Buzzers

This forum is for anyone seeking advice on starting a collegiate team, branching out into new types of tournaments, or other "how-to" aspects of collegiate quizbowl.
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Matt Weiner
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Buzzers

Post by Matt Weiner »

This topic is for questions about buying and maintaining buzzer systems.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Mike Bentley »

Here are my buzzer recommendations:

The buzzer that's right for your team varies depending on your needs.

Our team has very limited funds and needs the cheapest buzzer available: In this case, I would opt for an SVBZ (http://www.svbz.com/). An 8 player system costs only $190, which makes it probably the cheapest buzzer system on the market. SVBZs are reliable enough to work in practice, but if you're counting on one to use for buzzer discounts or to run at your own tournaments, look elsewhere. SVBZs are notoriously unreliable, having a tendency for the entire system to fail in new and unusual ways. Thankfully it comes with a three year warranty, but this still takes a lot of time and you have to pay about $15 in postage each time you send some buzzers in to get fixed.

Our team needs a portable buzzer system to use at student activity fairs and other unusual events: I would also purchase an SVBZ (http://www.svbz.com/) in this case. They are battery powered, so they make decent portable buzzer systems.

Our team needs a good, reliable system to use at tournaments: I'd suggest picking up an Anderson Buzzer or a Zeecraft, with emphasis on an Anderson Buzzer. You can find an Anderson Buzzer available for anywhere between $180 and $250 at http://www.andersonbuzzersystems.com/. Zeecrafts are more expensive and probably break a little more, but they're pretty easy to fix if you have any experience at soldering. You can find Zeecrafts for around $350 for a 10 player system at http://www.zeecraft.com/. Make sure to not buy the timer on the Zeecraft, because you won't need one and it costs extra money. It's not a bad idea to order some extra buzzers for the Zeecraft to prevent the problem of there being many broken lights on the system.

Our team needs a system with the most buzzers possible: Chicago has some unit with 20 buzzer slots, but from what I remember it's somewhat unreliable and I also don't know its name. I would personally suggest The Knot (aka the Quizwizard II; I can't seem to find their website at the moment, but you can e-mail [email protected] if you're interested in ordering). It supports up to 16 players (although you need to call out the buzzer number from the main system), and is a very reliable system. The draw back is that the 16 player system costs around $650, making it one of the most expensive buzzer systems.

Our team needs the most reliable system out there: This is a subjective question. I'd consider The Knot to be the most reliable system (the Maryland team has had no buzzers break in the four years since it got refurbished and have had no issues with a new system it bought last year), but others may disagree. Despite what you may hear, do not buy a system known as The Judge based on its alleged reliability. This system is in fact one of the most unreliable and hard to use systems out there.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

The Chicago unit that has 24 (I think) buzzers on it can be found here:
http://quizequipment.com/

In my opinion, this is the greatest buzzer system I have ever had the honor of working with. Each player on your team can use either a thumb plunger or a judge paddle because it is modular. In my three years at Chicago, I don't remember it ever breaking, except in the sense that sometimes people dropped it and parts fell off. But that would happen with any buzzer. I remember far more problems with Chicago's knot, which was broken for most of the time that I was a student at Chicago. (Maybe it broke a lot before or after I left, though. Susan knows a lot more than I do about these things).

Also, this unit is far more pleasing to look at and listen to than the knot, which seems like WW2-era or Soviet-made technology.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by cvdwightw »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:Despite what you may hear, do not buy a system known as The Judge based on its alleged reliability. This system is in fact one of the most unreliable and hard to use systems out there.
I heartily endorse this statement. Both UCLA and UCI recently bought Judges to supplement or replace their existing buzzer systems. UCLA's Judge came with one light not working, and over the next two weeks almost an entire side stopped working. UCI's system was delivered far later than we were led to believe the order would be produced, and as we have had problems stuffing the entire set of buzzers/reset button/power cord inside the box, this has led to all the electronic stuff threatening to fall out.

On another note, you should consider the size and arrangements of the room(s) you intend to practice in. If you usually practice in a large room or a room with individual desks, you shouldn't buy anything that's daisy-chained and should look for something with individual buzzers.

