Sound Limiters — A Guide for Wedding or Event Bookers (Updated March 2020)

Why are sound limiters required by venues, particularly wedding venues?

Sound limiters are increasingly being installed at live music venues for 3 reasons primarily:

  1. So that venues comply with Environmental Protection Act 1990 by preventing excessive noise which could be deemed a statutory nuisance. To this end, a sound limiter is now a requirement in many UK councils for the granting or renewal of the venue's entertainment licence.

  2. So that venues comply with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations, designed to ensure that workers' hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work.

  3. To protect the structural integrity of especially old and historically important venues from damage caused by excessively loud music, particularly from powerful bass note vibrations.

See Our Recommended Acoustic Bands

The following wedding bands all have experience with sound limiters or are perfectly suited to such situations.

For example, we find that acoustic roaming bands are a great way to get around onerous noise limiters: they don’t need a PA system or amplifiers and as such are generally much quieter than amplified rock and pop bands.

View some of our acoustic weddings bands performing live...

Wandering Three

Wandering Three are our most popular acoustic wandering band. They consist of a violinist and two acoustic guitarists, all singing. Although acoustic, they are still guaranteed to get your guests dancing.

The Manhattan Roamers

The Manhattan Roamers are a high-energy acoustic roaming band based in London.

They perform modern and classic pop and rock acoustically at weddings, parties and corporate events.

The Tonics

Hiring a duo is another popular option. The Tonics use clever live-looping to make a sound that mimics a much larger band, but as there are only two of them, it means their overall sound level will be much lower than a larger band.

They can add a cajon player to the band for an extra bit of rhythm, which also works well for venues with noise limiters.

Acoustic Nights

Acoustic Nights are a trio consisting of vocals, acoustic guitar and electric drums. The electric drums make this group ideal for venues with noise limits. Unlike acoustic drum kits, with an electric kit, the drummer can adjust the volume to an exact level without compromising on the percussive nature of the sound.

The Sidekicks

The Sidekicks are a popular 3-piece band based in Somerset. Their repertoire consists of folky pop music, including covers of Mumford & Sons and Ed Sheeran. They frequently perform with an acoustic guitar and double bass – often amplified, but their style means the band is frequently booked for events in more intimate settings and often at venues with sound limiters.

Starboard

Starboard are an acoustic band based in London, consisting of female vocals, acoustic guitar, sax and cajon. Their acoustic line-up means they are perfect for wedding venues where noise needs to be kept to a minimum. But the size of the 4-piece group means they still grab the attention of guests and have a big impact at each event. They are in particular demand for hire at corporate events in London.

The Swing of Things

If you prefer a modern jazz or swing band rather than rock or indie band, then look no further than The Swing of Things. Their repertoire consists of modern renditions of jazz classics, as well as jazzy arrangements of current pop songs. They perform upbeat songs in a light arrangement that suit smaller events venues and ones with sound limiters.

Sound limiters are now installed at private venues throughout the UK, particularly those that host wedding receptions with live wedding bands.

What is a sound limiter?

A sound limiter is a device fitted with a microphone to measure the sound pressure level of environmental noise, expressed by the decibel logarithmic unit (dB).

If the environmental noise level exceeds a certain pre-set dB level for a period of time (usually 5 to 10 seconds), the limiter cuts the electricity supply to the musical equipment for about 1 minute.

What dB level are sound limiters usually set to?

Sound limiters are often set at a level between 90 - 100dB. To put this in context, 90dB is roughly the loudness of a motorcycle 8m away, and 100dD is equivalent to a power lawn mower, motorcycle, farm tractor or bin lorry at close range.

How do professional bands accommodate sound limiters

Professional bands will have experience playing at venues fitted with sound limiters and will know how to accommodate them.

The main solution will be to simply turn the PA system down to an acceptable level.

The main problem arises from acoustic instruments like brass and drums, whose intrinsic "loudness" means that the sound level cannot be regulated electronically.

With regard to drum kits, the solution can be to use soft drum sticks or even an electronic drum kit.

Check out some of FixTheMusic's recommendations for wedding bands that are experienced with sound limiters and suitable for venues with limiters in place.

How to beat a sound limiter?

Some bands employ various tricks such as covering the sensor with a pillow or cushion.

This is risky and we don't recommend it – the venue is likely not to look kindly on bands that try to bypass the sound limiter. It is far better to try to work with the venue and the noise limits in place, using the tips and hints above, i.e. performing with softer drum sticks and generally trying to lower the overall volume of the band.

by Adam Southall