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Hands-on: SingStar Wireless Microphones

There’s nothing more aggravating than fancying a quick game of SingStar and having to face ten minutes of untangling cables, only to find that the wire doesn’t stretch back to your favourite armchair. The situation’s made considerably worse when you’re under the influence which, if you’re anything like us, you will be when dabbling with SingStar.

Enter SingStar’s new wireless microphones which launched across PAL territories late last month, offering a solution to all your cable-cluttered problems. But with a recommended retail price of £34.99, is a wire-free setup entirely worth it?

Setting up the wireless mics is extremely straightforward, done so by simply plugging the wireless microphone receiver (pictured above) into one of the console’s USB ports, inserting the two supplied AA batteries into each microphone and turning them both on via a sliding power button. Each time they’re turned on the microphones instantly pair with the receiver via a Bluetooth connection, without any need to manually synch them.

A green LED on the receiver illuminates to confirm that the unit is receiving power from the console, while green LEDs on each of the microphones indicate that they’re connected. If one’s out of range, a red LED lights on the microphone in question.

That’s all there is to it. There’s no messing about with menu screens or faffing about with synchronisation buttons (though there is such a button on the receiver, presumably to connect replacement - or potentially, additional - microphones). It’s so simple even your mum could do it, which knowing SingStar, she probably will.

 

The wireless microphones are considerably bulkier than their wired counterparts, yet at 219 grammes they actually weigh 20 grammes less. With the batteries removed they’re even lighter at only 170 grammes.

They’re also significantly taller, measuring 239mm compared with the wired mics’ 198mm. They stand taller than Lips’ stumpy wireless mics as well, which measure 207mm. Their increased thickness and size make them feel slightly more robust than their wired equivalent, and allow you to get a better grip on them too.

We were initially concerned about the position of the power button which, unlike the Lips microphones, is located on a sliding mechanism on the front of the microphone where you’d normally rest your thumb. Thankfully a locking mechanism on the slider stops any accidental turn-offs during those heated karaoke sessions.

Also unlike Microsoft’s microphones, Sony’s wireless mics don’t feature any motion-sensing or pulsing lights either - a feature that you’ll either be thankful for or not.

The wireless microphone receiver’s built-in stand allows the unit to stand upright, and measuring 104mm wide and 65mm tall, it isn’t particularly obtrusive. But like Sony’s PlayTV unit, the receiver feels distinctly hollow - indeed the unit only weighs a mere 50 grammes. Its moderate design and black matte finish is certainly no eyesore, but a USB dongle like that used for Buzz’s wireless buzzers would have been preferable.

 

The wireless microphones are compatible with both PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3, and with all versions of SingStar. During our playtesting we didn’t suffer from any lag when testing them on either system, and the mics proved to be very responsive, picking up on even the slightest change in pitch. They didn’t suffer from Lips’ infamous “white noise” problem either that allowed players to rack up points by simply blowing into the mic. Not that you would cheat anyway, would you?

The mics also appeared to work fine at range (we managed to push them to 20 feet before we ran out of space), and again without any noticeable lag.

As mentioned earlier, each microphone uses two standard AA batteries, and though Sony didn’t provide us with an estimated battery life, our mics were still up and running after the two to three hours we spent testing them. To preserve battery life, the mics also shutdown automatically after fifteen minutes of being idle.

It’s also been confirmed that the microphones are compatible with the PS3 versions of Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour, though unfortunately we couldn’t verify that ourselves.

But the most obvious advantage offered by the wireless mics is the ability to sing (and dance?) untethered, something that Lips took full advantage of with its motion-sensing capabilities. SingStar’s wireless microphones, unfortunately, do not include such a feature, removing any possibility of motion-sensing themes being introduced to the series in the near future. Whether or not you’re one of those that find yourself restricted by a wired setup, we’ll leave to you to decide, but it’s disappointing that Sony chose not to incorporate any increased functionality that could be hosted by a wireless device.

 

They may not offer anything more than an increased freedom of movement, but the wireless mics’ ease of use makes them an attractive buy to anyone looking to untangle themselves from the wired world.

Given the lack of any extra features, however, the relatively high price is a major stumbling block for the accessory - especially when compared with the motion-sensing capabilities offered by Microsoft’s microphones - and one that we can’t help but think may dissuade even the most ardent SingStar user.

Bigger and bulkier, yet lighter and more robust, SingStar’s wireless microphones are a worthy, if unessential upgrade for the wireless generation - if you can stomach the asking price.

[via Dpad Magazine]