The use of Sound Limiters in wedding venues


This is something that I believe needs to be brought to the attention of couples when booking a venue for their wedding day.

SOUND LIMITERS have been around for over 30 years. However, recently they appear to be used more aggressively by some local councils as part of a condition of an entertainment license. Often due to the close proximity of residential properties to a wedding venue

Let me tell you what they are just in case you don’t know. This is a device designed to stop sound going above a certain preset limit, by cutting the power supply to DJ/ Band equipment temporarily. This results in a loss of electricity or power cut, meaning the sound and often lighting shuts off. The time it takes to switch everything back on depends greatly on the system used and equipment connected to it. This can often dampen the atmosphere and momentum of an evening if it happens several times during the party and can also potentially damage expensive equipment. It may not even be your entertainer’s fault as guests can literally trigger systems set at a low level by applauding and cheering. Often the warning provided by the limiter itself is not sufficient to allow correction before it cuts the power, again this depends greatly on the quality or type of unit installed.

Entertainers need a reasonable volume to be able to create a party atmosphere. Weddings are not the place to be blasting out music at a rock concert level (120db) and I appreciate that some have a habit of playing music louder than is required. BUT there needs to be a certain level for people at the far end of a room to be able to hear what is going on and also to feel part of the celebrations taking place on the dancefloor.

The problems come when the limiter is set to an unworkable level or isn’t calibrated correctly.

I have personally had an experience recently where the sound from one single guest ‘whooping’ to the track ‘Timber’ shut off my whole system for 30 seconds with a full dancefloor. I wasn’t actually playing any music at that moment in time. The limiter is allegedly set to 110db, this certainly was not the case, the venue manager admitted it needed recalibrating. I spent the whole night asking the crowd to enjoy themselves quietly and waiting for it to happen again.

A colleague worked (earlier this week) in a brand new Village Hall in deepest Norfolk with a limiter set at 76db. Sixty children had to go outside to sing Happy Birthday to the party host to stop the limiter cutting the power. The party-goers spent the entire night asking him to turn it up. These are perhaps extreme examples, but nevertheless are in working venues.

Here are some comparables taken from an electrical wholesalers website;

10 dB Normal breathing
20 dB Rustling leaves, mosquito
30 dB Whisper
40 dB Stream, refrigerator humming
50-60 dB Quiet office
50-65 dB Normal conversation
60-65 dB Laughter
70 dB Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer
75 dB Dishwasher
78 dB Washing machine
80 dB Garbage disposal, city traffic noise

Please don’t think that I am against limiters, there are tens of thousands of venues across the world fitted with these devices that operate with absolutely no problems & I’m very fortunate to work in some of them and don’t have any issues whatsoever. Many have even devised their own ways of working around the settings to eradicate any potential losses of power. However, with hundreds/thousands of new venues opening every day and millions of pounds being spent on lavish interiors, the question that you should be asking before booking your wedding is….

DOES YOUR VENUE HAVE A SOUND LIMITER? If the answer is yes, you will then need to decide if it is set at a level that is suitable for YOUR PARTY.

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