Create a Karaoke Party Powerhouse at Home with Your Stereo System

People love a good party, especially the kind that gets everyone excited and talking about when the next one might be. And if you want to keep your guests engaged and delighted over time, switching up themes is the way to go. As far as party themes are concerned, hosting karaoke right in your home is can turn out to be a fan favorite. Not only are your guests actively involved in the music entertainment, but the vibe ends up more private/personal versus doing karaoke at a bar or nightclub.

Whether you're totally new to planning karaoke parties at home or want to make sure nothing important has been overlooked, we have a list to help you out. It all comes down to the details, especially if you're the kind that strives to be the "perfect" host. And the good news is that you probably have most of what you need already!

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Karaoke Machine/Player

Singing Machine SML-385 Top Loading CDG Karaoke System
Many karaoke machines have a host of useful features and are plug-and-play. Courtesy of Amazon.com

You can’t have karaoke without a decent player, right? The good news is that there are affordable karaoke machines available to purchase, many with really useful features. You can find models that have: pre-installed song libraries, multiple microphone inputs, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, built-in speakers, dedicated display for lyrics, separate volume/equalizer controls, song expansion via USB/flash card/mobile devices, auxiliary inputs, AV outputs, internal batteries, colorful light show projections, compatibility with multiple digital audio formats, included microphones, and more.

What’s great about many of these types of karaoke machines is that they’re plug-and-play. Ones that don’t have a built-in display for lyrics simply connect directly to a television or through your home stereo receiver (which should be connected to your television). Most all karaoke machines you find will support the CD+G format, which is essentially a music CD that can display graphics (song lyrics) along with the audio. You can find plenty of these kinds of CDs online (e.g. Amazon), covering the top song hits by decade, artist, and/or music genre. It’s the easiest way to expand your karaoke song collection!

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Karaoke App/Subscription

A smartphone and tablet showcasing karaoke software from Redkaraoke
Karaoke subscriptions turn computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets into karaoke players. Redkaraoke

For those who are a little more tech savvy and/or might only host a karaoke party once in a great while, karaoke subscription services can offer the best bang-for-your-buck. Sites, such as Karafun, Redkaraoke, or KaraokeCloudPlayer, let people use computers, laptops, tablets, and/or smartphones in place of a machine/player. The cost of a basic (2-day, 1-week, or monthly) subscription is often less than one single CD+G purchase and can be canceled at any time. If the service you choose also offers a mobile app for smartphones/tablets, then you probably have the required hardware in your hand right now!

What’s great about karaoke subscription services is instantaneous cloud access to thousands of songs with an easy-to-use interface, saving you from having to shuffle through music CD+Gs and/or external media storage. Many of these sites/services can wirelessly stream music and lyrics to TVs via Apple AirPlay (iOS), Google Chromecast (Android), or Amazon Fire TV. Some also support features like offline sync, audio controls, Bluetooth wireless, and second display support in addition to standard AV input/output, microphone, and speaker connections.

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Microphones for Singing

A closeup of a woman singing into a microphone with friends in the background
A quality microphone helps voices carry alongside the music. XiXinXing / Getty Images

While it’s totally possible to sing acoustic karaoke, most will prefer to use a microphone. That way, voices can be heard along with the music without any straining – not all of us are professional singers gifted with seriously powerful pipes!

It isn’t necessary to own own a studio-grade microphone for karaoke, unless maybe you plan on making this kind of party a regular thing. But at the very least, make sure you use a quality microphone that is built well and sounds good.

Wired microphones are the easiest to set up, so long as the cord doesn’t get in the way (e.g. dancing, performances, foot traffic). Otherwise, there are microphones which offer wireless freedom, but they can be expensive as well as take a bit more effort to set up properly.

But no matter what, always have at least two microphones available. Duets/couples are far more fun (and less terrifying) than solo performances, even if the song choice wasn’t originally meant for two people.

And in the instances when you might only have one singer at a time, the second microphone becomes a handy backup in case anything happens to the first one (i.e. dropped on the floor and/or in someone’s drink).

