Travelling all over the UK performing at weddings and events we're finding that more and more venues are installing Sound Limiters (Noise Limiters).
If you already know that your venue has a Sound Limiter installed then you should read this article carefully!
Put simply a Sound Limiter is a piece of equipment that will measure the sound level in a room and once a threshold is met...it will cut off the power supply to the band or DJ. Some venues are required to install these devices by the local authorities as a requirement for their license...some just chose to have them for reasons we'll never understand.
Where Sound Limiters are in a venue the band/DJ will be required to draw their power from a set of sockets that are connected to the device which ensures that if the power is cut of...it's to the band and not the entire room or venue. The power then needs to be reset which can take 30-60 seconds...add in time for the band equipment to be reset and you're looking at a couple of minutes with no sound or lighting. Along with this huge inconvenience there's also a risk of damage to the bands equipment when the power is suddenly cut off. This can be a problem as contractually the wedding couple are responsible for any repairs required in such an event.
The biggest issue with these systems is that almost all of the time it is not the powered amplified instruments that cause the spike in volume...it's often the acoustic instruments such as drums, trumpet etc. Sometimes it's even the audience that can cause it!
As an energetic live band, working with Noise Limiters is always a challenge but when they're installed correctly and set to a reasonable level we are able to work with them. The most common question we get asked is:
The short answer is yes it does. The band will find themselves focussing on the warning lights throughout the performance and adjust their playing style in an attempt to prevent the system from triggering. This of course removes the focus from the performance itself. Some venues will allow us to demonstrate how we can remain within their limits during a sound check and draw power from another source, essentially bypassing the sound limiter so that power will not get cut off if we briefly raise the volume.
There are many variables that can affect whether a sound limiter can be an issue. Firstly and maybe most importantly is the level it is set to. A common threshold appears to be 95db which may seem generous but keep in mind, a hand drill produces a volume of around 100db, a lawnmower from 3ft away around 107db and city traffic from inside a car around 85db. It's easy to see how an energetic live band can easily creep over such a limit.
The second factor is where the sound is measured from. If the microphone that measures the volume is close to the band then it's clearly going to be very easy to hit that limit and cut off the power.
Thirdly is the frequency band that the system is sensitive to. Often it's the lower (bass) tones that send the system wild causing the power to be cut.
Our ideal threshold is 100db + with the reading being taken from the dance floor area.
Our main advice is very simple...always ask your venue whether they have a Sound Limiter in place, they often don't tell you when you're booking the venue. If you know that your venue has a noise limiter installed talk to us about it. Being prepared will help us manage this with the venue to ensure the are no issues on the night.
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