Silent disco is no longer a novelty and has firmly become part of the club, live music and festival scenes. Promoters and festival organisers now seriously consider silent disco alongside regular PA powered music event formats.
Visitors to silent disco events love the ability to choose musical styles at the flick of a switch on their headset and rave about the fact they can take headphones off to chat when the mood takes them. Silent disco is here to stay and the concept is spilling over into other areas, such as theatre.
If you are considering a silent disco event then you obviously need to do some homework on the headphone technology to make an informed choice before you hire or purchase headphones. Below is a brief summary of the major factors to consider.
Silent Disco Buy/Hire Advice
Depending on the size of your event space you may need to consider the placement of the wireless transmitters in your headphone system. The higher the transmitter is located and the less physical obstructions the further the signal will travel. Walls and floors made of re-enforced concrete are particularly good at preventing wireless signal transmission.
Infrared v RF wireless
Infrared wireless technology is not normally a good choice for wireless headphone disco applications, due to the fact that a line of sight link is required to successfully transmit the audio signal. Any physical obstructions, including people, will cause infrared transmissions to drop out.
Radio frequency (RF) wireless headphone systems can go through and bounce round physical obstructions and have a far greater range than infrared. For example a typical infrared wireless headphone system is likely to have a maximum range of 10m, whereas RF wireless can reach 100m.
The only real drawback of RF wireless headphone systems is that they are more susceptible to interference from nearby electronic equipment and other wireless transmitters than infrared.
Obviously the headphones you choose for your silent disco events need to be sturdily built and able to stand up to use by the general public.
The point most likely to fail on a wireless headphone is the headband and it’s coupling to the earpieces. Look for a solidly built headband with robustly made joints. Imagine one of the attendees dropping the headset and standing on it. Can the headphones take it? If not then you will likely be dealing with a higher percentage of failures at each event.
As always there is a balance to be made between cost and quality when considering wireless headphones for public use.
While there may be bargains to be had, the normal rule of “if it looks to good it normally is” applies. A cheap deal be attractive initially, but think about whether your supplier will be able to support you if you have equipment failures or need replacement parts in the coming months and years.
When choosing wireless headphones we highly recommend actually listening to the headset yourself before making the decision. Sound quality can vary massively between different models of headphone. Your event visitors will not appreciate it if the headphones sound awful. It will be well worth the time, money and effort to try the headphones yourself before making a commitment.
For one off events hiring may the cheapest option, but if you are planning a number of events then do your homework and check how it will compare with purchasing.
Visitors to your silent disco events will of course expect to be provided with a clean pair of headphones. The choice you make over the design of headphones and the ways you ensure they stay clean is important to ensure you protect your investment.
- Wipe clean, plastic based materials with smooth surfaces on the headphone headband and ear cups make it easy to bring the headphones back to ‘as new’ condition at the end of each event.
- Replaceable ear pads will ensure you have a longer service life from each headset.
- Consider supplying disposable ear pad covers to each visitor to your silent disco with each headphone they borrow/hire. Visitors will be reassured by the fact they can buy brand new covers for the headphones they use.
Warranty & Support
As with all technology, wireless headphones can and do go wrong. Obviously headphones being used by the general public will get broken. Make sure you purchase or hire your wireless headphones from a reputable supplier with the ability to support you if the technology fails.
Can your supplier rapidly offer replacement parts in the event of equipment failure? Will the headphone system you purchase now be supported by your supplier in the coming years? For example, you may find that replacement headphones from a different supplier are not compatible with your system and if you are unable to get replacement parts you may be forced to replace the entire system.
Your decision over equipment supplier could make a huge difference to the long term cost of running a wireless headphone disco system.