Quality of karaoke built in VCD player

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I have a 5 disc changer Sony VCD & karaoke player hooked into my home theatre system. I have found the quality of karaoke mixing comes nowhere close to that in the karaoke lounges. I desperately want to upgrade and need advice here.

1. I was told I need a separate pair of speakers as my B&W DM603 is not built to sustain the miked vocal input. Is this right? If so, what speakers do I need to look for? Brands/models?

2. I was also told that the VCD karaoke recording is only mono and was advised to upgrade to DVD for stereo quality. Is this right? I thought the microphone is a mono instrument only.

3. Is there a better way to play karaoke rather than thru the VCD player? A separate karaoke amp/processor? A KJ/DJ mixer?

Thanks & regards.

-- John Lim (jungzen@hotmail.com), August 24, 1999


Karaoke lounges use only LDs and very high grade sound systems (and only two speakers). The first generation Karaoke VCDs were dreadfull - pictures were unsharp and sound signal too high as to drown out the singer even with mike volumn control set to maximum.

Karaoke VCDs are improving and the good ones are closing the gap with LDs. You can improve your system by;

a) add LDs to your system

b) buy newest and most upmarket Karaoke VCDs only

c) absolutely switch of 'prologic' and anything else to ensure your rear speakers are muted, or else you will get 'feed-back' into you mike system and completely ruin your sound quality. (your home theatre 5 speakers system is only good for watching movies)

-- Tomo (ong@worksafe.wa.gov.au), August 24, 1999.

Tomo, thanks for your reply. I may not have explained it properly, but I do play in stereo only thru my front speakers from the home theatre set-up. I also have quality VCD source as it plays nicely in standard audio playback. However, when I do karaoke, I can listen to kind of transient peaks (short burst of high pitch knock) rather often (like several times in a song). What cause this, is it the VCD player, speakers or mic? FYI, I use a quality wireless AKG mic.

-- John Lim (jungzen@hotmail.com), August 24, 1999.

John, some mics do cause a loud squeak bang noise when one sings too loud. Usually this is because the mic has deteriorated and you would need to buy a new one. Try out your system with several other mics and sing at various loudness.

-- Tomo (ong@worksafe.wa.gov.au), August 24, 1999.

When 199 out of 200 parts of something have been thrown out, the result can never of course be as good as the original. Passable maybe, but now with artifacts of its own. I'm referring to the way audio and video are encoded into MPEG-1 for VCD with its something like 200:1 compression. We've all been worked up about the resulting blockiness, blurring, etc. of the resulting MPEG-1 video; apparently something subtly happens to the audio as well. When you listen closely on headphones to VCD audio you may catch squeals, swishes, etc. They are never really bothersome especially when recorded levels reach a peak, but paradoxically, that is exactly what creates these artifacts: the encoder runs out of bits to encode an increasingly complex waveform. All parts of the audio at that point present equal "significance", contrary to the requirements of psychoacoustic programming of MPEG encoding in that at any point in time, surely, not all parts of the audio need be heard. These squeals, etc. are emphasized when the VCD audio is run, for example, through a Dolby Pro-Logic decoder: they appear in all their glory on the rear channel. Things are also not helped in karaoke situations by using inexpensive microphones whose outputs are boosted (maybe inside the mic electronics, maybe inside the player) to compensate for poor high- frequency response: some kind of beating is heard when all these distortions resonate. With these limitations in mind, yes, true, avoid surround in karaoke VCD. Use a first rate mic. VCD karaoke is mono in the sense that though there are two discrete audio channels, you almost always do not use the other because that is the voice channel; you select the music channel, right? Some VCD players then make this mono karaoke music channel into some kind of pseudo stereo, which may or may not increase the problem. On some players in fact, choosing stereo for the music channel on a karaoke VCD makes the result absolutely horrid and unlistenable: phasing in and out, hollow, hard, distant. If this is probably what's happening to your setup, just choose the music channel mono with no processing if that option is present. If you really have to have high-quality stereo minus-one music for karaoke, step up to DVD. Karaoke DVDs have little of these problems because its audio is not limited to two channels; like switching off or changing the language on movie DVDs, you can take away the voice channel and not have the distortions VCD can produce. But karaoke DVDs are not as plentiful as karaoke VCDs or LDs yet. :)

-- Emmanuel Martinez (epmartinez@hotmail.com), August 28, 1999.

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