To a young PC Advisor, karaoke always seemed like a good idea. You couldn't get us off the mic once we'd started, and dozens tried. But looking back with the painful clarity of hindsight, it might have helped if we actually knew how to sing. If only we'd had SingingCoach.

This easy-to-use program listens to your vocal stylings and displays the notes you hit. Once you know how far you are from being able to carry a tune in a bucket, you can go to work mending the damage.

Every stage features helpful instructions, so you shouldn't get too confused. To start with, you'll be asked to sing your highest and lowest notes to determine your range – don't push the envelope or you'll regret it later. Then you can either plunge into some free-style singing, or get some lessons.

The tunes available for you to murder will seem a little unexciting at first – it's all public-domain stuff. But you can compose your own material, and more recognisable classics, from 'Blue suede shoes' to 'Careless whisper', can be downloaded from an online database for $3 to $4 (about £1.60-£2.10). Steep, yes, but 12 downloads from a smaller selection are free once you purchase the software.

The program is easy to install, and a mike/headphone unit is included. However, while the headset is a nice idea that will appeal to youngsters, it was unfortunately a little small for our grownup craniums. It also seemed rather insensitive, even when turned up to the highest setting.

SingingCoach Unlimited: Specs

  • 400MHz Pentium II processor (700MHz Pentium III or AMD Athlon recommended)
  • Windows Me/2000/XP
  • 128MB RAM
  • 200MB disk space
  • 800x600 monitor
  • 16bit colour video card
  • DirectX 9.0-supporting sound card
  • IE 5.0 or later
  • CD-ROM drive
  • 400MHz Pentium II processor (700MHz Pentium III or AMD Athlon recommended)
  • Windows Me/2000/XP
  • 128MB RAM
  • 200MB disk space
  • 800x600 monitor
  • 16bit colour video card
  • DirectX 9.0-supporting sound card
  • IE 5.0 or later
  • CD-ROM drive

OUR VERDICT

We love the concept, and the execution's fairly good, even if the same idea has been done just as well on the PlayStation. But the headset's not great, the songs are expensive, and let's face it: some people simply can't sing.

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