Today, more and more venues have music restrictions or sound limiters, checking whether your venue has a sound limiter is important and something that needs to be checked early in the planning process.
A sound limiter is pretty much what it sounds like, a small electrical device that measures the volume output or noise in a room. If the volume reaches a determined level the sound limiter is designed to cut the power supply temporarily, terminating the power and killing the source of the sound.
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When you first visit a venue look at the walls, ceilings and corner of the rooms. If there is a small box with obvious red/amber and green lights the chances are it is a sound limiter. This will give you an in road to question whether or not it is. The visual indicator works in the same way as a traffic light system:
Green light – no problem
Amber light – sound levels are approaching the threshold
Red light – levels have been breached
It’s important to note that must because you cannot see a device which resembles the above or similar, it doesn’t mean the venue doesn’t have a limiter installed and you should ask the question. The sound limiter could be secreted in a cupboard or behind the bar.
Sound limiters are most commonly used for environmental reasons.
Where a venue is located near to residential properties the venue has a duty to keep any noise to a reasonable level. There is no fixed legal value for what constitutes a legal level but in the event that there is a dispute of complaint it will be down to the local authority to provide what is an acceptable level and they will take a number of factors into account which include context and frequency of said noise.
Generally the threshold for a new wedding venue located in a quirt rural area that intends to hold a function every Saturday will be far lower than a pub which is located within a city centre and only offers entertainment a couple of times a year. In either of these cases the establishment’s entertainment licence will be put at risk if there are any complaints from residential neighbours. Some local authorities may impose a sound limiter as a condition on the venues entertainment licence, and there are some local councils that will impose sound limiters on every application that is made for an entertainment licence.
Sound limiters often need to be reset when they have tripped, and if the person who is capable of doing this is not in the vicinity the power may be off for an undetermined amount of time and should the limiter keep tripping you can understand how this could turn into a ridiculous exercise.
Sound limiters can damage equipment, PA systems, amplifiers, speakers and mixing desks all require an uninterrupted power supply and have to be switched on and off in a certain way. The fuses and valves can be damaged if there is a sudden power surge, speakers can blow and it is known that thousands of pounds worth of equipment can in effect be written off due to continued interruption to the power supply.
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