Extending Your Xbox with the Music Mixer
Having music play in the background is one of the reasons the portable radio, walkman, and iPod have really taken off over the years. Using your Xbox to play music is just another way to listen to music your way.
To enhance your music experience with the Xbox, Microsoft released the Xbox Music Mixer, which comes with a microphone and specialized DVD. The focus of the kit is to make it more fulfilling for you to play music, browse catalogs of images, and play karaoke (hence the microphone).
Setup is really easy. You do not need to start with the microphone, so put that to one side before you get going on the karaoke part. Insert the DVD into your Xbox. An automatic update of the Xbox software initiates. This takes a couple of minutes. Do not turn off your machine. Believe me, you do not want to do this. A friend of mine in New York did and had to send in his Xbox to have the OS reinstalled.
After the software has installed, the new interface pops up. The Xbox Music Mixer interface appears only when you install the DVD.
The first thing to notice is that when you play CDs in your Xbox, you can use a new Media Player. As the music plays, you can also synchronize playback of some very cool visualizations, including one that uses video footage and two that use 3D dancers bopping to your tunes.
The Xbox Music Mixer is all set up to take advantage of your network. You might not have noticed, your Xbox has a network port on the back of the machine that allows you to connect to Xbox Live and other players on a network. Well, if you have a home network (and who does not these days?), you can connect your computer to the Xbox Music Mixer. You first need to go to the Xbox Music Mixer web site and download some software for your Windows computer. When you have done this, you can copy all your MP3 and WMF audio files your to Xbox.
But that is not all: You can also copy your digital photographs. This is great because one of the features of the Xbox Music Mixer is a tool that lets you browse catalogs of images. The images come up, and you can sync music in the back. Yes, you now have a really high-tech way to bore your family and friends with photos of summer vacation (add some techno music, and it will help stifle the yawns).
Back now to the one piece of hardware that comes with the Media Kit: the microphone. If you have ever seen anyone get hold of a mike at a karaoke bar or a wedding, you know that this is a dangerous thing. The microphone karaoke tool in Media Kit has a good collection of music to get your started (more can be downloaded via Xbox live). As you might imagine, when you select a song, up come the lyrics; all you need to do is "sing" into the microphone, and your voice is played back through the TV speakers. Be sure to stand back from the TV, to avoid audio feedback.
If you really want to terrify people, use the Record feature. You can keep a catalog of everyone's karaoke performancethis can be especially useful for blackmail at office parties.
The whole Xbox Music Mixer costs only $19.95, which I think is a great value. You will need to be able to connect your PC, and an Xbox Live subscription really helps (see the hidden dollars here). The microphone also is very good quality, although you can just as easily use the Xbox adaptor for the microphone and switch it for one you already own. The only thing I really do not like about the kit is that the navigation is very clunky. Obviously, a lot of time was spent on all the cool effects and integration, but no time appears to have been spent on the navigation tools. You need to use every button on the game pad to get around, which is a real pain. However, if you can get past that, you will really enjoy using the Xbox Music Mixer.