Electro-Acoustics Research Lab

The Electro-Acoustics Research Lab (EARLab) work leverages our expertise in acoustics, digital signal processing, electronics, electroacoustics, psychoacoustics, and sound design. Our research encompasses three themes:

EARLab prides itself on being at the forefront of these themes. We draw on the team's extensive experience in immersive audio (Dr Wiggins and Mark Dring), sound reinforcement (Dr Hill and Jon Burton), and signal processing (Dr Wiggins and Dr Hill).

Our aims

The Electro-Acoustics Research Lab (EARLab) is dedicated to the "democracy of sound" -  where all audience members experience an equally excellent listening experience. EARLab is led by Associate Professors Dr Adam Hill and Dr Bruce Wiggins. Our mission is to deliver high-quality and safe listening experiences to all through analysis and optimisation of sound reproduction and reinforcement.

EARLab stands as one of the few research clusters worldwide with expertise in sound reinforcement. The team is instrumental in the ongoing evolution of the field, both in engineering and policy. Dr Hill and Jon Burton remain active live sound engineers, providing valuable insights from the field. 

The lab’s ambisonics (full-sphere surround-sound format) work, driven by Dr Wiggins for over 20 years, offers content creators free tools for immersive sound implementation. As a trusted advisor to tech giants, Dr Wiggins plays a crucial role in shaping immersive audio experiences on popular platforms.

The lab's work provided impact case studies for the University's Research Excellence Framework submissions in 2014 and 2021. 

EARLab Team

  • Dr Adam Hill (Associate Professor of Electroacoustics) 
  • Dr Bruce Wiggins (Associate Professor of Audio Engineering)
  • Mark Dring (Senior Lecturer) 
  • Jon Burton (Senior Lecturer) 
  • Kit Lane (Senior Lecturer)
  • Ross Hammond (PhD student) 
  • Charbel Hourani (PhD student) 
  • Matt Costea (PhD student) 
  • John Passey (PhD student) 
  • Jonathan Digby (PhD student) 

For any enquires, contact Dr Adam Hill (a.hill@derby.ac.uk) or Dr Bruce Wiggins (b.j.wiggins@derby.ac.uk).

Our research

Make Listening Safe

Dr Adam Hill has been involved with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Make Listening Safe (MLS) initiative since 2018. Its focus is to realise a world in which people of all ages can enjoy recreational listening without a risk to their hearing.

MLS has published two global standards to date, one on personal listening devices and one on live events and venues. A third standard focused on gaming and e-sports is currently under development. Dr Hill was a key contributor to the WHO Global Standard on Safe Listening Venues and Events (with ten of his research papers referenced within the standard).

Adam Hill's name on a desk as a person addresses the conference
Dr Adam Hill attended the WHO's Make Listening Safe consultation meeting in 2023

Healthy Ears, Limited Annoyance

Dr Hill is leading development of a Healthy Ears, Limited Annoyance (HELA) certification scheme, with the aim to launch in 2024. This has support from the Audio Engineering Society and the WHO. Certification will be for all key stakeholders at live events and will promote current best practice to support excellent concert-going experiences while minimising hearing health risks and annoyance to neighbours.

a large crowd at an outdoor music event with buildings in the background
The HELA initiative aims to minimise hearing risk and annoyance to neighbours from music events

Coral reef collaborative research

Dr Hill helped to solve a problem in marine biology using a special effect from the music industry - known as virtual bass. He collaborated on a project to measure the health of coral reefs using acoustics. Dr Hill had developed an algorithm to generate virtual bass (which reinforces bass sounds using harmonic elements) and he used this to analyse the noises of sea creatures living around the reefs. The more noise, the healthier the reef.

Virtual reality theatre applications with immersive audio

Derby Theatre won Digital Project of the Year at The Stage Awards 2023 with Odyssey. The project involved an audience using virtual reality exploring scenes created for a live show. Dr Bruce Wiggins and students from our MSc Audio Engineering and BSc Sound, Light and Live Event Engineering provided the novel, live immersive multi-speaker audio system. The system used software that has come directly from Dr Wiggins's research into ambisonic (full-sphere surround-sound format) audio.

people wearing virtual reality goggles in a performance space
A University of Derby team designed the audio system for Derby Theatre's Odyssey virtual reality project

Large-scale immersive audio  

Dr Wiggins has worked with loudspeaker manufacturer Funktion One since 2006, enabling ambisonics immersive audio to be used in a large-scale, live setting. Using his WigWare software at large-scale outdoor events provides lower noise levels off site and more acoustic envelopment on site compared with standard stereo sound. WigWare was used at the Glade Festival from 2006 to 2009 and has been used on the Spirit of 71 and the Glade Stage at Glastonbury Festival since 2008. 

an outdoor festival stage
The Glade Festival stage, where WigWare was first used

Large-scale sound system optimisation

Much of Dr Hill’s research focuses on the optimisation of large-scale sound systems, with a particular emphasis on subwoofers. As with all of EARLab’s research, the overarching aim is to achieve a democracy of sound.

A current strand of work in this area - dynamic diffuse signal processing - has resulted in what is known as a perceptually transparent signal decorrelation algorithm. This helps to avoid unwanted acoustic interaction between multiple loudspeaker outputs. This has already been put to use within sound systems as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

a band plays on stage in a large empty theatre
Dr Hill's audio optimisation work helps avoid unwanted interaction between multiple speakers in large-scale sound systems in venues such as large theatres


Kok, Marcel; A. Hill; J. Mulder; J. Burton; M. Lawrence. "The influence of audience participatory noise on sound levels at live events." INTER-NOISE and NOISE-CON Congress and Conference Proceedings. Vol. 265. No. 6. Institute of Noise Control Engineering, 2023. 

