How to Create a Lockout Buzzer System

By Mark Robinson

Updated July 21, 2017

Lockout buzzer systems consist of several buzzer buttons and a central control module connecting all of the buzzers. Most game shows utilize such a system to identify which player buzzed in first. Professional lockout buzzer systems can be expensive; save by building your own system. Building the system may take several hours due to the relative complexity of the process.

Preparing the Buttons

Cut the CAT5 cable into 6-inch strips with the wire cutters. Remove the plastic casing from the wiring with a utility knife and remove the twisted pair of cables. Remove 1/4-inch of insulation from the ends of each wire.

Remove the batteries from the buttons and pry away the four rubber feet located underneath the button with a slotted screwdriver. Loosen and remove the screws holding the button casing together with a Phillips screwdriver.

Separate the cap and ring from the button, and set them aside. Drill a 3/32-inch hole through the side of the button base.

Solder a pair of CAT5 wires onto the button’s circuit board, then wrap the pair around the base of the button and through the hole. Reattach the cap and ring onto the button. Reinsert and tighten the screws with the Phillips screwdriver, then reattach the rubber feet.

Feed the wiring through the heat shrink tubing and cut both the wiring and tubing down to your preferred length. Solder the wiring onto the in-line phone jack, then use a heat gun to shrink the tubing around the wiring. Repeat the procedure for up to 10 buttons.

Installing the Keyboard and Enclosure

Disassemble the keyboard by removing the screws with a Phillips screwdriver. Pull the circuit board out of the keyboard enclosure.

Locate the key input circuits for keys 1 through 0. Each key will correspond to a press signal to buzz in players 1 through 10, with the “0” key representing player 10. Open the “Notepad” program on your computer to read the input from the keyboard.

Plug the keyboard into your computer and flip the circuit board over. Place one end of the CAT5 wire on a pin on the circuit board and the other side of the wire on another pin. Generate keystrokes with the wires to locate keys 1 through 0 on the circuit board.

Solder the CAT5 wires onto each key on the circuit board. When finished, apply a thin layer of glue over the wires to keep them in place.

Assembling the Enclosure

Drill a hole in the speaker enclosure for each buzzer plug-in. Make sure the holes are large enough for the 1/8-inch mono phone plugs to go through.

Place the circuit board inside of the enclosure. Drill another hole in the back of the enclosure or use the existing power adapter hole for the USB cable to go through.

Solder the CAT5 wires to the mono phone jacks. Insert each jack into the holes in the enclosure and glue them into place. Use amp butt splices to connect the wires from the phone jacks to the wires on the circuit board.

Seal the enclosure by placing one half over the other. Secure the two halves with screws.

Cut the speaker wire into several 10-foot sections. Strip the ends of each wire and solder them onto the mono 1/8-inch phone plugs. Plug one end of each wire into the buzzer button and the other into the corresponding jack on the enclosure.

Items you will need

  • CAT5 cable

  • Wire cutters

  • Utility knife

  • Slotted screwdriver

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Electric drill

  • Soldering iron

  • Heat shrink tubing

  • 10 In-line 0.125-inch phone jacks

  • Heat gun

  • Glue

  • Mono 0.125-inch phone plugs

  • Amp butt splices

  • Speaker wire


Improper handling of the soldering iron can cause fires, burns and other severe injuries.