The Griffin iKaraoke is the smallest karaoke machine I've ever seen, and teeny gadgets sure do turn heads around here--especially when related to MP3 players. But when it comes to karaoke, smaller does not equal better. The iKaraoke is sleek, relatively inexpensive ($49.99), and easy to use, but it completely fails as a singing machine.
So do you want the good news or the bad news first? Let's start off on a positive note. The iKaraoke offers a compact design that has a nice, high-quality feel to it. The sleek brushed metal is nice to hold, and the five-inch-long mic isn't uncomfortably small in the hand. The mic features a few buttons (play/pause and track/menu shuttle keys), a switch (more on this in a bit), and a red LED in the form of a ring around the top portion. The LED flashes when the iKaraoke is initially activated and stays lit during song "performances." A four-foot cable connects the mic with a small base that plugs into the bottom of any dock-connecting iPod (fourth generation and newer). A line-out port on the base lets you connect the setup to a speaker or a stereo system (you must provide the cable), or you can use the built-in FM transmitter to transmit audio to a nearby radio.
The iKaraoke couldn't be easier to set up. Simply turn your iPod on, plug the iKaraoke in, and press and hold the play/pause key on the mic for a couple seconds. You're then taken to a basic menu, which lets you adjust several settings. You can select an FM frequency, decided between line-out or FM audio, and alter the mic reverb and music output between Low, Med, High, or Off. The reverb refers to the mic volume, while the music setting adjusts the iPod's volume. For example, you can set this to Off and just use the iKaraoke as a PA microphone. Of course, what is karaoke without the lead vocals dropped out? The aforementioned switch lets you accomplish that.
Or at least, it's supposed to. Unfortunately, flipping the vocals switch from on to off does very little. The volume of lead vocals drops perhaps a hair, but is nowhere near removed from the song. Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose? To add insult to injury, audio coming through the line-out jack sounded terrible, mostly due to incessant--and loud--static. Surprisingly, the FM transmission fared better: The songs were still consistently peppered with static, but it wasn't as loud or overpowering. Heck, for $50, you may be willing to deal with these issues. If you are, be sure you add lyrics to your song's ID3 tags before transferring them to an iPod.