7 Questions To Help Teachers Choose A Listening Center

Classroom Listening Centers like the Califone 6-Student Boombox Listening Center

Regardless of their level of study, many students find it easier to learn by listening rather than by simply looking.

That’s why listening  or learning centers, which add sound to a teacher’s repertoire, are now standard equipment in many schools and classrooms.

A listening center features three primary components:

Media player


Hub that links multiple headsets to the audio source so several students can listen in at the same time

Just as there are many different types of media players and boomboxes, listening centers come in all shapes and sizes.

Here’s our list of questions teachers should ask themselves when choosing a listening or learning center for their classroom:

7 Questions to Help Teachers Choose a Listening Center

1. What kind of media player will you need?

You may already have a player that will play all the media you have on hand, and it either has multiple headphone jacks or a place to connect a jackbox (see question 3 below).

If this is the case, you can save some cash – most often, the media player is the priciest portion of the listening center.

So you’ll need to know what type of media you will be playing:

2. What kind of media will you need to play?

If you need to buy a player, consider the media you have on hand.

Do you have a large legacy library of cassette tapes? Although this is less common, it happens. If this is your situation, you may find that you can get by with an inexpensive cassette-player-based listening center.

On the other hand, a library that offers SD cards or CDs will be better served by a listening center that includes a multimedia boombox.

3. Do you need a jackbox?

If your media player doesn’t have enough headphone jacks (as is often the case), you’ll need some sort of hub to plug in more headphones.

This hub is most commonly called a jackbox. The number of headphone jacks your jackbox has will determine the number of listeners that can use the center.

Keep in mind that young students like to listen at different volume levels. A jackbox with individual volume controls is a helpful accessory.

4. Should you choose a mono or stereo listening center?

Whether you need a stereo listening center or not depends on your curriculum and your budget.

A mono jackbox cost less, so if you’re using a listening center for no-frills, speech-based lessons, mono should well serve your needs.

If, on the other hand, you have more sophisticated source material (such as lessons that incorporate music), students will require a stereo jackbox for students to get the most out of the material.

It’s a good idea to check the output of your media player to see if it’s mono or stereo. Although many jackboxes are compatible with both mono and stereo players, mono audio plugs don’t always work with stereo jacks – and vice versa.

5. How will you carry your listening center from place to place?

Having an all-in-one listening center complete with media player, headphones and jackbox is great, but how easy is it to move from one classroom to another?

Many listening centers come with handy carrying cases that make transporting easy, and protect the individual components as well. If the center is large (6 listeners or more), a carrying case is essential.

6. Should your listening center be interactive?

Will your classes record responses from students wearing headsets? If so, be sure  your listening center has an interactive USB jackbox.

USB jackboxes transfer students’ responses through its USB plug to a Mac or PC computer for high-speed connection where their answers can be stored and replayed from for instant feedback and to check their progress.

7. How much power should your listening center provide?

There may be times when you want to dispense with the headsets and use the media player to play audio to an entire classroom.

For this reason, it’s important to pay attention to your media player’s power output (usually expressed in watts).

If you’re instructing larger classes, or teaching outside, you’ll need more power than in a small room. Lower power means you’ll have to turn up the volume, which could distort the audio (and make the lesson very unpleasant to listen to).

Have questions about finding a listening center that’s right for you and your classroom? Email or call us at 1-800-263-0112 for more sound advice on classroom AV!