How to Find the Best Tour Guide System
What is a Tour Guide system?
A tour guide system is a wireless, portable audio solution that facilitates communication between a person and a group of people when noise or distance pose a challenge. These systems allow the tour guide to actively communicate with the group, provide guidance and information without distracting other visitors or disturbing the atmosphere of the place being visited by having to raise their voice as they would do without this equipment. The communication is point to point from the guide’s microphone to the listeners headphones; this has the benefit of removing any background noise that would cause distraction of the group members and prevent them from concentrating in what’s being said. Neither is the distance from the guide a factor that might disrupt the understanding and flow of information, since the range of the transmitter allows the group members to freely wonder and still be able to listen.
Tour-guide systems may be used during walking tours, visits to museums, bus and river excursions, factory tours, schools and university visits.
How does a Tour Guide system work?
- The tour guide speaks through a microphone connected to a wireless transmitter.
- The audience listens to the guide’s voice through headphones connected to receivers.
- The receivers and the transmitter are tuned into the same channel or frequency.
When do we use a tour guide system?
For Tourism Purposes
A tour guide provides information on the locations and sites visited while the tourist, equipped with an individual receiver, can hear every word. Meanwhile, tourists may safely leave the tour guide, take a photo, take a closer look at an architectural detail, and all the information communicated by the guide will reach the intended audience. Communication will not be hampered by the traffic noise, passers-by or distraction of group members. The tour guide will not need to stop and gather the group or wait for those lagging behind, will not have to worry about missing anyone and will safely reach everyone with their message.
For Factory Tours
Effective, crystal clear communication is essential during tours of factories, laboratories, automotive industries, or manufacturing facilities. Every tour venue is unique and has their own challenges. Many manufacturing processes, machinery and equipment produce high noise levels that may hinder understanding and communication during the tour. Tours might be conducted for a new hire who needs to familiarize himself with the company´s machinery or a foreign investor in need of understanding the potential value of acquiring a plant or making a capital investment in it. Usually, when factories are visited by company representatives or visitors from other companies there’s a lot of noise in the environment. However, a tour guide system consisting of a transmitter and microphone for the person conducting the tour and headphones connected to a digital receiver for the visitors will allow them to hear exactly what they need to. This will enable the company to convey a superior image to their guests, showing the working environment with comfort and ease.
Hard of hearing participants in a tour setting may need assistive listening devices (ALDs) that will allow them to listen directly to the tour guide and control their own listening volume. Tour group systems can be for a single user or additional listening receivers can be added for multiple participants that are hearing impaired. FM portable tour-guide systems fulfill the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements for hearing assistance. These systems allow people with hearing impairments to participate more fully in cultural, sports and many other events such as exhibitions, theatre shows, film showings.
Event coordinators may choose tour guide systems for their international conferences and meetings because of their compact size, ease of use and portability. Tour leaders can also move around and be heard despite background noise or poor acoustics.
Schools and Universities
Tour-group systems are used every year by thousands of high schoolers and their parents as well as prospective college students from around the world when visiting U.S. campuses searching for the institute that fits their academic goals. They facilitate communication when tours are conducted outside in open campus spaces, and the tour guide’s speech and instructions get muffled and are harder to hear and understand. Crystal clear digital communication enhances the experience, ensuring that attendees understand everything they need to hear. Each attendee hears every question and the response givenusing a wireless receiver with headphones. This prevents repetitive inquiries, and everyone gets exactly the same answer in real time.
Tour group systems may also be used for fundraising events, ground-breaking ceremonies, the opening of new campus facilities, commencement ceremonies and more.
Tour guide systems are ideal for portable simultaneous interpretation due to their ease of use, portability, wireless design and minimal set up time. The interpreter hears what is said in the meeting/conference and whispers the translation into the microphone that is connected to a bodypack transmitter. The delegates then hear this translated message instantly without disturbing others.
Some questions you should ask yourself before purchasing a tour-guide system
Analog or digital systems
In the United States, most RF systems for one-way wireless are analog FM (Frequency Modulation) systems in the VHF band. The 72 Mhz-76 Mhz and the 216 Mhz bands are reserved by the FCC for language interpretation and auditory assistance communications. FM tour-guide systems are recommended as they are more economical, portable and easier to set up than IR systems. FM signals can penetrate walls and are consequently immune to light interference.
Digital RF systems for guided tours typically work in the 2.4 Ghz and 1.9 Ghz bands. These systems use radio waves to deliver the message to the audience digitally, similarly to WIFI that transmits information through radio frequency. Digital RF systems are recommended for tour-groups or group conferencing when 2-way communication is needed.
In radio frequency transmission like FM for guided tours, there are visible advantages in analog systems over digital. Analog transmission within the 72-76 MHz frequency range is protected by the FCC for this use. Digital transmission, on the other hand, must be shared by a rising number of digital devices that can saturate the spectrum.
