Jackboxes Turn Media Players into Classroom Listening Centers

How to choose a jackbox for your classroom listening center

Classroom listening centers enhance visual lessons with audio.

Listening centers (or learning centers) consist of three components: a media player, headphones, and a hub to distribute audio signals to multiple listeners.

Although wireless transmitters or outputs on the media player itself often suffice for a hub, an easy way to distribute sound to multiple listeners is via a jackbox.

What are jackboxes, anyway?

A jackbox links multiple headphones to the audio output of a media player, and features multiple outputs for headphones or other audio connections. They are typically configured for 4, 6, 8, or 10 students, with jackboxes for 6 to 8 students being the most popular.

To help you choose the right jackbox for your classroom listening center, consider the following 4 questions:

4 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Jackbox

1. When should you buy a jackbox?

You should get a jackbox when you want to:

Create a listening center with a separately purchased laptop, media player, multimedia boom box, or even a cassette player.

Expand a listening center because the number of students in your classroom exceeds the number of headphone jacks on your current player or jackbox.

Add individual volume controls to an existing listening center.

2. How many jackboxes do you need?

How large are your study groups?

Many educators have settled on groups of 6-8 students as being the most effective size group for study.

In some cases, especially for teaching younger children, even smaller groups are desirable.

Once you have determined the desired size of your break-out groups, then identify jackboxes with the appropriate number of stations.

3. Should you get a stereo or mono jackbox?

A mono signal consists of a single audio track split between both headphone speakers so that the sound from each speaker is exactly the same. Mono jackboxes tend to be less expensive than stereo, and are usually compatible with older cassette players.

Make sure that you use a mono jackbox with mono headphones. A mono signal may only come through one speaker when used with stereo headphones.

4. Do you need individual volume controls?

Students have different needs, and frequently what is too loud for one may be too quiet for another. For this reason, each student should have individual volume controls to set personally comfortable volume levels.

If your classroom listening center’s headphones don’t include volume controls, jackboxes with individual volume knobs are a simple solution – and less expensive than replacing all of your headphones.

Jackboxes Help You Create Cost-Effective Listening Centers

Hopefully this article has demystified the jackbox for you.

Jackboxes are a useful tool for many classrooms- particularly if you already have part of a listening center (such as headphones & a media player) and simply wish to add stations for more students.

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