Setting up a Professional Karaoke System

Setting up a professional karaoke system involves careful selection of the right equipment and proper configuration to ensure the best possible audio performance and user experience, whether you are hosting events, managing a venue, or looking to start a mobile karaoke business.

Similarly to the DJ world, there are decisions to be made on equipment that will dictate the type of venues and gigs you can take on, so it’s important to decide on a budget, and just how serious you plan on going. A system suitable for house parties is quite different from one that's both powerful and robust enough to do pub gigs or private functions.

This guide will walk you through the different equipment types, and highlight the essentials of assembling and using a pro karaoke setup.



  • Traditional Karaoke Hardware: Now mostly a thing of the past for professional users, a Karaoke machine was the core of your setup, responsible for playing back the karaoke tracks and displaying lyrics. These CDG karaoke players often included voice effects, pitch control, and video effects. The special CD+G discs were a collection of WAV or MP3 audio files with the addition of VGA graphical intro screens and lyrics, which required a monitor or TV to be viewed.

  • Modern Karaoke Hardware: The death of physical media and the switch to either stored MP3 files or subscription-based song services basically replaced every other format due to convenience. So instead of having to transport 100s of CD’s and be constantly adding to that number with the latest song releases, it's all digital, done using a laptop or tablet device with your chosen karaoke software.

  • Karaoke Songs: As already mentioned, the older format was special CDG discs which you would buy regularly for the latest songs. These could be played on a CDG player, or loaded onto a laptop for playback to an audio system and screen. This has mostly been superseded by downloads or online services for convenience.

    The subscription services available are ideal for professional karaoke jocks, giving them instant access to a huge library of songs in the best quality with no need for local device storage, allowing a gig to be operated from anywhere using a laptop or tablet with an internet connection.

  • Microphones: Investing in professional-grade microphones ensures that your vocals are clear and precise. Wired microphones offer a cost-effective and reliable option, and are the standard for all types of vocalists. Vocal microphones come in many different quality levels depending on their specifications, with cheaper plastic body designs or metal types serving different requirements.

    Wireless microphone systems provide performers with the freedom to move around and are ideal for those more enthusiastic karaoke singers without the worry of tripping on cables.

    For live singing, you will always want dynamic microphones for their direct capture pattern that helps remove unwanted room noise, and for their overall durability. Depending on the type of karaoke gigs you may wish to have a mix of good quality mics alongside some tougher low-cost ones for any kid's parties or those more carefree performers to use.

  • Mixing Desk (Mixer): Regardless of how you decide to play your karaoke tracks, you will need a mixer. An audio mixer allows you to connect your source audio signal and blend it with the vocals from however many microphones you may wish to use, then send that to your speaker system.

    A mixer allows you to add vocal effects such as echo or reverb (if it has them), and easily adjust EQ settings. Most importantly, it gives you volume level control over each connected microphone, meaning you can adjust the output quickly to suit everyone from experienced singers to slightly drunk shouters. For a karaoke system, a mixer with features like reverb can greatly enhance the singing experience, giving that desirable depth to vocals.

    Ensure the mixer you are considering has enough input channels for the number of microphones you wish to connect, and that it includes any other audio inputs or outputs you may need. Many modern mixers include Bluetooth for handy audio streaming from a phone or tablet, which can be useful when taking a break for some fill music.

Setting up a Professional Karaoke System - Mixing desk with microphoneSetting up a Professional Karaoke System - Mixing desk with microphone


  • Active Speakers: These have built-in amplifiers and simplify the setup process. Active speakers are available in various sizes, power ratings, and overall quality to suit different budgets, venue sizes, and performance expectations. They can be connected directly to the mixer output, and many now include handy features such as DSP and Bluetooth connectivity.

  • Passive Speakers: The more traditional format of PA system. Passive speakers require an external power amplifier to operate. They might be preferable in permanent installations where fine-tuning of audio is required, and many people still prefer to keep the electronics out of their speakers for durability. Passive speakers are physically lighter than active speakers, so that can often be a deciding factor for some.

  • Monitor Speakers: Depending on the venue, and how serious you are about your karaoke events, a stage monitor can be a nice addition to the PA as it gives the singers an immediate reference of their vocals. Though not strictly necessary for karaoke, the use of a foldback monitor helps with vocal timing and pitch.

  • For larger venues, consider speakers with higher SPL ratings to ensure sound covers the entire area without distortion. Smaller venues or home setups might not need as powerful speakers, but for professional work, it's always best to go for speakers with more power than you actually need as it allows them to run more efficiently. Prioritise speaker models that provide clear mid-range frequencies to enhance vocal clarity, with 12” being the advised choice for the best blend of capability and clarity.

