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Sound level too loud in a pub

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Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby skiddlybee » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:13 am

Hi, we've been advised by the local council that the volume of our music is too loud sometimes, and we have to fit something to kill the amplifiers when the volume reaches a certain level at a specified distance.

We were told there are products that use a traffic light system- with a green light when all is fine, an orange light when the level is getting close to too loud, so the person behind the bar knows to back off the volume a bit, and a red light when the system is too loud and the power has been killed.

I don't know what these are called, let alone where to find one, can anyone help?

Thanks
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby Hewesy » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:23 am

The systems you mention generally cut all power to the stage, not just the PA, as a pub may just be running vocals through the PA and the issue could be an overally loud backline.

You will need to have such a device fitted professionally, I'd suggest speaking to a few local PA sellers/hire companies and see who they recommend.

I can't see it being cheap...

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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby James Perrett » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:28 am

Formula Sound seem to be the main manufacturer in this field.

It may also help to get someone in who really knows about soundproofing to advise you on noise control. Many pubs seem to spend money on all sorts of ideas which simply don't work and the local councils aren't much good at giving decent practical advice.

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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby mankind-nil » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:49 am

There's a selection of limiter devices here.

I've helped a client set one of the SL2000 units up and it seemed to work ok.

I would definitely recommend you get someone who knows exactly what they are doing to set it up with you though, during a level setting exercise with your Environmental Health Officer. An Acoustical Engineer should be able to help you - you can find one near you using this link or PM me for a quote.

Hope you get it all sorted, good luck!
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby MarkPAman » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:17 pm

We have the Pulsar Blue Box Clicky in our rehearsal rooms, which we decided had the best display from the musicians point of view.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby robare99 » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:27 pm

You always could just turn everything down. Be appropriate for the room. Use an SPL meter, have the musicians use a reasonable stage volume. Sliders let you adjust the level, or there would simply be on/off buttons.


Seems ridiculous, the solutions being looked into...
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby mankind-nil » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:33 pm

No, the recommendations are not ridiculous, the criteria set by the Local Authority can be very stringent. Where I'm based the criterion is inaudibility, so the noise levels have to be set very carefully, in order to get maximum level in the pub, and minimum level at the nearest residential premises.

The recommendations that have been made here are to protect the original posters' business from being shut down! This is serious business.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby Exalted Wombat » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:47 pm

mankind-nil wrote:Where I'm based the criterion is inaudibility, so the noise levels have to be set very carefully, in order to get maximum level in the pub, and minimum level at the nearest residential premises.

Some gigs are run on the basis "how low can I have the volume while still being audible?". Others on "how loud can I go without neighbours calling the police?". I fear that bands with the second attitude (which, I accept, is appropriate to some sorts of music) will be constantly frustrated!

The controls to these limiting systems are generally locked inside a glass-fronted box. A slim blade can often be slipped in at the door-seal, and the cut-off knob manipulated. Not that I'd ever do that.

I conducted a school brass band at a local hall a few years ago. The drum-roll for the National Anthem triggered the "traffic lights" and we continued in darkness :-)
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby TheChorltonWheelie » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:47 pm

skiddlybee wrote:We were told there are products that use a traffic light system- with a green light when all is fine, an orange light when the level is getting close to too loud, so the person behind the bar knows to back off the volume a bit, and a red light when the system is too loud and the power has been killed.

The vast majority of live bands simply won't play at these venues, we have a clause in our contract that ensures the venue make us aware of any such limiters; imagine cutting the power off on £20k worth of PA/musical equipment?

The traffic light system is very abrupt, from amber to red is normally 2 seconds so there's absolutely no opportunity to lower the volume. Add to that the fact that you'd need to have a live engineer present too, to monitor the volumes, and 99% of bands don't have one and 99% of venues won't pay for one either.

In reality, most people circumvent the limiter by using alternative non-stage-based power sockets, but this isn't practical either as the drain on a single socket can be massive and very dangerous too.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby Exalted Wombat » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:50 pm

TheChorltonWheelie wrote:imagine cutting the power off on £20k worth of PA/musical equipment?

