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Music for your ears as karaoke gets more power

Karaoke, that lets us be a Mohammed Rafi or an Elvis presley, takes the game to another level, as it lets us sing to the original background score of our favourite songs. All you need is a bit of practice and cool equipments. Gagandeep Singh Sapra writes.

gadgets Updated: Sep 03, 2013 01:58 IST
Gagandeep Singh Sapra

Now, what if we could get professional help to make us bathroom singers feel like real singers?

This week we take up at karaoke, that Japanese invention that lets us be a Mohammed Rafi or an Elvis Presley in the privacy of our homes (or in the company of friends). Karaoke has a huge following in Japan and quite a few other countries, with dedicated karaoke bars peppering big cities. They are also sprouting here and there in India.

After all, India is the nation of the Antakshari, the Bollywood song competition game. Karaoke takes the game to another level, as it lets us sing to the original background score of our favourite songs. All you need is a bit of practice, and the right equipment. Let us look at some do-it-yourself options that could help you turn your home into a karaoke bar of sorts..

Option 1: VCD/DVD player with karaoke microphone Input

If you have a DVD/VCD player lying around at home, probably gathering dust, you could put it to good use as a karaoke station. With players starting as low as Rs. 1,890, even buying a new one is feasible. Buy a good microphone (Philips versions starts at Rs. 499) and a karaoke CD, which can cost as little as Rs. 60, and you are all set.

Pop the CD into the player, plug in the mike, switch on the television and you are ready to sing your heart out as the lyrics appear on screen to match the background score.

Some DVD players allow only a single microphone, others have slots for two — which means you can sing duets as well! The only limitation would be the songs you have on the CD, and the mess involved in switching CDs.

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Option 2
: A dedicated karaoke microphone

Mera Gaana
(Rs. 2,499 to Rs. 6,990)

There are several options available, starting with MeraGana.com’s entry-level mixer microphone that uses a similar set up as the DVD player while giving you a mike with mixer settings and discs to the new Mera Gana Karaoke that comes with some advanced options.

The new system still connects to the TV using wires, but uses SD cards to store the songs. If you can find the songs online, you can download them and sing along with them. MeraGaana gives you a 32GB SD card to start with, which can store upto 8,000 songs, and comes pre-loaded with 700 songs.

As of now, there is no wireless version. You can always download more songs by subscribing to MeraGana.com.

* LG Song Star (Rs. 14,990 to Rs. 20,990)

This comes in two options — single mike and dual mike.

The single microphone is wired to your TV and comes with approximately 4,000 songs in nine languages. You also get a chip for you to record songs and play them back on the computer. You select the song by pressing the number buttons, and the lyrics appear on the screen as the song is played.

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Photo credit: Sanjay Dhawan

In the dual mike version, one mike is wired to the TV, while the second mike is cordless. LG does not mention how you can get more songs other than the ones that come in the kit.

* Kortek KHM-500 (Rs. 21,990)

This is one of the richest karaoke systems, feature-wise. It comes with two wireless microphones and a wireless receiver that connects to your television, either on RCA or HDMI (it is the only one with an HDMI option).

The base system comes with 3,000 songs (English, Hindi and regional languages). You can buy additional song chips for Rs. 2,990 to expand your library, and you can also record your own songs.

The Kortek base station also has a USB pen drive slot which you can use to play MP3 files, see photos (JPEGs) and watch movies (MPEG) on your TV, besides recording your songs. There are functions such as voice pitch change, melody adjustment and echo/key adjustments, similar to those on LG.

The ultimate setup

Let us imagine the ultimate set-up! We can tell you what you need, and for each item, the sky is the limit as far as features (and price) are concerned. Your budget is your guideline.

What you need: at least 2 microphones, song books, a mixer, amplifier, a CD player, some good speakers --- and a bunch of friends (priceless). Hook all these up without a television, set the volume settings, echo and reverberation so that you sound good. Put on a CD and start singing. If you have a friend who can play the guitar or other instruments, have a party!

Karaoke’s future

A big challenge for Karaoke has been that the MIDI (Music Instrument Digital Interface) system it uses does not have real instruments of Indian music.

A dholak is replaced by a sound sample or a drum, the harmonium by a synthesiser and so on. MeraGana has a special studio in Mumbai. Hopefully, as karaoke catches on, more Indian songs will become available to sing along with.