So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

This is the holding pen for the best threads containing quiz bowl talk.
Locked
User avatar
meebles127
Lulu
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Nov 20, 2017 9:27 am
Location: Salem, Virginia

So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

Post by meebles127 » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:16 pm

I've noticed recently that there isn't a good comprehensive overview of the different types of buzzer systems offered. The wiki page regarding buzzer systems is slightly outdated so I've decided to lay out several types of buzzer systems offered as well as my opinions on them. At the end of the post, I've detailed various methods that your organization can use to secure funding for a buzzer system. I briefly mention funding in My Guide to High School Outreach but I'll be further expounding upon that here. Of the many types of buzzer systems that exist, I've decided to speak about the ones I see or mentioned most often. It's also important to note that while it might seem appealing to purchase a fancier looking set it is often times more worthwhile to purchase two cheaper sets. This allows you to run practice in two rooms without necessitating slapbowl. Additionally, if one of your sets does happen to fail you will not be completely left in the dark while the other one is getting repaired. This is essential with leagues like the VHSL that expect schools to have a functioning buzzer system.

I've played on over a dozen different types of systems ranging from Andersons to obscure systems I've only ever seen once. Today I'll be talking about 4 different kinds of system and when discussing each one I will talk about their reliability, comfort, cost, and ease of repair. I inherited 2 barely-functioning sets of buzzers when I joined my team and I have repaired those sets numerous times until we reached a consensus to retire them and purchase new ones. For the systems I do not have experience in repairing I've spoken extensively with several coaches in my area regarding their reliability and repairability. I'll be noting my experiences in repairing the systems I have done work on.

Anderson Buzzers: [$250-$265]

Anderson buzzers come in two versions: daisy-chained boxes and individual hand-held indicators. I personally suggest purchasing the daisy-chained version due to the extremely easy set-up as well as their durability. When disassembled these buzzers only have 4 parts making it nearly impossible to accidentally leave part of the system lying around. The control unit is a simple box and each strip of buzzers connects on either side of the unit. These buzzers are extremely durable and I could only find one instance of these failing which was due to the extreme negligence of an individual. Andersons are the cheapest and most reliable buzzers that can be purchased and I fully recommend their purchase over any other type of system. In general, it is a much better idea to purchase two sets of Andersons rather than a single set of QuikPros or Zeecrafts due to the far superior build of the Andersons. The one downside, however, to Andersons is that the AC Adapter for the system is extremely short so I would suggest purchasing an extension cord to keep in the system's bag.

Buzzersystems.com Buzzers: [~$299]

The Buzzers from Buzzersystems.com feature a control unit with individual activators contained within boxes that connect to the control unit by audio cables. The control unit features a reset button and 16 ports to allow the support of up to 16 players which is higher than any other system that I know of. Set up of this system is slightly more complicated than the Andersons because you have to plug a cable into each individual activator and a port on the control unit. Players who enjoy holding their activator but are seeking a higher quality or cheaper set will most likely prefer this set over Andersons. The main downside to this system is the quality of the cables that come with the set when you purchase it. If you purchase this set I would seriously consider ordering a set of cables to replace the ones that come with your system.

QuikPro Buzzers: [$289-$489]

QuikPro buzzers come in two general types. You either have hand-held activators directly connected to the control unit from a single connection or individual lights with hand-held activators attached. The version with hand-held activators but not lights is generally far more reliable than the version with individual lights. Anyone that has any experience with the version of this system with individual lights will be able to tell you that the clips on the cables that attach to the lights will snap off if you look at them. The reset button on my team's system decided to stop working so I repaired it by splicing a new wire to replace the deteriorated section. This lasted for a while but was obviously not a permanent solution, and upon securing funding for a new system we retired this system. The set up of this system is fairly simple but there are many cords that can easily get tangled or damaged which can increase set up and tear down time significantly compared to other systems. If you do decide to purchase a set of QuikPro buzzers I would suggest shying away from the version with lights and instead purchase the version with hand-held indicators.

