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Introduction to Quizbowl


Buzzer system, buzzer, and lockout system are the common names for the device used to indicate which player has signaled that he or she wishes to answer a question first. Such systems are necessary for all standard quizbowl games because they make it clear which player was the first to attempt to answer a question.

While using a buzzer system, players are prevented from buzzing ("locked out") after one player has buzzed until the system is reset.

Ideally, a buzzer system consists of a control box which sits near the moderator, which connects to individual buttons or paddles held by each player. When a player buzzes in, the system produces a sound and activates a light indicating which player buzzed. High-end systems have individual lights next to each player; lower-end systems have labeled lights on a central controller only.

Almost all tournaments require some number of teams to bring buzzers in order to have enough to run the tournament properly; for this reason, TDs usually offer a discount to teams that bring a buzzer. When too few buzzers are present, teams must play slapbowl, where buzzing is indicated by slapping the desk or saying something like "buzz".

Buzzer System Manufacturers

Here is a list of buzzer system manufacturers. The ratings are provided for the benefit of teams shopping for buzzer systems.

This list also includes prices as of May 2017 for minimum systems that meet the NAQT Lockout System Discount Policy (and which will be accepted for discounts at invitational tournaments).


  • Anderson Officiator (website)--affordable, durable, easy to set up ($235 for the Officiator 10-player system)
  • ($299 for the 8-player "traditional" system)
  • Zeecraft ($465 for the 8 player Challenger I system)

Other commonly-used systems

How to buy a buzzer system

New quiz bowl programs commonly ask how and where to buy a buzzer system. All buzzers break, so it is better to buy two $200-$300 systems with good warranties (so a backup is on hand for when one is being fixed) than to buy a $600 system without a warranty just because you've heard the more expensive system is less likely to fail.

There are other concerns about buying a buzzer system for quiz bowl:

  • Quiz bowl does not use "self-resetting" systems; you should buy a buzzer with a moderator reset button.
  • Wireless buzzer systems are inappropriate for tournament play due to the potential for lag.
  • Battery-operated buzzer systems will require you to always keep spare batteries in the case in the event of a mid-tournament battery failure. For tournament use, systems plugging into the mains are preferred (it helps to keep an extension cord in the case because some rooms have inconveniently-located power outlets).
  • Individual player lights on or next to each player's buzzer make it easier for everyone to recognize who has buzzed in first.

External Links