Updated: Oct 18
Sound Limiters (also known as noise limiters) are becoming increasingly common for wedding venues up and down the country as a way to control noise levels. They can be installed for many different reasons, for example, concerns for employee’s health or a way of keeping nearby neighbours happy. Noise restrictions can also allow hotels to operate as both a wedding venue and a restful place to stay without worrying about the wedding party disturbing their other guests!
With the wealth of information out there, we thought we’d use our experience as a wedding band traveling up and down the country to share some helpful tips. We’ve created this guide for bands, venues and couples! We’ve split this guide into different sections - please follow the headers to be taken to the relevant section!
We’re happy to say all of our lineups can work with any sound limiters or noise restrictions your venue may have. Our folk band in particular was formed to accommodate really strict ones! Please let us know as soon as possible if your venue has any sound limits so we can plan ahead - read on to find out more!
What is a sound limiter?
Simply put, a sound limiter is a digital device fitted with a microphone that is used to measure the decibel level of live bands, DJs and musicians. The decibel level (also known as dB) is the measure of how loud the particular musician is in a particular area, and the sound limiter comes into play here.
The sound limiter ‘limits’ how loud the music can be by acting as a circuit breaker between the power used for the band on stage. Most of the time, the limiter shuts off the power when it goes over a certain threshold, which is usually set in decibels. If a venue has a sound limiter, they should give an indication of the decibel limit at the time of booking. This will give you an idea of what type of music works best for the sound limiter.
How does a sound limiter work?
Most limiters use a ‘traffic light’ system in order to warn the venue or musicians on stage that the volume levels are due ‘trip’ the limiter by going above the recommended limit. This usually causes the power to be removed from the stage area, turning off any speakers or equipment nearby.
This usually results in awkward silence on the dancefloor, something that you really don’t want at your wedding! There’s usually a delay before the power is returned to the stage, sometimes up to 30 seconds long (that’s a long time in show-business!) If it keeps being repeatedly tripped, the limiter may well stop supplying power to the stage area all together, meaning there’s no longer any music for the rest of the night!
It’s also worth noting that some venues may not have a physical sound limiter installed, but instead may choose to measure the sound level (again, measured in decibels, dB) using a handheld device. They then use this to get the average level, in turn using this to tell the musicians to be louder or quieter in order to meet the noise levels needed.
Why do venues use sound limiters?
We briefly touched on the topic in the intro, but sound limiters (or noise restrictions) are becoming increasingly more common. Firstly, where a venue is near residential areas, they have a duty under their licences to keep the noise level (usually measured at a residential property’s boundary) at a reasonable level. Unfortunately, there is no fixed legal limit for what this level should be, meaning that every venue is different. In the event of a complaint or dispute caused by the venue, it is set by the local council authorities. The council must take into account several different factors, such as how often the noise is affecting neighbours nearby and the context in which the noise is created.
Generally speaking, a new wedding venue in a quiet rural area that has guests and bands/DJs every Saturday is likely to have more problems relating to noise restrictions, than say a city center pub that maybe only has live music a couple of times scattered throughout the year.
In either case, both the city pub and the wedding venue in the above example are at risk of losing their entertainment license if they’re getting regular complaints from nearby neighbours. Some local councils may also make having a noise limiter a condition of their entertainment license in advance of any noise complaints in particular areas!
Another reason a sound limiter may be in place is to protect employees at the venue (especially very busy venues) from particularly loud noises! There currently are no laws required to protect party guests from loud noise, but employers do have a duty to protect their staff from loud noise whilst they are working. For example, if the bar is in the same room as the musical entertainment, the venue has a duty to keep the volume as low as reasonably possible and one way to make sure that happens is to use a sound limiter!
Let’s talk numbers!
So, what do these decibel figures mean? Decibel figures can be quite confusing, and that’s because our ears are incredibly sensitive - we can hear the tiniest pin drop to those really loud fireworks your neighbour sets off on bonfire night! Decibel figures are logarithmic, which basically means that a small increase in decibels means a bigger increase in the intensity of the sound. For example, 10dB is a lot more intense than 1dB and 20dB is a hundred times more intense than 1dB! Confused? Not to worry, I’ve attached a handy chart below!
In real terms, your average wedding band will be somewhere between 95-110dB. This can change depending on where your band will be playing (inside or outside can affect this quite dramatically, which makes things even more confusing!) and the lineup and instrumentation of the band. For example a folk lineup will be a lot quieter than say a 4 piece band simply due to the instrumentation used - a double bass is definitely not as loud as a normal snare drum (sorry drummers!)
For DJs, the decibel limit is much the same - people expect the music to be at a certain volume in order to want to dance.
