'Headset' is probably the most overused and misunderstood phrase in modern production. The phrase can mean different things to different people, companies and countries.
We have seen many instances where minor mis-understandings have occured. As such this article has been drafted to give clarity to all the different types of headsets and associated equipment. All headset related items in proposals from SXS have a link to this page.
The names given below are what the SXS team use and are intended to remove any ambiguity when communicating what is required or being provided. Phrases other than these should be avoided.
Radio Performer Headset
This is a device that a performer/presenter wears on their head to allow for their voice to be fed into a sound system to that audience members can hear them. These are typically used in conjunction with a radio belt-pack system. The devices we use are very thin and skin-coloured to reduce the visibility on stage. Michael McIntyre uses these for his comedy roadshow. Larger and thicker versions were used by 80s and 90s pop stars such as Madonna and Britney Spears, although we do not use these anymore for aesthetic reasons.
Show Comms Headsets - Wired
'Show Comms' refers to the specialist communications systems we use for "calling" shows. These systems allow for both listening and talking at the same time. These headsets are "closed cup" which means they fully cover your ear to reduce ambient noise. These come in single-muff and double-muff versions. These headsets are attached to a beltpack controller which is in turn physically wired into the rest of the system. Due to the cabling required these devices limit mobility so are best suited to static technicians and managers. SXS primarily use Tecpro and Altair equipment for this. Wired show comms are very affordable to hire.
Show Comms Headsets - Wireless
These are exactly the same as Show Comms Headsets except that the beltpack is wireless. These are compatible with each other. This means that the user can move around freely, so are best suited to front-of-house managers, stage managers etc. These devices allow both listening and talking at the same. SXS use Altair equipment for this purpose. Wireless show comms are considerably more expensive to hire than wired ones, so it is best to only use wireless where essential if your show is on a budget.
Watch a TV talkshow or news show and you will see that the lead presenters generally wear a small ear piece. This allows the show producer to speak to the presenter to update them on the progress of the show. This can be done using an "in-ear monitoring" system (see below). SXS typically uses wireless show comm systems for this though. The reason for this is that we give the presenter the ability to communicate back to the producer very easily. We have specially modified ear-pieces for this purpose.
Watch any modern pop-music performance and you will likely see the lead performers wearing what look like ear-plugs. These are actually very small earphones that allow them to hear the rest of their band and themselves (known as "foldback" or "monitoring"). This system has a transmitter controlled by a sound engineer which transmits to a small belt pack on the performer. The earphones (generally referred to as "in ears" in the UK) are plugged into the beltpack. SXS use Sennheiser in-ear monitoring systems which are considered some of the best in the world.
2-way radio headsets
Imagine a walkie-talkie. Now imagine what an airline pilot wears. That is a 2-way radio headset setup. A very important factor to consider with 2-way radios is that if one person is transmitting their voice no one else is able to. This means that 2-way radios are only suitable for occasional site communication. Although many people use these for "calling" a show we feel they are unsuitable in most cases. SXS use Motorola 2-way radios for site communication as these are very reliable and durable.
2-way radio covert pieces
These are 2-way radio which can either recieve or transmit, but not both at the same time. Covert earpieces are used a lot by security personnel as they are discreet and can be operated easily without large equipment. This can be good for catering managers and other people walking through an event space.
SXS have large stocks of all of the above available to all clients. SXS also hold their own radio frequency licenses for the above.
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