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Sunday, September 22, 2002

Technology

Magicsing: Karoake kit scores big
Gizmos

By Levi Sumagaysay
Knight Ridder

I like to sing. I sing everywhere, even at work. A lot of us sing at work. A bunch of us have even rented a karaoke room in San Francisco's Japantown.

So when my parents told me they were thinking of buying a portable karaoke system, my ears perked up. I could take it to my place, they said, because all I'd have to do is hook up the microphone to my TV. Karaoke to go? My head spun as I thought of the party possibilities.

The Magicsing Video Microphone by Seoul-based Enter Tech stores recorded songs on microchips. No need for tapes, CDs or bulky machines. The whole system consists of a microphone and some cables to hook up to a TV.

It's really portable, really high tech and could get me thrown out of my apartment.

Magicsing even gives you a score at the end of each song, although the scores are based more on how loudly you sing and how good your timing is and not necessarily how well you sing.

Other portable karaoke systems aren't so portable. The smallest are about the size of a small boom box. Some can cost as little as $50, but the sound quality isn't so good; many of the stand-alone systems are basically just boom boxes with microphone jacks. The systems play one or more of these formats: tape, VCD (video CD), CDplusG (CD graphics) or DVD. Each CD or DVD will set you back anywhere from $9 to more than $20.

With the Magicsing microphone, you have a complete system all on a microphone -- with 800 songs -- for $349. No CDs to lug around, and the sound quality is likely to be good if the TV you use has decent speakers.

Each microphone comes with one chip and can hold up to three at a time. Each additional chip -- some contain songs in other languages -- is about $150. You can also buy an additional mike for about the same price.

Enter Tech representative Friday Kim says the company (www.entertech.com) has sold more than 100,000 of the systems worldwide. Many karaoke system suppliers with Web sites sell the Magicsing. Small neighborhood karaoke stores, such as the one where my parents bought theirs, also sell the Magicsing.

The song selection on the system my parents bought is pretty good. The first time I used it, I scored a 93 after singing the Captain & Tenille classic ''Do That To Me One More Time,'' but mostly I scored in the high 80s singing ''You Light Up My Life,'' ''Eternal Flame'' and ''Don't Cry For Me Argentina'' (the Madonna version). I love my family, so I'll spare them and wait till I'm alone to try to wail like Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey.

My dad's way with ''My Way'' warranted at least a 95, I thought, but he only scored 83. My perfectly sweet but tone-deaf aunt belted out a rendition of ''Chiquitita'' and scored a 96. ''It's broken!'' my sister cried.

Despite the arbitrary scoring, the microphone is definitely a crowd pleaser. It wasn't long before we were dancing the cha-cha while my aunt sang ''When Can I See You Again.''

It's easy to set up; it took my dad about five minutes. After the audio and video cables were connected to the TV, we set the TV to video, turned on the mike and picked a song by punching in the four-digit number from the book that lists titles and corresponding codes. The song comes up instantly.

Another plus: Most of the scenes that play in the background while you read the words on the TV are bland but harmless. None of that MTV video wannabe, borderline soft porn I've seen at karaoke bars while the songs play.

Not just any old microphone will do. It has to be compatible with the system. The mike comes with an AC adapter, but it can also run on 4 AA batteries.

The microphone allows the user to change the key of a song as well as add echo and adjust the tempo. You can also browse the song list on the TV screen while another song is playing.

Also, for those who take their scores seriously, you can hit pause while singing a song. That way, if you thought you were singing just like Tina Turner but absolutely have to make a quick trip to the bathroom, you can come back to ''Proud Mary'' and keep rolling.

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