Come on now, almost every shopping centre you can think of now has at least one of these telephone-booth-like (supposedly) soundproof Karaoke kiosks. And we’re betting that it’s at least crossed your mind once on two things: who goes there, and is it really soundproof, and the secret third question that nobody wants to admit: is it worth trying?
The Avenue One team has decided to embarrass ourselves and test it for you, because the very fact that you’re here tells us that you’re probably just too embarrassed to try it out for yourself, but are really curious what it’s all about.
Mbar is owned by Ubox from China and are based upon the idea that: people love singing, people want to sing during their fragmented time, whereas going to a traditional KTV will usually require at least an hour of booking.
Makes sense to us, considering how stressed out and how little time us busy city folk often have!
The MBar also makes a lot of other pretty big claims that you may (or may not know of), not limiting to its semi-professional sound quality, complete soundproofing from the outside, being able to record and upload your songs to your social media immediately. The mini booth also claims to fit up to two people.
We decided to put all these factors to the test and rate them a point five – with 1 star being the lowest rating, and 5 the highest, so that you can make your own judgment for yourself after that.
First impressions of Mbar mini KTV booth
We have to confess that our expectations were knee-deep low to begin with. This was probably why we were pleasantly surprised by the interior of the booth – very nicely air-conditioned (but not too cold), with rather plush bar-stool like seats for two people to comfortably sit in without feeling cramp – in fact, we reckon that up to possibly FOUR people could fit in the booth alone, with two of them standing up.
Clean-looking microphones and two pairs of headsets greeted us and we took our seats, ready to sing.
And although rather dark in pictures, it perfectly fit the ambience of what you’d expect out of a Karaoke, to truly jam your heart out without feeling (too) self-conscious.
There’re also hangers for your handbags – which we thought was a pretty clever touch to deal with the space constraint!
Is that tiny little booth really as soundproof as it claims?
Surely, this has got to be the biggest doubt everyone’s had – including us – because nobody wants to be in for a rude shock when they realise their loud, super off-tune pitches can be heard by the sniggering passers-by in the mall, so we made sure it was the very first thing we tested!
Juliet and I were the guinea pigs in this little experiment – I tested it out with an English song, and Juliet, a Chinese song, while Emily, our photographer, went out of the mini KTV booth to see if it was really as soundproof as it claimed.
Let us just put it out there that it completely trumped our non-existent expectations – we were initially a little shy about raising our voices too high, then realised that almost no matter how loud we screamed sang, it really couldn’t be heard from the outside.
(Well, not unless you deliberately press your ear against the booth itself!)
How we rate the experience: All in all, we rate the soundproofing of the Mbar a high 4.5/5 stars – taking the .5 point star away because it is technically not completely soundproof, but really, definitely more than good enough if you’re looking for a soundproof K-experience.
How did the sound quality fare?
Sound quality, we felt, sounded pretty crisp and clear, with the bass of songs audible. Like a regular KTV system, there are options to switch off the singer’s voice, or to sing along with the singer.
Sensitive ears? You can toggle the microphone and volume settings too, just like what you’d find in a traditional KTV room.
About the recording function: You can get a copy of the recorded song on your phone just by scanning the QR Code on the screen on your WeChat app, so that you can upload your songs online immediately!
How we rate the experience: 5/5 stars. Completely satisfactory, nothing to complain about, and frankly speaking, the sound quality fared A LOT better than many other traditional KTV booths out there.
That being said, none of us are audiophiles, so perhaps a self-proclaimed audiophile might be able to pick out something we couldn’t!
Privacy of the KTV booth
Mbar also claims to give complete privacy, much like the privacy of a traditional KTV booth where you’re given an entire room.
However, curtains provided for privacy only adorned the sides of the mini KTV booth, leaving the glass door open for curious passers-by to peek in.
How we rate the experience: 2/5 stars, as we attracted some pretty curious stares from the outside.
For the self-conscious wanting to jam it out with a friend or two – while the soundproofing is good and you could probably scream as loud as you want, your movements and actions can still be seen from the outside, so you may not want to get up and dance if you’re shy.
Language and song selection
Most people, we think, would also be sceptical about the selection of songs that Mbar, a Chinese company has to offer. It had, however, trumped our expectations (you may be noticing a common pattern by now) as it comes in a pretty huge selection of eight languages to choose from, including Chinese (of course!), Hokkien, Japanese, Hindi, Malay, Korean, Cantonese, and English.
Which, we feel, definitely takes into account the Singaporean’s very diverse racial demographic pretty well. Good on ya, Mbar!