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Speakers & Receiver/Amplifier

A home stereo receiver and amplifier next to a single bookshelf speaker
If your home stereo system sounds great for music and movies, it will do well for karaoke. IvanWuPI / Getty Images

It’s not going to be much of a karaoke party without a decent sound system. Thankfully, you can use most any speakers you have, be it the portable wireless kind or a quality stereo pair – the latter is strongly recommended for the best karaoke experience. While (some) speakers can be connected directly to a karaoke player or device running a karaoke subscription service, there are benefits to leveraging the power of your home stereo receiver/amplifier. If your system already works wonderfully to play your favorite music and/or shows/movies, then you won’t have to do much of any tweaking or adjusting. You already know that the receiver/amplifier provides the proper amount of power to the speakers, and many models also offer adjustment through equalizer controls to optimize audio for voices singing with the tunes.

The only time you would want to consider not leveraging your home stereo receiver/amplifier is when the party is being hosted elsewhere. It’s far too much a hassle to (safely) relocate all your equipment to the garage or backyard patio for a night of fun (unless you already have installed outdoor speakers ready to go). In these situations, it’s easier and more convenient to use just a pair of speakers along with the karaoke player. Make sure that the speakers have a compatible input (typically a standard RCA or 3.5 mm plug) for the audio. If the speaker lacks microphone input(s), no worries. All you would need is a sound mixer.

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Karaoke Sound Mixer

A black karaoke sound mixer with two microphone inputs and volume control dials
A sound mixer is a convenient device for adding multiple microphone inputs to a system. Courtesy of Amazon

A sound mixer is kind of like an audio splitter that combines multiple input sources (i.e. music and microphones are combined and sent to speakers as one). Some models have built-in controls/dials to adjust overall/individual microphone volume levels, while others even allow tuning for tone, echo, balance, and/or frequency bands. These devices (especially the ones meant for karaoke) offer AV input/output so that both music and video (for displaying lyrics) information gets passed through to the proper equipment. These work with computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets as well as with karaoke machines/players and receivers/amplifiers. A sound mixer is also useful/critical for those instances when one doesn’t own a receiver/amplifier or doesn’t have the easy option to make use of an existing receiver/amplifier. 

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Space & Seating for Guests

A group of friends sitting together and being silly on a couch
Guests make the party, so be sure there is comfortable seating for everyone. Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images

Even though you might be hosting karaoke, it’s the guests who make the party. With that in mind, plan to provide plenty of room and comfortable seating for everyone. In some cases, it’s prudent to consider temporarily rearranging living spaces in order to create an ideal set up. For example, if you’re using the television to display song lyrics (instead of a second/portable screen), scoot the couches and chairs right in front with the backs facing the TV. This way, the audience gets full view of the performance, and the singer(s) are able to read the lyrics while making eye contact with everyone else.

Even if it’s not necessary to switch up an entire room, small adjustments in furniture location can help add more seats and/or give clearance for people walking back and forth (e.g. refill on snacks/refreshments, bathroom break). Plus, don’t forget that some of your guests may have sweet dance moves or choreographed routines that demand more open space. Nothing puts a pause on a party quite as fast as unintentional injury and/or something being broken or knocked over (shelves lined with glassware might come to mind). Comfort counts, so bring out all those fluffy throw pillows for people to use, too.

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Ambient/Party Lighting

LED disco light flashing a colorful display inside of a home living room
It's not a proper karaoke party without a colorful light display inside. Courtesy of Amazon

In addition to comfortable seating, the right kind of lighting helps set a desirable party atmosphere. Bright and/or direct lights should be reserved for areas that need that much, such as in the kitchen or down hallways leading to bathrooms. Everywhere else, you’ll want enough light for people to see, but not at a level that distracts or takes away from the festive ambiance. Think restaurants, nightclubs, or bars; many of these places use softer, indirect lighting to create the mood. So at home, having dimmer switches, LED light strips, and/or a smart light system – the Philips Hue can be wirelessly controlled via mobile apps and is also compatible with the Apple HomeKit – will provide the best results. The latter option offers far more customization, since most WiFi-connected bulbs are designed to have a range of adjustable brightness, colors, and temperatures.

