SoundTech's Vocal Trainer kit claims to be able to take a novice singer and teach them to hold a tune.

And, in the case of this reviewer, the SoundTech Vocal Trainer Kit certainly took our singing to an entirely new level. What was previously limited to the shower is now good enough to let us sing at any karaoke bar without embarrassment.

The SoundTech Vocal Trainer Kit package - SingingCoach software, a hefty microphone with a tripod desk stand, and one of the company's LightSnake Intelligent XLR cables to connect the mic to your PC - is designed to help singers of all skill levels improve their abilities.

Despite the software's simple animation and limited vocal instructions, the SoundTech Vocal Trainer Kit does a more than competent job.

To use the SoundTech Vocal Trainer Kit, you hook the LightSnake cable, which is a garden-hose-size USB cord, to your PC on one end and to the microphone on the other. This took some doing.

The cable's ends cleverly light up at the USB port and the microphone connector when sound is transmitted to let you know when the software is recording your voice. But, as we learned, the lights won't work if you plug the cable into a USB hub; it must be connected directly into a PC port. Also, the mic was too heavy for the SoundTech Vocal Trainer Kit's spindly tripod, which broke in half within minutes of assembly.

After firing up the software, you sing a sample scale of notes from low to high so the software can analyse your vocal range (how low and high you can sing: bass to soprano). The results are displayed graphically by the software; it shows you where your voice is compared with the actual notes.

The user interface is easy to understand even for complete musical neophytes. From there, you're guided through 20 tutorials that are designed to help you develop good tone, sing a range of pitches, and read music. You can go through all 20 lessons or pick and choose the ones you want.

Don't have the patience for school? Vocal Trainer lets you skip ahead and begin singing actual songs, karaoke style. The app includes many public domain songs to get you going, or you can download hundreds of pop songs via a dedicated link. The first four downloads are free; after that they cost $3 to $4 each - no more than a couple of quid.

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Songs come in a proprietary format (no file sharing or conversion) that works only with the SoundTech Vocal Trainer Kit; they also come with the lyrics and digital "sheet music". The application provides a mixing board you can use to adjust the volume of your vocals and accompanying tracks.

At the end of each song, you get a rating of 1 to 100, based mainly on the accuracy of your pitch throughout. Our first attempt earned a 34; by the third try we were up to a 69 - and that was just by following the colour-coded scale and pitch boxes on the score.

In fact, the biggest down side may just be getting hold of the The SoundTech Vocal Trainer Kit. It's available in the US only at Circuit City, for $90 (around £45). Considering that the LightSnake cable costs $50 when purchased separately, the kit is a bargain with its included microphone and well-designed software. At the time of writing, we couldn't find the Vocal Trainer Kit on the website of manufacturer SoundTech's UK-approved dealer, Fretlight Music (Smart Sound Direct). For now, you may have to buy in from the US, with all the hassle that entails.

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SoundTech Vocal Trainer Kit : Specs

  • Dynamic (Moving Coil) microphone
  • uni-directivity
  • 100-14,000Hz frequency response
  • 600O±30% impedance
  • -73dB±3dB sensitivity
  • XLR connector
  • 16 bit 48/44.1KHz LightSnake cable
  • THD + N (-3dBr): -76.1 dB
  • SNR: 83.1 dB
  • dynamic rnge: 81.6 dB
  • input impedance: 1M Ohms
  • 48KHz: 20 - 19.2KHz frequency response
  • 0 - 2.88 Vpp signal input range
  • signal boost gain: +20 Db
  • cble length: 10Ft / 3.05M
  • USB Bus Powered. SingingCoach System Requirements: Windows Me/2000/XP
  • Internet Explorer 5 or greater
  • 400MHz Pentium II processor (700MHz or faster Pentium III or AMD Athlon processor recommended)
  • 128MB RAM (256MB RAM recommended)
  • at least 200 MB free disk space
  • monitor resolution of 800 by 600 pixels
  • 16-bit colour
  • DirectX 9.0 or higher
  • CD ROM drive
  • Dynamic (Moving Coil) microphone
  • uni-directivity
  • 100-14,000Hz frequency response
  • 600O±30% impedance
  • -73dB±3dB sensitivity
  • XLR connector
  • 16 bit 48/44.1KHz LightSnake cable
  • THD + N (-3dBr): -76.1 dB
  • SNR: 83.1 dB
  • dynamic rnge: 81.6 dB
  • input impedance: 1M Ohms
  • 48KHz: 20 - 19.2KHz frequency response
  • 0 - 2.88 Vpp signal input range
  • signal boost gain: +20 Db
  • cble length: 10Ft / 3.05M
  • USB Bus Powered. SingingCoach System Requirements: Windows Me/2000/XP
  • Internet Explorer 5 or greater
  • 400MHz Pentium II processor (700MHz or faster Pentium III or AMD Athlon processor recommended)
  • 128MB RAM (256MB RAM recommended)
  • at least 200 MB free disk space
  • monitor resolution of 800 by 600 pixels
  • 16-bit colour
  • DirectX 9.0 or higher
  • CD ROM drive

OUR VERDICT

It won't make you a professional singer, but if you've always longed to be able to sing, the SoundTech Vocal Trainer Kit might just be the answer - if you can get hold of it in the UK, that is.

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