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Soft Karaoke

by David Reeves

Does it make sense for someone who doesn't even sing in the shower to review Karaoke software? I thought so, so I did and I was impressed with what I found.

I firmly believe that first impressions are lasting impressions and if kept simple, things work. Apparently, Vorton Technologies, distributor of Soft Karaoke holds the same belief. Installation of Soft Karaoke is so simple that all the instructions are printed on the CD. At first, this confused me since most software comes with multiple pages of instructions. Thinking this was too good to be true, I gave the CD to my six year old daughter and had her install the program.

Before you could sing the opening lines to O Canada, which is included on the CD, Soft Karaoke was installed on our 486 PC! The selection of songs provided on the CD contains a larger number of kids' songs and my kids were delighted that they recognized most of them.

Song selection is through a simple but attractive menu system. Once you have selected your song, pressing the space bar accesses the control or "Player panel". The Player panel allows you to adjust the volume control, scan forward and backwards through the song, stop the song at any point and rewind to the beginning. My kids quickly learnt how to use the tempo button since they like to sing faster than the default setting for some of the songs.

If a microphone is connected to your PC, Soft Karaoke will automatically recognise and configure itself to support it. Unfortunately, on my PC and the two other PCs that I used for testing, the automatic microphone configuration did not work. The reason it did not work: the sound mixer on all three machines was pre-configured to have the microphone turned off. How to turn it on was not immediately obvious, since I had to go through the options selection on the Mixer control panel.

Soft Karaoke on-line documentation is very good and it does document the solution to the microphone installation problem. However, I was disappointed that it was very hard to find the text describing the solution particularly since they have a hyperlink to a section called Troubleshooting. I would suggest more cross links between the Automatic Microphone Setup help section and other help sections for the microphone. On the initial start-up of the program, a popup window providing a hyperlink to the Quickstart section of the help file would be useful. Alternatively, a small tutorial or walkthrough of the features and functions of Soft Karaoke would contribute to the ease of use of this fine product.

Since I could not easily find a solution to my microphone problem, I decide to send Vorton Technologies support desk an email. I give top marks to Vorton Technologies support desk. They quickly responded to an email which only vaguely described my problem. After a quick clarification of the problem, they provided clear and detailed instructions on how to set up the microphone.

Unfortunately, their efforts were a waste of time. The microphone that is supplied with Soft Karaoke is unidirectional. If you want it to pick up your voice you need to hold it uncomfortably at a right angle to your mouth. I never did figure out how to obtain greater amplification. My kids don't notice and use the microphone as a prop.

Soft Karaoke is a well thought out and constructed entertainment package. Overall, it is easy to use. My children and their friends enjoy using it and it has quickly become one of the more heavily used CDs. Now if I could just figure out what "pitch" is and whether of not it will help me sing better!

P.S. Representatives of Vorton Technologies demonstrated Soft Karaoke along with several of their other products at our April general meeting. Judging by the response from the audience, they found the product as enjoyable as I did. It is hard to argue with that many people when they are singing along to Day O!

Bottom Line:

Soft Karaoke (Proprietary)
Vorton Technologies
301 Moodie Drive, Suite 306
Nepean, ON  K2H 9C4
Tel: (613) 721-1107
Fax: (613) 721-0116

Originally published: November, 1999

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