2017/12/03 Advice for anyone using a venue with a sound limiter for parties, weddings and other events as well as information for bands, DJ´s and anyone using sound equipment at events with sound limiters.
Sound limiters are typically installed at venues such as halls for the following reasons:-
- 1) There is a requirement to ensure that people in the vicinity are not unduly disturbed by events. In some cases this may be a legal requirement where the maximum sound level is stiputated. If the venue is a hotel, they may disable any sound limiter if you book the whole hotel or you book all the rooms that would be affected. If in doubt ask.
- 2) The building may suffer structual damage from high volume levels. This may be the case with older buildings that were simply not designed for such high sound levels.
It is important when selecting a venue for an event, to ensure that the venue is suitable for your needs. Typically thare are dozens of criteria that one should consider when selecting a venue and it is not my intention to provide a comprehensive list here, as it depends on your event. For example you would not select a venue suitable for 20 people if you expect 500 people to attend or select an event with little parking if you expect 200 cars. In a similar way, if you want to use a sound system blasting out 115 db (a typical rock band level) you need to ensure that you select a venue where if a sound limiter is used that it will not stop the music, as this could spoil your event.
Even if you have a location that is suitable, you may find that anyone supplying the sound system may not be happy if the venue has a sound limiter and you want the volume ramped up high (close to the trigger value), as this could mean that it switches off the power to the sound system when / if the maximum limit is exceeded.Please note, whoever decides to select a location (the decision maker) should ensure that there is a suitable margin above your desired operating sound level and the cutout (trip level) setting of any sound limiter. So if you want to play music or create sound at 115 db (a typical rock band) ensure that the sound limiter will only trigger at a reasonable amount over this (I.e. 120 db or above).
For venues in built up areas you will typically find that the trigger level is substantially below 115 db and for many events 95 to 105 db should be loud enough.
Despite some opinions, venues do want people to enjoy themselves, but on the other hand they do not want to be fined because a hirer has exceeded an inforcement order, or have a barrage or complaints from neighbours etc.
So our advice is to consider what you would like at your event and select a suitable venue.
Sound limiter warning indication
To my knowledge all sound limiters provide two levels, a warning level and a trip level. The reason for this is to avoid power cutouts. When the warning level is reached, most if not all sound limiters light up yellow or orange indicating the sound level exceeds the warning limit. At this time the person in control of the sound system should immediately adjust the volume to ensure that the trip sound level is not exceeded. If this warning is ignored it is highly possible that the sound limiter will cut the power when an audio spike is output.
Some sound limiters require a manual reset, while others will automatically restart after a few seconds. This is a system option on some sound limiters.
Advice for owners / operators of sound equipment
There are a number of situations where power may be interrupted that could affect your sound system, these include:-
- A mains power failure or voltage dip.
- A fuse blowing or trip switch tripping.
- A sound limiter being tripped.
- An electrical fault.
In some cases the power may be automatically reconnected after a few milli-seconds to a few seconds but the advice is always to assume that the power can come back on at any time. When the mains power is cut due typically to a lightening strike, in general the power will automatically be reset after a second or two.
In general equipment is not at high risk when the power is cut either due to a power cut for any reason such as a power failure, fuse tripping or a sound limiter trip limit being reached. Some equipment is at a higher risk when it is started under load (high output settings / volume).
If your equipment is susceptible to start up power surges when started with high output settings, you would be advised to purchase and use current surge limiters and use a Manual reset controller unit to reduce the danger of electrical current surges in your equipment. While some professional equipment may include suitable surge protection in their own circuitry you are advised to check with the manufacturer and follow their advice and use their recommended start up procedure.
Unlike a mains power failure that can happen at any time, a sound limiter should only trigger after a warning is ignored and the trip level is exceeded, so it is under the control of the sound engineer / technicial / DJ / Band to ensure that they do not exceed the trip level.
In general we would advise you to switch off all your equipment as soon as you have a loss of power, then turn down the power output (volume) on all devices before powering them up again when power is restored. Most manufactures will suggest that you follow this procedure to avoid surges when your equipment restarts. Some equipmet is more vunerable if it is just switched on / powered up when the output power (volume) is set high. Of course this situation can happen at any time power is lost and restored, including temporary mains failure.