We were also pretty impressed by the song selection, which features some pretty recent songs in its collection – I sang Shawn Mendes’ Treat You Better, a song from 2016 – which isn’t too shabby already! There were also other more recent-ish hits like Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do, and even more nostalgic songs from the ‘10s like Taylor Swift’s Love Story.
That being said, MBar, being a Chinese company, has (obviously) a bigger focus on Chinese hits, so Mando-pop fans – you’re in for a ride – it features songs from popular Chinese reality shows like I am a singer, or The Voice, duets, and Mando-pop group hits – so you’re absolutely spoilt for choice here.
How we rate the experience: 4/5 stars, because we didn’t manage to find any updated songs from this year, but a pretty decent collection that made for a good K-experience!
Psst, by the way, if you’re super salty about not finding your favourite new hits in the booth, you can feedback to MBar’s WhatsApp hotline at 9038 6860.
The payment method is simple enough – MBar provides a variety of payment methods such as VISA, VISA Paywave, EZlink, Paypass, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Concession Passes, as well as electronically via the WeChat app itself.
We paid via VISA Paywave with little problem, although reviewers on MBar’s Facebook online seemed to struggle with it – from being unable to scan their cards, to deducting double, or triple the expected amount – so on and so forth.
Even though it was a rather smooth experience for us, we feel that there is still a need to proceed with caution and make sure that the amount deducted is accurate.
Important: If the deducted amount is not accurate or if you encounter any other problems, please contact or WhatsApp the MBar / UBox at their hotline number 9038 6860. The detail is also on the Karaoke booth itself.
How we rate the experience: 1/5 stars. While we had a smooth experience, seeing the number of complaints online, perhaps MBar should look into sorting out these technological errors for a more pleasant experience for its users.
Unexpected, miscellaneous finds
A rather fun, but unexpected function, MBar also has a scoreboard rating how in-tune you are for each song, rating your singing at the end of the song a point 100 and how you compare to the “national average”.
While Juliet’s beautiful singing trumped a whopping 99% of the national competition, my rather mediocre, off-pitch singing scraped by with a paltry 59%, at the end of my very poor rendition of Taylor Swift’s Love Song. All in all, a rather fair assessment!
MBar also offers “mini-games” to play during your K-session, perhaps something you could do if your friend was singing a song you didn’t recognise.
Unfortunately, the mini-games didn’t seem to work, even when we jabbed tapped on it repeatedly. Meh.
We also liked that MBar allows its users to complete their one last song instead of cutting abruptly at the 15-minute mark, for a whole, complete experience.
MBar also allows you to send in feedback both through their customer service function on the touch screen, as well as through WhatsApp, so if you badly want a song to be added in, simply contact the good people at MBar!
How we rate the experience: A rather mixed bag of good and bad, we’re going to have to rate this a 3/5.
Was Mbar worth its price?
The pricing rates go for SGD6.99 for 15 minutes, SGD9.99 for 30 minutes, and SGD16.99 for an hour.
Although the price rates were rather steep, in comparison to traditional KTV places like Teo Heng, which go for around SGD7 for an hour, instead of just 15 minutes, we liked that the MBar is catered towards people seeking to sing during their fragmented time periods, offering a decent K-experience that is great for the busy bee on the run.
Psst, by the way, if you’re looking for a proper singing session in a conventional KTV studio, we’ve sussed out 13 KTV studios that with the most affordable prices, including one that charges SGD10 for 9 hours of singing.
Final verdict on Mbar
Overall rating: We would give this a pretty decent 3.5/5 stars, with the 1.5 stars deducted because of payment difficulties, relatively high price, and privacy issues.
But otherwise, an overall fun, enjoyable, pleasant experience, that we’d definitely be willing to come back to.
Where to find MBar: Outlet information unavailable online, but we’re willing to bet that you can find these solo booths in most shopping malls.
Operating hours: The operating hours of the MBar may be struck out, but we’ve seen these booths operating all the way till the shopping mall closes.
So if access to the shopping mall isn’t blocked by night time and if the electricity hasn’t been cut off, or you haven’t been chased away by a security guard – then we’d say you could very well be singing at any time within the 24-hour bracket. Sweet!
We say the principle of MBar is this: Have fun, but hey, not TOO much fun! Scream at the top of your lungs, but ABSOLUTELY. NO. DANCING.
Although in all seriousness, we suspect this may be because the booths itself are rather small, so any large movements could possibly send you tipping right over the other way.