Friday, October 20, 2006

Karaoke Review: Echo Karaoke Box

October 13th, 2006

After realizing my karaoke box section was sorely lacking I decided to try out a place that I often passed on my way to see clients. The Echo karaoke box is located on the 2nd floor of the mall at Spadina and Bloor on the Southwest corner. You can't miss the flashy sign that says "ECHO". I invited a Chinese speaking to come along with me just in case as many places in this area have questionable English and my Chinese is almost non-existent. You never know, right?

The Good: The pricing was unusual for me at least in North America. This place is membership based. The price per hour is by far the best thing going for this place as well as location. The pricing is as follows:

Monday - Thursday 3 PM - 8:45 PM $7 per person
Friday 3 PM - 8:45 PM $9 per person

9 PM - 3 AM Weekdays: Small room (1-5) people : $35 - $50
Medium room (5-8) people: $60 - $100
Large Room(10-15) people: $120
Party Room(20+) people : $120 - $180

9 PM - 3 AM Weekends: Small room (1-5) people : $55 - $90
Medium room (5-8) people: $120 - $180
Large Room(10-15) people: $200
Party Room(20+) people : $240 - $320

These are flat rates for the entire evening you are there between the times
posted. It has the potential to be very cheap per hour. Best time is probably Friday
nights before 9 PM. After that I calculate the pricing to be average. There are a few
thing you need to know about the pricing they don't tell you but I'll come to that in the next section

The Bad: Now we come to the fun part. While I indicated the pricing is good for Weekdays and average on Weekends there are a few hidden details. First, its subscription based. Its $20 per year for 1 year membership. If on one in your group has one its an additional $5 per person. (Why is it that people from outside Canada see fit to leave out these details in writing?) They have food there but the quality was mediocre at best and the prices on this food were almost double what I would pay at XO. Beef Chow Mein was $12 for a serving fit for one person while at XO I get 2-3 times the amount and better quality food for $10. Oh they also charged a $3 service fee as well which XO doesn't do. I guess this is why a Chinese bunch leaving at the same time I arrived and went for dinner elsewhere. The equipment doesn't get any better. The system is pure cheap midi controlled by a computer (not even MPEG). There were no books, which made selection awkward and the selection of English songs was barely passable at 3200. My Chinese friend told me they had a decent amount of Chinese songs but I didn't get a count. Around double the English songs (which is still pretty small) The speakers were of very low grade, the microphones even lower (have to work to sound decent) and there is no transposition at all. Small rooms are VERY cramped. As for as communication with the staff my fears were justified. The staff there including the manager there could barely speak English. They didn't even understand the word "pitch" when I asked about whether I could transpose the music or not (my Chinese friend eventually translated to Mandarin for me) and there are no written instructions anywhere (not even in Chinese) except the screens and they were minimal at best. Watch out if you decide to get membership here because they ask you for ID and may "offer" to hold on to it while you are in the room. My first thought of course was "potential identity theft" so I made to process the membership card in my presence and took my idea when done. They could have easily asked me to fill out a from. I could be wrong but something felt shady about the whole thing as no one should require Government ID unless its part of government regulation, let alone keep for a few hours at any karaoke place. This was the most unprofessional and suspect karaoke box I have ever been to and I felt I'd better watch my credit card and bank activity for the next few months.

The mixed: The rooms were clean in and in good order but rooms looked small compared to other boxes I've been to.

Summary: If you are looking for a place near Chinatown and you want to sing cheap come here on a Friday but be warned. If you don't have a friend who has membership (which I do now) and you want to come more than once, insist that you give them membership information on paper or on a form and DO NOT give them ANY ID with private information like Social Insurance, Driver's License or Bank information. If they refuse to accept this, go somewhere else. Identity Theft is on the rise and these people should know better, especially for what amounts to a low grade karaoke box. Keeping one's government ID for long period is simply unacceptable. Period. If you can get past all I've said and want cheap fees on weekdays with limited selection and no transposition and cheap equipment the location is convenient enough and the price is right. Otherwise there are MANY other places out there which I will be reviewing shortly.

Summary Scores:
Facilities: 7.0 (Small rooms are really small but rooms are in good order)
Equipment: 6.0 (cheap speakers, poor initial levels, cheap mikes and no transposition)
Location: 8.0 (parking may be a little out of the way but easy access by streetcar)
Food Prices: 5.0 (Prices on food here are highway robbery, better off eating elsewhere)
Service: 5.0 (Poor English, inadequate instructions and questionable ID collection practices)
Selection:6.0 (Barely passable with 3200 English song, Chinese I'm told selection is better)
Wait Times: 8.0 (For a computer system this system was somewhat slow)
Room Prices: 8.0 (see matrix above, best to come weekday evenings or prices are average)

Final Grade: C- (These guys got me to bump up XO original C- grade to a C but they have also have been fixing up furniture) For a new business these guys have a lot of work to do. I feel like their motto was "how cheap can you go?" along with "how much can we get for food". There was just an unprofessional feel to the staff and membership practices they current have there. I would advise against joining their membership list unless they change the way they collect your information for your own protection.

Venue Information:
Echo Karaoke Box
280 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, ON
Phone: (416) 596-6800

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At 10:56 PM, Blogger Garry said...

This saved me a lot of heartache, time and money. Thanks for writing this incredibly in-depth review! It was EXACTLY what I was looking for!

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

I encountered the same shady dealings and lack of English- and defintiely have never gone back. It was appalling compared to what I was used to in Japan. BMB on Bloor is the best thing I have found so far.

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

I also encountered the same apalling service and shady dealings- definitely haven't been back there. It's a shame there isn't anything as good as what they have around Japan. So far the best one I have found is BMB Karaoke on Bloor- at least they have a FREE membership (no ID required) and 10 visits means your 11th is free.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Kiri said...

That was really really helpful. Thank you! Planning to book a room for my Birthday in a couple weeks. Got any details about BMB on Bloor??

At 9:38 PM, Blogger Jonah A. Libster said...

To answer your headache. BWB is pretty good. Its not the best selection, but its not bad. Facilities are in overall good shape and they are on the level. I'm STILL trying to figure out what the deal is at Echo; Probably just for high school kids as its dirt cheap before 8 PM if you can stand the "back alley" atmosphere...


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