Manual reset controller unit
As some power network reset periods can be relatively short, as with a mains drop out and some sound limiters that reset quite quickly, I would personally advise using a manual reset controller unit for any equipment that is susceptible to start up surges. You can either find one from a suitable supplier or have one made for you. All that is required is an electrical box with a contactor that controls the power to your equipment. When power is discontinued (drops out for any reason) the contactor drops out stopping all power to your equipment and is only reset by pressing a start button. This gives you all the time you need to switch off all your equipment, and reduce the output levels before resetting the controller and then starting up your equipment following the manufactures start up instructions. This box can also include surge protectors, suitable trip switch(s) rated for your individual pieces of equipment etc. so that you can best protect your equipment, especially equipment that is not properly designed to handle start up surges when the power outputs are set high when switched on.
If you are planning an event where a sound limiter is used
Remember that a sound level limiter should not activate and cut the power providing you do not exceed the trip level for the venue. Check the following:-
- The maximum sound level at which the limiter will trip. Ensure that this is more than the maximum sound level you wish to have. Your DJ or sound system controller should be able to give you some advice on what sound level you will require based on the size of the venue and number or people / furnishings.
- Allow some leaway between what you want and the trip level.
- Find out if the system automatically resets or needs to be manually reset if it does trip. If it does require a manual reset, is this something your sound engineer / technician / DJ / Band can do or does it require a member of the venue staff to do it.
- Find out what the warning level is and ideally ensure that your sound engineer / technician / DJ keeps the level low enough so that this does not display or only occasionally displays. This should be far enough from the trigger level so that if you maintain the level under the warning level there is sufficient leaway so that the unit does not trigger. But it is the responsibility of your sound engineer / technician / DJ / Band to keep the sound within the allowable levels for the venue.
- What to do if the warning and more importantly the trip sound level is set unreasonably low. No one wants a party or event where everyone needs to be as quiet as a mouse. As the minimum trip level you want will depend on what type of event you are doing I would suggest that a minimum of 95 db for a small venue and about 105 db for a medium sized hall and 120 db or more for a rock band, would be a quick guide.
- If your audience may make some additional noise (clapping or stamping feet etc.) this should be taken into account when considering the db level you need at your venue. So ensure that you have sufficient leaway to handle this for your event.
What can you do to increase the level of sound people hear without tripping the sound limiter
- People and furnishings like curtains deaden the sound so, if you have a medium to larger hall, instead of having all the speakers at one end, have your speakers distributed around (or at both ends of) the room. This will provide a more even sound level to all guests. This is what most theaters do and prevents some people close to the speakers being deafened while others at the back can hardly hear. Elevating the speakers can also help with this.
Sound equipment insurance
Normally it is the equipment owners responsibility to ensure that they have adequate insurance to cover any theft or damage if they wish to have cover. Any electrical supply can be cut and restart at any time, this applies to the mains power network and can also happen when a sound limiter device is used if the trip level is exceeded and automatically or manually restarts and of course if someone resets a trip switch. If the person who operates the sound system, sets the volume output at such a level as to trip the sound limiter this is a decision they have made and not the fault of the sound limiter, it is just doing it´s job. As prevention is always better than cure, investing a small amount in a manual reset controller unit to help protect expensive sound equipment (and any other equipment that could be affected in a similar wey) from automatically restarting would be something I would personally do.
Protecting and testing electrical equipment
There are a number of things that can be done to HELP protect electrical equipment:-
- Ensure you have surge protectors to help protect from voltage spikes. Generally caused by lightening spikes.
- Ensure you have suitable fast acting fuses currectly rated to protect each individual piece of equipment from current surges. While all devices have fuses it is important ensure that the correct rating is used and not a higher rated fuse.
- If you have equipment that is susceptible to damage if the output control is high when it is switched on, invest in a Manual reset controller unit. You will still be responsible for turning down the output on your equiment before resetting, but you will be in control of the start up sequence.
- Ensure your equipment is regularly tested (PAT test) to check for any faults. Note, PAT testing does not mean that no fault will occour in service, just that when tested no fault was found. PAT tests do pick up the breakdown of insulation or short circuits to ground.
- Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Often the manufacturer will advise to turn down the outputs to zero before switching on if the equipment is susceptible to start up surges.
Planning is the most important thing
Select a suitable venue. It is often too late to find there is a problem at the event. Ensure you ask if there is a sound limiter and if there is get answers to the items in If you are planning an event where a sound limiter is used above. Sound limiters are now more common at venues, particularly those in residential areas. You should not reject a venue just because it has a sound limiter providing you will be operating the sound system under trigger level allowing a reasonable margin for occasional peaks.
I hope this advice will help event organisers, clients, Bands / DJ´s etc. put on events to remember for all the right reasons.
This blog contains a range of posts on various topics:
sound limiters,venues with sound limiters,hall hire,venues for parties,venues for weddings,hall hire,venues for parties,venues for events,Advice for bands using venues with sound limiters,Advice for bands using halls with sound limiters
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