Catchbox: The Throwable Microphone [Review]
Catchbox Pro: What Is It?
Catchbox is a soft, cube-shaped microphone, which is designed to be thrown from one participant to another. It works well for conferences, meetings, workshops and lectures – basically any event where the audience can ask questions and give feedback. The Catchbox is great for breaking down barriers and formalities to encourage contribution and make it fun to get involved.
The Catchbox 2.4 (the first release) is a standalone wireless microphone system and works up to a 30m/100ft range, for groups of up to 100 people. The Catchbox Pro, the one we are reviewing here, is different from the original as it has a range of up to 90m/300ft and works with your event audio visual setup. It requires a sound desk and a third-party belt-pack transmitter which is compatible with the 3 major manufacturers (Shure, AKG, Sennheiser).
One of the 10 principles of good design, according to Dieter Rams, is that a product is easily understandable, ideally self-explanatory. Catchbox is certainly a simple concept, easy to comprehend, without needing too much explanation.
The Main Categories of Features Are:
Integration. Catchbox Pro is designed to work with professional belt-pack transmitters from the 3 main brands to integrate with the event sound system. It comes with different adapter cables for fast set up.
Auto Mute. The active auto mute feature inside the Catchbox Pro senses the motion of the device and temporarily switches off the audio when the Catchbox is caught, thrown, or dropped to ensure no unwanted sounds.
Customization. You can create a custom Catchbox with your brand base colour and logos on two or four sides. Other bespoke covers can be ordered to match different events and clients.
Event planners will be well aware of the downsides of traditional hand held microphones, which seem to instill a sense of fear and aversion to sharing in many attendees. It can seem excruciatingly slow for the runner to get the mic across the room or along the row to the person that wants to speak, who invariably will not wait and starts shouting to the room, before realizing this is futile and having to repeat their message when the mic finally reaches them. Once the mic is in their hands some inevitably are flummoxed by the red light or try to switch it on themselves, despite reassurances from event staff that it is switched on and working. Others will hold the microphone on their lap, rather than speaking into it, causing the sound guy to try to work magic and up the volume on input that isn’t there in the first place (despite polite requests and increasingly urgent demonstrations from the mic runner for the participant to hold the mic close to their mouth when speaking). Does this all sound familiar?
Catchbox combats many of these issues as it is thrown about the room, it is fast and fun to use (almost like a game), there are no outside lights or buttons to cause confusion and it picks up sound from virtually any angle. Having seen the Catchbox in action at a live event I noticed that it seems to change the mindset of those contributing and automatically shifts the event outlook to a more participative, conductive and equal platform. For many planners, gone are the days of monologues, two-way engagement is the objective and so this is a great tool to help you achieve it and can act as an icebreaker.
Of course some people have a real aversion to speaking publicly so using a tool such as this isn’t going to change the mindset of these people, however it may reduce the apprehension and break down the barriers for some of your audience, even if they wouldn’t normally speak out. The fast pace of throwing the device may also give your audience less time to think about it and get nervous! As mentioned in Engaging Events don’t focus on the use of microphones in your pre-event marketing as although some will relish the idea, it may make others nervous of attending. Your facilitator should also give the participants some “thinking time” before requesting input from the crowd to get the best results.
The Catchbox Pro is technically a module that converts a belt-pack transmitter into a throwable microphone. Instead of plugging a lavalier/madonna/lapel microphone to the belt-pack, as is usually the case, the belt-pack is placed inside the Catchbox Pro which comes with its own integrated microphone and the auto mute circuitry.
If you are running a small event without amplified sound you cannot use the Catchbox Pro. Before your event you will need to check with your AV or production company what belt-pack transmitter system they use to ensure that the Catchbox will integrate, otherwise it may be a non-starter. Catchbox works with the three main brands (AKG, Shure and Sennheiser) and adapters are included for all three brands with each product. Once the sound desk and mics have been set up and tested to the correct frequency it literally takes less than a minute to attach the transmitter within the centre of the cube. The Catchbox twists and locks with a magnetic fastening. A word of warning though – older models and Sony are not supported by Catchbox as they are too heavy to be incorporated, which will be a disappointment if the venue or AV team work with these.
The Catchbox Pro ensures greater sound quality by allowing sound engineers to use their own equipment, which they are familiar with, and which work on dedicated microphone frequencies suited for larger events that have multiple wireless microphones working simultaneously. By working through your sound desk your sound engineers have control of the sound levels, as with any of the mics in use at the event. The Pro version avoids the potential problems of the original Catchbox which works on the same spectrum as the WiFi frequency and so may drop out if the network gets too crowded. Catchbox Pro does not rely on the WiFi network and will not interfere with other WiFi based technologies.
The belt-pack transmitters generally have a 10 hour battery life. Inside you also need an AA battery for the auto mute function, which has a 12-hour battery life. Unfortunately this isn’t powered by the mic pack or combined. The Catchbox sensors monitor for motion, and turn the audio off when the device is thrown, caught, or dropped. As is good practice, the AV technicians should put in fresh batteries at the start of each live show day to avoid any issues with the power dying.
