"Bohemian Rhapsody," the anthemic Queen song that few, if any, rational people would attempt singing — that's what I chose to belt out. My booming voice carried out of the conference room and into the hall, where a slowly gathering group of co-workers listened in wonder.
I sounded awesome.
In fact, I never sounded so good. It was my voice or at least my voice as interpreted by the tech wizardry behind Singtrix, a $299 karaoke/party singing kit that did things with my voice that I didn't think were possible.
Invented by John Devecka, Eric Berkowitz, and Kai and Charles Huang, four people who helped create the tech behind Guitar Hero, Singtrix is a variation on that same theme. It uses your favorite songs and real-time interaction and processing to turn non-musicians into rock gods. In other words, it's like the ultimate karaoke machine: one that makes you sound like you can actually sing.
"If you're bad, you'll sound good. If you're good, you'll sound great," explained Devecka.
The kit is deceptively simple, but, at least in my brief hands-on time, surprisingly effective. It consists of a pro-level mic-stand with holders for your iPad Min or full-size iPad (or your iPhone), a pro-level detachable mic, a 40-1att, 2.1-channel speaker with built-in subwoofer and the Singtrix module, which is where all the magic happens. The whole kit is fairly lightweight and easy-to-move (we moved it between offices and had it up and running each time within a matter of minutes), though I do wish the speaker had a handle.
The mic connects directly to the module, which pumps sound out to the speaker, though you can choose to attach headphones or smaller, less room-filling speakers to the module. The iPads and iPhones are there to supply the songs and to run the free app from Karaoke Anywhere.
Singtrix is a subscription-based service (it comes with a small collection of free songs) that will give you access to songs and lyrics, which scroll on your iPhone or iPad screen. If you want, however, to play songs from your own iTunes collection, you can do that, instead. You connect your mobile device to Singtrix and it does the job of scooping out the vocals while leaving the music behind.
Singtrix's orange face offers a handful of simply labeled buttons and dials. Berkowitz told us you can get as complex or as simple as you want. Whatever you choose, Singtrix is altering your voice in real-time, fixing the pitch and matching your key to the song's, adding reverb, and, if you want, completely changing the sound of your voice. It can even add multi-part harmonies.
You can also use two voice enhancements at once and switch between them using a button on the microphone. At one point, I was talking to myself: One setting made my voice very deep, another made me sound like a woman. In another instance, I sounded like Barry White. That same button is useful if, say, you only want to activate harmonies at a certain point in the song: Hit the button and harmonizing is on; release, and it's off.
Most memorably, though, I sang a version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" the late Freddy Mercury might not totally hate. I also noticed that the mic is sensitive enough that I could hold it eight inches or so from my face, sing quietly and still sound amazing through the speaker.