ASHEVILLE, NC (2.28.23)—The Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance is Chicago’s primary residence for music and dance, connecting diverse audiences with outstanding artists from across the city, the nation, and the world. Opened in 2003 in Millennium Park, the 1,600-seat Harris Theater was the first multi-use performance venue built in downtown Chicago since 1929, fulfilling the city’s need for mid-size performing arts organizations. Today, the theater features some of the most diverse arts and culture offerings of any venue in the city, and is a distinctive model for artistic quality, collaboration, and making the performing arts relevant and accessible to the widest possible audience. The theater, which is all cement, is located 7 stories underground beneath the Pritzker Pavilion, a sizeable outdoor venue which houses a d&b GSL system for use during the summer months. Only the lobby and box office are above ground, and when on the stage, performers are 25’ below the Lake Michigan water line. The theater boasts a 30 ft. high and 45 ft wide proscenium.
“The existing loudspeaker system had become very tired,” states Don Gamsjager, Founder/Lead Designer of CT-based, DNR Laboratories. “We specified and installed a new d&b audiotechnik KSL-Series as the system replacement.”
KSL was introduced to the world as the ‘younger sibling’ to the flagship GSL system, which set the stage for the evolutionary path that KSL would inherit as part of the SL-Series, just in a smaller package, sharing broadband directivity and extended low frequency response as a family trait. Technologies like d&b ArrayProcessing have also provided an option for sonic consistency, delivering tonal balance and even level distribution over the entire coverage area front to back.
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. It’s a multi-purpose music hall, symphonic being one of the main stays. They wanted a system that could serve all uses of the theater which are diverse. When mic’ing specific instruments, especially low frequency instruments, the d&b broadband directivity keeps the stage silent. The conductor who is in there often said it’s the first time in history of working at the theater that he’s not hearing the PA and can hear the orchestra.”
Gamsjager said the theater has a substantially tall balcony. “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. What really got the CEO’s attention was when we headed up to balcony with an opera track, we could trigger ArrayProcessing on and off. The opera track sound using ArrayProcessing went from on the stage and up to the high balcony, as if wearing earphones. Dimun said it was so symphonic and so three dimensional never having experienced that quality of system. 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.”
In addition to tonal and level balancing, another unique feature of ArrayProcessing allows a d&b line array to limit SPL in specific coverage zones, creating more flexibility for the venue when certain seating areas are not required. This reduces the overall noise and reflections in a venue to deliver more coherency in the needed listening areas.
When DNR played several tracks, using d&b 44S loudspeakers for front fills along with the KSL, Donna Bachman, Director of Production, said she felt like she was on stage with a symphony and ecstatic with the quality of the system. The goal was not to lean heavily on delay speakers. “With the new system, there is only one small delay system, reducing the quantity of under balcony delay speakers, consisting of only three T-Series point source speakers. They barely turn them on and are used mostly for spoken word, Gamsjager says. “KSL had no problem directing its full bandwidth including a strong low frequency response between under balcony and above the balcony; the rig shined. The building was designed to be a band shell for classical music, so we had to be very concerned how the loudspeakers amplified the space, but the pattern control really kept that in check with the room.”
The main system consists of 16 x KSLi-8 (8 per side) and 4 x 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. 4 x KSLi-SUBs (2 per side), are located under the concrete deck providing the extra low end that is often needed. The system is powered by 14 x 40D amplifiers; DS10s are used to deliver Dante from a DiGiCo S31 console that feed the amps in a very simple workflow. With the d&b R1 remote software, the tech operator can control and monitor the system every day as part of their toolbox. And visiting operators using their own consoles can control it from the house tablet, adding a lot of flexibility. 6 x 44S loudspeakers are used for front fills, upper balcony delays are 44S, along with a full d&b monitor package of 4 x E12 loudspeakers. The E12 outperforms any competitors monitor or fold back system for dance; the dance fold back was a huge selling point!”
Bachman added, “Once we heard the d&b KSL, the choice was clear; this was the one. DNR and d&b have been amazing partners during this critical upgrade to an aging system. We are thrilled with the results and so are the artists and technicians who work and perform at the Harris.”
For more information on DNR Laboratories, visit www.dnrlabs.com.
For more information on the Harris Theater, visit http://www.harristheaterchicago.org.
For more information on d&b audiotechnik Americas, visit www.dbaudio.com.
PHOTO CREDIT Theater with audience: Harris Theater
PHOTO CREDIT stage close-up with d&b KSL loudspeakers: DNR Laboratories.