Jackboxes Turn Media Players into Classroom Listening Centers

How to choose a jackbox for your classroom listening center

Classroom listening centers generally combine three components: a media player, a jackbox (or hub) to distribute audio signals, and headphones.

No doubt you’re familiar with media players and headphones.

The distribution hub is less well-known. The hub links multiple headphones to a media player so several students can listen in at the same time. The listening center hub can be an infrared transmitter, built-in headphone jacks on a media player, or a jackbox.

A jackbox is a separate component which 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.

Jackboxes are usually pre-packaged with headphones and media players in classroom listening centers.

Jackboxes can be purchased individually.

A jackbox can also be purchased in kits that include headphones and carrying cases.

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

1. When should you buy a jackbox or jackbox kit?

You should get a jackbox when you want to:

Create a listening center with a separately purchased cassette media player multimedia boom box.

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?

It’s not just a question of counting your students.

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.

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

Now you can count students and divide by the number of stations to arrive at the correct number of jackboxes.

One final note: Forming “daisy chains” of jackboxes can be an economical way to expand listening centers without purchasing additional media players, but keep in mind that linking them in this way will reduce the number of available jacks.

3. Should you get a stereo or mono jackbox?

A monaural (or 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 media such as cassette tapes.

Stereo sound, on the other hand, not only improves the sound of music, but also allows for the reproduction of lessons where different instructions may come from different speakers, such as in some language learning applications.

It’s important to 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.

Note: Some headphones are switchable between both mono and stereo sources, but others may have to connect with compatible jackboxes in order to function properly in your classroom listening center.

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.

Some classroom listening center headphones feature volume controls built into the cords or on the earcups. If this is the case, you may be able to choose a somewhat more economical jackbox without volume controls.

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.

In conclusion: Jackboxes are cost effective components in classroom 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 want to save money by purchasing additional headphones along with your jackbox, AudioLink carries a full selection of jackbox & headphone kits – many of which also include storage racks and carrying cases.

AudioLink also offers a full line of classroom learning centers featuring boomboxes, cassette tape players, and other media players.

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!