Burton, J. A. Hill. “Using cognitive psychology and neuroscience to better inform sound system design at large musical events.” Proc. IOA Conference on Reproduced Sound. Bristol, UK, November, 2023. 

Duncan Werner; Wiggins, Bruce; Emma Fitzmaurice; and Matthew Hart. Guitars with Ambisonic Spatial Performance (GASP): An immersive guitar system. Torres, R., Brandon, A., & Noble, J. (Eds.). (2023). 

Hill, A.J.; J. Mulder; J. Burton; M. Kok; M. Lawrence, “Sound level monitoring at live events, Part 3 – Improved tools and procedures.” J. Audio Eng. Soc., vol. 70, no. 1/2, pp. 73-82. January, 2022. 

Mulder, J.; A.J. Hill; J. Burton; M. Kok; M. Lawrence, “Sound level monitoring at live events, Part 2 – Regulations, practices, and preferences.” J. Audio Eng. Soc., vol. 70, no. 1/2, pp. 62-72. January, 2022. 

Middlicott, C.J. and Wiggins, B.J., (2022) Capsule Calibration Approaches for Low-Cost Higher Order Ambisonic Microphone Arrays. In Audio Engineering Society Convention 153. Audio Engineering Society. 

Hill, A.J., Mulder, J., Burton, J., Kok, M., and Lawrence, M.. 'Sound Level Monitoring at Live Events, Part 1–Live Dynamic Range'. J. Audio Eng. Soc., vol. 69, no. 11, pp. 782–792. November, 2021. 

Mulder, J.; A. Hill; J. Burton; M. Kok; M. Lawrence; E. Shabalina. Education and Certification in Sound Pressure Level Measurement, Monitoring and Management at Entertainment Events. AES International Conference on Audio Education. July, 2021. 

Dring, M. and Wiggins, B., 2021. WHAM: TO ASYMMETRY AND BEYOND!. Reproduced Sound 2021, Vol. 43 Pt. (2). Available at: <https://www.ioa.org.uk/catalogue/paper/wham-asymmetry-and-beyond>. 

Werner, D., Wiggins, B., Fitzmaurice, E. (2021) 'Development of an Ambisonic Guitar System GASP: Guitars with Ambisonic Spatial Performance', in Hepworth-Sawyer, R. (ed.), Paterson, J. (ed.), Toulson, R. (ed.) Innovation in Music Future Opportunities, Abington, Routledge pp. 125-145. 

Hill, A.J.; J. Burton. A case study on the impact live event sound level regulations have on sound engineering practice. Proc. Institute of Acoustics – Conference on Reproduced Sound (online). November, 2020. 

Hill, A.J. (chairman and editor). Understanding and managing sound exposure and noise pollution at outdoor events. AES Technical Document AESTD1007.1.20-05. May, 2020. 

Dring, M., Wiggins, B. (2020) WHAM: Webcam Head-tracked AMbisonics.  Reproduced Sound 2020 - Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics, Vol. 42. Pt. 3 2020, UK 

Hill, A.J.; J. Mulder; M. Kok; J. Burton; A. Kociper; A. Berrios. A case study on sound level monitoring and management at large-scale music festivals.  Proc. Institute of Acoustics – Conference on Reproduced Sound, Bristol, UK. November, 2019. 

Hill, A.J.; J.B. Moore. Optimizing Wide-Area Sound Reproduction Using a Single Subwoofer with Dynamic Signal Decorrelation. 146th Convention of the Audio Engineering Society, Dublin, Ireland. March 2019. 

Hammond, R; P. Mapp; A.J. Hill. Modelling the Effects of Spectator Distribution and Capacity on Speech Intelligibility in a Typical Soccer Stadium. 146th Convention of the Audio Engineering Society, Dublin, Ireland. March 2019. 

Dring, M., Wiggins, B. (2019)  The Transparency of Binaural Auralisation Using Very High Order Circular Harmonics.  Reproduced Sound 2019 - Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics, p165-173, Vol. 41. Pt. 3 2019, Bristol, UK  

Middlicott, C., Wiggins, B. (2019). Calibration Approaches for Higher Order Ambisonic Microphones. In: 147th AES Convention. [online] New York: Audio Engineering Society. 

Hill, A.J.; M.O.J. Hawksford. Live sound loudspeaker array optimization for consistent directional coverage with diffuse radiation characteristics. Proc. Institute of Acoustics – Conference on Reproduced Sound, Bristol, UK. November, 2018. 

Hammond, R.; A.J. Hill; P. Mapp. Investigation into the relationship between standing audience density and absorption. Proc. Institute of Acoustics – Conference on Reproduced Sound, Bristol, UK. November, 2018. 

Moore, J.B.; A.J. Hill. Dynamic diffuse signal processing for sound reinforcement and reproduction. Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, vol. 66, no. 11, pp. 953-965. November, 2018. 

Hammond, R.; A.J. Hill; P. Mapp. On the Accuracy of Audience Implementations in Acoustic Computer Modelling. 145th Convention of the Audio Engineering Society, New York, USA. October, 2018. 

Hill, A.J. Live sound subwoofer system performance quantification. 144th Convention of the Audio Engineering Society, Milan, Italy. May, 2018.  

Middlicott, C. ,Wiggins, B. (2018) Development of Ambisonic Microphone Design Tools-Part 1, ebrief 489 at Audio Engineering Society Convention 145, New York, USA