Zeecraft Buzzers: [$465-$730]

These are by far the most expensive buzzers you can buy and while they look extremely nice they don't hold up very well. Many people have experience with these sets as they commonly show up at various national championship tournaments. Zeecraft systems have 8 individual lights with individual hand-held activators. The individual lights themselves are extremely fragile and will crack or pop off if they fall on the ground or jostle inside the case. The buzzers connect to the control unit using telephone cables and the clips on these really love to snap off. My team used to own a set of these and they eventually reached a point where they broke down. The reset button for our system wouldn't work half the time so I disassembled the unit and resoldered the connection. Since that initial repair other parts of the system failed and after spending several hours trying to repair the system we decided to retire it. Additionally, Zeecrafts are incredibly time-consuming to set up and take even longer to put away due to the barely-big-enough case designed for the system. Taking into account the very high cost and lack of durability I would generally suggest not purchasing a set of Zeecraft buzzers.

How to Obtain Funding

As noted above, the price for a full buzzer system starts at $250 and only goes up from there. This is a large enough sum of money that you will probably need the help of your school system, fundraising, or other donations to pay for them. If your school does not have the money to pay for a system I highly suggest applying for a grant through Matt's Buzzers. I would first consider asking your school's activities director for assistance in paying for a buzzer system. It is important to explain how having a functioning system will help you practice better and slightly reduce the cost of attending tournaments. If your school's activities director denies your request for funding you should reach out to your principal and then work the chain of command at your school's district office. If this fails it is time to consider fundraising. Fundraising for small organizations like quizbowl teams is best accomplished through events like car washes and restaurant nights. Your school most likely requires you organizations to gain approval for fundraisers before carrying them out so make sure that you obtain the proper permission.

If the above methods do not work I would suggest asking your local Rotary or Kiwanis club for a donation. These types of organizations are generally extremely supportive of their local communities.

I believe that I've explained all that I can with regards to selecting and obtaining funding for a new buzzer system. I was able to secure the funding for 2 full sets of Andersons for my team through the methods outlined above so if there are any further questions please feel free to reach out to me and ask them.
Emily Gunter

Salem High School (Salem, Virginia) '21
Captain 2018-Present

Author of: My Guide to High School Outreach and So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

"It's by Dali, it has the creepy clocks, but I can't remember its name!"

User avatar
Pedro/HCHS
Lulu
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:42 pm

Re: So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

Post by Pedro/HCHS » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:06 pm

Where is "The Judge" buzzer system in this? I feel like it's the best choice for a school hoping to make a solid, long-term investment in a buzzer system.
Pedro Juan Orduz
HCHS '21
this username sucks

"No, Pedro"
-Rachel Yang

User avatar
meebles127
Lulu
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Nov 20, 2017 9:27 am
Location: Salem, Virginia

Re: So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

Post by meebles127 » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:08 pm

I have no personal experience with "The Judge" so I am unable to speak to its durability as well as other factors I considered within my reviews.
Emily Gunter

Salem High School (Salem, Virginia) '21
Captain 2018-Present

Author of: My Guide to High School Outreach and So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

"It's by Dali, it has the creepy clocks, but I can't remember its name!"

User avatar
Cody
2008-09 Male Athlete of the Year
Posts: 2312
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:57 am
Location: Richmond

Re: So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

Post by Cody » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:14 pm

Pedro/HCHS wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:06 pm
Where is "The Judge" buzzer system in this? I feel like it's the best choice for a school hoping to make a solid, long-term investment in a buzzer system.
It's very hard to order a Judge and difficult to repair or replace. Arguably the best long-term investment is an Anderson, replacing parts over time as needed, because it is so cheap. (Which is rendered largely unnecessary if proper packing care is taken.)
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I wrote lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
VCU Tournament Director ‘13-‘17. HSAPQ President ‘15-16.
Hero of Socialist Quizbowl Labor (NSC ‘14). “esteemed colleague” of Snap Wexley, ca. 2016. Stats Hero (Nats ‘16).
Quizbowl at VCU

User avatar
A Very Long Math Tossup
Rikku
Posts: 283
Joined: Mon Dec 19, 2016 10:02 pm
Location: Boulder, CO
Contact:

Re: So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

Post by A Very Long Math Tossup » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:17 pm

