We are happy to announce that live sound legend, Jon Burton, has officially joined our full-time academic team here at Derby.

Jon has spent over 30 years working as a touring engineer for bands such as The Prodigy, Biffy Clyro, Radiohead, Bombay Bicycle Club, Pulp, and many more. For those more lighting-inclined, Jon has even logged some time as a lighting designer (but don’t tell anyone…). Jon is a partner at The Laundry Rooms, a recording studio complex in Sheffield which hosts five rooms in addition to a central live room.


Jon Burton mixing an arena show.

Jon mixing FOH for The Prodigy


During much of this time, Jon has maintained a keen focus on education, both to expand his own and others’ knowledge. He is a regular contributor to educational sites such as SoulSound and publications such as Sound on Sound and Live Sound International. He has delivered master classes at educational institutions throughout the world. This work led to Jon being made Companion of the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts in 2017.


Photo of Jon Burton with his cohort of LIPA fellows and Paul McCartney.

Jon (back left) receiving his Companionship at LIPA from Sir Paul McCartney (photo courtesy of Jon)


Jon managed to find the time to complete a Masters by Research at the University of York, where he investigated the link between low-frequency bandwidth and perceived loudness. It turns out that designing a sound system to go lower in frequency often results in a lower preferred playback level. Certainly good information for those constantly running up against sound exposure and noise pollution limits at outdoor events!

Leading on from this work, Jon was invited to join a working group looking into sound exposure and noise pollution due to outdoor music events within the Audio Engineering Society’s Technical Committee on Acoustics and Sound Reinforcement. The working group and technical committee is chaired by another Derby academic, Adam Hill, who got to know Jon over the years through their shared obsession with loud subwoofers! Jon has played a central role in shaping the final (extensive) report that will be published by the AES in the near future.

In late-2018, Jon brought Adam in to assist in the design of the sound system for The Prodigy‘s upcoming tour. Adam applied some of his current research on subwoofer arrays to help Jon implement a trouser-flapping 30 m wide 36-subwoofer array! This helped to further strengthen Jon’s relationship with the Derby staff and students.

Graphs showing the reduction in spatial variance after the optimization of a subwoofer array.

Modelling of the subwoofer array for The Prodigy’s latest tour (courtesy of Adam Hill)


Jon was kind enough to invite a group of our students  to Nottingham Motorpoint Arena, the second date on the tour, for a look at the system. The students had the chance to take a peek behind the scenes at a major arena tour and learn from the crew what it took to put a production such as this together on a daily basis. They were also pleased to meet the lighting designer and operator for the tour, Tim Fawkes, who graduated from Derby’s BSc (Hons) Sound, Light and Live Event Technology programme not too long ago!


Photo of staff and students with The Prodigy\'s technical crew.

Jon hosting a group of Derby students at a Prodigy gig in November 2018


We’re thrilled to have Jon join our team here at Derby. He will certainly bring a wealth of practical knowledge as well as enhance the existing live event-based research our subject group at Derby is known for (in addition to delivering on one of the most successful and longest-running live event engineering undergraduate programmes in the country).

With the students starting back in a couple weeks, we’re sure they’ll be pleased to see this new face standing at the front of the classroom and lab. An amazing chance to learn from one of the best!

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