A karaoke backgrounder
Karaoke, a Japanese word meaning "empty orchestra," is a form
of entertainment that allows people to sing along to music tracks while following
the lyrics, typically broadcast on a TV or video screen. The songs don't
play with recorded lyrics; the singing is supplied by karaoke participants.
Originally popularized in Japan, karaoke was sung in bars and at parties.
Early karaoke machines were expensive and heavy, but users could pay a small
fee to sing karaoke at a bar or restaurant, or the venue rented the equipment
and supplied the entertainment for free. Home karaoke machines are now widely
available, and much more affordable and portable. Some enthusiasts sing with
others and perform in contests. Kids especially enjoy karaoke, and it's great
entertainment when hosting a children's sleepover.
How you plan to use the karaoke machine should figure heavily into the price
you'll pay. At the very least your unit should include a CD/CD+G player and
at least one microphone. Many inexpensive karaoke machines can play CD+Gs,
the CDs with graphics (hence the "G") that allow singers to view
scrolling lyrics. A CD+G sampler disc is often included. Some machines also
play DVDs and MP3s, or have songs built right into them.
The karaoke machine should also be TV-ready with outputs that work with
newer televisions, allowing singers to read the lyrics on the TV while they
sing. Some units include a small built-in monitor for scrolling lyrics, and
many can be plugged right into your home stereo system for better sound quality.
The sky's the limit on upgrades, but one that most people seem to want --
no matter how inexpensive the machine -- is a second microphone for duets.
Your investment doesn't stop with the machine, however; you'll also need
to buy the music itself. Plan to spend $10 and up for pre-recorded CD+Gs
that feature collections of newly released music.
Things to keep in mind when shopping for a karaoke machine:
- How pro do you want to go? Karaoke
machines can be purchased for less than $50 for home use, and for more
than $3,000 for professional karaoke singers or serious karaoke enthusiasts.
For parties at home, the sweet spot is about $250.
- Decide if you want scrolling
lyrics. Some reviewers on Amazon.com are disappointed with their karaoke
machines because they don't come with scrolling lyrics or the ability
to plug the machine into a TV or stereo. Check before you buy.
- Music costs
extra. If you purchase an inexpensive machine that comes equipped with
might find that the included tracks are children's songs or poorly synthesized
- Look for multiple music format compatibility. Choose a machine that supports a variety of formats, such as CD+G and MP3.
important is portability? If you plan to bring your karaoke machine
to parties and events, make sure you choose one that's portable. Look for
a unit that you can easily carry and fit in the trunk of your car.
- Setup should
be easy. A karaoke machine with multiple outputs may take time to set
up and use. If you plan to use your machine for fun at home, a plug-and-play
option is your best bet.
- iPod integration is available. If
you need integration with your MP3 player or smartphone, some karaoke
devices include iPod docks or connections.
- What's your wattage? According to
The-Karaoke-Advisor.com, if you plan to use your karaoke machine only
at home, 20 watts should be sufficient. If you want to use it in public
or at a big party, look for a unit with a minimum of 80 watts.
- Use caution when
ordering karaoke machines online. Some of the best deals can be found
on the web, but a number of online reviews say machines arrived with components
missing or didn't work out of the box. Items may be lost or damaged
during shipping, so be sure to set up and test your karaoke machine as
soon as it arrives. Only order a karaoke machine from a retailer with a
clearly defined return/exchange policy.