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It’s best to reserve the most debaucherous performances for private audiences. Karaoke bars are fun, albeit expensive, locations for bachelor parties and difficult family reunions, but they’re not the only option for timid acapella aspire-ees. This is where the best karaoke machines come in. Turn any corner with a plug into a prime opportunity for digital blackmail.
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The best karaoke machines on the market come with convenient connections to music sources, multiple microphones for duetting, and audio controls that’ll soften even the roughest of edges on amateur high notes.
The market for karaoke machines spans a wide range of prices, from sub-$50 options that’ll only entertain children to professional-caliber setups that can run north of thousands of dollars. The sweet spot for most people is between $150-$500. Machines in that range offer the right mix of features that’ll satisfy the vast majority of people who want to turn their own living room, den, or basement into a temporary karaoke bar.
What the Experts Say
Sources within the home karaoke industry, a subset of consumer technology, vouch for a number of consumer machines worth buying. For this story, SPY spoke with Michael Chien of 101 Karaoke, a karaoke lover turned owner of his own bar, and Mark Steinberg, a senior technologist at B&H Photo Video.
Chien specializes in high-end machines and helping wealthy clients find the highest-quality machines available. Most people don’t need that, but he still recommends anyone who is more than a casual fan of the mic invests in their own machine for at least a few hundred dollars.
Availability at local karaoke bars can be sparse at a moment’s notice, and it’s nice to be able to break out a machine when the moment strikes. “They don’t cost that much to buy,” says Chien, especially if a boisterous group of friends will drive the cost-per-use down in a few dinner parties.
As a bare minimum, Steinberg says he wouldn’t consider a machine without two mics, Bluetooth, and the ability to finetune audio. Models that meet these criteria can be found for less than $200, but you get more if you spend more. “When you get to the $450 range you’re going to get something that sounds better and looks better. That’s the cutoff between the amateur stuff and the more accomplished karaokeists,” says Steinberg.
VocoPro SmartOke-Pro 100W Active 2.1 Karaoke System with Two Wireless Microphones
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This karaoke setup is SPY’s top pick because it includes a powerful receiver and mixer, a 100-watt speaker with a built-in subwoofer, and two wireless microphones. The lack of a display for lyrics is a con, but the built-in Bluetooth means a phone or tablet can become a display. “Whatever you wanna connect it to, it can connect to,” says Steinberg.
The speaker is also impressive given the price point. “It can really play music,” says Steinberg, and the wireless mics come with the ability to make sound adjustments mid-song. Singers can adjust mic volume, music volume, echo, and whether to accentuate high, medium, or low frequencies without skipping a lyric.
Karaoke USA GF844 Multimedia Karaoke Machine with Bluetooth and MP3/CD+G
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Made For: The karaoke-hesitant. This machine’s price tag is cheap, but it still meets Steinberg’s minimum requirements for a karaoke machine.
Coolest Feature: While it supports antiquated formats like CD+G, the vast majority of people will connect a phone or tablet to this machine via Bluetooth. That’s why the cradle on top of the device is such a simple but useful design touch.
BEST KARAOKE SYSTEM COMPONENT
Pyle Pro KRMX2M
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Made For: Audiophiles who love karaoke. Steinberg recommends this mixer, rather than a full karaoke machine, to folks who already own audio equipment as a way to avoid buying unnecessary equipment.
ROI: Buying an all-in-one system is convenient, but it doesn’t allow for much refinement. This inexpensive mixer allows for switching in and out various microphones, amplifiers, and speakers to find a combination that’s suitable for one’s needs.
VocoPro CLUB-HD9500 Professional Club PA System (2000W)
Made For: Serious karaoke enthusiasts. “This is the highest tier thing that we sell that doesn’t involve picking and choosing separate components,” says Steinberg. “This is plug and play and everything you could possibly need comes in the box.” It’s proof that serious singers don’t need to splurge on a-la-carte setups.
Why It Stands Out: It’s built for large karaoke parties. “I wouldn’t recommend this to the novice beginner,” Steinberg says. “It’s very loud, it takes up space, and it’ll blow your ears out if you’re not careful.”
This expensive setup includes dual 500 gigabyte hard drives for storing songs, a robust mixer, a 2000-watt amplifier, six mics, four speakers with stands, and an travel case that’s built to survive being checked.
Frequently Asked Questions About Karaoke Machines
Can’t I just plug a microphone into my home stereo?
Despite how practical this idea seems, it’s not a good idea. “You can destroy your speakers,” Steinberg says, because normal speakers aren’t built to handle plosives, otherwise known as certain aggressive syllables like those in “pumpkin” and “baton,” when sung into a mic. This is part of what separates speakers for public speaking from those meant to play sound from a TV.
Where do the songs come from?
Chien’s premium setups include access to an expansive library of songs, and the pricier VocoPro system above has a terabyte for storage for local storage of karaoke tracks. Most regular folks, however, will rely on karaoke streaming services, Singa, Smule, and Starmaker among them.
Is karaoke good for you?
“Psychologists tell us that there is a real sense of pleasure when singing,” Steinberg says. “The act of singing, for the most part, makes you happy.” Anyone who’s ever sung in the car or the shower knows what he’s talking about, and karaoke machines are perhaps best understood as a way to accentuate this natural joy. Because the only thing better than belting out Fleetwood Mac is belting out Fleetwood Mac into a microphone, over a backing track, while friends and family are forced to listen.
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