The idea behind karaoke – a complete song minus the vocal track – has existed in one form or another since the dawn of recorded music. Yet, it wasn’t until the 1970s that karaoke as we know it – scrolling lyrics, microphones, and drunken renditions of Journey songs – became a form of popular entertainment. These early karaoke machines were large and expensive, with tons of song licensing issues. Nevertheless, within a few years, the karaoke machine would go on to be a staple of bar and club entertainment everywhere.
The karaoke machine of today, however, is a very different beast from the karaoke machine of the 80s. The only thing you really need today is a microphone, a computer, and of course, a competent karaoke software. So assuming you only have the first two, let’s take a look at your options for a quality karaoke software.
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Karaoke Software for Windows
Windows users are spoiled for choice when it comes to picking a karaoke software. Some of the options are:
KaraFun is easily the most popular “free” karaoke service around. It’s simple and lightweight with an iTunes-like interface which makes it incredibly easy to use. You only need to load up your songs, connect your microphone, hit ‘play’ and start belting out your best version of “Wrecking Ball”.
The best part about the software is the KaraFun library, which boasts 17,000 karaoke tracks. Think of it as an iTunes for karaoke – you can select any song and it synchronizes immediately with your local computer. KaraFun offers party passes to the library at $5.99 for 48-hours as well as monthly subscriptions starting at $9.99/month.
KaraFun also offers an online-only web player and a mobile app for karaoke on the go. These offer the same benefits (online sync, KaraFun library, etc.) minus a few desktop-only features.
Wide range of features – pitch change, live recording, mic effects, tempo change, etc.
Access to KaraFun library with 17,000 karaoke-only tracks.
Easy to use.
Web and mobile apps.
Library missing some old popular songs.
Party passes to library are slightly expensive at $5.99
Price: Free to download; library passes start at $5.99
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2. Siglos Karaoke Professional
Siglos Karaoke Pro is what you should get if you want something robust and professional, and if you don’t really care so much about ease of use and simplicity. Unlike KaraFun, which is designed for casual play, Siglos is meant for more ‘heavy duty’ usage in actual clubs and bars. It has features such as ‘singer rotation management’ to keep track of singers, ‘singer announcement’ to announce the current singer’s name, and even space to add a promo message – features that are indispensable to a club promoter.
Of course, all these features come at a price – the software retails for $99USD. This doesn’t include any songs – you’ll have to purchase them separately. However, you can play songs directly off YouTube, so for small parties, you might not have to shell out hundreds of dollars for additional tracks.
Verdict: Get it if you run a club or a bar and want a solid, no-nonsense karaoke software. Casual users will be better served with something like KaraFun.
Tons of features, including tempo change, singer management.
Designed for use in clubs and bars.
Comprehensive database for managing songs.
Clunky interface; not easy to use.
No access to online library.
No web/mobile version.
3. PCDJ Karaoki
PCDJ Karaoki combines the best of two worlds – a robust set of professional features, and a UI that’s (relatively) easy to use. It packs in everything you’d expect in a club-grade karaoke software, including support for multiple file formats, singer rotation, singer display, lyrics output to secondary screen and a very intuitive song library. Its UI is significantly better than most of the competition (most notably, Siglos Karaoke Pro), though it’s not as good as KaraFun.
Recently, Karaoki launched a cloud-based, always-online song library called KaraokeCloudPro. It works just like KaraFun and gives you quick access to over 13,000 tracks. Unfortunately, since Karaoki is aimed at professional users, it sells only yearly licenses at $99/month.
The Verdict: Get PCDJ Karaoki if you want the features of Siglos and the usability of KaraFun, plus access to a huge cloud-based karaoke song library.
Feature rich, professional grade karaoke software.
Better UI than Siglos and other competing software.
Cloud-based library with 13,000 tracks.
UI can take some time getting used to. Default skin is a little dull.
Price: $99 for desktop version, $99/month for KaraokeCloudPro
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Karaoke Software for Mac OSX
kJams borrows heavily from iTunes, so anybody who’s ever used Apple’s music management software (which would include practically everybody) will feel right at home here. The UI is strikingly similar to iTunes, right up to the large play/stop buttons and the now-playing window at the top. It works like iTunes as well – you simply add your karaoke tracks to the library and hit play.
kJams comes in a ‘lite’ version and a pro version. The lite version has just about the most basic features – playing different music formats, managing playlists, adjusting pitch, tempo, etc. The pro version is where things get interesting – you get a powerful singer management tool, a second window to output lyrics, as well as a native iPhone app. kJams also has a built-in music store where you can buy any song with a single click (just like the iTunes store).
The Verdict: You can’t go wrong with KJams for Mac. It’s dead simple to use for home parties, powerful enough for professional parties.
Easy to use, familiar iTunes UI.
Lite version is free to use.
Supports AppleRemote control.
Built-in music store with 1-click streaming/shopping.
No free version.
Buying individual tracks off the music store can be expensive.
Price: $40 for kJams Lite, $110 for kJams Pro.
iStar is a free alternative to kJams. It’s neither as pretty as KaraFun, nor as user-friendly as kJams, but it’s free and works well enough to be a passable alternative for casual users. It works the same way as most karaoke software – load up your tracks, plug in your mic, and belt away your favorite songs. It supports most popular file formats, including KAR, AIFF, MP3, etc. and can also import songs from a CD. You get a basic song management and a simple lyrics display screen, but if you want more pro features – singer rotation, secondary output, etc. – you’ll have to shell out for kJams.
The Verdict: A free alternative to kJams. Simple feature set and easy to use UI makes it a solid choice for casual users.
Works with a large number of file formats.
Some tracks have audio-lyrics sync problems.
Lacks professional features such as singer management.
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