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.
- Anderson Officiator (website)--affordable, durable, easy to set up ($265 for the Officiator 10-player system)
- Buzzersystems.com ($299 for the 8-player "traditional" system)
- Zeecraft ($465 for the 8 player Challenger I system)
Other commonly-used systems
- The Knot
- Quizco ($325 for buzzer system option A)
- Quik Pro ($289 for 8-player basic system)
- The Judge
- Slammer Systems
- Homemade buzzers
- Smartphone Buzzers e.g. I Buzzed First!
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.
- Phone- and tablet-based buzzer systems are inappropriate for tournament play and serious practice due to the potential for distraction or cheating by using such devices' other functions.
- 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 building power 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.