Continuing with our HARMAN Innovator Series, I’m pleased to shine a light on Jon Duffin, a signal processing technology leader with HARMAN’s dbx, BSS and Lexicon Pro audio brands. An outdoorsman and self-professed tinkerer with all things electronic, Jon joined HARMAN nearly 23 years ago as an intern during his senior year at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering.
Although, at the time, Jon didn’t have any professional engineering experience, a summer job installing audio systems in schools, churches and other commercial establishments piqued his curiosity about pro audio electronics and introduced him to the challenges and applications that would ultimately inform the products he would develop.
Jon recalls being introduced to signal processing during his HARMAN internship. Working on products for the Audio Logic and DOD brands, he was intrigued by circuit simulations and by the computer modeling process. He enjoyed analyzing data to predict the signal response and then building circuits to determine if they matched the simulation.
He had been interning for a year when HARMAN relocated its dbx signal and dynamics processing brand to Utah and invited Jon to join the product engineering team as dbx’s first engineer in the burgeoning Salt Lake City facility.
Since then, Jon has led the development of numerous landmark products, originating the electrical design for the dbx 786 preamp, the dbx 676 preamp channel strip, and notably, the recording and touring classic, the dbx 160SL. Initially conceived as a ground-breaking compressor with premium features and specifications, Jon and his team were, as he recalls, “Focused on making the 160SL the most transparent, low noise, high-headroom compressor on the market, while considerably enhancing the compressor’s attack and release characteristics.” The goal was to give the user the widest range of control, in order to precisely customize the sound.
“By using premium-grade electrical and mechanical components, designing a new high-performance VCA module (the ‘heart’ of the compressor), providing detail to the component layout and employing an extremely quiet custom power supply design, we were able to achieve our goal,” said Jon.
Although the 160SL has since been discontinued, Jon and his dbx team went on to bring innovation to the world of digital effects. To this day, the 160SL remains widely regarded as one of the last great analog compressors and is used in high-end recording studios and live sound systems, relied upon by world-renowned vocalists.
These days, much of Jon’s time is spent running his engineering department and overseeing hardware development for dbx, BSS, and Lexicon brands. He still embraces any opportunity to “get his hands dirty” and tries to reserve half his work time for designing new products.
When not at HARMAN, he and his family take full advantage of Utah’s natural beauty. “My wife, two daughters and I love the outdoors,” said Jon. “We go fly-fishing, camping, hiking, recreational boating and off-road 4×4 exploring.” He also enjoys car repair, welding, woodworking and continually modifying his live sound system, as well as tinkering with electronics such as solar power, ham radio, and music-synchronized Christmas lights.
True to his early roots, Jon remains active in live sound reinforcement—providing and setting up equipment, as well as running the show at various venues. He also records local high school choir and jazz band groups.
HARMAN is fortunate to have brilliant innovator like Jon Duffin as a team leader! Many thanks to Jon for his tremendous contribution to the pro audio industry.
Connect with Jon Duffin on LinkedIn.
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