Help! My Wedding Venue Has A Sound Limiter!

Help! My Wedding Venue Has A Sound Limiter!

You're well into the planning of your big wedding day – the venue is booked, the dress is bought and you are starting to look for some evening entertainment and quite fancy yourself an 80's themed glam rock band to hire.

But wait – did you check to see if the venue has any noise restrictions?

First off, what is a sound limiter and how do they work?

A sound limiter is a device that is used to measure the level of noise or volume in the room in decibel units (dB) – both the music and crowd levels. These devices are set to a specific decibel level, and if the noise exceeds this level, the sound limiter temporarily cuts the power supply to the music equipment. Most sound limiter devices come equipped with a 'traffic light' system – a visual indicator to show the current levels of noise: Green = fine, Amber = levels approaching threshold, Red = threshold breached. If the light stays on red for more than a few seconds the limiter then takes action and cuts the power.

Secondly, why do some venues have these sound limiters?

Whilst there is no legal requirement to have sound limiters implemented, some venues that are near residential properties do have a duty to keep noise to a reasonable level and to control noise pollution for the surrounding area. Other venues choose to install the devices to protect their employees and clientele from loud noises, whilst other venues simply want control over the types of bands they have playing or for other reasons.

Thirdly, what problems do sound limiters cause?

Primarily, the presence of a sound limiter will mean you will not be able to have an energetic live band, full stop. Most common limiters are set between 90-96dB (about as loud as a vacuum cleaner!), now to put this into context a standard acoustic drum kit produces around 100-110dB of noise alone!

Whilst bands and clientele alike fully respect the logic behind a venue operating a sound limiter, the main problem is the sheer inconvenience! Two good scenarios are as follows:

1. You've booked your venue with no prior knowledge of the sound limiter device and have laid down your deposit, paid for catering and other plans are starting to come together. You had your heart set on an energetic rock band for your evening entertainment, and have found the ideal candidate and confirmed the booking. 6 weeks before the wedding and it comes to light that your venue has a sound limiter set at 92dB. You have to cancel your band (and possibly lose a deposit payment) and are heartbroken at knowing that the only form of music you'll be having on your special day is a 'quiet' disco! Inconvenient!

2. You've booked your venue and band and are unaware that there is a sound limiter in employment. You arrive at your wedding day and things are going just great. At your reception, your evening guests start to arrive – you and your new spouse take to the dance floor to perform your first dance, and 15 seconds in the power cuts out. To the look of confusion on everyone's face it becomes apparent that there is a sound limiter, and the band does their best to adjust their volume levels. The first dance starts again, and 56 seconds in the power cuts out, and so on and so forth for the rest of their set. The entire evening is ruined, the mood and atmosphere is shattered into a million pieces, the band get annoyed because their equipment is being damaged by the abrupt 'switching off at the mains', your guests are annoyed as they think it's the band's fault, and you get annoyed as your wedding evening is not going to plan at all! Inconvenient!

Unfortunately some venues don't make information about sound limiters readily available or make a strong point of letting you know, so it is essential that you find this out at the time of considering booking the venue!

Most professional function bands, once booked will liaise directly with your venue to go through finer details such as power supply, parking and set-up restrictions/arrangements, and most bands know to ask whether a venue employs the use of a sound limiter. If you find this information out too late, you may well find yourself in a sticky situation.

What can a band do to quieten down?

In all honesty, there is not much a band can do to reduce their volume levels – especially if they are a standard rock/pop band with an acoustic drum kit (all bands set their levels to match the drum kit). However, if you have your heart set on a particular band and they agree to adjust accordingly then just be prepared that this decision does come at a cost: a drummer can use brushes instead of drum sticks making it much quieter which in turn allows the other musicians to turn their amplifiers down – however this will greatly affect the mood and vigour of their performance as it will appear unenergetic and dull sounding. Some bands employ the use of an electric drum kit for such circumstances, but again the compromise will be the quality of sound the band can produce. Other options include opting for quieter 'types' of bands, such as a jazz trio, an acoustic duo or indeed just a quiet disco.

So, before you throw yourself into wedding planning, ASK YOUR VENUE ABOUT SOUND LIMITERS and all the best of luck to you on your special day!

Musical Noise Comparison Chart:

80dB – alarm clock, violin, barking dog.

85dB – applause, cello, clarinet, passing diesel truck.

90dB – lawn mower, French horn, acoustic duo.

95dB – motorcycle, walkman on 5/10, car horn at 15'.

100dB – average factory noise, inside underground train, jazz trio.

105 - tympani and bass drum, table saw.

110dB – symphony orchestra at a distance, quiet band.

115 – emergency vehicle siren, standard function band.

120dB – rock band, disco, shot gun.

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