We highly recommend analog FM systems within 72-76 MHz in the USA, Canada and many other countries.
Compliance with the rules of the FCC and IC
To ensure the device complies with the applicable technical requirements, the Federal Communications Commission and Industry Canada require that RF devices are properly authorized. This is the principal way to ensure that RF devices used in the United States or Canada operate effectively without causing harmful interference and comply with these rules.
Fines may be levied against organizations for infringement to FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and IC (Industry Canada) regulations if your equipment does not operate within the permitted frequency range or does not meet the technical standards. There may even be more serious legal consequences for repeat violations.
Nowadays, gear from other countries can be easily found on marketplaces, and no one takes responsibility for that but you. It might even work correctly under another countries' rules, but not in The United States or Canada. Neither can you be absolutely sure that their performance quality had been fully evaluated.
To play safe and avoid costly legal consequences, always purchase systems from US or Canadian retailers that sell FCC and IC approved equipment. Purchasing an FCC/ IC approved system within the 72-76 MHz band, does not require any additional licensing on your part. If purchasing a tour-guide system from a foreign seller, always request the FCC id for the product you intend to purchase and verify their authenticity at FCC website. The FCC id is an alphanumeric code.
Single or multichannel system
- Single frequency receivers are not the best option since they operate with one fixed frequency only.
- A multichannel receiver lets you work with different channels and if the receiver also has an LCD screen, it makes it easier to select among them.
- Multi-channel systems allow you to schedule up to 17 tours at a time and is also preferred for greater flexibility in case of interference.
A case is a good option to carry the system around. Don’t forget to check battery type needed for both receivers and transmitters.
Lithium Batteries Warning!
Avoid cheap, low-quality systems using lithium batteries as they may pose a fire hazard for the user and the venue. To minimize costs, many manufacturers overseas use low-cost, Lithium-ion battery or Lithium-Polymer batteries that are not manufactured under the costly safety standards and materials that these products require, posing a higher fire and explosion risk that increases as these batteries age. The risk is multiplied by the number of batteries that you store.
If shipping or travelling with receivers, keep in mind that most airlines restrict the quantity of lithium items.
Stay away from receivers with built-in rechargeable batteries as the typical lithium battery degrades in about two years, even if they are sitting on a shelf unused, and once the battery dies, you will have to discard the receiver.
Other things to consider before purchasing a system
- Verify the extent of warranty coverage and where it is based.
- Avoid inexpensive systems with low audio volume and poor quality.
We have found that tour guide systems with the Enersound TP-600 transmitter feature all the things covered in this article. A volume knob and a mute button are also extra enhanced features. They are available in packages for 5, 10, 25, 50, 75 or 100 people and other quantities are also available based on your needs. Bottom line, this system turned out to be a remarkably user-friendly, economical, yet high quality package with lifetime warranty making it clearly stand out from the run of the mill equipment you can find on the market.
For a portable option for school open houses, small meetings or plant tours, we recommend the 25-Person Portable Translation / Tourguide System
FAQ's: Tour Guide system
What’s the difference between a tour guide system and an interpretation system?
The main difference is the portability of the transmitter. While all tour guide systems can also be used for interpretation, not all interpretation systems can be used for tours. This is because several interpretation systems feature a stationary transmitter that requires to be plugged into an outlet, thus rendering it inadequate for tours, which usually require mobility.
Are there any downsides to repurpose a tour guide system for interpretation?
That would depend on the setting. If you need to do simultaneous interpretation where the speakers and listeners are on the move, then you already possess the correct system. However, for indoor interpretation in static settings, like a classroom or an auditorium, stationary, desktop-based transmitters are recommended, since these usually feature a longer range than its portable counterparts, as well as other additionally features, like the Interpreter Monitor function on the Enersound T-500.
How many participants can you have in a group doing a tour?
You can have as many as you need, or to be more precise, as many you can comfortably fit within the range of the transmitter. FM signals sent by transmitters don’t degrade regardless of how many devices are picking them up. Portable, bodypack transmitters usually cover a range of about 150 feet.
Do you sell a charger for the Enersound portable transmitter?
Yes, the CHR-600 drop-in charger that you can find here. This charger charges regular rechargeable AA batteries while they are inside the transmitter, without the need to take them out and charge them elsewhere. The transmitter doesn’t employ any built-in non-removable batteries.
In our venue we have people using walkie talkies to organize security and other matters, will these systems interfere with that?
No at all, tour guide systems that fully adhere to FCC regulations and have FCC ID granted, like all the Enersound systems, use special frequencies set aside for these purposes, which other devices like walkie talkies are not allowed to use. This completely removes any chance of interference.
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