24 November, 2023

Understanding Sound Limiters and what they mean for your party or event

While the subject may seem a tad dull, it holds crucial information for those dealing with venues under sound restrictions. Bear with us as we delve into the world of sound limiters, exploring their types, functionality, and key insights to ensure you're well-prepared and unaffected by their presence.
Singing black and white picture

What is a Sound Limiter?

In essence, a sound lim­iter is a mech­a­nism or a series of pro­to­cols designed to guar­an­tee that the col­lec­tive vol­ume of a venue and its atten­dees does not sur­pass a spe­cif­ic lev­el. These lim­iters usu­al­ly man­i­fest in three main vari­a­tions: Portable Sound Read­er, Traf­fic Light Sys­tem, and Com­pres­sion System.

Just because you have a sound sys­tem or lim­iter at your venue does­n’t mean that you can’t have a great par­ty. We have a bril­liant list of ded­i­cat­ed par­ty bands and acts that will always work well in this situation.

Portable Sound Reader

This hand­held device allows staff mem­bers to mon­i­tor sound lev­els at their cur­rent loca­tion in real-time. Venues com­mon­ly employ these tools to assess the vol­ume at the venue bound­ary, ensur­ing that the deci­bel lev­el does not sur­pass a spec­i­fied thresh­old and there­by pre­vent­ing dis­tur­bances to neighbors.

Traf­fic Light System

The Traf­fic Light Box serves as a wall or ceil­ing-mount­ed unit con­nect­ed to a venue’s micro­phone. It oper­ates on a col­or-cod­ed system:

  • Green: Sound lev­els are with­in accept­able limits.
  • Yel­low: Approach­ing the deci­bel limit.
  • Red: Exceed­ing the deci­bel lim­it; pow­er may be cut.

When the red light acti­vates, per­form­ers have approx­i­mate­ly 5 sec­onds to low­er the vol­ume before pow­er is cut to the sock­ets they are con­nect­ed to. The sys­tem may reset auto­mat­i­cal­ly after a pre­de­fined time or require man­u­al inter­ven­tion by venue staff. If tripped three times in one evening, the sys­tem may be locked for the remain­der of that event, con­clud­ing the par­tic­u­lar live performance.

The poten­cy of the traf­fic light sys­tem is influ­enced by the micro­phone place­ment and the cal­i­brat­ed deci­bel lev­el. Posi­tioned direct­ly above the band, it reacts faster and more sen­si­tive­ly, poten­tial­ly reach­ing the red sig­nal more swift­ly. Plac­ing it at a dis­tance from the per­for­mance area may afford more tol­er­ance. Typ­i­cal­ly locat­ed in the mid­dle of the space, these sys­tems can be trig­gered by guests singing and dancing.

Com­pres­sor System

In response to ongo­ing con­cerns about sound lev­els, cer­tain venues opt for a com­pres­sion sys­tem. This entails installing a venue-wide sound sys­tem that all per­form­ers must uti­lize and con­nect to. The sys­tem incor­po­rates an atten­u­a­tor or com­pres­sor, allow­ing only a spec­i­fied amount of audio sig­nal to pass through, enforc­ing a strin­gent deci­bel lim­it. Pic­ture it like an egg timer with abun­dant sand — the com­pres­sor in the mid­dle restricts the flow to main­tain a con­sis­tent out­put at the end.

These sys­tems adhere to a max­i­mum of 93dB to align with envi­ron­men­tal health reg­u­la­tions and The Con­trol of Noise at Work Reg­u­la­tions 2005 and are most like­ly cal­i­brat­ed for DJ and back­ground per­for­mances rather than for a live band. Addi­tion­al require­ments often accom­pa­ny these systems:

  1. Per­form­ers are man­dat­ed to use elec­tric drum kits.
  2. Amp mod­el­ers and DI (no tra­di­tion­al gui­tar amps or extra on-stage speak­ers) are to be employed.
  3. The band must uti­lize In-Ear Mon­i­tors (IEMs) to min­i­mize stage volume.

Sound Lev­el Examples

Sound Limiter Diagram

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