  • Cables and Stands: Connect the speakers to the amplifier using as heavy-duty speaker cables as possible, with the connection options usually being bare wire, 6.35mm(¼”) jack, or Speakon plugs on higher performance systems. then connect the amplifier's line input to the mixer's main output using the best connection method available (XLR preferred, but RCA is fine).

    Microphones of any reasonable quality will be using balanced XLR cables, either directly from the mixer to the mics, or from the mixer to the receiver unit if using a wireless mic system

    You will need to connect your audio source to the mixer too. This will usually be in the form of a stereo RCA connection with whatever device-specific plug or plugs are needed. For a laptop this will usually be a 3.5mm jack from the headphone output, or you may be using some form of HDMI connection for audio and visuals, which will need an additional analogue audio stripper device to convert the audio into something the mixer can accept.

    Microphone stands and speaker stands are also crucial for a professional setup, ensuring that equipment is securely and optimally placed. Speaker stands especially are a must-have as they get your PA off the floor and put it at head height, which helps with both clarity and room coverage

Setting up a Professional Karaoke System - ElectroMarket Kit SSE5823 Speakers, Mixer, Microphones and StandsSetting up a Professional Karaoke System - ElectroMarket Kit SSE5823 Speakers, Mixer, Microphones and Stands


  • Audio source to the Mixer: Whatever is playing your main audio, so either an older CD+G player or a laptop, will be putting out a standard stereo line-level signal, which can be RCA to RCA from a CDG player to the mixer or will be a 3.5mm stereo minijack to dual RCA connection from the laptops headphone/line output to a line input on the mixer.

  • Microphones to Mixer: Unless using very low-cost mics with unbalanced 6.35mm (¼”) jack plugs, connections from your microphones to the mixer will be done using XLR cables. They offer the best noise reduction and signal quality and are extremely durable. If using wireless mics, connect the receiver unit output to the mixer, again which will be via XLR or unbalanced jack.

  • Mixer to Speakers: Connect the mixer’s output to your sound system. If using active speakers, this will be a direct connection to the speaker's line input using either XLR, TRS jack or stereo RCA cables depending on your equipment, with XLR being the best choice due to its superior noise rejection.

    For passive speakers the mixer output will go to your power amplifier, again using whatever the most durable connection is offered on that unit. Line-level audio can have different connections at each end, it doesn't matter, so use whatever cable type best suits your mixer and amp. Between the speakers and the amplifier, you will need good-quality speaker cables, again with the best end connections that your amp and speakers allow for.

    Most PA power amps and professional speakers will either be using a latching NL2 style plug system, or 6.35mm (¼”) jack plug connection, though lower-cost units may only provide terminals for a bare-wire hook up, or a mix of the two. Again, speakers are a positive and negative connection, so can have different plug types at each end to suit the equipment.

Karaoke Speaker System - Simple wiring diagram for connecting Karaoke DJ equipmentKaraoke Speaker System - Simple wiring diagram for connecting Karaoke DJ equipment


Displays are crucial for showing lyrics and can range from a simple TV screen to more elaborate projector setups for larger venues. Consider the size and layout of the venues you are likely to play when choosing your display solution. Due to the age of their design, many CD+G players only offer the much older composite video output, which will usually require some type of adapter for use with a modern TV or display.

Laptops or tablet devices are much simpler in this regard as they can output an HDMI signal that can be fed directly to a modern TV or projector system. As previously mentioned, you will likely require a splitter/conversion adapter for this type of setup as it will allow you to separate a stereo audio feed from the HDMI output signal so it can be taken to your mixer.

If using a digital setup, choose software that is reliable and easy to navigate. Options like KaraFun or PC DJ are popular among newer professional users who prefer subscription-based song libraries and a modern interface, while the ever-popular Sunfly software allows playback of your stored CD+G and MP3+G files, along with its own monthly service for downloading new tracks.

Ensure your music library is extensive and diverse. If applicable, include multiple genres (and languages) to cater to a wide audience, and regularly update your library with new tracks to keep your content fresh and engaging.

There is also a huge number of karaoke songs and channels to be found on YouTube, and this can be a great source for home parties, but it’s not something a professional would be using as it is illegal for public use due to the songs not being licensed. Using a pro karaoke song provider ensures you are within the law, alongside a venue's PRS license that allows the performance of live and pre-recorded music to the public.

Setting up a Professional Karaoke System - Woman singing with lyrics on a large displaySetting up a Professional Karaoke System - Woman singing with lyrics on a large display


Once everything is plugged in and switched on it's time to set your levels and make sure things are working as they should be. As you should already be familiar with the operation of your components and how to connect them (it is hugely important and beneficial to yourself to know this before taking on work), we will do this as a sort of powered-on checklist:

  • Speakers: The general rule for the total beginner is to set the volumes on active speakers or the amplifier to between halfway and three-quarters up (not full up). Though modern active speakers or amps have protection, it is just good practice to manually limit the volume as it keeps the amplifiers running nicely. You never want to run anything at 100%, which is why your PA should always be more capable than you need.

