Sunday, July 22, 2012

Event Opal - Bearing down on a gem


Event Opal Monitors
I’ve had the pleasure of using some great sounding monitors over the years and there does seem to be a price/performance ratio. When you start throwing dollars at linearity, low distortion, wide bandwidth, high frequency dispersion, transient response and stereo imaging, the bill adds up quickly. There are only so many ways to steal from the laws of physics, but there is always room for innovation. 
FEATURES
My initial impressions of the Opals, in order of their occurrence, were; heavy, almost 54 pounds a piece due to the large-ish torroidal mains transformers, large aluminum heat sink back-plate and high pressure injection-molded aluminum cabinets. Well-packed for shipping, Clean of line and accessible controls. These are bi-amped, two way monitors; Class AB, 600W Peak on the bottom, 140W Peak on top. 
As of this addendum, after having used the Opals for four years, I still think they are a very special audio monitor. My first listening was done in near-field, about 4 feet out. My initial impressions; these are very transparent, nice highs with no edge, lows that I did not expect from a 7.1” woofer. And not just “air-moving” lows, but lows with tone. Track five on Zachary Richard’s “Coeur Fidele” CD has an indian drum with a very large fundamental down about 40 Hz. The Opals had absolutely no problem reproducing those notes.
I have a few favorite recordings with acoustic bass both plucked and bowed. I heard a very natural tone and timbre, almost as if I were standing next to the instrument, hearing in 3D. A sign of attention to time alignment and transient response. Horns are a good test. “Super Session” has some nice horns and B3, albeit recorded some time ago, but as with the acoustic bass, the horns sounded very real and the Hammond fat and undulating. Steely Dan’s “Aja” was elegantly mixed. The snare had a little rasp I don’t recall in my other monitors, but we’ve come a long way in monitor technology since those sessions. The edge was in the mix, not in the 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. I tried the Richard cut again. I raised the gain until one of the warning lights on the Opal began to blink with the beat. I don’t know what the SPL was, but the Opals were above the, “last playback of the night, smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em” level. In about five more 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.
Little Feat, the Neville Brothers, Yes, Jennifer Warnes, Kix, Stones, Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther’, my own projects. I was listening for anything I didn’t like; distortion, crossover weirdness, honks, beaming. I invited a few sharp-eared friends over. Their responses were similar to mine; very clear, very clean, good stereo image and curiosity as to how the Opals were capable of such a low end given the 7.1” driver. 
I spun the tweeter waveguides 90 degrees and ran the Opals horizontally. The height of the sweet spot got weird, probably due to the highs now bouncing off my table. I moved the Opals to my second monitoring station which offered a better horizontal mount. The Opals had a wide sweet spot, and a more narrow point source super sweet spot. The low end was bigger than needed and I used the Opal’s EQ controls to trim it. As I went back and forth between the Opals and my 3-way JBL L100s, the JBLs sounded nasal and had a smaller stereo spectrum. 
Summary
Bridging realities when moving from one set of monitors to another is a stressful experience; more so if you have been using one pair of monitors for a long time. The Opal’s EQ controls provide a means to ease that transition. The calibration software and mic did not arrive in time to meet my deadline. I am very curious as to what it will suggest. 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, how dimensional the sound field was and how live the instruments and voices sounded. Given what they offer, I think the Opals may be underpriced. 
Ty Ford contributes to TV Technology, Radio World, DV and 2-pop. He may be reached at www.tyford.com.
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At A Glance
Application: Powered Reference Monitor
Key Features: Extensive EQ controls. Two way powered monitors with 1” beryllium copper tweeters with 140W  Peak amp and an innovative 1” throw, carbon fiber composite coned, 7.1” bass driver with 600W peak amp. Optional D/A converter.
Price: $2995/pr
Contact:
Event Electronics
www.eventelectronics.com