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User: AZNguy
#1 Posted : Thursday, August 04, 2011 5:54:38 PM(UTC)
Maximize the potential of your system before spending money to upgrade.
Once you understand your components, it will be easier to make any system sounds better.

This picture shows a basic karaoke set-up.


UserPostedImage


1. VOICE
If you're not singing in tune, I can't help you much here. Just pick a couple of songs that you feel comfortable singing. Sing it many times. You will get better.


2. MICROPHONE

Your current microphone may sound bad because:
a) microphone is not sensitive enough to pick up the details in your voice
b) bad EQ adjustment
c) bad cables

How to get better microphone sound:
a) Experiment with what EQ can do for your voice.
b) Use microphone cable with XLR connector if your mixer accepts it {When compared to the mics that use 1/4" connectors, mics that use XLR connectors are less noisy, more sensitivity to vocal details, and easier to adjust EQ.}
c) Buy a different microphone. You also need to consider these options: wireless vs wired? dynamic vs condensor? how much money are you willing to spend?

-Wireless mics are neat, but they need batteries. You need to charge the batteries or have fresh batteries ready. Furthermore, there is a risk of other wireless devices interfering with them (WIFI devices, microwave, phones). In contrast, wired microphones work right away and cost significantly less than their wireless versions (wireless Shure SM58 costs $400 versus wired Shure SM58 costs $100), but the cables can be messy. If you have a wireless microphone system with 2 to 4 microphones (and you're currently using only 1 cable with the unbalanced TS (also known as 1/4") connector to connect to your mixer) please get cables with balanced XLR connectors! When each microphone has its own channel on the mixer, it has the capacity to perform at its best.

-Second, there are different types of microphone: dynamic, condensor, and ribbon. Two main ones are dynamic and condensor. Dynamic microphones are simple; plug in and sing. They tend to reject feedback noise pretty well. Condensor microphones require 48v+ phantom power (some even use batteries) to work. They are more sensitive than the dynamic microphones. Condensor microphones enhance the details for soft, airy voices. Some versions of condensor microphones can reject feedback well---they are the ones with a hyper-cardioid pattern for picking up your voice.

-Third, microphones range from $1 to $20,000. You need to pick a budget that you are comfortable with spending and then decide if you really need wireless or wired. For a budget of under $100 per microphone, I strongly recommend wired condensor microphones. If you are willing to spend more, then a few more options open to you. These are some of the top brands in professional industry: Sennheiser, Shure, Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic, AKG. Vocopro isn't a professional standard, but I have tried a few and they are very decent and well-known in the karaoke community. People have conflicting opinions on microphones; even on the really expensive ones. (I bought a microphone that Mariah Carey uses in one of her recordings, but it didn't impress me much. I think that the rest of my recording gears and my voice are not good enough to let the mic shine). My advice is to look up microphones in your price range and buy them if the reviews are good. If you're lucky, then your voice will sound good on the cheap microphone and horrible on the expensive ones. =D



3. THE MIXER
This is the heart of all karaoke systems. There are different types of MIXER COMBINATIONS out there, but all systems will need these components:

a. Microphone Pre-amplifier (mic preamp). This component allows you to connect your microphone and control its volume. A bad mic preamp is noisy when you increase its volume. There's no way to improve the quality of the preamp inside the mixer unless you buy an external preamp and then connect it to the mixer via "line-in" connection to bypass the mixer's internal preamp. The preamp has its own character (dark vs clean/pristine vs bright) that it can impart on the microphone as well.

(Some mixers have both the "GAIN" and the "VOLUME" knobs. The easiest way to explain the difference is: "GAIN" controls how sensitive your microphone can become. At high gain with a sensitive microphone, you can hear a whisper in the next room. "VOLUME" controls how loud you want to hear that whisper. A good balance between gain setting and volume will make your voice sound full and detailed without capturing the noise around you.)

