Grouptest: Yamaha Session Cake
Yamaha have entered the portable monitoring market with SessionCake. Two models make the lineup, but which slice of the ’Cake does Simon Arblaster prefer?
Yamaha’s SessionCake headphone monitoring amps work on the very simple premise of allowing you to “take your session anywhere”. Realising that we’re all very busy people and not always able to gain access to bespoke practising facilities, Yamaha have sought to create lightweight and compact monitoring devices that can be daisy-chained with one another.
What’s in the box?
Catering for guitarists, bass players, electronic musicians and singers alike, SessionCake comes in two flavours; the red SC-01 aimed at guitar/bass, sporting a single 1/4-inch Hi-Z input and the blue SC-02 which is aimed at everything else, with two Hi-Z (stereo, left - mono) and XLR inputs. Both models feature auxiliary inputs, headphone outs, daisy-chain I/O and share the same rotary controls for your own mix and levels to share with the group. The chassis is an all-plastic affair, but both models still retain a ruggedness worthy of any portable device and the rubber feet and weight provide enough grip to prevent sliding off the desk. Each unit also comes bundled with a four-pole, 3.5mm cable. More on this later.
Ease of use seems to have been a high priority during the design process and it certainly feels that way. You have control over your own input signal, the incoming (chained) signal, the phones level and you’re also able to pan your signal, which is then shared with other units when chained together. It’s worth noting that, according to the manual, you can chain up to eight units together. Unfortunately we were unable to test this as we only had two for testing, but presume that any more than eight would begin to suffer from signal degradation.
Sum of its parts
As part of a ‘collective’ mixer, each SessionCake performs admirably. We like the fact that the Pan position is shared across the group, as is the aux signal; meanwhile, the Me and Phones rotaries only affect the output to your headphones. However, there is one slight misgiving when it comes to the aux input, which is the lack of volume control. The reliance here is on the host device. It would be nice to have the option to boost the signal on each mixer. On the plus side, you are able to record the signal back into your iOS device with the included four-pole cable and utilise effects, or amp models.
No holding back
Even though the premise as a whole relies on other members of the band also owning a slice of the ‘Cake, the mini-mixers are still worth considering as standalone devices. There have been too many times that we have needed a quick monitoring solution and the SessionCake has fit the bill on that front perfectly.
One improvement we would like to see would be a digital connection to your iOS device added. The foldback for recording to your iPhone or iPad with the 3.5mm connection obviously limits you to older phone models and is only possible in mono.
Having a digital connection would open up the SessionCake as a serious contender in the iOS audio interface market.
SC-02 £120 QUICK SPEC: Left and right 1/4-inch Hi-Z inputs (left mono), XLR input w/mic gain, 3.5mm aux input (fourpole), 3.5mm headphone output, mute direct switch https://europe.yamaha.com
SC-01 £100 QUICK SPEC: 1/4-inch Hi-Z input, 3.5mm aux input (four-pole), 3.5mm headphone output, mute direct switch https://europe.yamaha.com