OK, I'm imagining. It would suddenly go very quiet. What else?
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby Wacka » Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:04 pm

I'd go with trying everything to soundproof windows etc before the limiter ( curtains over windows and rear doors etc,i imagine there will be suggestions from people who have experience in this field).In my experience most acts and staff try to bypass traffic lights by finding mains that is not connected as they are quite sensitive.I did a gig once in a fairly big social club and the applause from someone winning a line of bingo cut the power.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby mankind-nil » Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:10 pm

Certainly, this is good advice, to get as much sound proofing as possible sorted first. An Acoustical Engineer can help you with this as well as setting up the limter system (if necessary!).

I think that a limiter set off by clapping probably demonstrates a system not set up correctly! Many of the units offer a frequency bias - so you can them more sensitive to low frequencies, so that that kind of thing doesn't happen! You can also adjust the delay on many of these units - how soon the power is cut after going amber.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby robare99 » Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:34 pm

What about house sound?

Either purchase a setup, or contract out a Soundguy with his own gear. That way he works for you, and you get to tell him how loud it can or can't be...

I wouldn't be too happy if everything went dark without warning, but then again, I I'm given a db limit, I can monitor it an stay under it...



I do have a UPS so my board and computer don't suddenly die on me...
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby Dave Rowles » Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:00 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:
TheChorltonWheelie wrote:imagine cutting the power off on £20k worth of PA/musical equipment?

OK, I'm imagining. It would suddenly go very quiet. What else?

Well, possible damage is the main thing. It's not just when it turns off, its if it turns on and off again with enough speed to send power spikes through equipment. I won't play venues with these things in. A single snare hit generally shuts the system down, and that's without a PA. Pointless.

I'd get an acoustic engineer in and get him/her to seal up the venue and then get the noise police over again to re-test.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby robare99 » Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:10 pm

Or


Book quieter bands. Duos, etc...
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby TheChorltonWheelie » Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:29 pm

robare99 wrote:Or


Book quieter bands. Duos, etc...

You mean bands without drum kits, or bands without any acoustic instruments. In duo's, or bands that use backing tracks, whilst the music might be compressed you find that it's the oddest of frequencies/volumes that set the limiter off, but it will set the limiter off. The only benefit is that you can turn a duo down, but then the room can't hear them.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby TheChorltonWheelie » Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:33 pm

robare99 wrote:I wouldn't be too happy if everything went dark without warning, but then again, I I'm given a db limit, I can monitor it an stay under it...

In reality, you can't; the limit is at the monitoring device itself, which could be front of stage or back of house, so the db limit you'd have to work to would be considerably lower. The net result is almost always that the room can't hear the band properly, which makes for a pointless evening given that they've booked a live band.

Quite often the venue is hired by the individual, so when you have to turn down, or you have to keep resetting, the party itself is spoiled. If it's an event evening run by the club then it's slightly different, but you still end up with an audience that don't like your band through no fault of your own.

The db limits are arbitary too, some are set so low that a hand clap or one note in a song can set them off, some are set so that a frequency and not overall volume set them off - the theramin/poly solo in a Blondie track we did would always trigger the device even though the perceived volume is quite low.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby mankind-nil » Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:41 pm

In reality, you can't; the limit is at the monitoring device itself, which could be front of stage or back of house

Not if the limiter is setup properly in the right location.

The db limits are arbitary too, some are set so low that a hand clap or one note in a song can set them off, some are set so that a frequency and not overall volume set them off


Not if the limiter is setup properly... :headbang:

Obviously some of the limiters you've encountered haven't been.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby robare99 » Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:45 pm

I don't know what else to say, except it doesn't sound like the venue is going to be a good place for live music.

Who sets the levels, and what are those levels?

I would argue this.

