Wireless listening systems make clear audio content available to listeners in theaters regardless of their hearing ability.
But an assistive listening system isn’t just a good idea — it’s the law.
ADA requirements mandate compliant assistive listening systems for any theater using audio amplification or with a capacity of at least 50 audience members.
I’m often asked which assistive listening system is the best wireless solution for a theater with up to 75 listeners. A fixed transmitter wireless listening system with multiple receivers is the best bet for most theaters.
You simply provide a receiver and compatible headphones for each person, and a stationary transmitter broadcasts audio content to each receiver. Most systems allow users to set personally comfortable volume levels.
Among fixed transmitter systems, you have two basic options: FM or infrared.
When to Choose an FM Wireless Listening System
FM systems with multiple receivers and stationary transmitters are ideal for indoor or outdoor theaters alike.
Fixed wireless listening systems feature a stationary transmitter that broadcasts over special radio frequencies allocated by the FCC for use of the hearing impaired.
Just connect the theater’s sound source (whether it’s a projector or a PA system) to the input jacks of the transmitter. The transmitter broadcasts the signal to pre-tuned receivers.
Many systems feature field-tunable receivers in case you encounter interference from competing systems.
Most FM systems are expandable for multiple receivers, so it’s easy to add as many receivers as necessary to cover a small to medium sized theater.
What’s more, FM systems have a major price advantage over IR systems.
When to Choose an IR Wireless Listening System
IR wireless assistive listening systems broadcast using line-of-sight light waves, so the signal is blocked by walls — ensuring that audio content will not bleed into surrounding rooms. This added security is why IR systems are often used in courtrooms.
Reduction of interference is another key advantage of IR systems over FM systems. If you have multiple theaters in the same venue, FM systems can often bleed and overlap.
If this is the case, your best choice is to use an IR system so there’s no risk of competition between transmitters (called “radiators” or “emitters” in IR systems) in adjacent rooms.
Like FM systems, IR wireless listening systems feature individual receivers. But since infrared only broadcasts on one wavelength, there’s no need to tune equipment to matching frequencies.
The main disadvantage of IR systems is their limited range, especially in rooms where there isn’t a direct line of sight between a radiator and all of the receivers.
Depending on the size and shape of the room, you may need to add additional radiators to achieve full coverage, driving up costs.
Wireless Systems Get the Message to Everyone
These assistive listening systems will bring your theater up to ADA standards, but they’ll also do something a lot better — expand your audience to include a full spectrum of satisfied listeners.
If you have more questions about assistive listening devices for your home or theater, call 1-800-263-0112 or email AudioLinks‘ trained staff of audio experts for a free consultation.