Sound Limiters — A Guide for Bookers

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.

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.

by Adam Southall