An audio tour is a sound-based guide to a location. Depending on the design, this may consist only of spoken words or may include music and other effects. Many earlier audio tours were simply recorded tapes that relied on the user to play and pause as needed, but more recently designed systems can identify the location in which the tour apparatus is being used and play automatically. It is common to find audio tour systems available in museums and sites of historical relevance, but there are also tours available for cities and other geographic sites. There are various devices that can be used to deliver audio content for this purpose, including smartphones, tape players, and even special audio devices used only for tours.
In its most basic form, an audio tour is a recording of information about a location. This information depends on what is at the location and what the tour's designers find most relevant. An audio tour of a museum designed for children might be very different from one designed for adults. Just like any tour, these recordings typically seek to both provide information and entertain.
With advancements in technology, audio tours can often incorporate more detailed information. Tours that know specifically what a guest is looking at can provide information about that object rather than just the highlights. Length becomes less of a consideration on this segmented type of audio tour, as the guests control what information is provided and can easily move on as well.
Most audio tours for large and popular museums are available in multiple languages, some of which can be useful when signs are not in the tour language. This technique can allow a guest who does not understand the country's language to enjoy the museum and benefit from informational content. Audio tours in this case are often used when a live tour guide is unavailable or too expensive to provide.
While it is common for a specific location to offer audio tours tailored to its attractions, some companies provide many different audio tours for various locations. These audio tours usually conform to a common style and may be designed for travelers or visitors. This is sometimes a difficult feat for audio tour designers to accomplish, as constant monitoring must be in effect to take into account changes at the location. For this reason, it is common for tours that are not designed by the site's management to focus primarily on very permanent historical features that are unlikely to change rapidly.