This page is more for reference than anything else.

I regularly encounter venues which have sound limiting equipment installed, mainly due to local noise complaints. They are also most certainly a part of the venue’s entertainment licensing criteria and as such are legally required to be used. They cannot be over-ridden.

So, what IS a sound limiter?

Mostly, they’re not a problem providing they’ve been correctly fitted. Many times unfortunately you’ll find they’ve been fitted in an empty room where the acoustics are less than ideal. Remember for most parties there will be guests in the room who’s body tissues will absorb and dull sound from a disco (it’s the same effect as fitting soundproofing bafflers or closing the curtains).

The level of these devices varies greatly, with some as low as just 60 decibels. The “normal” level for sound limiters is around the 90 decibel mark which is completely workable, although your disco may seem quieter than you’d expect and there will be much less bass in the sound (because it’s generally the bass notes which are detected).

Bear in mind as well they’re not only detecting the sound of the music. A loud cheer or clapping from your guests, or even a balloon bursting can trip them. It’s the overall level of sound they’re detecting.

What happens if the disco exceeds the prescribed limit?

It gets dark and quiet! It’s a simple as that. The idea of a sound limiting device is to cut the power to the equipment making the noise in the first place. Sometimes, there’s a 10 second warning (indicated by red lights on the detector) giving me time to turn down the sound. Sometimes….there isn’t. In some venues, it’s not even possible to physically SEE the detector or the warning lights.

So…how loud are the different limits?

Surprisingly, some of them not as loud as you’d expect. Here’s some everyday comparisons and the average volume for each one. As a point of note, the disco for the average wedding will normally run at somewhere between 90-100 decibels depending on the number of guests present and the type of music being played.

dBA Example Home & Yard Appliances Workshop & Construction
0 healthy hearing threshold
10 a pin dropping
20 rustling leaves
30 whisper
40 babbling brook computer
50 light traffic refrigerator
60 conversational speech air conditioner
70 shower dishwasher
75 toilet flushing vacuum cleaner
80 alarm clock waste disposal unit
85 passing diesel truck leaf blower
90 squeeze toy lawn mower arc welder
95 inside subway car food processor belt sander
100 motorcycle (riding) handheld drill
105 sporting event table saw
110 rock band / DJ jackhammer
115 emergency vehicle siren riveter
120 thunderclap oxygen torch
125 balloon popping
130 peak stadium crowd noise
135 air raid siren
140 jet engine at takeoff
145 firecracker
150 fighter jet launch
155 cap gun
160 shotgun
165 .357 magnum revolver
170 safety airbag
175 howitzer cannon
180 rocket launch
194 sound waves become shock waves

As you can see from above, there are some surprises as to how much of a sound level everyday objects can emit…..but it’s the sound level the Sound Limiters are listening for.