Posted by Tinker Paul on 24th May 2018
There are a mountain of karaoke machine options in Australia and there is no one size fits all. Here are a few tips to consider when you are looking for your next purchase, whether it's a professional karaoke machine for a bit of Bohemian Rhapsody, a kids karaoke machine for a great birthday gift for your mini Beyonce, or a standalone karaoke microphone for some sneaky karaoke practice!
Our top tip is to make sure the karaoke will play the main karaoke music formats. CD-G (also known as CD+G or CDG) is the main format used in the karaoke industry. They include the audio file (CD component) and the graphics file (denoted by the G) which displays the song lyrics on the screen. If your karaoke machine does not support CD-G format, then you are left with playing DVDs or standard CDs (without the lyrics on the screen) which kind of defeats the purpose. Watch out for PA amplifiers with DVD players added, as they don't necessary support this CD-G format. In addition, if they are not designed from the ground up as a purpose-built karaoke machine, then they likely won't perform like one.
Where to buy karaoke tracks? We recommended to use CDG discs (discs? that’s so old school!) as they offer the best value (around $0.20 per song vs around $1 per song for online downloads) and are usually the best quality by far as they aren't compressed. If you are lucky enough to find free MP3+G downloads off the internet after spending a day searching, you will find there is a massive difference between professional karaoke recordings and those done in a garage. You can buy CDGs on eBay from as low as a few dollars, but we've tried most of these and only really recommend the Party Tyme and Vocal Star CDG discs. There are also some good quality downloads from sources such as Sunfly if you want specific tracks.
Watch out for sellers who offer inflated specifications or promises. This can include inflated speaker voltage numbers which are not rated at RMS (it looks much better to use the peak voltage which is around 30% higher than the RMS value). If in doubt ask the seller what the RMS voltage output is so you can compare apples with apples. Don't automatically assume a higher speaker voltage is better, as lower quality products may not be able to operate past half volume before the audio becomes distorted or feedback from the microphones is encountered. Make sure the unit is purpose built for karaoke or the feedback may become a major issue.
Often the power rating can be confused with the actual power output. A power rating of 30-80W for example is the actual power used to operate, the speaker output and more importantly quality of the output is highly dependent upon the technology used to deliver the audio.
Bluetooth connections with your karaoke are great as they allow you to play music from your phone and sing along through the karaoke machine (although the original vocals will still be there in most cases).
Watch out for unrealistic claims such as a Bluetooth range up to 20m. Class 2 Bluetooth used on almost every portable device has a range of 10m. The only Bluetooth class higher than this is Class 1 which is used for industrial applications and still only provides around 30m of effective transmission range, which is rarely seen in consumer electronics. Often an indicator you are being told porky pies.
Often online we see PA systems (amplifiers and speakers) converted into karaoke machines by taking the PA, and adding an LCD screen and some microphones. The problem with this is they don’t have the key karaoke functions. Many don’t play the CD-G format discs (the main format used in the karaoke industry), and they can experience echo/feedback and distortion at high volumes.
If you are buying karaoke for your kids, we recommend the karaoke machine should be portable, easy to use, and not dependent on your phone or a connection to the internet. Portable because you may not want to listen to Elsa's 300th Frozen karaoke rendition....
If it's for yourself, then you can afford to be a bit more flexible. If it's a bit of both, make sure you get something with a good range of features - display, built in speaker, plenty of microphones for Bohemian Rhapsody party time, and maybe even a built in battery so you can take it outside or move it around easily.
Have a great day and thanks for reading!
Cheers, Tinker Paul