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Auto cut-out volume limiters in venues

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by BassyBill, Oct 5, 2008.


  1. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    What are the views of you folks on these things? You know, the dreaded orange boxes or traffic light affairs which cut all the power to your gear if they sense a level over a pre-set volume.

    We're a ten piece disco/soul/covers band with the usual drummer and backline setup, plus five horns. We have a gig this Friday. Last week one of our keyboard player's friends played at this venue. He's in a trio who use an electronic kit, in-ear monitors and no backline. During their first song they got switched off twice by the in-house limiter system.

    I think we're going to have a huge problem on our hands on Friday night.



    (Note to mods in Miscellaneous forum - I've posted this here because the Gig Stories and Band Management forums don't seem to fit the topic, and this also seems to be more a matter of policy about these wretched box things than a technical issue for the Live Sound forum. Please move it if I've made a wrong call on forum choice.)
     
  2. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    The suck. They're really not good for valve amps...

    We played a gig at one place that had them, and we soundchecked VERY carefuly - and discovered the drummer could trip it out by himself. We turned RIGHT down, and got most of the way through the set, with one eye on the limiter. It was really tough, and no fun. Then suddenly it cut out, even though we didn't think we were an louder...

    Of course we immedialy looked over to the limiter, only to see that it was in pieces, and the bar owner was poking round inside it with a screwdriver!!!! Turns out he'd had a complaint from the neighbours, and was turning down the limiter while we were playing!!! Turns out those things aren't calibrated - you just tweak them to a level you want to allow. He kept fiddling with it, and cutting us out for most of the second set, until we just gave up and went home. We never want to play there again.

    Another place we play has one thats no trouble. It trips out the power sockets on the stage, so we run an extension cable from the other end of the bar, and run everything off that. We're in the red all night - no problems! The owner knows we do it, but she likes the band, so doesn't care - we play there regularly.
     
  3. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Well, we set up at the gig, started the soundcheck and instantly triggered the cutoff without even trying. So, like Ian described in the post above, we just ran a mains extension cable from another power outlet behind the stage that wasn't connected up to the limiter.

    It turned out to be a good gig. Everytime the thing lit up red, we laughed like drains and then cranked up a bit louder. Totally unprofessional, I know, but good fun. And the audience loved the show, so who cares? :p
     
  4. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    We had another similar experience last week at a venue we haven't played before.

    As we were setting up the manager came over to us, pointed to the limiter on the wall, explained that it would cut the power to a particular set of mains sockets of we went over 90dB(!!!!), and that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should we even consider plugging our gear into those particular sockets... :)
     
  5. Matthijs

    Matthijs

    Jul 3, 2006
    Amsterdam
    My Bigband does a weekly public rehearsal in the back of a bar in Amsterdam. Almost all bars in amsterdam have a limiter that's calibrated en sealed off by the city. Problem is the singer the piano and me are the only ones amplified. It's not even me who sets off the limiter, most of the time its a honking tenor sax or the snare. I'm geting used to being cut off, it's mostly in certain loud parts of a song, so we try to incorporate it in the music.

    The best part was when the city came to do their yearly recalibration during our practice (turned out whe got the most complaints from the neigbours, because of the 10 piece non-amplified horn section). They did db measurements inside and outside on the street. We made a sport of playing loud during the inside measuements and very soft during the outside measurements. I think we gained a whole 10 db in the calibration that year.
     
  6. mrokern

    mrokern TB's resident Rush freak

    Jul 20, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I've yet to see these diabolical devices in the US (thank goodness!).

    What a pain in the butt, and you can bet that if any gear got damaged over here due to a shutdown you'd have a lawsuit on your hands. Of course, a contract could exempt the venue and city from such liability...but contracts are rare as well.

    -Mark
     
  7. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    ..which would be amusing, considering that these devices are around in the first place because of a club being threatened with violating a noise ordinance. I don't see a lawsuit like that going too far, though if the club owner has any friends in the club scene it might end up getting you banned from playing at other clubs as well as the one you tried suing.
     