How can different decibel limits affect your wedding?
With the average wedding band producing a volume somewhere between 95-110 dB, it’s fair to say that if the limiter is set anywhere between those numbers, it’s going to be something to think about. The limit will affect the band’s lineup and instrumentation in order for them to still be able to provide live music. The band may need to use an electric drumkit in order to more accurately control the volume of the drums on stage, use in-ear monitors in order to reduce the stage volume overall, and guitarists or bassists may need plug into amp modelling pedals to reduce noise even further.
For a rough idea of figures and what it might mean for your band, I’ve broken things down below into some real-world examples:
1.) 110dB noise limit in place, measured by venue staff
The band will need to know about this beforehand in case they may need to make some adjustments to the equipment they bring, but most things shouldn’t be a problem as long as they work with the venue. Hot rods might be necessary for loud drummers!
2.) 100dB noise limiter installed on dancefloor
The band will again need to know about this as soon as possible. An electric drumkit would be the best solution in order to lower the stage volume, as well as making sure band members who need them know to bring in-ear monitors and guitarists and bassists know to leave amps at home! The band may also need a little longer for setup and soundcheck in order to make sure nothing is going to affect the performance later on in the evening! 3.) 90dB noise limiter close to the stage
This is probably a case where the band lineup may need to change quite dramatically in order to have live music. For example our folk band is perfect for this as it’s more acoustic, doesn’t have a drumkit and has the quieter double bass to keep the volume down. The arrangements of the songs are also different in order to keep them fun for your guests to dance to, as limits such as this can change the energy and sound quite dramatically.
Sound limiter advice for couples
Whether you’re looking for Wedding venues in Cheshire, North Wales, or further afield, there are so many beautiful venues to choose from. From big country houses to cozy converted barns, it’s no wonder it’s hard to choose the perfect wedding venue for one of the most important days of your life!
One of the most memorable things from your wedding (apart from the amazing food) will be the entertainment. The best way to keep people talking about how awesome your day was for months or even years after you’ve tied the knot is having an awesome band! (We’re not biased, promise!)
It can be really frustrating to hear your venue has a sound limiter or noise restrictions, especially if the venue ticks all of your other boxes. The most important thing is to remember not to panic! It can sound quite scary, but as people who deal with these traffic light boxes all the time, we can help!
We’ve compiled a list of questions you should ask your venue. Most venues will be upfront and honest if they have a sound limiter, which is great. If they don’t, it still might not be a problem, especially if you ask these questions!
1. What is the noise restriction in decibels? (Or what is the sound limiter set to?)
This figure is really important. This will help your band plan out what sort of equipment they need to bring, and your band should also be able to tell you how they can work with this limit too!
2. Does the limiter shut off after a certain volume? Or is the limit measured by staff?
As mentioned above, some limiters will be set to turn the power off if it breaches a certain dB limit. This is really important as you don’t want any awkward silence during your evening! This question may also prompt the venue to tell you who will be keeping an eye on the sound limits, which is really important to hand over to your chosen band!
3. Are there any other musical restrictions we need to be aware of?
Sometimes, in order for the venue to avoid breaching their license, live music may need to be finished at a certain time. Or the venue may require the band to use an electric drumkit, in-ear monitors or simply to use the venue’s in house sound system to provide the sound they require! In some specific situations, the venue may require you to use a recommended band of their choosing, which leads us nicely onto the next question!
4. Is there a certain band or bands you’d recommend?
The venue may recommend certain bands they’ve worked with before which is great as the band will know how to work with the venue in order to get the best result for you and your dancefloor! A good tip is to get in touch with any recommended bands as they may get booked up quickly and unfortunately noise restrictions can limit the types of bands you can have - and some bands may not work with noise restrictions or limiters altogether.
Booking a sound limiter friendly band
It might sound like we’re repeating ourselves over and over here, but it’s important to let your band know as soon as possible if there’s any noise restrictions or a sound limiter in place (or maybe have a look through the venue’s recommendations!)
Most bands should let you know when you first get in touch whether or not they can work with a sound limiter or not. Please be as upfront as you can at the time of booking - it avoids any disappointment on your behalf, or the band’s! With that being said, if you do find a band that you like - it’s worth moving quickly to secure the date as your options may well be limited (no pun intended!) and it’s worth having the piece of mind that the musical entertainment you want is sorted!
Take the time to listen to the band’s (and the venue’s) advice regarding the sound limits to make sure everything runs smoothly. It might be worth a phone/video call with your band to chat through any advice/experiences they have had before. For example, does a more acoustic lineup work better in order not to trigger the limiter? Or is an electric kit okay to bring the noise down? The band will want to do everything they can to make sound awesome and the day runs as smoothly as possible.
