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The Quality Versus Affordability Trade-Off

How To Choose a Karaoke Machine: #1 Quality Versus Affordability

Copyright June 2011 by

Have you ever wondered why a certain karaoke machine which offers many features may be priced reasonably, while another karaoke machine with fewer features may be more expensive? If so, you have likely encountered the Quality Versus Affordability Trade-Off. The karaoke machine with the fewer features may contain higher quality components.

Manufacturers of karaoke machines generally make certain adaptations in design which increase a karaoke machine's affordability, while allowing more features to be built into the karaoke machine.

To understand the adaptations made in a karaoke machine, it is helpful to consider what can go into an audio system as a separate component.

What goes into a high-end audio system?

Unlike a self-contained karaoke machine, a high end audio system is to some degree an assemblage of individual components which can be switched with higher quality components:

  • microphone
  • mixer (including preamplifiers)
  • speaker
  • amplifier
  • recorder
  • player
  • connectors, cords

The more the system can be broken down into components, the more it can be altered, improved upon, or adapted to a defined acoustic environment or sound source.

The building of an audio system component by component is the means by which one may tweak a system to match a very particular purpose.

What makes a karaoke machine different?

A karaoke machine has usage requirements which are not well-met by an audio system with many separate components.

First, a karaoke machine user's primary purpose might be to:

  • perform songs (vocals)
  • learn songs
  • record vocals
  • learn to sing well
  • teach a student to read English or another language
  • learn to sing in a foreign language
  • have fun socializing through music
  • learn to sing with poise
  • act as a karaoke jockey
  • sing in a certain venue (club, home, bedroom, vehicle, out of doors)

In accommodating the user's purpose and the acoustic environment, a karaoke machine must be:

  • quick to use
  • easy to use
  • self-contained
  • somewhat portable
  • durable

How may a karaoke machine contain many features, yet remain affordable?

Karaoke machines seem to define themselves by the user's purpose and intended acoustic setting. To meet the chosen purpose and setting, many trade-offs are made in audio quality. There are basically four ways quality may be altered to make a karaoke machine affordable:

  1. Lower quality or less capable components may be used for some features (for example, lower wattage would be used if the karaoke machine is to be used in an automobile or bedroom).
  2. Dual-use or shared-use parts may be built into the karaoke machine.
  3. A component of the karaoke machine which is necessary might be completely omitted from the karaoke machine, on the assumption an average home would contain the missing component.
  4. Features of the karaoke machine could be limited to keep quality of components high and the price affordable.

In order to avoid limiting features, most manufacturers incorporate one or all of the first three quality trade-offs. The doubling up or omission of components in order to offer more features amounts to a Quality Versus Affordability Trade-Off.

A product which incorporates all of the first three trade-offs and has the single feature of acting as a karaoke microphone, is the Emerson Plug 'N' Sing DVD karaoke microphone.

  1. Less expensive materials: It uses materials which are durable, as opposed to highly sensitive to vocal nuances.
  2. Dual use components: It has a mixer built into the microphone, to mix the singer's voice with the music.
  3. Omitted components: The omission of a player and monitor make it possibly the most affordable karaoke machine available (under $40). It is designed to plug into omitted components--an existing DVD player and TV--to play DVDs and to display lyrics, with the objective that children using the system can be unobtrusive in a household. However, the microphone can alternatively be connected to a high end stereo system or better TV for larger sound, in event of a gathering where more wattage will be appreciated.
  4. In trade for these cost-cutting features, the Plug 'N' Sing microphone offers karaoke function with DVD software, vocal enhancement with echo, potentially an Alvinizer (singer sounds like The Chipmunks), and in some models, sound effects, and a second microphone.

Thanks to the Quality versus Affordability Trade-off, the Plug'N' Sing DVD microphone provides to a fully functional karaoke machine at the most reasonable price available.

What should a buyer look for to be sure a karaoke machine is of high quality?

In general, the buyer will be assured of good quality audio in a karaoke machine by looking for:

  1. features which will further the uses to which the karaoke machine will be put.
  2. connectors, which provide ability to upgrade the karaoke machine with other audio components.
  3. omitted components, for connection to equipment already in the home, or to be purchased in the future, or borrowed.
  4. manufacturer's warranty.

A karaoke machine user should remain aware that, as with any audio system, connecting to a better audio component such as a speaker with more wattage can improve the sound of a karaoke machine. But, at times, more wattage may not suit the primary purpose intended for the karaoke machine, such as helping a child learn to read in a bedroom, or entertaining a child during a long vehicle trip.

What are first considerations in buying a karaoke machine?

Identifying the Quality Versus Affordability Trade-Offs made in a karaoke machine will allow the buyer to turn attention to how the features and benefits of karaoke machines match particular needs and goals. As long as there are input and output jacks, the buyer may be assured of being able to connect to better audio components as the need arises.

For more information on choosing a karaoke machine, visit