Tour Technology Options: What’s Right For You?

What you’ll learn:

• Pros and cons of various types of tour systems
• Which tour system is your best option
• Which tour system best fits your budget

A tour guide system is a portable wireless system that sends an audio message to an audience of listeners in situations that either don’t allow or make difficult a normal conversation between a presenter and an audience.

In general, there are three types of sound systems:

  • Amplified Sound
  • Wi-Fi
  • Radio Transmission

In this article, we explain each type and talk about the pros and cons of each one so that you can better determine which tour guide system will best suit your needs.

Amplified Sound Tour System

When most people think of an amplifier, they think of a big boom box on stereo equipment. Most electronic components today, like televisions and computers, have amplifiers — which simply means they have a base system in which a speaker produces sound. While this gives a good definition of an amplifier, the Amplified Sound Tour System can also include cupping your hands around your mouth to direct your voice to a group while raising your voice so that you are heard.

Sound waves move a diaphragm inside a microphone, and the microphone converts the movement into an electrical signal which fluctuates to accurately represent the fluctuations inherent in a sound wave. Because the microphone produces a very small electrical current, that signal must be amplified. In other words, the audio signal must be boosted so that it has a larger current. This is the role of the amplifier, which functions to produce a more powerful audio signal.

Pros: An amplified tour system requires very little equipment, typically only needing either fixed or portable speakers. Amplified sound systems typically work very well in outdoor spaces.

Cons: When using an amplified sound tour system, the participants must be within earshot, and they are not effective with any background noise, even if it is mild. While many systems advertise noise reduction capability, the systems typically do not work well when there is significant background noise. For this reason, an amplified sound tour system does not work well for people who have hearing difficulties. Furthermore, these are one-way systems – the participants can only listen but cannot interact or talk via the tour system.

Wi-Fi System

Wi-Fi tour systems are used with your existing wireless network. The system contains a directly connected microphone by which you can broadcast your voice. In a larger setting, wireless microphone systems connect directly into the system.

Pros: Because the systems are wireless, the Wi-Fi network can be used in a variety of settings to stream audio from the leader to participants. The systems are very versatile. Because these systems are Wi-Fi enabled, participants can also stream audio to their own devices. Because the systems have a single audio source, the apps are relatively simple and intuitive to use, and participants generally have an easy time connecting to the audio.

Cons: While the systems are typically very consistent inside buildings (usually up to 100 feet in any direction), based on the quality of the internet router and the speed of your internet, Wi-Fi tour systems sometimes do not work well in outdoor spaces where the signals can be spotty and inconsistent. While the base system is generally low-cost, add-on devices can add up, particularly if you have a large group. If you just buy the base system, then you are requiring each participant to bring their own device, which they may not be able to supply.

Radio Frequency (RF) Transmission tour system

This form of wireless audio equipment works by converting audio signals into radio waves then back to an audio signal. Radio waves are fast; they travel at the speed of light and therefore are able to travel a significant distance from the source of the sound. This is why radio frequencies are the ideal form of transmission for all forms of audio applications.

Just like sound, a radio wave is characterized by both its frequency and its amplitude. Frequency is measured in hertz (cycles per second), and the radio spectrum ranges from a few hertz to beyond the gigahertz (GHz) range.

Pros: Whether you need a stationary or mobile system, or a wired or wireless system, RF transmission tour systems deliver results. RF systems are also very budget friendly; the most basic systems are very inexpensive – the less peripherals you require, the less you will pay. You can purchase a basic system, and over time add a variety of accessories to it as your needs grow. The most advanced wireless systems offer multiple transmitters that reduce the chance of sound dropouts.

The great news is that RF systems are self-contained systems that are not reliant on external factors. As such, these systems can be used anywhere a tour is occurring and there is very low latency between the transmitter and receiver. Even better, these systems do offer the volume control that the other options do not; participants have the luxury of setting their own volume.

Cons: RF systems can have a limited transmission radius and can sometimes be interrupted by interference. Radio frequency interference is radiation of radio frequency energy; it causes an electronic device to produce noise that interferes with the function of a nearby device. In fact, most electronic devices emit RF interference. ListenTALK employs device shielding to help control the radiated radio frequency interference to acceptable levels.

What Is Your Best Option?

At Listen Technologies, we know that intelligible audio is vital to running a successful tour. Therefore, we built ListenTALK to eliminate channel interference and other audio disturbances. Your participants will hear you loud and clear.

If you need either one- or two-way communications as well as the option to switch back and forth between the two to communicate with groups large or small, a ListenTALK tour guide system offers a very professional way to engage and inform your participants. Perhaps you want to step up your game and “wow” your guests with a novel entertainment. Or perhaps you aren’t using a tour guide for entertainment at all, but rather to ensure proper communications and safety compliance on a work site. Our company has provided ListenTALK solutions in all these situations, including:

Leisure tours

Museum tours

Backstage communication

Campus tours

Religious services

Simultaneous translation

Manufacturing plant tours

Employee training and communication

The completely portable system has an impressive range, from 100 meters indoors to 200 meters outdoors, for ultimate tour flexibility. We do not recommend ListenTALK for communication over distances longer than 200 meters, or for applications where you need an open channel on which anyone can say anything at any time. We also do not recommend ListenTALK to be used in environments like oil rigs, Coast Guards, or heavy construction communication.

Budget is of course also a consideration, and ListenTALK offers flexible options fitting groups of two to 100+, with choices in headsets and transceivers. We can customize a solution that is within your spending range. The ListenTALK tour guide system is a complete portable system that includes headsets, transceivers and docking stations. Our systems can meet the needs of two people to as many as 100 people and can be completely customized for your environment.

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