Silent Discos – All Your Questions Answered

Silent discos are very fun music events that use headphones and transmitters. Music is transmitted into the people’s headphones instead of using a speaker system.

This gives the effect that everybody in the room is dancing to silence. Often, at least two DJs are competing for the attention of the listeners. So sometimes half the crowd will be dancing to one song and half the crowd will be singing to another.

It allows for a very fun and even competitive atmosphere which you would not get in a regular setting.

How do silent discos work?

A silent disco works by using transmitters and headphones. The DJ will play as they usually do, but instead of the audio feed going through a speaker system, it goes through the mixer, which outputs the sound to a wireless transmitter.

The wireless transmitter will transmit the sound to the headphones, usually using radio waves.

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How much do silent discos cost to run?

Silent school equipment can be rented or purchased. If you are just doing a one-time event, such as a corporate event or a wedding, it makes a lot more sense to rent the equipment.

Please note, that rental fees for silent disco equipment vary wildly. From one source we checked, it can cost around $700 to rent 100 headphones and all associated gear for a night (transmitters and cables). Make sure to shop around and get a few quotes from different providers.

You can also buy the headphones in bulk from a local dealer or through a retailer online, but they are not cheap!

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Playing music through a silent disco transmitter

Some silent disco transmitters have a one 1/4″ auxiliary input, which would allow you to play music directly from your phone (such as through Spotify, Apple Music, or mp3s on your phone) to the transmitter without needing an external mixer.

However, we recommend if possible to use a mixer because then you can boost the signal if necessary and also use a microphone. However, if you want to keep it easy, you can just use the auxiliary cable.

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Using deposits

Stolen headphones are a risk for silent disco events. A good approach to take in this case is to require anybody that’s going to the event to give a deposit for the headphones. For example, they may need to deposit $20 in order to receive the headphones, and then when they leave the headphones back later in the night they get back their $20.

This deposit can be on top of the entrance fee for the venue or for the show on the night.

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How are silent disco headphones powered?

Silent disco headphones can be powered either via batteries (usually either AAA and AA) or they can be rechargeable headphones. It depends on the type that you are using.

This might sound like common sense, but if you are using rechargeable headphones, make sure they are fully charged before the event, as you won’t be able to quickly swap out batteries if they go dead!

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Analog vs Digital Silent Disco (Radio Waves vs Bluetooth)

The most common type of silent disco uses radio waves. The benefit of the radio waves is that it’s real-time so you can broadcast out to hundreds of silent disco headphones using your transmitter. This is very useful, particularly if you are broadcasting a live performance through the silent disco.

It would be very strange for the audience if there was latency or lag in between when something happens on stage and when the listener actually hears it. The drawback of using analog silent disco headphones is the potential for noise interference. There can easily be interference caused by other radio transmissions or electrical equipment which can severely impact the quality of the sound.

Bluetooth is another possible option to use to transmit to headphones, but the technology makes it a little bit more difficult to run these events.

You will often have to pair directly from devices, and there can be latency. The range on Bluetooth is usually quite a bit less than radio waves (maybe up to 10 times lower). So if you’re broadcasting over a large area, it might not be feasible.

However, if you’re running a small event, and where people can download apps to their phones and connect to your transmission digitally. Then this can be a good case for you to use Bluetooth for transmission. If people are using their phones as the receiver, then you don’t have to worry about buying specialized headphones.

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Sound quality of silent disco

The sound quality of silent discos is generally not great. Silent disco headphones are rarely manufactured to be really high quality. The headphones are quite disposable, people can easily drop them and it would just cost too much money for organizers to invest in serious high-quality headphones.

The sound can often lack bass and the quality of headphones can vary quite a lot. Some older sets of headphones might have gone through a lot of wear and tear that they do not sound very good.

Silent Disco events need to have plenty of spare headphones. If event guests have issues with their headphones (either the battery is dead or the headset is faulty), you need to be able to give them an alternative set.

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Two DJs at once at a silent disco event

There are often two DJs competing for your listenership. You can switch between these either using a button on the headphones themselves or via a little wheel.

The DJs will often play either different styles of music or they’ll have similar genres and just be competing based on their song selection and song mixing. It’s a really fun thing to go back and forth between different songs and look around you to see what people are dancing to.

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Are silent discos legal?

We’re going to talk about silent discos using radio waves for this.

Based on guidance from silent disco manufacturers, as long as you’re using public radio waves then you will not be breaking the law.

However, we are not legal advisors. If you are running a silent disco event then make sure you check with a local expert.

In general, if you start broadcasting through non-public FM radio frequencies, then you could that could be classed as a pirate radio station (even if it’s over a pretty small area) and you could be breaking the law.

If you use silent disco headphones that are certified based on the laws of your country, then these should use radio waves that are public and therefore legal for you to actually play.

Make sure to verify what equipment you are using and check with local advisors in the area if you are planning to start a large silent disco event because you could be interfering with the radio waves of an established radio station and this could be problematic.

This is particularly important if you are buying equipment from outside of your country.

This is not a problem for digital means such as BlueTooth. When you have a digital silent disco, you are not using radio waves, and so you will not be creating a pirate radio station through your broadcast!

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What is the range of a silent disco

This varies based on your equipment, the range might be up to 100 meters or so when using radio waves. However, be sure to check the specifications of the equipment that you are buying or renting.

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Are silent disco headphones compatible with all transmitters?

No, they are not. It depends on the model that you’re using. Sometimes silent disco headphones, even from the same manufacturer, might not work with your transmitter. Make sure to check with your headphones distributor before you try and mix and match equipment.

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Silent Disco LED lighting and design

Most cheaper silent disco headphones are just designed like regular headphones with a plain design.

However, if you want to take it to the next level. Some of the higher-end headphones include LED lights that can flash and will light up a dance floor. This can have a really cool effect.

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Silent disco tours

If you’ve ever taken a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. You will definitely have seen many people dancing around in tours throughout the city, usually led by one man dressed in colorful clothes. No doubt, this has been brought to other cities too.

This is a silent disco tour. Each person pays for the tour and they are taken around an entertaining tour around the city through song and dance. Although this is really fun for the guests that are involved, and it seems that most of the public thought this was a fun initiate, it also received some negative reactions from people. You can never please everybody!

We think it’s a very cool thing to do. When you’re in a festival atmosphere, you’re always going to have interesting and fun quirky things around the city.

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Summary

That’s our guide on silent discos, how they work, and how to put on a silent disco show.

If you have any questions about how a silent discos work, be sure to ask in the comment section below.

Featured image by: Edinia / CC BY-SA

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