‘Happy wherever you sit’: Obsolete sound system replaced at Genesee Theatre in Waukegan

A big change at the Genesee Theatre in downtown Waukegan has to be heard rather than seen.

Better clarity, coverage and dynamics are among the elements of a new sound system representing a powerful upgrade from the previous one installed in 2004.

“Technology has come a long way since 2004,” said Mack Folkert, the theater’s production manager. “So far, it's been all really positive reviews, from artists and touring engineers (who) are very impressed with it.”

Folkert said the 2004 system by Meyer Sound Laboratories was designed to be used primarily for musicals, speaking engagements and films.

“For concerts, we were frequently renting speakers to meet artists' requirements,” he explained.

Considered top of the line for its time, the old system was obsolete and needed to be replaced. With 40 speakers, six sub-woofers and two new digital audio consoles replacing the single original analog console, the Meyer PANTHER system is a substantial upgrade, operators say.

“You won't find a better sound,” General Manager Dennis Sheen said. “You are going to be happy wherever you sit.”

A new sound system recently was installed at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan. Theater officials say its been getting rave reviews from performers and audiences. Courtesy of Genesee Theatre

According to the company, the PANTHER-based system was installed across a range of venues last year, from clubs to arenas, including the Fillmore in San Francisco and the new Mohegan INSPIRE Entertainment Resort in South Korea. It powered a variety of tours, including those of Ed Sheeran, John Mayer and Metallica, among others.

According to Folkert, the new energy efficient system produces more sound with a lot of “headroom,” meaning the speakers never have to be used at 100% power. It has fewer speakers but much more power overall, and is a system that would work in a much larger auditorium than the 2,403-seat Genessee, he added.

“When you have higher quality sound you don't need to drive it as hard for it to sound good,” Folkert said. “It sounds louder because it's so much fuller and better.”

The result is a better listening experience including beneath the balcony, he added.

Theater officials declined to disclose the cost of the new system, which debuted in December, except to say it was a substantial investment.

“We spared no dollar,” Sheen said. “The performers love it, the customers love it.”

The Genesee opened in 1927. It is owned by the city of Waukegan and managed by the nonprofit Friends of Genesee Theatre

Upcoming acts include the touring Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar on Feb. 16, Peter Frampton on March 30, and Kansas on April 13. Visit

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.