Lastly, many of us who have regularly played on the system vouch for the Quiz-a-Matic as the best buzzer system ever. Unfortunately, they aren't being made anymore, but if for some strange reason you find someone selling one on eBay or something, you are encouraged to at least look at it.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by QuizBowlRonin »

While there isn't an fund like http://www.mattsbuzzers.com for colleges, I was thinking that we could round up some money together to support new teams that lack institutional support needing buzzer systems, in memory of Matt.

I would be glad to contribute some startup funds.

Oh, and while Michael and Sheryl Cvijanovich are not actively seeking funds for Matt's Buzzers, they will still take contributions.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by theMoMA »

Judges are very unlikely to stop being functional, though you'll have to live with peeling paddles and the occasional burnt-out light. I'm a fan of paddle buzzers, so I like the Judge.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by CobraCuz89 »

Which kind of buzzers are better? Table-top button buzzers or Hand-held button buzzers?
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Matt Weiner »

CobraCuz89 wrote:Which kind of buzzers are better? Table-top button buzzers or Hand-held button buzzers?
All else being equal, tabletop units with lights in front of each individual player are a little more convenient for players and moderators. I believe that the Anderson system offers the tabletop model for the same price as the other kinds.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by CobraCuz89 »

Matt Weiner wrote:
CobraCuz89 wrote:Which kind of buzzers are better? Table-top button buzzers or Hand-held button buzzers?
All else being equal, tabletop units with lights in front of each individual player are a little more convenient for players and moderators. I believe that the Anderson system offers the tabletop model for the same price as the other kinds.
oh ok I see. hmm I'm thinking about getting an Anderson system for our new team at UNLV.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

I have to disagree with Matt here; I think a lot of players prefer paddle or thumb-plunger type buzzers over table top buzzers, as they find it easier to have a buzzer that they can hold in their hand.

Though Anderson's tabletop buzzers are cheaper than their other models, which may be an advantage.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by OntarioQuizzer »

I just wanted to chime in on this thread to say that not everybody has had issues with SVBZ's buzzers. I have yet to have a failure with my SVBZ buzzers since I purchased a set of them two years ago (this includes usage at least a half-dozen tournaments).
Last edited by OntarioQuizzer on Thu Nov 06, 2008 7:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Captain Sinico »

I wanted to let you all know that, as soon as we get our BuzzerSystems.com system back (this Saturday, presumably) I will be repairing several wiring issues and one loose LED in our Judge. If there's demand, I may post a step-by-step guide with photos once I figure out what I'm doing.

MaS

PS: I should also note that we've sent our Judge back to Electramatic to effect these repairs several times and they always failed to do so reliably (whatever they did, the exact same problems just happened again within a week, which leads me to believe they didn't really do much of anything.) Therefore, I'm going to suggest that, if you send yours in for repairs to them, you tell them exactly what you want to do (as in "replace this wire" or "re-solder this LED.")
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Re: Buzzers

Post by btressler »

I agree with much of what Mike says.

I also think that SVBZ buzzers are prone to epic failure. We have three, and they have been unreliable lately. Granted, my buzzers also take heavy use during the year. But I wanted more use than a time measured in months.

I like the Judge a lot, but will not be buying another one anytime soon. Lately, Eltramatics customer service has left much to be desired. I had to call like five times to order a new plug, the guys who handles the orders was never in. Then the University of Delaware team ordered one and didn't actually get it until like 2-3 months later. They also had to call multiple times.

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Re: Buzzers

Post by Matthew D »

Mike I would be interested in your step by step
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Captain Sinico »

Yeah, I've had a lot of bad experiences with SZVB's, too. They're the only system I've ever played on that didn't lock out (like, the one at CO lit just let as many people as wanted buzz... I don't know what's up with that.)
Also in the repair offing: me replacing the RJ-22 (telephone-style) connectors on several of our ZeeCraft modules and maybe re-soldering the guts of one of the modules, if I can decisively determine that that's what's wrong with it. Pictures and step-by-step instructions will be included.
Incidentally, does anyone have the wiring diagram for or knowledge about how to repair a ZeeCraft module? The one bad one we've got has a rather odd issue: it buzzes but doesn't light, but the bulb's okay and I think the wiring to the bulb fixture is okay, too (it was disconnected when I opened the module, but I've reconnected it with no good results.)