Pedro/HCHS wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:06 pm
Where is "The Judge" buzzer system in this? I feel like it's the best choice for a school hoping to make a solid, long-term investment in a buzzer system.
The Judge is a great buzzer system, but everyone I know who's tried to order one in the past couple years has had a hard time getting through to the company.
Matt Mitchell
Colorado '20
Treasure Valley '16
QBNotify creator, Colorado Quiz Bowl founder, PACE member

Urech hydantoin synthesis
Tidus
Posts: 523
Joined: Thu Dec 30, 2010 3:35 pm

Re: So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

Post by Urech hydantoin synthesis » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:50 pm

These buzzer systems on Amazon are possibly the cheapest and smallest full-featured system available, with one of the sets available through Amazon Prime. However, they do make a pretty annoying sound while buzzing.
Ben Zhang

Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell '23
Columbia University '18
Ladue Horton Watkins HS '14

User avatar
Atlashill
Lulu
Posts: 87
Joined: Sun Mar 16, 2014 4:52 pm
Location: Sedalia, MO

Re: So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

Post by Atlashill » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:04 pm

One issue that will need pointed out with the Anderson sets is that the light on the buzzer box is a small LED that, if handled roughly, can end up falling into the box. More critically, if a moderator is used to seeing the light in front of the player, rather than checking the indicator, they might have trouble seeing the LED if it's not pointed directly at them. By comparison, BuzzerSystems' two light designs are much, much brighter. It's also worth noting that the cables BuzzerSystems use have RCA ends, which are a common A/V cable plug. If you do need to get replacement cables, you should be able to find long enough cables at most major retailers and their websites.

I see that the write-up only references Zeecraft's wired systems and not their wireless set. It's probably for the best, as I've run into several issues with the wireless sets, particularly if different sets are set up in neighboring rooms and they're not set to different channels. (If I recall correctly, all the buzzers have to have their frequencies changed.) This has been enough of a problem where some tournaments (most notably NAQT's national tournaments) won't offer discounts or allow their use.
Kyle Hill—Liberty (Mo.) '03—Truman State '07
Moderator for hire based in Sedalia, Mo.

User avatar
meebles127
Lulu
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Nov 20, 2017 9:27 am
Location: Salem, Virginia

Re: So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

Post by meebles127 » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:10 pm

Atlashill wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:04 pm
I see that the write-up only references Zeecraft's wired systems and not their wireless set. It's probably for the best, as I've run into several issues with the wireless sets, particularly if different sets are set up in neighboring rooms and they're not set to different channels. (If I recall correctly, all the buzzers have to have their frequencies changed.) This has been enough of a problem where some tournaments (most notably NAQT's national tournaments) won't offer discounts or allow their use.
I purposely chose to not write about the wireless ones as I have never personally interacted with one and I had read about similar issues occurring with interference.
Emily Gunter

Salem High School (Salem, Virginia) '21
Captain 2018-Present

Author of: My Guide to High School Outreach and So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

"It's by Dali, it has the creepy clocks, but I can't remember its name!"

User avatar
Golran
Auron
Posts: 1033
Joined: Tue Oct 16, 2007 1:23 am
Location: Southern California

Re: So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

Post by Golran » Sun Jun 16, 2019 3:52 pm

Urech hydantoin synthesis wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:50 pm
These buzzer systems on Amazon are possibly the cheapest and smallest full-featured system available, with one of the sets available through Amazon Prime. However, they do make a pretty annoying sound while buzzing.
I purchased this set and brought it with me to HSNCT. It fits in my backpack, and works well with individual lights and standard phone cords as connectors. I'd highly recommend them as a cheap choice.
Drayer the Slayer
currently unaffiliated

Joshua Rutsky
Tidus
Posts: 604
Joined: Mon Oct 24, 2005 9:59 am
Location: Hoover, AL

Re: So You Want to Buy a Buzzer System

Post by Joshua Rutsky » Sat Jun 22, 2019 6:28 am

Just a note regarding the Quik Pro- These were redesigned a couple of years ago and now use much sturdier Cat5 cable as their connectors; the quality of the set is now significantly better in this regard.
Joshua Rutsky
President, Alabama Scholastic Competition Association
Hoover HS Coach, 2007-2019
Member of the Qwiz Team!

Locked