  8. mrokern

    mrokern TB's resident Rush freak

    Jul 20, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    Actually, I've seen a couple of successful suits where sound companies have gotten a good chunk of money from power disconnections / problems (not from these devices, full disclosure). Not saying it wouldn't get you blacklisted from some clubs, just saying it could be done.

    I have a VEHEMENT stance against those devices, but I can't get into it as it would involve my political views.

    -Mark
     
  9. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    Sure, but that's a different story. You couldn't expect to win a lawsuit against a club which had given you adequate warning about the device and given you time to adjust your overall volume to come in at under 90db. I will grant you that some drummers never learn to play under 90db but the judges aren't going to see it like that.


    They are sort of a double edged sword. Like any technology there are good and bad uses for them. I'm actually fine with them as long as they're used responsibly (ie: the noise cutoff isn't too low). Setting them to kill the sound at 90db is kind of ridiculous and indicates that the club either isn't putting in adequate soundproofing or is overreacting to a recent neighborhood petition. But there are some bands who do come in playing impossibly loud and could benefit from their power being cut. I'm of course referring to bass players who go into 100 seater clubs with a Mesa 400+ and two fridges and the guitarist with the 100 watt amp who insists that he can't get "his sound" unless the volume is up past 7. There is a certain amount that is legitimately dangerous and these devices are good for those situations.
     
  10. mrokern

    mrokern TB's resident Rush freak

    Jul 20, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    Yup, if you've given adequate warning, I'd venture you'd have a hard time making the case. Maybe make sure a jacket gets tossed over the warning lights...;)

    And there are certainly bands who turn up too high. I place a lot of the blame for stuff like this on wanna-be sound engineers as well. If the sound engineer would have the skill and cajones to tell such bands to turn the **** down, I wonder if we'd have gotten to this point.
     
  11. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    My keyboard doesn't have enough plusses and ones to adequately address this. Needless to say, I totally agree. :)
     
  12. gaunten

    gaunten

    May 27, 2008
    sweden skåne
    hmmm, in sweden, or if it's even most of the EU, there's been this new law since about 2004-2005 that no live show is allowed to exceed 103 Db.
    I know it wasn't like that in 03 when I saw maiden, because that was loud as ****, and my ears hurt even when I was all the way over at the other side of the stadium (stockholm stadium, a rather large football/sports stadium), I put in plugs after a while.
    but in 05 when I saw metallica, it was the opposite, once they started playing, I actually had to take the earplugs out to hear what they were playing...

    but there's no cutting out or anything like that, they just lower the sound out if it's too loud. (on the PA of course, so there's no stopping me cranking my 6505 up :D)
     
  13. mrokern

    mrokern TB's resident Rush freak

    Jul 20, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    If that 103dB is A-weighted, that's actually pretty kicking depending where the legal measurement is taken from. I try to keep it in the 90s at FOH when I mix.

    As for Metallica, Mick Hughes (their FOH engineer for the past...oh, eternity) gave an interview some years ago where he stated that he purposely weights the mix low-end heavy to let it sound louder than it is. Knowing that most laws are written to A weighting, he said that he shoots for 100dBA, and 110dBC.

    -Mark
     
  14. Kelly Lee

    Kelly Lee Yeah, I'm a guy! Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    Marana, AZ, USA
    I personally haven't encountered one of these limiters but I can tell you as a musician, and as a customer paying to listen to a band, I would not like them.
     
  15. I've never seen one of these things, but I don't think I would be able to play in a club with one. They seem terribly inefficient, ineffective, and unsafe. Why doesn't the FOH guy just turn the band down?
     
  16. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    Because of drummers who never learned dynamics, bassists who need a station wagon to haul their entire rig, and guitarists who insist on full stacks and a stupid amount of watts.

    It was said in another thread but is really more applicable here: Musicians are our own worst enemies.
     
  17. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    Because these are small places, where you provide your own PA. There is no staff FOH guy.

    Also these are generally installed to appease the local councils. Promising to "turn it down" doesn't make much of an impact.

    Finally they're usually set so low that turning down doesn't help. honestly, at the last gig we did, the crowd between songs just clapping, talking, heckling and generally being a typical crowd would have set it off.
     

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