Lightning Review: The Ultimate Karaoke Experience Kit

We've all seen Karaoke kits, but few have beheld the sheer awesomeness of The Ultimate Karaoke Experience Kit, an online Karaoke service for Mac and PC.

The Pitch: It's web karaoke with access to 5,300 songs online, complete with YouTube-esque song recording and sharing.

The Price
: A $US40 kit includes 2 mics and a base unit (free with a year's subscription to 5,000 songs) and $US10/month for the service. There's an optional free service, supported by ads, with 300 or so songs.

The Verdict: The service is in many ways fantastic, but a limited music library and some service hiccups make it slightly less than we'd hope for $US10/month.

Essentially you plug in a USB audio mixer along with one or two mics, go to a website and select the song you'd like to sing. It streams music (in full midi karaoke fashion) with an optional (covered) vocal track to back you up. Press record and your clip is encoded in Flash video (and if you have a webcam, it's of you). You can embed these clips on webpages, email them to friends or keep them to yourself.
But while the microphone hardware seemed to be of a decent quality, my preview audio of my own voice was modulated and delayed. When I played back a recording (which won't be pasted here since I'd prefer to avoid the public flogging), I found that while the audio was clear, I was evidently singing too fast.

Still, even if you don't want to record, it's just an annoyance to deal with realtime delay and voice compression.

Plus, you need to click the microphone button every time a song plays to enable it. Otherwise, you are singing to yourself. Isn't this karaoke? Don't you think the software could make the base assumption that, sure, you might want to sing into that mic you bought? Designers, ask me to turn the mic off, not on.

There's also a pretty crap music selection. I know, 5,300 songs sounds like a lot, but a few quick searches reveal that the pool of songs is only about shin deep. You can tell a library is pretty small when every search result turns up "Elton John" as a suggested alternative. And then there's this little problem, as illustrated during a recent conversation with Jason Chen.
No John Mayer, but there's lots of R Kelly. So if you like being peed on during karaoke parties, you're all set.

This review got pretty critical, but it's only because, at the end of the day, I really liked The Ultimate Karaoke Experience Kit. Its basic problems are in implementation, not design. Sharing works really well, strange interface kinks can be ironed out, and its music catalog can grow. Hopefully we're looking at a gen one service that only gets better. And really, for about the price of Karaoke Revolution, it's not the biggest risk to try it out for a month. [Karaoke Channel Online]

Decent Web Interface

Recording/Sharing Is Easy

Poor Track Selection

Vocal Preview Problems Are Worrisome

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