3 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Boombox

Choose a multimedia boombox that’s ideal for you!

What is a multimedia boombox?

Multimedia boomboxes deliver sound from a wide variety of audio and video media: including cassette tapes, SD cards, CD’s, MP3’s, DVD’s, and even AM/FM radio broadcasts.

Whether you’re supplying music for a dance class, listening to the news in the kitchen, or teaching a room full of noisy pupils, a multimedia boombox can fill the room with high-quality sound at the push of a button.

Their ability to support the whole gamut of electronic media makes boomboxes particularly suited for classroom applications, especially in schools with audio libraries that include a range of audio (and video) formats from all eras.

While nearly all boomboxes are capable of reproducing music in stereo with two or more speakers, modern multimedia boomboxes also offer additional features.

Features commonly found in modern boomboxes include:

variable speed playback for interactive language studies

microphones to allow teachers to talk over audio programs

scalable options for companion speakers to cover large classrooms

multiple headphone jacks for conversion into classroom listening centers

Slots and USB ports for use of external hard drives, computers, or SD flash memory cards

Read on for 3 questions to ask before buying a boombox for your classroom!

1. What types of media should your boombox play?

With today’s variety of audio formats, finding a player that can handle all (or even most) of them can be a challenge.

The trick is to find a boombox which can play the existing media in a school library and still accommodate new forms or titles.

Fortunately, multimedia boomboxes support playback of many different analog and digital formats:

Cassette tapes are still a prevalent format in many school libraries. If this is true at your school, be sure your boombox can play cassette tapes. Most cassette boomboxes also record as well, which is a handy feature for allowing students to copy lessons for later use.

Compact disc boomboxes play CDs, and many also feature programmable functions for customized music or audio playback.

AM/FM radio reception allows classes to listen to radio broadcasts or record them to cassette or internal memory to play back in the future.

DVD boomboxes play DVDs when used with an additional external video monitor. Some (like the Hamilton Sound Vision boombox pictured above) feature built-in monitors for stand-alone use.

CDRs and MP3 data disk playback allows teachers to create their own audio curriculum on CDRs. In addition to standard audio files, many boomboxes play burned discs containing MP3s or other files.

SD cards and USB drives connect to compatible boomboxes to allow transfer of files into internal memory. Some boomboxes with internal memory can also record data files.

Players with cassette playback or digital memory often support variable speed playback of media, which allows listeners to slow down or speed up the audio. This is ideal for interactive language materials or other lessons involving repeated drills.

2. How big is your classroom?

Once you have an idea of what kinds of media your boombox should play, consider your classroom size, as well as the acoustics of the room.

For small classrooms with no acoustic challenges a 1 or 2 Watt boombox should suffice.

For larger classes or spaces with noticeable echo consider higher Wattage. Keep in mind that it’s better to opt for too much power rather than too little.

To evenly distribute sound coverage in large classrooms, or where the boombox isn’t at the front of the room, a system with companion speakers or with multiple built-in speakers can radiate sound a full 360 degrees to all corners of the room.

Classroom audio manufacturers offer boomboxes in varying Wattages for all types of classrooms, including models with microphone inputs to amplify the teacher’s voice or speak over an audio program. This is a great feature to save voices and allow real-time narration of lessons.

3. Should you upgrade to a full listening center?

Multimedia boomboxes are best suited for playing audio for an entire class at the same time. For small group study, however, it’s a good idea to have a classroom listening center with multiple headphone stations.

Classroom listening centers present customized materials to small groups of students without disturbing others in the class.

Listening centers consist of 3 elements: a media player, a jackbox or hub with multiple headphone jacks to distribute audio signals, and headphones.

With the addition of optional headphones (and a jackbox, if needed), multimedia boomboxes are easily converted into listening centers.

A word on jackboxes: Most boomboxes feature output jacks to connect jackboxes to expand the number of headphone listeners. Some boomboxes feature built-in multiple headphone jacks (or even infrared wireless transmission) to allow connection with multiple headphones without the purchase of a jackbox.

In either case, to create a listening center you will also have to buy and connect your multimedia boombox to compatible stereo or mono headphones.

Boomboxes are multimedia solutions at the head of their class

With all the boomboxes to choose from, there’s sure to be one that fits your classroom! And by choosing only the features you need, you’re sure to find one that fits your budget.

If you still have questions about boomboxes or other classroom A/V equipment, call ( 1-800-263-0112 ) or email AudioLink’s trained staff of experts for more sound advice!