FM or IR Interpretation Equipment: What’s Best for Your Event?

When you’re holding a multilingual event, one of the major things you need to consider is how your message will reach your audience. With speakers and attendees coming from multiple countries where different languages are spoken, two things you’ll need are professional simultaneous interpreters and interpretation technology to ensure that everyone is able to listen and contribute to discussions. There are many equipment options available to facilitate language interpretation, but one of the most important decisions you will be making is the choice between two types of systems: Frequency Modulation (FM) and Infrared (IR).

Both systems enable a single interpreter (or a team of interpreters) to speak to an entire audience through earpieces that are distributed at the beginning of the event, but each has its advantages and limitations. Ultimately, the system you choose will depend on your event’s requirements, so prior to the day of, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions:

1. Where is the event taking place?

2. How large of an area needs to be covered?

3. How many languages will be spoken?

4. Will there be competing devices and signals at the venue?

The above questions make a good starting point, but they aren’t the only ones that you’ll be faced with. Let’s look at other key items that will need addressing as you narrow down your options.


Keeping Things Budget-Friendly

Difference between FM & IR Interpretation Equipment Systems

Click to enlarge image.

Budget carries a lot of weight and you will often run into situations where cost is the “end all” factor for the interpretation system you end up selecting. With costs in mind, you’ll probably also notice that an FM system is more budget-friendly than one that is IR. Audio receivers are normally priced per unit or per batch, so when you are dealing with hundreds or thousands of them, costs can add up fast. When every member of a large audience will be receiving and using them, you will also need to consider the potential for equipment loss and the costs associated with it. Typically, 1 to 5 percent of receivers used are missing by the end the day, so as you can imagine, with the more expensive IR gear, the cost of losses puts a sour note on an otherwise great event. These are things to keep in mind.


Working with FM Frequencies

In one way or another, each of us has encountered frequency issues in our personal lives. Hasn’t there been a time when you couldn’t tune into your favorite song on your car’s radio due to poor signal, or perhaps the radio in your house? And surely you’ve experienced the frustration of poor cell phone reception, walking from one corner of a room to another searching for the perfect spot to connect with that important call! We’ve all been there and, unfortunately, the same can occur with interpretation receivers, so if you’re opting for FM equipment, there are some things that you should know.

When it comes to FM transmission, a signal is being sent out from a single source base and the strength of that device determines the amount of area that can be covered. If more than one language is being interpreted, then each one is assigned to a radio frequency of its own, meaning that extra precautions must be taken to prevent the frequencies of each device from overlapping or conflicting. It’s important to know that the more channels you use, the higher your chances are of hitting “dead pockets” (or interference). Also to be considered is that all electrically-powered equipment gives off a small electromagnetic field. It can be emitted from other sound and lighting equipment in the room, attendees’ laptops and cell phones, or even the wiring in the walls, and all of them can potentially interfere with your FM signal.

While we see frequency interruptions in radio broadcasts and phone calls as simple irritations, the impact is escalated when guests and clients are struggling to listen to your speakers. In instances like these, a skilled technician can alleviate potential challenges.


Ensuring Maximum Confidentiality

There are times when some multilingual events require a higher level of security. Take the following, for instance:

  • Board of Directors Meetings
  • Confidential Briefings
  • Contract Negotiations
  • Stockholder Meetings
  • Strategic Planning Sessions

IR systems are great for highly-confidential discussions that require simultaneous interpretation. Their high-performance technology and sophistication ensure that the individuals in the room are the only ones receiving messages through the transmitters and signal radiators (devices that ensure full venue coverage). This is because IR technology is limited by the “line of sight.” In other words, if the radiator can’t “see” you, and you can’t see it, then you will not receive transmission; only those holding onto the correct IR device will get that classified information. These limitations give the extra reassurance of knowing who the only recipients of your message will be, so if security breaches are of concern to you, then an IR system is what you’ll want to look into.

If you are concerned about interference from other devices, such as high-level security systems and other audio equipment, then the IR setup, again, is a better option than FM would be.

An added bonus to opting for IR is its upscale design, which can contribute to your event’s perceived levels of sophistication and prestige.

Simply being aware of the aforementioned and understanding the requirements of those attending your event (or the requirements of your client) will guide your decision when choosing between Frequency Modulation and Infrared interpretation equipment. You’ll rest assured knowing that you’ve stayed within budget and that all transmission, confidentiality, and interpretation needs are met and performing as expected.

What is your preferred system, between FM and IR? Do you have stories on how either has impacted your events? Share your thoughts or questions by emailing us or commenting below!


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13 Response Comments

  • RickFebruary 22, 2019 at 2:21 PM

    Very interesting.

    • Ubiqus USAFebruary 25, 2019 at 12:41 PM

      Hi, Rick – We’re glad that you think so! Thanks for reading.

  • OscarMarch 7, 2019 at 10:32 AM

    Well stated

    • Ubiqus USAMarch 7, 2019 at 3:10 PM

      Hi, Oscar – Thank you for reading and leaving your comment!

  • preethi nayarMarch 13, 2019 at 5:22 AM

    very useful information about Interpretation Equipment.

    • Ubiqus USAMarch 13, 2019 at 2:49 PM

      Hi, Preethi – We’re glad that you found the information here useful! Thanks for reading and leaving feedback!

  • Shah NawazMay 21, 2019 at 4:12 PM

    We are an AV equipment rental and event production company in Seattle, WA. We are looking for buying an affordable system or systems to rent. Your article was a good help

    • Ubiqus USAMay 23, 2019 at 3:28 PM

      Hi, Shah – Thank you for reading and leaving feedback! We’re glad that you’ve found this information on the differences between FM and IR interpretation equipment helpful. Good luck with finding the right systems for your needs and don’t hesitate to let us know if we can further advise!

  • LSOctober 4, 2019 at 5:39 AM

    great work!!! 🙂

    • Ubiqus USAOctober 7, 2019 at 5:11 PM

      Hi, LS – Thank you very much!

  • AngelicaJanuary 3, 2020 at 9:38 AM

    Great article. Now I need some assitance

    • Ubiqus USAJanuary 3, 2020 at 5:46 PM

      Thank you Angelica, and we are happy to help. We will send you an email right away!

    • Daniel WeigandJanuary 3, 2020 at 5:59 PM

      Dear Angelica,

      How can we assist you?



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