- We all know how important high-quality monitoring is in the studio; there is simply no point in having all of the synths, effects processors and fancy plug-ins in the world if you can't do them and your mixes justice. We know too that monitors are available in all shapes and sizes and that decent quality monitoring is now available at a fraction of the price it was even a few years ago. However, the old adage of "you get what you pay for" is as true now as it was then. For producers who take their work seriously and have pockets deep enough to justify a heftier outlay, there are some great semi-pro and pro solution monitors available right now. Amongst those earning rave reviews and praise are the Event Opal monitors so, despite having been available for a while, we decided it was time we had an in-depth look and listen for ourselves.
The design mission with the Opals was ambitious: to build the highest quality active monitoring system possible using a two-way system, which nevertheless matched performance levels of three-way systems. Round, warm bass was on the "must include" list, as was transparency in the sound throughout the frequency range. Accordingly, Event started afresh with the Opal design, developing new technologies to meet the design brief with innovative approaches taken to produce the cabinet itself, the amplifier within, as well as the woofer and tweeter speakers.
So, what performance can be expected from this involved design? Well, here are the specs. Frequency response stretches from a generous 35Hz to 22kHz, with the crossover frequency between the 8" woofer and the 1" tweeter at 1600Hz. The rounded speaker design almost completely eradicates diffraction from the cabinet edges and keeps resonance from the speaker itself to an inaudible minimum. Do be aware that these monitors will munch substantial amounts of your studio space at 295mm (W) x 450mm (H) x 273mm (D) and, at a whacking 21.2kg in weight each, be sure to stretch your back before install. The speakers can either stand on their bases or be mounted on their sides, with the tweeter section easily unscrewed and rotated through 90 degrees if you want to opt for the latter approach.
The tweeter uses a neodymium magnet and a beryllium copper dome and offers a really pleasing sound which isn't unnecessarily fizzy or clattery and, most importantly, doesn't produce a sound which wears the ear out prematurely. I found myself still drawn to the sound of the whole speaker, tweeter included, even during extended mix sessions. The bass end of the speaker is covered by Event's 8" EX8 woofer, whose raw response (ignoring cabinet and crossover filtering) is rumoured to be 30Hz to 10kHz.
The cone features a paper-pulp cone which is reinforced with carbon-fibre and it's driven by an aluminum voice coil, which is clad in copper. Again the assembly is powered by a neodymium magnet but the originality in the approach to the Opal monitor over its rivals is the inclusion of a second static voice coil, wired out of phase making it push against the main voice coil on the cone. Event claim this offers much greater control over the cone, reducing distortion and producing better transient control, and you'll hear no arguments from me. Again, the sound won me over quickly; the bass monitoring is extremely impressive, living up to its zero-distortion billing and offering extremely good detailing even at super-low frequencies. Again, the sound doesn't set out to impress you with gimmicks, instead sounding rounded and, for want of a better expression, completely in control. What also impressed me was the consistency of the monitoring at high and low levels; these are speakers which enjoy being cranked up to impressively loud levels without showing off but also present you with accurate, detailed mixes at lower levels.
The speakers offer a row of control dials along their bottom edge to allow them to be matched to the acoustics of your room. Baffle-step problems are eradicated by the space dial with full, half and quarter step options to align bass response to your studio. Low frequency, low shelf, depth for the woofer and a Q knob allow complete controls for the bottom end while high frequency control is offered via a shelf dial. A number of freeware resources are available online to allow you to diagnostically test the frequency response of your listening room and, as a process, this is highly recommended as the control changes you can make on the front panel of these monitors make a huge difference.
Do the Opals justify their hype and almost universal praise? In a word, yes. These are fantastic speakers which offer a hugely pleasing, immediately familiar sound which doesn't falsely flatter the mixes you pump through them but don't make you work unnecessarily hard either. In this way, they almost encourage you to do your best work, with a rich, wide frequency response and plenty of space to allow you to make creative decisions about how to construct your mix positively rather than immediately making you feel you have to squeeze elements of their frequency content in order to fit the space. Particular praise needs to be reserved for the stereo imaging, which is wonderful, with a generously wide optimum listening area, negating the common need for producers to leap out of their chairs to encourage clients to hear their mixes in the sweet spot. Monitoring of this quality comes at a correspondingly high price, but for producers fortunate enough to be in a position to invest at this level, the Opals are certainly amongst the best monitors I've heard in this price range. I'm seriously considering buying a pair myself and what higher praise can I offer than that?