  • Mixer: Starting with the mixer volumes on zero, play some music. Raise the master volume to around 50%, then raise the input channel level until you can hear the music. Most mixers have a VU meter that shows you the signal level, so the aim is to have this in the green, as close to the 0dB mark as possible, and then use the master volume to further raise or lower the actual output volume of the system.

  • Gain: Some audio sources are just quieter than others and do need a slight boost to bring them in line with your other incoming signals. As standard, gain pots should be at unity gain (zero dB). Be very careful with this adjustment, and keep it as close to unity as possible. Gain is not volume, and you will quickly overwhelm your system with distortion if misused.

    It's all a balancing act between the mixer and amplifier/speakers that will soon become second nature to you, with the goal being to establish a comfortable volume level for the PA for that particular venue that's free from distortion and isn't straining your equipment.

  • Microphones: Test each microphone for functionality, and adjust the channel level and EQ for each to get the best vocal clarity while avoiding feedback. Ensure the microphone levels blend well with the music source without overpowering or being drowned out. Effects such as echo or reverb can be set to a low level for a bit of depth to start with, then adjusted to suit each singer.

  • Optimising Your Setup: Position your speakers facing out into the room to minimize feedback and ensure even coverage throughout the venue. Microphone stands should be placed at a comfortable height for the performer and away from the direct line of speakers to reduce feedback risk.


The physical setup of your environment can greatly enhance the karaoke experience:

Use lighting to create a stage-like atmosphere. LED Par Cans or LED strips can be used to highlight the performers and the stage area, and will help set the mood. Some venues with a proper stage set-up may not need it, but some have nothing, in which case it's up to you to create a defined performance area.

Some professional karaoke DJs will use freestanding backdrops and banners. This can be great for isolating the performance area from a larger room, and can be placed to shield the lyric display screen from unwanted natural light reflections. They also provide you with a subtle advertising board for your business name, web address etc. Different venues will often dictate what you are allowed to do (for a variety of reasons) so it's always worth checking first before any setup.

Be mindful of your cables, as they can be a tripping hazard, and will also get destroyed if being constantly trampled. A longer cable that can be routed neatly is always better than one at risk of being ripped out of the desk or speaker after being pulled or stepped on.

Don't overload mains extension leads, and buy proper ones, ideally with RCD trip switching, as they will protect your equipment from nasty power spikes.


Finally, be prepared to handle common technical issues:

  • Microphone Techniques: Educate performers on proper microphone techniques, such as holding the microphone at a consistent distance and angle, to improve sound quality and reduce the risk of feedback. Don't be afraid to tell someone they are using your equipment incorrectly, just learn to do so in a friendly way.

  • Feedback: If feedback occurs, adjust the speaker and microphone placement, or tweak the EQ settings on your mixer. It’s more of an issue in really small spaces where singers are really close to the PA, but just be prepared for it. Uncontrolled feedback can destroy your speaker's tweeters quickly, so kill the mic level immediately and bring it back up while making adjustments to the gain if needed.

  • Microphone Problems: Always take spare mics, even if it's just some really cheap ones to get you out of trouble. You should have spare cables too as they get trodden on and pulled at, so can fail regardless of quality. Always have spare batteries for wireless mics.

  • Display Issues: Have backup cables at least, and a spare monitor if you can afford to in case of issues. It’s worth testing screens pre-gig rather than getting a surprise during setup.

  • Regular Maintenance: Keep equipment in good condition with regular checks and maintenance. This includes cleaning, checking cables for wear, and ensuring all connections are secure. Your microphones especially will take abuse, it comes with the territory, so be prepared to repair or replace these on a fairly regular basis. Also, consider padded transport bags or even flight cases for equipment. It helps protect them during storage and transport and will make things last much longer.


Setting up a professional karaoke system involves thoughtful consideration of equipment, understanding the technical aspects of sound management, and ensuring that performers and audiences enjoy a seamless and engaging experience. With the right equipment and setup, your karaoke events will be a hit, providing high-quality entertainment for everyone involved.

It’s a good idea to go out and do some first-hand research, visit a few local karaoke nights, see what the setup looks like, how it sounds, how the DJ presents themselves and their general attitude dealing with the public. It’s the best insight you will get, and can help make decisions on equipment choices.

By following this guide and choosing the right equipment, your karaoke system will be ready to provide high-quality entertainment for any event or venue. The setup you create will not only enhance performances but also ensure that everyone—from casual singers to more serious enthusiasts—has a great time.