The standard Sony headset (manufactured by Logitech) is just too unreliable when used with karaoke games, and it's also pretty uncomfortable too--partly because the microphone needs to rest so close to the mouth to pick up any sound, and also because its cord clocks in at a relatively short 10-foot length. Thankfully, in the summer of 2004, Logitech (the same company that produces headset microphones for Sony, Electronic Arts, and others) introduced its USB Microphone for PlayStation 2--a handheld microphone that does a superb job of picking up sound while also featuring a very comfortable 15-foot cord.
Logitech's own web page for the microphone claims that it "accurately reproduces sound," was "designed specifically for karaoke games," and that it's made of "high-quality construction." Although these are vague claims obviously written by marketing people, our own experience with the unit supports these assertions.
Typically, the main problem one encounters when using headset microphones with karaoke games is that their sensitivity is extremely hit or miss. You have to keep the boom microphone so close to your mouth to pick up any sound at all, and a deviation of less than a centimeter can mean the difference between "too quiet" or "too loud" in karaoke games. Many of us have fired up Karaoke Revolution and have had to adjust the mic gain setting every time we play because the pick-up is so unpredictable. Furthermore, if your voice happens to be baritone (a.k.a. flat), you've no doubt experienced entire songs where you couldn't consistently keep the pitch indicator in the upper or lower octaves of the scale. Some of you have probably tried to nail some songs on a harder grade setting and have been frustrated that the pitch indicator seems to flutter even when you're holding a steady note.
The handheld USB Microphone for PS2 just doesn't have these problems, period. We had six different people of varying singing ability play Karaoke Revolution (vols 1, 2, and 3) with it and the results were consistent. The mic gain was perfect, the unit itself was able to clearly pick up singing even when held more than a foot away from the mouth, and notes that were held remained steady in the on-screen pitch scale. Users also found the handheld microphone more comfortable to hold and use than its somewhat-bulky and short-tethered headset counterpart.
Since the latest Karaoke Revolution game has a duet mode with support for two microphones, we were able to put the new handheld microphone to the test against the "old" standard Logitech-made Sony headset in a series of live showdowns. It wasn't even close. The people using the handheld microphone were able to hold notes more consistently and usually fared better than their headset-wearing counterparts. When one person repeatedly performed the same song, by alternating microphones each time, they consistently recieved higher scores when they used the handheld microphone.
The build quality of this handheld microphone is exceptional. It only weighs a few ounces, but feels solid to hold and doesn't seem to bear any ill-effects from being dropped. Our players were a little "rough" with it and let it land on the floor more than a few times without any noticeable degradation. The cord length allows players to comfortably move around or stand back from the TV without worrying about yanking off the headset or dragging the system around. The handheld microphone's cord is also much thicker than the cord attached to Sony's own headset microphone, which means there's less chance of it getting bunched up or crimped by shoes or chair legs. About the only thing missing from this microphone is an on/off switch, but that's obviously a subjective complaint that most people won't even care about.
Another practical upside of this new handheld microphone is its cost. You can find the USB Microphone for PS2 for $19.99 at most retailers, including Best Buy and EB Games, and, for a limited time, you'll also find it packaged with special bundle packs of Eidos' Get On Da Mic and Konami's Karaoke Revolution Volume 3. New headsets usually cost $29.99. Why spend that extra $10 if you don't intend to play online games?
We highly recommend Logitech's handheld USB Microphone for PS2 to anyone that plays karaoke games.
1/7/2005 Frank Provo