The 8 Best Karaoke Machines
8. Memorex Sing 3
7. Little Pretender Sing Along
6. Karaoke USA System
5. Sakar Holograms
4. Ion Audio Party Rocker
3. Little Pretender Rock Star
2. Akai KS303W-BT
1. Singtrix Party Bundle
What Separates a Good Karaoke Machine From a Great One?
Most people would assume that a karaoke machine's most important feature is its sound, and this is correct, but only to a limited extent. What is more important than a karaoke machine's sound is that machine's compatibility. A karaoke machine doesn't need to have exquisite sound, for example, so long as it can be hooked up to a larger sound system, or a pair of stereo-quality speakers.
Compatibility also applies to a karaoke machine's song selection. While the majority of machines come with a preset list of standards, certain top-of-the-line models will also allow you to add, play, or download new songs by hooking up the machine to any iPod, mobile device, CD player, or computer.
Ideally, you'll want a karaoke machine to feature its own digital display, so you can see what song it is playing, the name of the artist, and the song's lyrics, among other things. Depending on your needs, you may also want a karaoke machine to be compact so you can transport it. Certain machines are custom-made for this, having been designed with a set of wheels and a luggage handle. More elaborate machines may come with an upright microphone stand, or a music stand, or perhaps even a tambourine.
As a precaution, it's worth determining whether a karaoke machine runs on outlet power, some type of batteries, or both. This is especially relevant if you happen to be buying a karaoke machine as a gift, as the recipient may want to play with the machine immediately after he or she has pulled it out of the box.
A Variety of Uses for Any Karaoke Machine
Most people who purchase a karaoke machine intend to use it for some type of festive occasion. And this makes sense. A karaoke machine is an entertaining pastime for anything from a backyard party to a wedding reception. And yet you might be surprised to learn that a karaoke machine possesses more value than you'd think.
Given that karaoke tracks are recorded without lyrics, they could provide the perfect backdrop for any dinner party or afternoon gathering at your house. The fact that there are no lyrics may also be advantageous for any musician who is trying to learn - or a play along to - a certain song. If you're a vocalist, you can use a karaoke machine to practice, or to provide accompaniment for any small-time gigs. What's more, practically anyone with a karaoke machine (and some sound equipment) can pursue hosting gigs at a local nightclub or a bar.
A karaoke machine is a great accessory to have along on any family vacation. A night of karaoke isn't only fun for the adults, but it could be a distraction for the kids, as well. Teachers have been known to use karaoke as a way of teaching their students the lyrics to several canonical anthems. Babysitters have been known to use karaoke as a way to keep rowdy kids preoccupied for an entire night. The point being that whatever your reasons for purchasing a karaoke machine, there's no reason to resign yourself to only using it every few months.
A Brief History of Karaoke
Karaoke is a Japanese word combining the root kara, which means empty, and the first half of okesutora, which means orchestra. The practice of creating a separate instrumental track (without vocals) has always been a standard part of the recording process. And while this practice formed the basis of karaoke, the concept as we know it did not emerge until the 1970s.
Singalongs made a major splash during the 1960s, thanks in large part to the 5-yr. run of Sing Along With Mitch on NBC. This popular show was built around Mitch Miller, a veteran music producer who would conduct an orchestra as a bouncing ball highlighted the lyrics to each song along the bottom of the screen. Sing Along's success not only proved that instrumental tracks could be viable, it also made it acceptable for solo artists to perform over a backing track on live TV.
In 1971, a Japanese drummer named Daisuke Inoue began to focus on building a machine that could play instrumental tracks by way of cassette while also providing an amped-up microphone for singing along. Inoue was inspired by friends who would ask for instrumental versions of his music, particularly so that they could play these versions at private events, or during parties. Inoue's initial "karaoke" machine had been designed for leasing, with renters determining which tracks (i.e., cassettes) they wanted to take along.
Renting a karaoke machine was expensive, which is why the fad originally took off as a form of group entertainment. Several friends would pool their money to rent what was known as a karaoke box - a small room where people could drink and party while enjoying their own karaoke machine, and selection, throughout the night.
During the eighties and nineties, karaoke became an international sensation, first in Asia, and then throughout the U.S. The eventual introduction of MP3s made for smaller machines with an almost limitless selection. Today, karaoke is everywhere. In fact, there are even karaoke apps that you can download for your phone. Karaoke remains a staple of the average neighborhood bar. A karaoke night requires zero overhead, and it's all but sure to be a draw.