Fairly young and becoming something of an instant legend, the Event Opal is getting tons of attention. It’s not often that a company scales a rather diverse monitor range down to a single product (recently updated to two). So is the attention all hype, or has Event once again created a new class of speakers as they did with the original Event 20/20 (Tape Op #18)? After a few months of really hammering a pair of Opal monitors, it’s obvious that Event has a truly unique product that’s going to continue to impact the audio industry for a long time to come.
Out of the box, the Opal is something different just to look at. It’s enormous for a 2-way speaker, and it’s heavy — 46 lbs. For some perspective, the Focal Twin to which it’s often compared weighs 30 lbs, and the Genelec 8050A is 28 lbs. Where’s the extra weight coming from? Perhaps it’s the 1000 watts of amplification on board with a heat sink that runs a large portion of the cabinet’s 18’’ height. Yup — 1000 watts of “burstable power” (no this is not RMS, but it’s still a freakishly large number no matter how you look at it). The cabinets are also likely a good chunk of the weight, having been formed using high-pressure injection-molded aluminum. The sheer mass of the Opal combined with the rigidity of aluminum are huge pluses, by design allowing for much more accurate transient response. Further adding to the clarity produced by the Opal is its shape — definitely no squared edges to induce diffraction or resonance. Moreover, as Event states, “Every component was to be custom and proprietary, engineered to work in complete synergy with every other component.”
Okay, so it’s wild to look at, but what comes out is the important part, and what you get is, in short, unbelievable sound. The incredible transient response achieved by the Opal means no smearing and an amazing soundstage. The first time I powered the Opal pair on, I called our entire staff of composers to our theater to hear what was coming out of them. As I scanned through a number of familiar songs, I was blown away by the well-defined space each instrument occupied.
The first obvious trait of the Opal is its low-end response. It’s tight. Like ridiculously tight. Tight like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. A kick drum at 50 Hz has thunderous power all while not stepping on a bass line at 100 Hz in the least — each having amazing presence. The other thing that becomes quickly obvious and that really sets these speakers apart is the fact that this powerfully tight low end comes with no flattery (and no port noise at all) — something super common in other speakers. There are two proprietary technologies in the woofer alone that lend themselves to this characteristic — XBL being an Event-patented magnetic motor that allows the woofer to linearly extend much farther than other woofers, and X-Coil allowing it to move much faster and with greater control — thus enabling the Opal to produce much lower frequencies with much greater accuracy and almost zero distortion. Clarity across the rest of the spectrum is equally impressive, and phase response is linear throughout — even when using the onboard EQ controls. In something as complex percussively as a Fela Kuti song, it’s incredible the way you can aurally “see” where each individual instrument is sitting. I especially appreciated how the upper midrange exhibits no harshness. “Harsh” could mean different things to different people, so for the sake of those reading this, I feel like the ribbon tweeter in the Adam S3-A ( Tape Op #33) is harsh. I happened to put on Adele’s “Turning Tables” and at 2:40, where her voice is soaring and violins are building — where any harshness would certainly be easy to hear — the violin, vocal, and piano were all clearly reproduced without a hint of strain nor any phasiness near the crossover region.
Working on my own music from start to finish with just the pair of Opals, this is where I also started to realize how comfortable the speakers were to work with. Fatigue wasn’t an issue at all, and I felt like the fine art of carefully placing all the elements in a mix was made simple due to the accuracy of the Opal. The value of immediately hearing where new elements sit properly can’t be overstated. For anybody making music or involved in critical listening, this is a huge part of the game — putting ideas down and knowing they’ll translate well the way you’re hearing them. I’m lucky enough to be able to bounce between a lot of different monitors. My usual checklist of alternate speakers includes Yamaha NS-10M, Adam S3-A, Genelec 8240A, JBL 3678, as well as a few others — oh, and I can’t forget about iPod earbuds (including the new super-upper-midrangey version) — and my Opal mixes translated really well across all.
Every listening environment has its issues, and the Opal has decent parameters to manipulate. There’s a super-convenient front panel of knobs hidden behind a door (thank you Event for not putting these controls on the back) that let you tweak a number of settings to optimize for room position and personal preference. Also included is a free download of Event StudioEQ to measure and calibrate the monitors to your particular acoustic environment. It’s not quite as graceful as a DSP system, and there’s software out there that’s more flexible ( e.g., FuzzMeasure, Room EQ Wizard), but the system is still a nice addition.
I really, really enjoy working on these speakers, and I think the Event legend will continue to grow. Massively powerful, no distortion, excellent translation, comfortable to work on for extended periods, and great clarity across the board — the Event Opal is a welcome addition to my mixing desk. ($1499 street; www.eventelectronics.com)
–Brandon Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org>
by Thom Monahan
Monitors of all shapes and sizes have always seemed like an extension of the stereo speakers I saved up my paper route money to buy when I was a kid. Over time they got better, clearer, definitely...