Most limiters work on a traffic light system. Green means the decibels are OK, yellow means they are getting a little high but are still OK. Red means that the decibels are too high and you are now in the 5 second period to bring the decibels down before the power is cut. Most limiters will then reset the power after 15-30 seconds, this time period is
set by the venue, and music can then resume. If the limiter is tripped 2-3 times, the power may go off for a longer period, and can 15-120 minutes or more before it is reset!
Don’t let this put you off however. Just because you have limiter at your venue does not mean that you can’t have live music. Most bands and acts will have worked with venues that have limiters and we know what we can get away with and what songs and styles work best to make sure that it isn’t tripped.
The main problem that AKA find with limiters is not the actual volume of the band, it is more biased towards specific instruments. Long held tones such as from vocals or bass are the main culprits. A drum kit played at full volume is very unlikely to trip a limiter as the sounds of a kit are very short.
What do we recommend?
We work with limiters all the time and are used to playing with them. If you are nervous about a full band, an acoustic 4 piece such as ours is a a perfect line up to still give you a great band feel, but is very unlikely to set off a limiter.
If you have your heart set on a full live band however, we often take an electric drum kit to our gigs where there is a noise limiter. We do this because the band can only play as quietly as the loudest unamplified instrument, which in AKA’s case is the drum kit. While the drums won’t trip the limiter, a bass or vocal at the same time will almost certainly set it off! With the electric drum kit the entire band plays through the PA. This allows us to make sure that volumes are set and can only go so high and won’t see off or trip a limiter.
It is important to understand that the overall volume of a band is very subjective to the acoustic of the room and how the sound bounces off the walls, floor and ceiling. The limiter will work via a microphone so depending where that microphone is in the room has a massive impact on whether a band will set it off or not.
If you have a DJ, you shouldn’t have a problem at all as all their music will be at the same volumes so once set it wont change throughout the night.
The main thing to remember is that professional bands will be OK working with a limiter and if in doubt, ask. The band should also be able to work with you to create a playlist that you will still love, but also will allow the band to play and not set off the limiter. The last thing you want is a band that is constantly watching a limiter and worrying about it. We have been in that situation and it is not great. Make sure you are aware with the venues limiter and what it is set to and tell the band.
Your band and venue should be able to provide you with options as to what works best and what will be best for your day. Often we provide an acoustic 3 or 4 piece band and also provide DJ, meaning that you get the best of both worlds.