Sound limiter advice for bands
Sooner or later as a wedding band you’re probably going to come across a sound limiter, especially if you're a professional wedding band or looking to become one. Saying ‘no’ to sound limiter weddings or gigs can result in you losing work and recommendations at wedding venues, but working with a limiter isn’t that scary! We’ve put together a few of our best tips to help you!
1. Put the client first
If you’ve got a super keen client that wants to book you at their noise-restricted venue, reassure them you can work with the venue but there might be some limitations. Being flexible is super important. Can you offer more acoustic options? Can you adapt your set times if the venue has a cut off time for live music?
2. Contact the venue in advance
If it’s a venue you’ve not played before, and your client hasn’t given you the full details of what the restrictions are, get in touch as soon as possible. Even if your client hasn’t given you everything, it’s good customer service and a good practice if you want to become a recommended supplier to get in touch ahead of time.
A phone call can be more helpful here to save some back and forth on emails - and it gives you a chance to make sure you’ve got all your questions answered. Talking through things ahead of time will save valuable time for soundcheck on the day (there’s nothing worse than trying to make an acoustic drum kit quieter when really, you should have brought an electric kit!) and reassure both the venue and your client that everything will work out smoothly!
3. Spend time at soundcheck to get everything right
As soon as you arrive, let the venue roughly when you’ll be doing a sound check. Having a member of staff on hand can be really helpful helping you make sure it’s all working ok. Don’t be tempted to turn up the volume as soon as the staff have left - you really don’t want the sound limiter causing you issues later on in the night. As a general rule, keep things on the quieter side as crowd noises and ‘sing-along’ bits can soon trip a sensitive limiter!
4. Bring the right equipment for the job
If you know you’re going to be working with a super-sensitive (90dB and below) sound limiter, it’s probably best not to tell your drummer to bring their biggest, best and most expensive acoustic drum kit! An electric kit would be a better choice, and can easily be hired if your drummer doesn’t have one already. They are a worthwhile investment that will save headaches in really sensitive spaces, and if you take the time they can often sound better than an un-mic’d acoustic kit!
As a more general tip - it’s worth getting your drummer to keep a pair of hot rods in their drumstick bag - it can save you from many problems from a surprise sound limiter or noise restrictions!
It’s the same story for the guitarists - they are best off using amp modellers and in-ear monitors to save some stage volume. It’s probably also better to leave the big subwoofers at home - lower bass frequencies can cause limiters to trip even if the volume isn’t that loud.
Sound Limiter advice for Wedding Venues
After seeing it happen more and more, we know how frustrating (and expensive) being forced to have a limiter installed can be, and once it happens, it’s really difficult to get it removed again! However, working with many venues over the years, we’ve compiled some helpful tips in working with bands and couples in order to get the best result - a happy band and a full dancefloor!
1. Let your clients know as soon as possible
Please let your clients know when booking if there are any noise restrictions or sound limiters they need to know about! If you're as open and honest as possible when booking in, it makes everything run so much more smoothly and can save you a bad review from the client if they don’t find out till later on down the line when they’re told by their ideal band that they can’t have the live music they wanted.
2. Offer solutions
As the venue, you’ll know what works within your limits, and explain what is doable. If you have some suggested bands that can work with the restrictions, bands who have worked with you before, let the client know ASAP so they can get these bands booked in. Also let the client know if the schedule needs to be changed in order to suit the restrictions or limiter - the sooner they know, the sooner they can start planning everything, which will leave them much happier!
3. Recommend a variety of options
If you only have one type of band on your books, this might not be what the client is looking for. Have a variety of solutions available - solo musicians, rock and pop bands, folk bands and DJ options all help the client plan their perfect day.
4. Explain the importance of booking fast
Advise your couples to book in a band they like that can work with your restrictions as soon as possible in order to avoid disappointment, especially if they have a peak date! Once the client has booked in, maybe drop the band an email if they don’t contact you first, outlining what they will need to do and what equipment they need to bring.
5. Work with the band
Bands can sometimes be unwilling to work with noise restrictions, but this isn’t a universal case. If it’s a band that can work with noise limiters, they’re probably full-time professionals and want to give the best possible outcome for you and the clients. Spend the time to speak with them in advance and go through everything so they know what to expect, and what to bring. Having a member of staff who knows about the noise levels around for soundcheck is super helpful in order to get the best outcome as the problem can be resolved there and then rather than later in the night when there’s a full dancefloor!
Do you have any more questions regarding sound limiters?
Get in touch with us if you need any more help - drop us a message on social media, or drop us an email! Also if you’re looking for a super sound limiter friendly option, why not check out our folk band!