Crooning adult contemporary classics out of key and out of tempo while being slightly inebriated is what many people envisage when you say the word "Karaoke." Whether at a bar or a bar mitzvah, Karaoke adds that special touch of class that says, "Someone knows how to throw a party!"
So how can you capture that Karaoke bar/lounge atmosphere in your own home? As Chris and Roger point out on today's episode all you need to do is buy Karaoke equipment and own a decent home stereo and TV.
Like stereo equipment, Karaoke players can be bought either as an all-in-one solution or in components. The component system offers the most flexibility and power. You can mix and match according to your needs and price point.
Component systems typically consist of the following:
This is the heart of the Karaoke system. Most Karaoke players look like a stand-alone DVD/CD player but also include two microphone inputs along with numerous buttons on the front for song selection. Karaoke players come in a couple of varieties.
CD+G Karaoke Player
This type of player plays the old CD+G (CD plus graphics) Karaoke CDs. Created in the late '80s, CD+G is an old embellishment to the audio CD standard that allows simple graphics to be embedded into an audio CD.
CD+G discs are playable in a regular CD player, but to see the graphics portion you'll need a special CD+G player. Except for Karaoke players, there is little or no demand for the CD+G standard.
The graphics allow for lyrics to be shown along with music, which is the heart of the Karaoke concept. When it comes to Karaoke, CD+G is the standard -- but it also lacks pizzazz because text is displayed over a single color background. More advanced CD+G players allow you to superimpose video from a camcorder or VCR behind the text to liven up the Karaoke experience.
CD+G/VCD Karaoke Player
This type of Karaoke player supports the CD+G standard as well as the VCD (video CD) standard. This means you can play VCD Karaoke discs as well as regular CD+G discs.
Like CD+G discs, VCD Karaoke discs display song lyrics in the order in which they should be sung. However, with VCD Karaoke discs there's usually a video background behind the lyrics instead of a solid color background. The video background tends to be very generic and usually shows something that has nothing to do with what the song is about, such as birds, the beach, or someone else's vacation video.
Tools of the Karaoke DJ:
Karaoke Mixers are used to adjust microphone levels with the music being played. Because most Karaoke players feature microphone inputs, this item is usually unnecessary and is only reserved for professional Karaoke DJ's or KJ's.
A Karaoke mixer adds a level of volume control and sound effects that usually doesn't come included with most Karaoke players. The volume control and sound effects include separate knobs for adjusting bass, mid, and treble levels of microphone inputs, echo, reverb, delay, vocal removal for regular CDs, and key control for raising or lowering the octave of the music so all people can sing along regardless of talent or ability.
Karaoke amplifiers output sound from Karaoke players and also provide speaker hookups. Like the Karaoke mixer, a Karaoke amplifier is unnecessary for the average home user. If you have a home stereo or stereo amp/pre-amp, you can use that in lieu of a Karaoke amplifier.
Karaoke speakers tend to be large, loud, and robust, necessary for a club setting or bar. If you're using a home receiver/amp as an amplifier you can get away with using your home stereo speakers.
However, you can potentially blow your speakers if audio levels from your Karaoke player are set too high. To be safe, adjust the volume settings low on your home stereo and increase the volume level depending on who's singing. Another option is to use a cheap pair of stereo speakers when you have Karaoke night at your home.
Karaoke monitors are specialized video monitors designed to be compact and easy to move. However, home Karaoke enthusiasts can use a TV instead. All you need is a video-input jack on the TV. Failing that, you can use an RF converter to connect to your TV's antenna.
There's no special type of Karaoke microphone. Any quality microphone with a 1/4-inch output will do just fine. You'll want to stay away from cheap microphones as they allow interference and often cause feedback.
If all this seems too complicated, you can go with an all-in-one unit. Companies such as VocoPro offer several models of all-in-one players ranging in price from $210 to $250. These units provide the player, microphone(s), amp, mixer, sampler CDs, and speakers in a single package.
With an all-in-one player the only thing you'll need to provide is a TV or video monitor. Also note that some all-in-one units are capable of playing only CD+G discs while others are capable of playing both VCD and CD+G discs. Check the specs before you buy to see if it has all the options you want.
The ultimate cheap option
Many DVD players also double as Karaoke players. A Karaoke-enabled DVD player should have microphone inputs in front. If it does, you can play CD+G discs, Karaoke VCD's, and Karaoke DVD's (a new format).
While you can play CD+G's, without an additional and pricey CD+G decoder you'll just get the audio and no graphics. Plug it in to your stereo for decent sound and you've got a ready-made Karaoke player and DVD player too.
*Taken from TechTV airings: Tue. 4/2 at 5 p.m. & Wed. 4/3 at 3 a.m.