MaS

PS: Does anyone have a way to get cheap ZeeCraft module lightbulbs or LED's that will fit in those housings? Replacing those bulbs is going to get real expensive at the rate we're breaking them.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Mike Bentley »

Captain Scipio wrote:Yeah, I've had a lot of bad experiences with SZVB's, too. They're the only system I've ever played on that didn't lock out (like, the one at CO lit just let as many people as wanted buzz... I don't know what's up with that.)
Also in the repair offing: me replacing the RJ-22 (telephone-style) connectors on several of our ZeeCraft modules and maybe re-soldering the guts of one of the modules, if I can decisively determine that that's what's wrong with it. Pictures and step-by-step instructions will be included.
Incidentally, does anyone have the wiring diagram for or knowledge about how to repair a ZeeCraft module? The one bad one we've got has a rather odd issue: it buzzes but doesn't light, but the bulb's okay and I think the wiring to the bulb fixture is okay, too (it was disconnected when I opened the module, but I've reconnected it with no good results.)

MaS

PS: Does anyone have a way to get cheap ZeeCraft module lightbulbs or LED's that will fit in those housings? Replacing those bulbs is going to get real expensive at the rate we're breaking them.
You guys really need to replace ZeeCraft lights so fast that the maybe $10 replacement light bulb pack gets expensive? Wow.

That being said, I did fix all of our ZeeCraft buzzers (probably close to 16 in all) last year and we were down to 6 with working lights by the spring, but I imagine a lot of those were just due to wires getting loose rather than the lights actually failing.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Captain Sinico »

I'd say we're averaging one failed bulb per week of use; I'll readily acknowledge that's abnormally high and due to our own lack of care in handling the system.

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Re: Buzzers

Post by cvdwightw »

Captain Scipio wrote:I'd say we're averaging one failed bulb per week of use
I believe this was the rate of failure with UCLA's (BRAND SPANKIN' NEW!) Judge, so it's not like a Zeecraft-exclusive problem.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Captain Sinico »

Well, the Judge uses LED's which really shouldn't be burning out... so... Among systems I've seen, incandescent bulb burnout is pretty much unique to ZeeCraft.

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Re: Buzzers

Post by cvdwightw »

Ah, ok. Still confused as to how UCLA got progressive LED failure then.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Captain Sinico »

I'm not sure. Usually, LED failure is due to the leads for the LED coming loose from their anchors on the breadboard. You can diagnose that it's that by buzzing in with a non-lighting buzzer, then moving the LED around to see if you can re-establish contact (that works for our Judge, so I know loose contacts are the problem for us.) This can be fixed with soldering, I think: as we got our good system back yesterday, we'll soon find out.
I guess it's also possible that the LED's are, in fact, burning out. I've only ever seen that happen to an LED due to much-too-high voltage, but perhaps there's a design flaw in your Judge that's causing just that? I don't know.

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Re: Buzzers

Post by Mike Bentley »

Does anyone know how to take apart a handheld Zeecraft buzzer (i.e. the black thing with the finger grips that you hold in your hand and which connects to the central unit)? My hypothesis is that I somehow break the red switch on top you use to buzz off, but I don't want to break it.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Golran »

I might be thinking of another type, but does the little black thing the red thing is inside screw off? This might be the table-top Zee-craft though, I'm not sure.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by Mike Bentley »

dinoian wrote:I might be thinking of another type, but does the little black thing the red thing is inside screw off? This might be the table-top Zee-craft though, I'm not sure.
No, there is nothing that looks like it screws off. There is just a wire going into a solid piece of black plastic with a switch on top.
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Re: Buzzers

Post by BobGHHS »

PS: Does anyone have a way to get cheap ZeeCraft module lightbulbs or LED's that will fit in those housings? Replacing those bulbs is going to get real expensive at the rate we're breaking them.
Mike,
Are you talking about the actual lights for the buzzers themselves here? Because if so, we always were able to get packets of them through Radio Shack or by searching sites on the web for much cheaper than the roughly $1.50 per light it used to cost through ZeeCraft themselves.
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