Because Dad Needs a Home Karaoke System for Christmas ...

You know that dad wants nothing better than to sing karaoke in the privacy of his living room.
Yesterday I was thinking of what to get my dad for Christmas. The game plan for buying gifts for my family has always been to find something I'd enjoy as well, like my favorite CDs or DVDs. I spend a lot of time with them, so it's good to have those things around.

After work I went to Seattle Karaoke in Tukwila (along Southcenter Parkway just west of the mall) to buy him a new song chip for his Magik Mic. A Magik Mic (aka Magic Sing) is a full karaoke system built into a microphone that plugs directly to the TV. They sell from $299-$399. My dad's song chips have too many Filipino songs and I felt he'd appreciate more selections from the 80's. These chips cost $70 and contain up to 1000 songs.

I go to Seattle Karaoke a couple times a year to buy karaoke discs. Their web site makes it easy to search for songs and they have stuff I've never seen in any karaoke catalog. Most times I'm in and out of there, but this time I had a lot of questions. I've always wanted to install a home karaoke theater but have never done the research. This place sells everything from the most basic home set-up to a full-on KJ operation so I decided to learn how it all works.

It starts with the player. This is the device that plays the (DVD, CDG, VCD) discs. They basically look like a DVD player with microphone inputs. Their consumer models start at $109 and go all the way up to $399. Standard features include pitch control and HD level picture quality. The more expensive models can play from USB memory devices. It took me awhile for them to make me understand but it basically means you can tie in your computer to it. Their "Rolls Royce" model is the V-Bank by Voco Pro. It has two built in hard drives that can store up to 100,000 songs in each drive and it sells for $799. It's not something I can afford this year but it will be mine someday.

The next step is a mixer. It is not completely necessary, but if you want full control of the sound, you're definitely going to want one. They are pretty reasonable. A quality mixer runs from $80 to $150.

When it comes to microphones, there are two directions to go: corded and wireless. Obviously, the corded mics are much cheaper. They start as low as $12.99 and their most expensive model was $79.99. A pair of wireless mics run from $119 to $299. I was advised that a microphone is only as good as the sound system that's running it so it's not necessary to dump a lot of money into them.

All of this equipment can be tied into a home stereo, but if you want to take that final step to make your rec room sound even better than the Rickshaw, you've got to get the speakers. There are passive speakers that require an amp, but they also have "powered" speakers that have a built-in amp. They connect directly to any mixer or player and they're ready to rock. A pair of these will run close to $700 but the difference in sound quality is worth every penny.

This little dream of mine got pricey pretty quick, but all that's needed to start out (as long as you already have a TV and home stereo) is the player and a microphone and you can get away with that for under $200.

Finally, the fun part: building your song library. As I said earlier, their website is a great source to find out what is available to sing on karaoke. You can do a search by song and artist. Most of their CDG compilation discs run $40 each and contain around 15 songs. They also sell big CDG packs of assorted genres with up to 80 songs for around $100. The content isn't cheap but if you know anyone that has CDG karaoke discs they can burn them for you for free.

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