Pick a spot, and at this spot, it must be 98db (or whatever the limit is, I assume thats were the mic for the monitoring setup will be)


Run some music or pink noise through the PA up to that limit, at that spot.

While doing that, measure the sound level back at the mix position.

Use a sound meter during the show, and keep levels at or below the measured, recorded, and agreed upon level.


Other than that, I would personally refuse to do sound there, if it puts my gear at risk at all.




Thank goodness I live in a free country, not one filled with sound level Nazis. If a snare drum is too loud, then again, I guess live music isn't appropriate there. The bands must be on board and not blasting their 100W full stacks...


I feel for you, I really do.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby TheChorltonWheelie » Wed Aug 31, 2011 4:29 pm

mankind-nil wrote:
In reality, you can't; the limit is at the monitoring device itself, which could be front of stage or back of house

Not if the limiter is setup properly in the right location.

The db limits are arbitary too, some are set so low that a hand clap or one note in a song can set them off, some are set so that a frequency and not overall volume set them off


Not if the limiter is setup properly... :headbang:

The limiter is more often than not setup by the venue, and even then it's normally always a 3rd party company that has done the work; unless you're playing venues like the Robin/Brook/Limelight etc, the likelihood is that there'll be no one on-site to setup/adjust the limiter properly. Quite often the venue will gag the device, it's not in there interest to disrupt the evenings entertainment either.

Most of the holiday parks will have someone to hand to run FOH, or at least are able to adjust the limiter, but I'd say that about 80% of the venues we've played don't have access to the limiter.

There's a BIG venue in The Midlands that uses entirely Behringer for the processing/speaker/EQ management, it's a job to even adjust their EQ let alone instruct them how best to setup the limiter.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby TheChorltonWheelie » Wed Aug 31, 2011 4:32 pm

robare99 wrote:Other than that, I would personally refuse to do sound there, if it puts my gear at risk at all.

Most working bands have this in their contract, we do and I know most of the other bands I see on the circuit are the same. The issue is actually that it's the venue's responsibility to monitor the limiter, the bands themselves aren't generally allowed anywhere near the kit so there's nothing they can do.

In one of the tribute bands we have a diesel generator, which is normally used for outdoor venues, but quite often we've had to run it so that we can power our on-stage kit when we're playing indoors; when the limiter kicks in it only disrupts the stage lights, we're all powered by the generator.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby valves4ever » Wed Aug 31, 2011 4:44 pm

I played in clubs and pubs that had been subjected to 'sound level control enforcement' over many years in the Manchester area.....it's a nightmare to deal with....the local Council usually puts an order on the venue after complaints from the local community and the venue has to comply or lose it's licence....from a performer's point of view the situation is grim....I played at a club in Horwich and one good rim shot off the drummer on the sound check racked up a maximum on the sound meter on the wall....sustained rim shots would have caused the mains to go off.....that's a problem in itself as a lot of today's gear is high tech and doesn't like mains failures....anyway I can't come up with an answer as historically for me volume ids part of the genre and the experience......sanitised low level sound doesn't cut it......so I'd just avoid anywhere that has sound monitoring or find a mains outlet that isn't on the system even if it means running a couple of Jo-Jos.....the future however looks poor for the run of the mill gigging musician as officialdom finally kills it all dead....
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:06 pm

valves4ever wrote:... as officialdom finally kills it all dead....

It's not really about 'officialdom', it's really about poorly managed venues that take the cheapest but least appropriate route to appearing to comply with perfectly reasonable legislation, and sometmes bands that refuse to accept that they really don't need to be that loud!

I too hate the crude taffic-light system power cut-off systems. Most are poorly designed and employ inappropriate techniques to assess volume in the room, and are further compromised frequently by inappropriate placement and calibration...

There are better ways of encouraging bands to perform at reasonable levels, and of controlling the sound that would otherwise escape the building to anoy the neighbours. Sadly, they are also all more expensive and more involved.

