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Sound Limiters & Why You Should Avoid Venues That Use Them

Unfortunately, decibel/sound meters and limiters are becoming increasingly common but they can have disastrous effects on your wedding, party or event.

Decibels are the way we measure the volume of sounds and music. As professional DJ's we carry a portable decibel meter to always ensure we are within health and safety guidelines.

What Are Decibel Limiters?

Decibel or Sound Limiters are fitted to some venues and are electronic devices that measure the volume in the room. They are set by the venue to a maximum volume and usually operate off the traffic light system -

  • GREEN = All OK

  • AMBER = Nearing Maximum Levels

  • RED = Maximum Level Passed

When the reading is in the red for more than a few seconds they are designed to physically limit the volume in the room and they do this in one of three main ways:-

  • They give venue a visual representation of the volume and staff will ask you to turn it down

  • The venue automatically alters the power to the speakers and either limits or forces the volume down

  • The venue cuts the power to the performance area and sometimes to the whole venue

Decibels Are A Measure Volume And As Professional DJ's We Carry Decibel Meters To Make Sure We Are Compliant

Why Do Venues Use Them?

Venues will tell you they use decibel limiters to make sure they are compliant with all the local laws and respectful to their neighbours. That doesn't sound so bad, right? What if I told you that they could comply with all local laws and be respectful to their neighbours and give you the wedding/event you want and all they have to do is to employ proper sound proofing, like they are meant to?

OK, so occasionally it may not be possible to sound proof a venue to the required level but in our experience 99% of all venues that use DB limiters, could easily do without them but they took the choice to save the cash and take the enjoyment from your night.

Why Is It A Problem?

The manual option, where venue staff have to talk to you about the volume through the night, is not so much of an issue.... not unless you get a militant member of staff and then it can create an atmosphere

The problems start with the automated volume limiters and the auto power cut systems - the volume the limiters are generally set loud enough for an empty room but when you start filling the room with people the sound is absorbed and the volume has to be raised to keep the party going.

Limiters Don't Just Measure The Volume Of The Music - They Measure The Volume Of Everything!

The microphones for the limiters are often near to the performance area and don't take this into account Then the problem nobody seems to mention to you - the overall volume doesn't just include the music - it includes EVERYTHING. If you have a large crowd, it can push the limit and cut power to the whole system. If, as we do the job of a DJ, we get a cheer for the bride and groom (or whoever the party is for) guess what happens - power can be cut to the whole section

How Loud Are Decibel Limiters Set?

This differs across venues, but decibel limiters are generally set at around 80DB to 90DB, whereas we would generally aim for 90DB as mid-point, working up as the vernuw fills and the night progresses

10DB doesn't sound much but 90DB is effectively double the volume of 80DB

Why Does It Matter - What's The Worst That Can Happen?

Firstly, imagine throughout the night that the power keeps getting cut to the performance area. No music and no lights for up to 5 minutes at a time whilst the venue resets. So, we turn the volume down, the crowd cheers and it happens again. Now we've turned the volume down again and you've had to ask your guests to keep quiet?!? Come on! if nothing else it's embarrassing and at worst it can ruin your night

That's not the worst that can happen - I have over £10,000 worth of equipment and music and the power has just been cut and without me shutting the systems down properly. It can easily ruin the DJ controller and corrupt the music library and then we're left with no music and potentially nothing to play it on anyway (OK, I carry backups, but it would take 20 minutes to set up again and you get the point)

In Conclusion

It's not always going to be possible to book your ideal venue without a decibel limiter but until people start taking a stand against venues that use them over proper sound proofing then nothing will change. Don't pass over your dream location, but if you have a choice of venue and one uses a decibel limiter and the other doesn't.......

Originally Posted @


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