Event planners are always looking for increased brand exposure for the event or their sponsors and customizing your Catchbox is a novel way to place graphics in front of the audience and perhaps even in front of the cameras. More than half of all Catchbox orders are customized and for the small additional cost this makes complete sense. You can also purchase the Custom Covers separately so you don’t have to buy a complete Catchbox package every time.
The base colour can be matched to any RGB colour and you can add a maximum of two visuals or logos which is repeated on the opposite side, so it shows on either two or four sides of the cube. The customization process takes two weeks, plus three days for shipping so bear this in mind if you are on a short lead time for the event. Catchbox are looking to reduce this turnaround time in the near future.
Even though the Catchbox is simple to use it always makes sense for the MC to quickly explain what it is and how to use it to put everyone at ease. The Catchbox potentially eliminates having mic runners and so may reduce your event staffing requirements.
The Catchbox Pro can work with an unlimited audience size – it is only limited by the strength of the transmitter used. It is possible to use multiple Catchbox devices at the same time – the only limit to this is the number of mic channels and transmitters available on your sound desk. If you have a large room or different zones, such as a balcony, you could employ a Catchbox in these different areas. To do this though it would be wise to still have a mic runner responsible for supervising the Catchbox and helping the facilitator by indicating when someone in their area wishes to contribute. In a straightforward, compact room the moderator may have two or three Catchbox available to send out and control as the first one is returned back to them.
You should get your AV team involved early instead of just showing up on the event day with the product. They will not only need to provide a compatible belt-pack transmitter, but also make sure that the speakers in the room are placed correctly so that microphones used by the audience do not cause feedback. As Catchbox uses an omni-directional microphone there is more chance of feedback if the Catchbox gets too close to the speakers and of course a delegate at your event may not know the reason for this and how to solve it by moving away.
The Catchbox is made from a soft foam and is lightweight so it is safe to use. Nevertheless it may be worth noting within your risk assessment that you will be using a throwable device. As with all mics it is also best practice not to thrust it upon (throw it to) anyone that isn’t willing to contribute.
- Designed to work with professional mic belt-pack transmitters from Shure, Sennheiser and AKG.
- Catchbox comes with different adapter cables that connect different belt-pack transmitters to the inner electronics; 4 pin mini XLR (Shure), 3.5mm jack (Sennheiser), 3 pin mini XLR (AKG).
- Magnetic locking, twist and pull to access the electronics within.
- Quick to add the belt transmitter and get started.
- It is possible to use multiple Catchboxes if you wish – the sound desk just needs to have sufficient channels for the total number of microphones you wish to use.
- No need to worry about unwanted sounds that might occur when throwing or dropping the mic.
- The Active Auto Mute feature senses the motion of the device and temporarily switches off the audio when the Catchbox is caught, thrown, or dropped.
- The omni-directional microphone is sensitive to sound input from the speaker, even when not speaking directly into the microphone element.
- There are no outside buttons or lights to distract and confuse the user or leave them wondering if it is switched on.
- It isn’t possible for the attendee to switch off the mic.
- Blue, green and orange are the basic, standard, uncustomized colour options.
- Alternatively you can customize the base color to match your specific brand color.
- Graphics or a logo can be printed on two or four sides of the Catchbox.
- The outer cover is replaceable and can be switched for different events.
- Catchbox is made from durable foam and fabric.
- Teflon, dirt repellent and anti-bacterial coating.
- Lightweight for its size.
- Dropping and throwing the device won’t damage the electronics or the person catching.
Who Is It For?
The Catchbox is designed for any event that has Q&A or audience contribution. The Catchbox Pro is designed for events using a PA system and microphones and is ideal for audiences of 100 people upwards.
As well as being used by event planners, Catchbox is also used by event venues, AV companies, production companies, professional speakers and moderators,
Pros and Cons
- Ideas, feedback and questions can be exchanged faster and in a fun, relaxed way.
- An opportunity for extra visibility for the event brand and sponsors with customized covers.
- You can swap covers to match your event without buying a new Catchbox unit.
- It requires a PA system and third-party transmitter to operate.
- If your venue or AV supplier don’t work with one of the 3 main brands than the Catchbox Pro won’t integrate.
- Allow three weeks for delivery of a customized Catchbox.
Pricing and Plans
It is €495 EUR/$499 USD for regular Catchbox Pro unit.
Customized Catchbox Pro products are €545-595 EUR/$549-599 USD.
Custom covers can also be purchased separately, ranging in price from €95-195 EUR/$99-199 USD.
Catchbox is available in North America, Dubai, Europe, Norway and Switzerland.
All prices include shipping.
Catchbox is a fun, physical, audience engagement tool that can liven up the discussion by allowing participants to exchange ideas faster. When in use everyone’s eyes are fixated on it, making it a great branding opportunity. If your AV team don’t work with one of the three main brands that the Catchbox integrates with you will be disappointed that you cannot use the Pro version, but for most planners, venues and professional speakers the Catchbox is a good-value and worthwhile investment.
Disclosure: Reviews are paid for placements. While Event Manager Blog receives a fee to extensively look at the tool and review it in detail, the content of the review is independent and by no means influenced by the company. If you have any questions please use the contact us section.