September 23, 2008

Mad Catz M.I.C. Mini-Review

I mentioned in an earlier post my fascination with the Mad Catz M.I.C. (Microphone with Integrated Controller). I had it pre-ordered on Amazon when I discovered, completely by accident, that it was in stock at my local GameStop/EBGames. I immediately cancelled the online pre-order and picked one up nearby.

I know it seems like a little thing — and a bit pricey at $60 — but I love it. Here’s a shot of it clipped into the boom mic stand:

mad-catz-mic-on-stand

It always bugged me that the vocalist was the only player with two “controllers”:

  1. USB Microphone to sing into
  2. Controller to select and set options (difficulty, song, character, etc).

I remember the first time we booted up Rock Band, we could not figure out how to operate the vocalist position at all. Seems obvious in retrospect, but I swear it took us a solid 5 minutes of flailing around before we realized that, oh yes, the vocalist needs a controller, too. Every newbie vocalist has the same initial confusion. Well, with the M.I.C., not any more!

I cannot overstate how awesome it is for the vocalist to have one thing to worry about now! No more flailing around wondering where the last player to sing put the damn controller, or if it’s powered on, etc — the controller is right there on the microphone! It is so nice, and makes doing a quick vocal run that much easier because the “controller” is always ready and right at hand.

A few notes about the M.I.C. that will constitute my mini-review, after playing Rock Band 2 with it a couple of times:

  • It is a “premium” microphone, with extra foam windscreen padding and so on. I’m no audiophile when it comes to singing — in fact I suck pretty bad at vocals — but it certainly looks and feels much higher quality than the generic default microphone.
  • The external casing is rubberized for a no slip grip. A nice little touch that at least makes you feel better about paying $60 for a microphone.
  • It fits on standard mic clips (as shown in the picture).
  • There is a “lock” and “unlock” switch so you can prevent accidental button presses while holding the mic and singing. We use ours in a mic stand, so it’s less of an issue, but it did happen once. The drummer is usually the person to accidentally whack the wrong button, now the vocalist can too if you don’t use the lock. So use it!
  • The d-pad is a little awkward to use. This is my one major disappointment with the M.I.C. — it is a bit difficult to scroll up and down with the d-pad because it’s not as responsive as you would expect. Don’t get me wrong, it works, but it’s not smooth.

I should also mention that, as the vocalist, you do have some actual controls during gameplay and those are fully accessible during gameplay:

Y button (hold) + d-pad increase or decrease volume of song vocal track
B button (hold) + d-pad increase or decrease volume of your singing
X button (hold) + d-pad increase or decrease mic sensitivity
Right shoulder button change song sort options
Start button pause

On the M.I.C., this all works the same except that there are no shoulder buttons, of course. Fortunately, the manual mentions that pressing X+Y together is equivalent to the right shoulder button. (If you haven’t tried it before, it is funny — and not in a good way — to turn the singing volume way up and the song vocal track way down. Painful. Try it and see.)

Despite the awkwardness of the d-pad, having a single unified controller for the vocalist is amazingly convenient. After trying it, it is so obvious that this is the way vocals always should have been. I highly recommend the Mad Catz M.I.C. (Microphone with Integrated Controller) to any serious fake plastic rock enthusiast.

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