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Chicago’s Harris Theater Gets Audio Overhaul

Chicago's Harris Theater recently underwent a major audio overhaul, updating its 20-year-old PA with a d&b audiotechnik KSL Series system.

Patricia Racette and Craig Terry in 'Patricia Sings Piaf' at Chiacgo's Harris Theater. Photo: Kyle Flubacker.
Patricia Racette and Craig Terry in ‘Patricia Sings Piaf’ at Chiacgo’s Harris Theater. Photo: Kyle Flubacker.

Chicago, IL (March 7, 2023)—If a theater gets described as “cavernous,” it’s usually because the place is huge. In the case of Chicago’s Harris Theater, it’s more likely to be called cavernous because it’s seven stories underground. To be fair, the site—properly called The Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance—is big, too, with 1,500-capacity seating and a 30 ft. high and 45 ft wide proscenium. Covering all that space is a recently installed d&b audiotechnik KSL-Series system.

Opened in 2003 in Millennium Park, the Harris Theater exists underground beneath the Pritzker Pavilion, a sizeable outdoor venue which houses a d&b GSL system for use during the summer months. Success with that system in turn led to a similar choice for the theater downstairs when it came time for an audio update.

“The existing loudspeaker system had become very tired,” said Don Gamsjager, founder/lead designer of Connecticut-based, DNR Laboratories. “We specified and installed a new d&b audiotechnik KSL-Series as the system replacement.” After hearing a demo of the KSL at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, DNR and d&b brought in a system for a full day demo at the Harris Theater back in December 2021, receiving a purchase order within weeks.


“One of the challenges of the room are that the acoustics of the space do not serve well to loudspeakers that have a lot of effects off the back,” Gamsjager said. “Lori Dimun, President and CEO of the Harris, and the theater team wanted system flexibility and broadband directivity…. With a wide variety of events, from rock and roll and symphonic, to dance and spoken word, the KSL was the right PA to serve all; it checked all the boxes. Size-wise, it fits the space perfectly…. They can shut the balcony off when not needed. ArrayProcessing provides great SPL coverage if the pit is in use and can be diminished from the balcony if the seats are not in use.”

The main system consists of 16 KSLi-8 (8 per side) and four KSLi-12 (2 per side) with a center A-Series augmented array. “A lot of shows require the support of a hidden center cluster of A-Series in a vertical array, and it performs very well,” notes Gamsjager.

Bolstering that are four KSLi-SUBs, placed two per side under the concrete deck to provide extra low end as needed. The system is powered by 14 40D amplifiers. Meanwhile, a half-dozen 44S loudspeakers are used for front fills, upper balcony delays are 44S, and there’s also a full d&b monitor package with fourE12 loudspeakers.