I've had the pleasure of using some great-sounding monitors over the years, and there is a price/performance ratio. When your stated goal is a synergy of exceptional linearity, low distortion, wide bandwidth, highfrequency dispersion, transient response, and stereo imaging, the bill adds up quickly. None of us can change the laws of physics but, with innovation, there is always room for improvement.
My initial observations of the Event Opal were as follows: The Opal package is heavy, almost 54 pounds, largely due to the large toroidal mains transformer, large aluminum heat-sink back plate, and high-pressure injection-molded aluminum cabinet. They offer clean lines and hidden but accessible front-panel controls. And, importantly, they were well packed for shipping.
The Opal is a bi-amped, two-way monitor with Class AB amplifiers: 140 W peak on top driving Event's ULD1 — a neodymiummagnet, beryllium copper tweeter — and 600W peak on the bottom pushing the 7.1-inch EX8 carbon fiber-reinforced cone. [Event's alternate "long-term power" rating is a more appropriate real-world number and lower than the stated peak power rating as it measures a longer duration with both high and low frequencies simultaneously: 50W for HF and 270W for LF. — Ed.]
Also included in the complete Opal package is a microphone and software kit for room analysis. It was not included in my review kit. [According to Event, the company was still in the process of "final testing" the kit, thus a review-ready version was not available. — Ed.]
My first listening sessions were done with the speakers positioned nearfield, about four feet from my ears. My initial impression: These are very transparent monitors, nice highs with no edge, and lows that I did not expect from an 8-inch woofer. It offers not just "air-moving" lows, but lows with significant tone. Track 5 on Zachary Richard's Coeur Fidèle CD features an Indian drum with a very large fundamental note, down about 40 Hz; the Opals reproduced it very well.
I have a few favorite recordings featuring acoustic bass both plucked and bowed. With the Opals, I heard this source material with a very natural tone and timbre, almost as if I were standing next to the instrument. It is a testament to Event's engineering efforts in time alignment and transient response.
On the Bench (click thumbnail)
Fig. 1: The derived impulse responsebased frequency response. The Event Opals performed very well in the same battery of tests that were performed on the loudspeakers in this issue's Session Trial. Suffice it to say that the flatness of the Opal's measured frequency response was in the middle of the pack with an extended low end, and the tested Opal exhibited low distortion across a wide input range.
Fig. 2: THD+N (green trace) and output level (red trace) plotted against input level. In the 1 kHz FFT there were no discernable harmonics present, though the THD+N vs. Level test suggests that some harmonics might be measurable near the clipping point. The Opal also handled the widest range of input levels before the onset of clipping. And they sounded great.
—Frank WellsBloomfield, Cooper, and Stills' Super Session album has some nice horns and B3 — albeit recorded some time ago — but, as with the acoustic bass described above, its horns sounded very "real" and the Hammond fat and undulating. I noticed the snare on the elegantly mixed Steely Dan Aja album, which highlighted a little "rasp" I don't recall in my other monitors. But we've come a long way in monitor technology since those Dan sessions — the edge was always there in the mix, not a characteristic of these monitors.
To test how well the Opals did when cranked, I spun them around and pointed them down the long end of my room so I could move further back, about six to eight feet. Then I tried the Richard CD again. I raised the gain until one of the warning lights on the Opal began to blink with the beat. I'm not sure what the SPL was, but the Opals were above the "last playback of the night/smoke 'em if you got 'em" level. In about five drum hits, the left monitor safety circuit deployed, and the monitor muted. I reduced the volume and about 10 seconds later, the monitor regained consciousness and was fine: impressive sound and self-preservation features.
Little Feat, the Neville Brothers, Yes, Jennifer Warnes, Kix, the Rolling Stones, Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther," and my own projects: I listened to all for anything I didn't like, including distortion, crossover weirdness, honks, beaming, etc. I even invited a few sharp-eared friends over. Their responses were similar to mine: the Opals are very clear, very clean, offer good stereo image, and are capable of a curiously impressive low end given the size of its driver.
I spun the tweeter waveguides around 90 degrees and ran the Opals horizontally. The height of the sweet spot got weird, probably due to the highs now bouncing off my console/work surface. Next, I moved the Opals to my second monitoring station, which offers a better horizontal mount. The Opals had a wide sweet spot, and a more narrow point source super sweet spot. As I went back and forth between the Opals and my 3-way JBL L100 pair, the JBLs had a comparatively nasal sound and a smaller stereo spectrum.
The Opals are not small, but their impressive low end certainly makes them sound bigger than they look. I was very struck by their transparency, their dimensional sound field, and how "live" instruments and voices sounded when using them. Given what they offer, I think the Opals may be under-priced.
Ty Ford contributes to TV Technology, Radio World, DV and 2-POP.com. www.tyford.com.