even cooler. But seeing as how the cost is only $69, it’s tough to be overly critical. Size-wise, it can easily fit in a backpack, but its all plastic construction does mean that securing it to a solid surface is a must.
Overall, it’s a stupidly easy-to-use personal mixer that can be linked together for band situations, and while we didn’t get a chance to try out the daisy-chaining functionality, it’s still a neat and inexpensive unit that might be the perfect holiday/birthday/anytime gift for the guitar player in your life.
Small, simple, linkable to other units for more flexibility, inexpensive.
Plastic construction, no non-battery power options, might be a tough sell for bands.