A bad preamp means that it is noisy. With the microphone plugged in, turn the gain/volume to where you usually have it while singing (without the music on). If you can hear the static noise, then the preamp is noisy. There's not much you can do to improve except to try a better mic cable. You can also buy a separate preamp and then plug it back into your mixer, or you can buy an entirely different mixer with quieter mic preamps.

b. Mixer. The simple job of a mixer is to combine all the signals from microphones and music together so it can send the final sound to your amplifier. However, modern-day mixers can do a lot more because they have (a) microphone preamps, (b) mixing capability, (c) EQ, (d) sometimes effects, and amplifiers on certain models. You may not even have to buy an amplifier if you have a "powered mixer", which already has an amplifier. You just need to do your research on this one to see which one you need. There are many topics in this forum about mixers already. I also have posted several threads to compare and provide sound demos of some of my favorite small mixers.

c. EQualizer. This component controls the treble and bass--high, mid, and low sound frequencies. A bad EQ is when no matter how you turn the knobs, the music and your voice still sound harsh/hollow/dull. A good EQ can give you pleasant/clear sound even if you don't know exactly know how to adjust it. Hehehe.

Here are some tips for adjusting EQ for the microphone:
-If your vocal sounds dull and blurry, then you can increase the high/mid to bring out some air and sharpness of the voice.
-If your vocal sounds harsh, then decrease the mid.
-If your vocal needs a bit of warmth, then increase the low.

I usually start off with boosting the High a bit (1 o'clock), decrease the mid (11 o'clock), and boost the Low a bit (2 o'clock). Some people might say: "the Mid is where the vocal frequency is. If you decrease it, then you lose the clarity." Personally, I like voices to be warm with a little bit of air. Plus, the MID frequency EQ usually give people a "honky voice" on a lot of the low-end mixers. If this setting does not work at all, then I would add the mid back in a little bit. Play around with these knobs until you like a certain setting for your voice. It's like cooking food; different people have different tastes...so add sugar and salt to your liking. Your speakers also have a big influence on the final sound.

If you are tired of wasting 10 minutes trying to get a good EQ setting on your mixer EVERY TIME, I recommend upgrading the mixer or change microphone (or even speakers). If these components are good, you don't have to mess with the EQ at all! All mixers already have some very basic EQ for your mics (high, mid, and low). In my opinion, this is all you need. Most people who buy a separate EQualizer to connect it between their mixer and their amplifier. This will change the whole entire sound of music AND mics. It will not let you fine tune the sound of just your microphones. Personally, I do not recommend getting an external EQualizer if your mixer can adjust the High-Mid-Low of your mics and music because you might get very confused about which setting to adjust first.

d. Effects. This is the echo, reverb, delay, compression, flange, etc...
This is where people often make the mistake of adding too much effects. If you can hear the echo effect long after you stopped singing, you have added too much! I follow the rule of: "less is more." I usually only have compression and reverb. That's it.
Personally, I would stay away from using "echo" and pick "reverb." Some "karaoke mixers" only have one knob that is labeled "echo". In that case, you're stuck with that option so you must use your judgment. If you have tried all the settings on the echo knob and it still sounds bad to you, then you are ready to upgrade to another mixer with better effects.


Read my reviews on some mixers that I've used for karaoke: CLICK HERE.


4. AMPLIFIER / RECEIVER
This component lets you control how loud you want the mixed audio to be. An AMPLIFIER is a machine that accepts audio input from your mixer and amplifies the sound and then put them out to your speakers. A "Audio/Video RECEIVER" is a basic Mixer + Amplifier in one. It "receives" all the connections from DVD, Satellite, Game systems, Blu-Ray player and then displays video to your TV and amplifies the sound to your speakers. You may think that the receiver functions similar to the audio MIXER, but A/V receiver does not do a good job of processing analogue sounds (amplifying, EQ'ing, adding effects to your microphones) as well as a dedicated audio mixer.

5. SPEAKERS.
Speakers produce the final sound by vibrating and moving the air at different speeds. Speakers are are either passive or active. The active ones (also known as "powered speakers") have amplifiers in them so you don't have to buy an amplifier/receiver for these speakers. The passive ones need an external amplifier to make them work. I prefer active ones because I don't have to worry about find the right match with the amplifier.

You don't have to upgrade your speakers UNLESS your speakers either damaged or are supposed to be used only for computer. (Computer speakers are the ones have 1/8" connector to plug into the sound card directly.) I think many floor standing tower speakers (for home theater) will do the job. If your home theater speakers are smaller than bookshelf speakers, then I would recommend getting bigger ones for better karaoke experience.

There are many posts on speakers as well. Sound quality from speakers are subjective, meaning that different people will have different opinions. Just do your best on reading about what you think is the best for your budget and try them out.


6. ROOM.
The room has a lot to do with how everything sounds. If you have an empty room with 4 blank walls, empty ceiling, and hard tile/wood floor, then sound waves will bounce around uncontrollably and result in a mushy echo. I recommend having some furniture, carpet, rugs, bookshelves with books, and other objects in that room so that they will absorb and break up the sound waves. You will then have a tighter, cleaner sound and less risk of feedback issue.


Feel free to ask questions so I can add to FAQ. It'd be nice if someone can translate this to Vietnamese so more people can understand.


FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions):




1) MY SYSTEM HAS THAT HORRIBLE HOWLING, SCREECHING, or SQUEALING SOUND. WHAT CAN I DO?

-Audio feedback is the ear-hurting sound that occurs when sound travels from your speakers to the microphone and back out to the speakers again. As a result of this continuous loop, the sound makes its own problem frequency. You may have figured out by now that moving the microphone in some direction away from the speaker stops the feedback. Here are other things you can do:

a) Don't let the microphone head point toward any speaker.
b) Decrease the Gain (or the volume knob) of your microphone channel. If you have to boost the microphone so high in order to hear yourself, then you need a better microphone (or at least use a cable with a balanced XLR connector).
c) Decrease the EQ level depending on what kind of feedback you're getting. If you point your microphone at a sub-woofer, it will produce a lower pitch howl. If you point your microphone at a tweeter or mid-range speaker, it will produce a high-pitch squeal.
d) Avoid standing/sitting in one place when singing. Movement of the microphone prevents that problem frequency from building up.
e) Don't cup your hands around the microphone head in order to get your voice to sound louder. Yes, more of your voice will enter the microphone, but more of the problem frequency will also enter the microphone.
f) Look at your karaoke room and see if you have too many flat surfaces (such as hard floor, bare walls, low ceiling). Flat, hard surfaces allow the sound waves to bounce around the room more. As a result, the problem frequency is more likely to enter your microphone. Lay down a floor rug, add bookcases, hang up some fabric paintings, or buy sound diffusing/absorbing panels if you have to. Having objects in the room will help break up those sound waves and help your room sound tighter. Be careful though. If you go overboard, your room will sound too tight, dry, and small. In karaoke, you want your room to sound like a large hall with nice acoustics.
g) You might need to buy a multi-band equalizer or a feedback eliminator. A feedback eliminator is basically a multi-band EQ that helps you figure out which frequency is the problem and then decrease its volume. Each equipment has its own noise and problem so I usually don't recommend adding more gear into your karaoke system unless that machine is high quality and you have no other way left to solve the problem.


2) SO MANY KNOBS FOR VOLUME! WHICH KNOB SHOULD I START?
Let's see how many ways in which you can control volume:
a) Tkaraoke volume
b) Computer's volume output
c) On Mixer- Microphone channel ("volume" + "gain")
d) On Mixer- Karaoke music from computer
e) On Mixer- stereo mix output volume (some old mixers don't have this option).
f) Receiver/Amplifier's volume


YIKES! You have so many sources where you can change the volume so it can be confusing. This is how I make things simple for myself:
--First, set the (a) TKaraoke volume and (b) PC/laptop at 50% of maximum volume just to be safe so that you don't send a distorted volume to your mixer.
--Second, set the (e & f) stereo output on mixer and amplifier at 75% of maximum volume just to be safe so that you don't send too much power to your speakers.

DON'T TOUCH THE ABOVE SETTINGS AGAIN DURING YOUR KARAOKE SESSION!

-Now, you only have to worry about (c) microphone and (d) karaoke music volumes during the session.
Here is where your "audio engineer skills" apply:
As a starting point to every session, I suggest setting the (c) microphone level at a comfortable loudness for you so that your vocal volume sounds similar in all the songs. Only change the (d) karaoke music volume for each song to match the loudness of your voice.
Of course, you might have to change both knobs for some songs. There's nothing wrong with that. Just use your judgment and don't increase the microphone volume too much that it causes feedback.





3) WHAT IS A COMPRESSOR? DO I NEED IT?

Have you ever wondered how all those Paris-By-Night singers sound so big and full when singing low/soft parts..yet so tight and controlled when singing high/loud parts that don't break your ears? SKILLS. Hehe. However, a lot of that is thanks to the compressor.

There is a very technical guide on compressor here: http://forum.tkaraoke.co...-setup-FAQ.aspx#post4173

In simple words, compressors "compress" (lower) the loud volume and boost the soft volume so that the whole entire thing sounds equal in volume and pleasant to your ears. You don't need it in your karaoke system. However, I truly recommend it. It's one of the few things that will significantly improve the over all sound for soft singers...and also prevent your speakers/ears from being damaged by sudden burst of loud singing from drunk singers.


4) I CAN'T SING IN TUNE. BESIDE VOICE LESSON, ANYTHING ELSE TO MAKE ME SOUND BETTER?

Hmmm...consider adding an effect unit called ANTARES AUTOTUNE / ANTARES VOCAL PRODUCER / VOICELIVE 1 & 2(or any vocal effect unit with an autotune / pitch correction feature). You have to know basic concepts of notes and keys to be able to use it effectively. It can make you sound like CHER in the song "Believe", T-pain (the rapper), and current pop singers. A lot of Vietnamese singers are using it these days, too. It's a very cool effect for your vocal.


5) WHEN I PLUG THE MIC AND TURN ON THE VOLUME WITHOUT MUSIC or SINGING, I HEAR NOISE. IT'S NOT FEEDBACK. IT MIGHT NOT BE THE MIC BECAUSE IT ALSO HAPPENS WITH MY OLDER CHEAP MICS. WILL IT HELP IF I CHANGE THE CABLE AND GET ONE WITH TRS CONNECTOR?

The noise you hear is called "self-noise" that each equipment has and contributes to the final sound. Most likely, it is coming from the mic pre-amplifier of your mixer. The home-style "karaoke mixers" are notorious for having noisy mic pre-amps. The fact that they only accept TS connectors for microphones makes it even more susceptible to interference noise that is picked up by unbalanced cables.

What can you do to get rid of the noise completely with this kind of home-style karaoke mixer? NOTHING. However... if your current mixer does accept balanced connections (XLR and TRS), then get cables with those connectors. Having good microphones with low self-noise also helps. If none of those helps much, you need to buy a mixer with quieter mic pre-amplifier (search the forum for these board mixers; some people call them DJ mixers and PA mixers). Once again, the biggest source of noise is the mic preamp in your mixer.




History of edits:
1/6/2016: added information about solving audio Feedback problem

Edited by user Wednesday, January 06, 2016 10:21:54 AM(UTC)  | Reason: added information about solving audio Feedback problem

User: xlarge
#2 Posted : Thursday, August 04, 2011 6:56:15 PM(UTC)
Quote:
First, do you want wireless or wired?

Can I have some thoughts about wired or wireless .
Khi xem ca nhạc có lúc ca sĩ dùng wired mic, có lúc dùng wireless
1. Nếu ca sĩ moving a lot, wireless tiện hơn .Karaoke ở nhà ngồi hoặc đứng 1 chỗ hát, wired rẻ tiền hơn và có thể mua mic hay hơn wireless với cùng số tiền .
2. Nếu mua wireless rẻ tiền, đề nghị mua wired mic .
3. Khi mua dây cho wired mic, sợi 10 đồng chất lượng âm thanh rất kém so với sợi dây 30 đồng, chịu khó tìm xem tiệm nào on sale .Monster cable hoặc Mogami có một số loại cũng không nhiều tiền lắm (khoảng $25 tới $30 một sợi), cable tốt thường mềm và ít noise hoặc không đáng kể .

4. Tới nhà bạn bè thấy rất ít người biết cách take care mic cable, hát xong gom lại hoặc cuốn vô một đống, làm như vậy cable mau bị hư .Hãy xem video này cách cuộn cable



Khi dàn âm thanh hay, sẽ có hứng thú hát và thành ca sĩ hồi nào không biết .Thank you
User: AZNguy
#3 Posted : Saturday, August 06, 2011 6:28:49 AM(UTC)
I just added Compressor and Autotune to FAQ section.
User: KiepDoDen
#4 Posted : Sunday, August 07, 2011 6:46:05 AM(UTC)
Great job 'azn', khi ban muon co 1 dan am thanh hay thi phai biet qua co ban ve set up.
BTW, We seem to always be getting feedback in our sound system, how can we eliminate this? I just want to add this to Anzwonderboy post to help everyone have a great sound system

What Causes Feedback:

Feedback occurs when the level on a microphone causes that mic. to pick up sound from the speakers and generate a loop; the speakers feed sound into the microphone which in turn supplies sound to electronics which feeds to the speakers again and again. This loop of sound creates that loud, annoying squeal that everyone dreads. Feedback will always happen at a certain frequency (pitch) depending on which frequency is the most prominent in your room.
How to Eliminate It:

The first thing you need to do is make sure that your room has been properly tuned. This is a process that is done during installation setup. A spectrum analyzer is used to graph the frequencies in your room and a 15 or 31 band graphic equalizer is then adjusted according to the results. This will put all the frequencies at the same level and will help you get more volume before you start getting feedback. It also gives you accurate sound in your room
Placement of the Microphones:

You will still find that after this process you can get feedback if you set the level on the mics high enough. Don't panic! Your next job as a sound tech is to make sure that the placement of the microphones is correct. Most mics are designed to pick up sound within a 60 degrees radius. Make sure you check the data sheet if you are unsure. Use this to your advantage. Try not to set up mics facing into speakers. If you can set the mics up behind them. This way the speakers are not projecting their sound into the microphones. Also instruct anyone using the mics to use them close, about 3 to 6 inches. That way you won't have to crank it up to get the volume and increase your chance of getting feedback.
Presetting the Levels:

Setting your levels properly and knowing what your limit is before you go into feedback is important. When I set up a microphone I like to drive it into feedback. Don't worry I do this before the service when no one is in the room. This lets me know how high it can go. When the service is underway at all cost I stay below this level. If someone is speaking too low, or is too far away from the microphone then it is the fault of the person speaking not of the sound operator. The sound system is half the battle and we need to do everything we can to have the message heard clearly, but good communication skills is the other half of the battle that usually gets left out of the picture when something goes wrong.
Turning Off What You Are Not Using:

Another common mistake that encourages feedback in your sound system is leaving microphones on when no one is using them. It's not always wrong to do this, depending on the situation, but if you can, turn any mics off completely when no one is using them. Here's the scenario: The worship team has finished the final song before the message. Three or four mics are left on at the front and the pastor gets up to give his sermon. While he is speaking an annoying ring can be slightly heard when he says certain words. That annoying ring means that you are just on the threshold of going into all out feedback You try turning the channel on his microphone down and finally get rid of the ring. BUT!! You just cut his level down. Try turning off the other mics and I'll bet you don't have to touch his level at all.

Always keep your ears peeled, listening for that slight ring. If you hear this, back off on the volume slowly just enough to get rid of it. It may mean that it will be harder for the people at the back to hear the words, but if you don't, no one will be listening to the words anyway. The ring will distract them too much.
Feedback Eliminator:

If you are using your sound system as a "Turn Key" system, which means that you just turn it on and off, and you don't have a sound operator, or if you want to get the highest possible gain before feedback, especially with a lapel microphone, you might want to consider a Feedback Eliminator. This is an electronic processor which searches for and destroys feedback. There are many different ones available from manufacturers such as Shure, Behringer, Sabine, etc. I have tried many of them, and I believe the best one in terms of cost and performance right now is the AFS224 from dbx.
AFS224 Feedback Eliminator:

dbx AFS224 Feedback exterminatorThe dbx AFS224 is a two channel "state of the art" feedback eliminator with 24 programmable narrow band automatic filters per channel. When the unit "hears" feedback, it automatically finds the feedback frequency and notches it out. When feedback occurs at another frequency, a second filter is sent to the rescue. In this manner, it can find and destroy feedback at up to twelve different frequencies. I find the AFS224 to be the quietest, most transparent and most effective feedback eliminator on the market, out of the ones I have tried.

Edited by user Sunday, August 07, 2011 3:14:55 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

User: Nu_B
#5 Posted : Sunday, August 07, 2011 7:54:06 AM(UTC)
Thanks a million, you guys are doing a great job here.
[thumbup]
Keep it up, please
My PC fights cancers
http://folding.stanford.edu/
UserPostedImage
User: Hai Lúa
#6 Posted : Monday, August 08, 2011 5:52:20 PM(UTC)
Just made this topic sticky to improve visibility [thumbup]
Ế chồng tội lắm ai ơi
Con chim đơn lẽ, giữa trời mênh mông
Đáng thương những buổi đêm đông
Gối chăn lạnh lẽo, phòng không một mình
Họ hàng nội ngoại rẻ khinh
Bà con xa lánh, một mình cô đơn
Chẳng ai để dỗi, để hờn...
Chồng già, chồng xấu, còn hơn ế chồng!
User: johngo33
#7 Posted : Friday, August 12, 2011 12:00:32 PM(UTC)
Thanks aznwonderboy. I never see a compressor before. How do I connect it to my mixer/amp (BMB DX-330)? Microphones (wireless, in my case) connect to compressor before connect to mixer?

Is this the compressor you talked about?
http://www.amazon.com/FM...ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Thanks for a wonderful article.
User: johngo33
#8 Posted : Friday, August 12, 2011 12:17:12 PM(UTC)
Found the website of the RNC
http://www.fmraudio.com/rnc.htm
User: AZNguy
#9 Posted : Friday, August 12, 2011 12:58:26 PM(UTC)
Originally Posted by: johngo33 Go to Quoted Post
Thanks aznwonderboy. I never see a compressor before. How do I connect it to my mixer/amp (BMB DX-330)? Microphones (wireless, in my case) connect to compressor before connect to mixer?

Is this the compressor you talked about?
http://www.amazon.com/FM...ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Thanks for a wonderful article.



Yes. That's the compressor. It's very simple to use. Even if you don't know how to set all those knobs...you can just press one button "SUPER NICE"...and it'll come out super nice. =D I'm serious.

Post a picture of your BMB DX-330 so I can see what kind of connections you have. I can't find any picture of your mixer online.


User: johngo33
#10 Posted : Friday, August 12, 2011 1:10:18 PM(UTC)
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