It wouldn’t be a proper karaoke party without a colorful light display. Some karaoke machines/players have built-in lights to create fun shows. Otherwise, you can find disco/party/stage lights for less than US$40 online. Most of these use bright LEDs, which are low power and output a low amount of heat. Many are sound activated, come with a remote, and offer controls over brightness, display patterns, color modes, and more. A simple device like this is all you need to transform an ordinary room into a social singing soiree.

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Tasty Snacks & Refreshments

A group of people enjoying snacks and drinks laid out on a table
Make sure that you have plenty of food and beverages available for guests at your karaoke party. Trinette Reed / Getty Images

If you’re going to be a proper host, you’ll have plenty of food and beverages available for your guests. Choose an area (kitchen usually works the best) to present a spread of snacks and treats to enjoy. Finger foods work well, since you can avoid having to worry about supplying enough utensils for everyone. Provide small paper plates and napkins so people can help themselves. Fresh fruits, vegetables/salad bar, nuts, cheeses, crackers/bread, chips/party mix, and deli meat, with a variety of dips/salsas, spreads, or jams, is a good way to start. But don’t forget to offer something heartier and more filling – you can’t go wrong with a few extra-large pizzas – for those who might work up a hunger.

And, of course, you can’t forget the drinks. Some people require a wee bit of liquid courage before feeling up to singing in front of others. Beer, wine, and spirits can cost a pretty penny, so you could always suggest a pot luck approach to the booze, where each guest brings something of their choosing that can be shared with a few. In addition to providing plenty of water and ice, be sure to have some sparkling water and/or soda for those who don’t drink (or don’t need any more drinks). Set multiple trash/recycling cans in conspicuous places for easy disposal. Consider clearing off surfaces and/or bringing out some folding tables so that people have space to place their drinks and plates of food.

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Photos & Video

A women holding a digital camera up to her eye to take a photo
Taking photos and video is a fantastic way to relive and share special moments. sanjeri / Getty Images

Sometimes you need pics for proof, or else it never happened! Documenting the party with photo/video is a fun way to relive and/or share special moments (especially for those who couldn’t make it to karaoke). Anything can work and is better than nothing, be it a smartphone, webcam, digital camera, digital camcorder, GoPro, etc. Consider setting up the recording device on a tripod, especially if your karaoke party at home happens to be at night. Indoor shooting in low light tends to produce blurred/grainy shots, so the tripod can help take better photos. Otherwise, you can expect most of your guests to have their own smartphones to capture the fun.

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Tips for Successful Karaoke at Home:

Two couples singing while wearing party props and sitting on a couch.
Having a bunch of costumes, wigs, props, and accessories available will take your karaoke party to the next level. Betsie Van Der Meer / Getty Images
  • Do a trial run a day or two before the party. Double check all audio, video, and internet connections (particularly if you’re holding the party further away from your wireless network, such as in the garage or backyard).

  • Sound test your system with the microphones and singing. You may need to make some adjustments to the volume/levels to get it just right.

  • Warn (or invite) the neighbors as a common courtesy, since karaoke parties tend to create some noise.

  • Have towels, dustpan, and broom ready at hand for quick cleanups. It’s a party, so you can expect the occasional spill to happen.

  • Go with paper plates and plastic cups – you don't want to be stuck doing dishes in the middle of the party. Have sharpies/markers available so people can label what's theirs.

  • Set up a general playlist to keep the party vibe going without interruption. You can always deviate to a different track in the moment.

  • Have invitees send any special song requests before the party so you don’t have to spend much time searching for them.

  • Consider setting up teams for competitions, complete with judging and point scoring.

  • Have a bunch of costumes, wigs, props, and accessories available for everyone to use. These will definitely encourage people to have some silly fun, which is what a karaoke party is all about!