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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby valves4ever » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:28 am

I agree sort of with what your saying Hugh but in my experience of 'real world gigging' the management of venues whether bad/ok or wonderful is beyond the remit of the band.....we're just stuck with whatever it is when you get to the gig. On volume...I agree that bands can and do sometimes play far too loudly but the clubs/pubs/hotels that I have worked that use sound monitoring have the levels set too low.....one hotel in Manchester on a New Year's Eve gig was approaching cut off just from the ambient noise of the crowd before we started playing and we had to get above the crowd otherwise we would have been inaudible. I don't see any owner/manager spending loads of cash on this subject in the current financial climate or in the future either....for most gigging musicians at the bottom end of the market...and let's be honest that's the majority....we're going to have to cope with the situation as best we can....and knowing Brussels (Officialdom in my world) the problem is only going to get worse.....fortunately for myself at the age of 64 at the end of a 53 year playing career it doesn't matter as I have now retired!....
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby skiddlybee » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:55 am

Wow! It looks like I've started a real discussion, thank you all so much for your advice, I think I'll be getting a pro in to have a look at what our best move is

Thanks again!
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby Wacka » Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:18 am

Unfortunately Valves4ever is right.I have gigged all round the north west for over 30 years and have faced these lights every so often sometimes in duos with backing tracks.I have only ever gigged with 1 that was set up reasonably.All that happens is you can't get into the show cos there's no life in the sound and you spend the night looking into the lights keeping check.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby valves4ever » Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:00 am

Quick aside....once saw the Liverpool Philharmonic at the Victoria Hall in Bolton doing Tannhauser and they were deafening in parts.....no cut off as they were all acoustic....and no complaints from the Council of course as they were 'proper' musicians playing 'serious' music.....
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby Agamemnon » Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:34 am

I wonder if there is a market for a few 'extensions' to the traffic-light system e.g.:
a) All brass players must wear a collar around their neck which automatically tighten on a 'red-light' condition to throttle them.
b) All drummers must use a special drum stool with a built in spike which raises up through the seat on a red-light condition, or optionally they must use special 'electric' drumsticks which zap 200V through them if they get too loud. :shock:

Seriously, I've only ever played under the traffic light system once, in Canterbury. Apparently unless a dispensation was applied for (it wasn't), then the default setting was very low. I managed to trip the system out during a solo, and the rest of the time we each had one eye on the lights. Not good for performance. I wouldn't mind - there are obviously good intentions for ensuring a quiet, tolerent neighbourhood and/or an audience with healthy hearing, but if everything is inconsistent... maybe the likes of the MU should lobby for consitent installations?
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby MarkOne » Thu Sep 01, 2011 1:11 pm

A mate of mine (who is the sometime drummer on some of my projects) lives in a town centre, more or less between a restaurant and a club. Both do live music, the club does a lot of live music - In fact my drummer friend and I have played there.

He has no problems with the club. The owner employed the services of an acoustic consultant when they fitted the venue out, it has double sets of doors separated by vestibules, front and back, soundproofing in the walls and ceilings, etc. He also monitors his own external levels periodically, and importantly engages with his neighbours regularly gauging feedback on their perception of the noise they experience. Having played there I can say that the house system is more than just loud.

The restaurant is another matter, the live acts are not full band type acts, or are DJs, and almost certainly the levels in the place are probably not that high, but they regularly prop open the doors so people can spill out and smoke, and it's just annoying if you are sat at my friends house. Most others in the neighbourhood think so too, and so do the council since the restaurant is now under a noise abatement order. It should be said that the owner of this venue doesn't seem to give a rats arse about the neighbours.

I suspect the latter sort of venue are the ones that are forced/encouraged to get the traffic light cut-off systems.
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Re: Sound level too loud in a pub

Postby Scramble » Thu Sep 01, 2011 1:17 pm

>It's not really about 'officialdom', it's really about poorly managed venues that take the cheapest but least appropriate route to appearing to comply with perfectly reasonable legislation

I'd call it poor officialdom when no account is taken of what happens in the real world.
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