Business-like, isn't he?


 

 



PC Karaoke: Sing along with your computer?

by Alan Zisman (c) 1993. First published in Our Computer Player, December 17, 1993

Review of PC Karaoke CD-ROM "Sing-Along With... " disks
Sirius Publishing Inc.
7320 East Butherus Drive, Suite 100
Scottsdale, Arizona
85260 USA
1-800-247-0307
1-602-951-3884 fax

$19.95(US) for each title

requires Multimedia Windows PC
(CD-ROM player, sound card, 256 colour VGA, 4 mb ram)

Remember 'Multi-Media'?

The "next big thing"?

You gotta have it, even if you're not sure what's it for, anyway.

Oh, right. Combine sound, graphics, video maybe. Multi-media
encyclopedias. Multi-media business presentations. Multi-media
tutorials.

Forget all that. Multi-media's here now, and finally, we've found
out what it's for.

Karaoke.

That's right. It's for singing along with your computer. You don't
have to go out to Karoake clubs or bars or restaurants, and risk
interacting with people. You can have it all, right here, at your
desktop.

A few issues ago, I reviewed Soft Karaoke, another product aiming
at having you singing with Windows. In that case, I wondered about
whether computing was ready for Karaoke on
the hard-drive. I suspected that this was a market niche that
would be better served by CD-ROM. The problem, I thought, was that Soft Karaoke came with ten or so songs, and each 'album' of ten more songs required you to shell out another $20 or so. I figure part of the fun of Karaoke is having a large number of songs to choose from. So CD-ROM ought to give you a sort of 'critical mass' of songs, letting Karaoke on your PC really take off.

And here it is. PC Karaoke, from Sirius Publishing, is a set of
inexpensive CD-ROM disks, running on a multi-media ready Windows
PC (386SX or better, 4 megs ram, CD-ROM player and sound card).

Surprisingly, though, each disk still contains only 10 songs... I would have
expected many more in the 600 meg or so of CD-ROM storage. There's
a simple reason, however. While Soft Karaoke provided Midi
versions of their songs, PC Karaoke gives you actual digitally sampled
music. Sampling requires MUCH more file space, (how many songs do you get on an audio CD, for example... about 10, right?) but as a
result, gives realistic sound quality.

While the competition's MIDI songs use the artificial, synthesized
sounding instruments available on most sound cards, PC Karaoke's
digitized sampling sounds just like the real thing. In fact, PC
Karaoke goes WAV sampling one better, and mixes the WAV versions
with actual audio CD versions, for the most realistic sound
quality. In fact, you can even play this disk on your home stereo! (If you try this, avoid track 1, which is the computer code, and sounds like loud noise through your stereo speakers... the other tracks play as music).

For your $20 or so, you don't get a microphone (Soft Karaoke
included one in its $49 package), but you can order one of several
models for prices ranging from $29 to $99. The program will run
without a mike plugged into your sound card, but you'll miss out
on the fun of hearing your voice blended into the instrumental
background.

These disks are simple and easy to install and get going. A click
on the CD-ROM's INSTALL program, a minute or two to copy 3 1/4
megs onto your hard drive, then click on the icon. You may want to
tell it what kind of sound card you've got, but the default ("
Unknown") worked fine for me. You get a screen with icons for each
song, and one that plays the whole disk.

Each song starts up with a full screen photograph that is supposed
to illustrate the song. As each song plays, in true Karaoke style, you get a screen full
of lyrics. As each syllable comes up in the song, it changes
colour. And with a piano playing the melody over top of the rest
of the instruments, it's easy to sing along.

If you need to, you can change the colour of the lyrics and the
highlights, or select a different background. You can also set the
relative loudness of the CD-audio and WAV sounds, and of the
microphone.
 

BUT WHAT DO YOU GET?

I looked at two disks... one, "ELVIS, THE KING" presented 10 of
the all time greats and not so greats. Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog,
Love Me Tender, All Shook Up. Blue Hawaii.

The music sounded just like on the originals. Good guitar solos,
and everything. I did miss not having the Jordonaires singing
background vocals, but I could swear I could quietly hear Elvis himself singing on some
of the choruses. Really.

The other disk was more seasonal... Christmas tunes. Jingle Bells,
Joy to the World. Rudolph. Silent Night. My kids liked these songs
better than I did, but then again, they're a little young to know
Elvis's material that well.

The flier that came with the disks list another 40 or so titles,
each available for $19.95 (US)... pop music for (almost) all
tastes: Garth Brooks, 60's classics, duets, Broadway, Gloria
Estevan, Cowboy Country, movie themes, Whitney Houston, hits of the 70s, hits of
the 80s, hits of the 50s... (What? No Sex Pistols?) with the
company promising many more to come. Since each disk contains the
PC Karaoke 4.0 run time software, you can get started with any volume.

It seems like fun, but I'm still left wondering. I sing in a band,
but I don't sing in the shower, and I don't think I much want to
croon to my computer.

I thought the whole fun about Karaoke was  it getting the opportunity
to pretend that you were a famous singer... getting together with a
bunch of people, friends and strangers, who were all pretty
accepting, since they were going to act just as silly as you were. As well, buying a wide range of songs would soon get pretty expensive, whether you go for the floppy-disk based Soft Karaoke, or for PC Karaoke's CD-ROM format.

While I can see people going out to a Karaoke bar or restaurant, or getting a Karaoke machine into the house
for a party, I'm just not sure I can see a bunch of people gathering
around that 14" computer monitor, on the desk in the home-office
to pretend that they're Elvis. (Although this would be perfect for
any would-be Elvis imitators out there, looking for a way to
polish up the act...)

I may be wrong. Obviously Sirius Publishing thinks that there
are lots of people who will want to sing along with their computer.


(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1993, as a review. A decade and more later, I've gotten a series of emails from Karaoke fans hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of older software to check at eBay or at OldSoftware.com.If you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)


(And from 2004/2005): PC Karaoke fans may want to take a look at the free GoSing, a modest 300 kb download from http://www.gosing.com or he free Karafun: http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/win/34662


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan