Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: Emerson Karaoke Karaoke Player from CSN Store

We were definitely looking forward to having a karaoke player in the home. We've seen them in bars and at parties, and we knew our daughters would just love it and it would make a great family video of the kids singing. By those measures, this unit is definitely a success. The kids have a great time with the Emerson Karaoke Karaoke Player, and the sample CD that comes in the package contains some children's songs that they know (Jingle Bells, Itsy bitsy Spider, etc.), so we were able to begin enjoying it as a family right away.

Now, if you're expecting to get the same experience as you get in bars and at parties, remember that those machines usually cost many hundreds or even thousands of dollars. It seems like the Emerson Karaoke Karaoke Player should be simple enough, and I honestly think it should. Emerson always has given what I want in electronics. But you'll quickly see that the price point on this unit brings it well below the professional units in terms of quality. So let's get that information out of the way...

The sample CD includes vocals. It's a small thing, but it kind of gets in the way when you're trying to hear the singer. If you turn it too high then the singer has to shout to be heard (which sounds terrible), but if you turn it too low then you can't hear the music and the singer might as well be singing without it, which kind of defeats the purpose of the machine. The vocals coming through the microphone seem inordinately loud, as though there's a setting somewhere that's too sensitive. This makes for distorted/compressed sound, or "artificial loudness," which doesn't sound good. Maybe a higher-end microphone will help, I haven't had a chance to test that yet.

The remote has a lot of buttons that don't seem to do anything, and the ones that do aren't very intuitive. Combine that with a fairly unresponsive interface and it's fairly difficult to use the machine in a quick and easy way. There are no interesting graphics or displays of any kind, and the basic menu is pretty lacking. Any song (or file) name that's longer than a couple words doesn't fully display. This makes it very difficult to see an entire artist + song name combination on the screen. The lyrics don't stay in time with the actual song, though that may just be the sample CD. I tried to burn a MP3/G disc from downloaded files, but it doesn't seem to recognize the lyrics at all. The entire unit seems to be advertising MP3/G support, but there's little information about how to make that happen.

Now, there are good things about this unit. The comparatively low price point for karaoke players is a plus. There are lower-end units on the market, standard portable ones with their own speakers. But for something that plugs into a television and acts as part of the home entertainment center, this works reasonably well. It has a USB input, suggesting that it can pull songs off of a thumb drive as easily as a CD. That'll definitely be handy for anybody who has a large collection of music and doesn't want to maintain a library of discs for the karaoke player.

The entire unit is pretty small, much smaller than I thought it would be. It's considerably shorter and narrower than a standard entertainment center component device, and it doesn't run hot, so there are a lot of options of where to put it. For us it's even low-profile enough to sit directly under the TV (a flat-screen on a stand) without looking like some ugly media component. The unit also has dual microphone inputs. By default it comes with only one microphone, understandably. But a second microphone is easy to come by. This is especially handy when there are two small children arguing over whose turn it is!

All in all, I wouldn't say that I'm dissatisfied with this unit. It's not what I was expecting, so there was some disappointment. But for the price compared to professional units it at least gets the job done. Whether friends or family are over and using it, or whether the kids are playing with it themselves, it provides entertainment. We definitely enjoy having it as part of our entertainment center.

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