While the karaoke player you see in the bar can cost thousands of dollars, there are several home versions perfect for practicing or parties. Karaoke translates from Japanese as "empty orchestra". It's that somewhat controversial form of entertainment where people take turns singing along to prerecorded background tracks, usually with the lyrics either in hand or displayed on a screen. It's also a way to feel like an American Idol in your own living room.
Karaoke Disk Formats
When shopping for a karaoke player, look for a machine that plays all of the disk types that are available to get the most flexibility. The three types of disks associated with karaoke players are regular CDs, CDGs and DVDs. CD + Graphic (CDG) disks are the most widely used format for karaoke discs. CDGs look like standard CDs, but they play an additional graphics track in time with the music that allows you to read song lyrics on an attached TV or video monitor.
DVDs function in a similar manner, using the DVD karaoke player to display lyrics on the screen in time with the music. Standard CDs won't have lyrics displayed on the screen, so you'll need to have hard copies or know the words by heart. Not every song has been released in every format, so it pays to look for the songs you want and see what formats are available.
DVD Karaoke Players
DVD karaoke players have all the functions of traditional DVD players, along with connections for microphones and audio and video outputs. At prices of less than $100, DVD karaoke players are a great all-in-one home entertainment device that will let you enjoy movies and, potentially, the largest selection of karaoke discs.
When shopping for a DVD Karaoke player, look for CDG support. All DVD players can play audio CDs, but some DVD karaoke players don't support CDG, and without it, your choice of discs will be limited. Most DVD karaoke players don't include a microphone. Plan on having at least two microphones for karaoke duets.
Standalone Karaoke Players
Standalone karaoke players have everything you need to sing karaoke wrapped up into one piece of equipment. These karaoke players have a built-in speaker and often include a built-in video screen to display lyrics, along with microphone inputs and volume controls. Advanced models include vocal effects, such as echo.
Stand-alone Karaoke players are bulkier than the other types of karaoke players, but they're a perfect choice if you want to sing karaoke in an event hall or outdoors, away from an external sound system. Always listen to a stand-alone karaoke player before you buy it, as some inexpensive models may have low-quality speakers. If you listen to a stand-alone karaoke player before you buy it, you won't be disappointed later by the sound quality.
Component Karaoke Players
Component Karaoke players are CD Karaoke players designed to connect to an existing sound system. These karaoke players are usually designed as multi-disk changers, holding up to 60 discs for a serious karaoke party or fast access to your favorite songs. You'll need a stereo system, an amplifier and a TV or monitor to hook them up, and you'll be limited to karaoke discs in the CD and CDG formats.
Karaoke on Your PC
Improvements in computer storage technology have made computer-based players the wave of the future for karaoke enthusiasts. With the ability to store and access thousands of songs on one machine, computer karaoke players save a lot of time and make it easy to manage a song collection.
Some computer karaoke players connect to the Internet to download content in addition to playing songs from CDs, CDGs and DVDs. Computer karaoke players are generally more expensive than other models, but they offer a more comprehensive and immersive Karaoke experience.
Hundreds of providers offer karaoke hosting online, from players that will let you practice a song before you decide to buy a karaoke disk to more serious Web sites that hold karaoke competitions with cash prizes. Most karaoke Web sites host a small number of specific karaoke songs by a specific artist or genre.
Some Web sites host streaming content that you can play directly on your computer, usually for a small monthly fee. Many online or computer-based karaoke players use MIDI files to play popular songs without vocal tracks. MIDI files are much smaller than MP3 or other audio files, which makes them easier to stream on the Web. MIDI karaoke files use the standard .kar extension, used to indicate karaoke MIDI files with embedded lyrics.
Features to Look for
Most Karaoke players offer advanced features to enhance and manipulate vocals while you're singing. Popular features include pitch control, key control, echo and vocal cut.
Pitch and key control should be digital; analog pitch and key control often change the key by slowing the tempo, which slows the timing in your favorite songs. Digital pitch or key control changes the key without slowing the tempo, resulting in a performance more accurate to the original. Echo enhances the quality of the sound and adds depth to the vocal performance.
Vocal cut is advertised as a feature that lets you enjoy karaoke with any CD. In reality, performance falls far short of what's promised. Some karaoke discs, known as multiplex discs, give you the option to turn the vocals on and off with a compatible multiplex karaoke player. This feature works and works well.
Problems arise when a karaoke player tries to strip the vocals out of a standard CD. Typically this is done by eliminating the midrange of the signal, which only gets rid of some of the vocals and eliminates any instruments in the same range, resulting in distorted sound and a lower overall volume. In short, you can't strip the vocals from a non-karaoke CD.
Free karaoke player downloads can have you crooning in minutes. Long found only in smoky bars and restaurants, karaoke players are now available as software that runs on your PC. Sing lead vocal on your favorite songs in your own home.
You know what I've learned about Karaoke? The MORE the merrier! The more out-of-control, party goers you have in the spot, the more live your karaoke party will be! Music is one of the basic joys of life that bind us together to sing, laugh, cry and reflect in memory.
Karaoke is a Japanese originated form of entertainment that involves a person (or group, in some cases) singing along with previously recorded music, without the lyrics. While some people prefer purchasing karaoke equipment to enjoy in the privacy of the home, others prefer gathering a bunch of friends and heading down to a local bar or restaurant to kick back, have a few drinks and (in most cases) make fools of themselves.