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User Review: Event Opal (Warning! Long post.)

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User Review: Event Opal (Warning! Long post.)

Postby OneTrakAudio » Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:33 am

Okay, so I’m here to post my review of the Event Opal Loudspeaker.

I was going to write more, but now i'm tired!


There is a story to the company known as Event. Most people realise, either through the brand’s loud marketing behaviour or just being ‘in the know’, that the company has undergone a change of ownership into Aussie hands. Having been an Australian kid myself, I know from first-hand experience how we have the concept of ‘buying Australian made’ beaten into us. So it was with a little bit of pointless and patriotic pride that I made my purchase of the Event Opals - after much shopping around, of course!

In my shopping quest I auditioned Dynaudio, Focal, Adam and Opal. In the end the Opals won for quite a few reasons. I was even offered Focal SM8’s for a comparative price (albeit just a little higher) and although they were truly great boxes, a few things put me off. Even though they are worth far more off the shelf than Opals, I felt the bass response might be an issue for me, and the reflex ‘trampoline’ style ports just say ‘Too many moving parts to wear and tear’ to me. The Opals are front ported, and they will keep moving air forever without degradation.

Anyway, most of you know the story by now. Rode, the company that has built a great reputation for itself over the years (owned by Peter Freedman, Marketing Extraordinaire) by making affordable yet surprisingly good quality microphones, bought out the US based company Event. Event previously had their range of loudspeakers, which to be honest never really thrilled me, and I had always lumped them into the ‘cheapo’ category. Peter scrapped the existing line then put years of research and millions of dollars into the Opal project, which in my mind has re-defined the brand from the ground up.

I won’t go into the Spec’s here in this review. That boring old spec list you can get anywhere, on their website, no doubt even in an SOS review, I’m sure! I’m just going to talk about my experiences with the product. My one wish with reading audio magazines is that the reviewers would talk more subjectively about the sound of the product. Too many pages are filled up with Spec info that I can easily Google in 5 seconds flat.

I’ve used a modest array of studio boxes over the last ten years. That list includes NS-10’s, Dynaudio, Genelec, Behringer, Adam, Tapco, Mackie and Alesis. Add all those together, and the only ones that take up the slack are the Dynaudio’s and the Adam’s, in my opinion. I’m not a Genelec kinda guy. Not to say they are bad, though. I have been using Tapco S8’s in a love-hate relationship for the last few years. I just love their distorted, blended wash of a mid-range mixed with hyped bass (tongue firmly placed). They make techno sound so wonderfully unrealistic. They are absolutely horrid however for mixing accurately. Imagine my surprise when two weeks ago I replaced the worn Tappy’s with the shiny new Opal’s and put some music on!

And this is where I start. I set them up in the afternoon and continued to sit in amazement until late night, early morning. I put on every record from every genre in my collection, racking my brains thinking of long forgotten tracks that were sonically superior, be they old or new. Every single track just had this amazing ‘living’ sound, with an ‘unheard before’ quality to it. I COULD FINALLY HEAR MY MUSIC. I kid you not; there were moments of sheer musical bliss, complete with goose-bumps and maybe even a tear in eye!

You might be forgiven at this point in assuming I’d never heard a great speaker before. I’ve used Dynaudio BM15a for many years while working as an engineer at Sydney’s longest running independent studio, and the list above I mentioned the likes of Adam and Genelec. I’m no super high end user, though.

The first thing that struck me is what a lot of the press has also mentioned, and that’s the ABSOLUTE lack of mid-range distortion, at any reasonable level (and when I say reasonable, I mean I haven’t even got close to making them sweat). This comes in part from the zero time delay difference between the two cones in each box. On good quality source material, the clarity of the mid frequencies is nothing short of amazing. For example, if there are several sounds or instruments in the mid range at once, like a sharp transient-ey guitar, and a smooth piano chord AND say, a harmonica, they simply remain completely separate. My mind struggles to believe what I’m hearing. One is layered over the other, yet they never seem to touch. The sound stage is that incredible.

I must admit I had a few reservations before hearing them. For one, when it comes to tweeters I’ve always been a ‘soft-dome’ guy. I never liked the Mackie style forward and uber-dry mixes. Every bit of music I made on Mackie’s I wanted to drown in reverb, if only to make my ears relax. Although the Opals are reasonably bright and tough in the top end, compared to say an Adam ribbon tweeter, they are so clean and crisp that all doubts just melt away when you hear a string section surge forward in the mix. I sit around and wait for that string section in every track! Another reservation I had was purely an aesthetic one, in that I thought the Opals were dead-set hideously ugly. All that ‘Complex Radii’... Couldn’t they have made the outside square while the inside curved? But you know what? You really do get used to ‘em. Even love them. Especially the very imposing horn plates, which scream ‘listen to me!’

The beam of the Tweeters is massively wide. How can they do this? I move my head from side to side, stand up and sit right down. Hell, I even get up and walk around and the image from the tweets is utterly stable. My entire control room is now the sweet spot. This was NEVER the case previously. Yes, the bass changes near the walls, but I swear the tweets have motion sensing cameras and just follow me around the room (are you spying on me Mr. Freedman?). On the other hand, when I was researching Focal’s I heard that the beam is quite narrow and pointed. You have to use the software to point the beams at you, and when they lock in, they lock in. This seems the antithesis to the radiating light that is the Opal tweeters.

High sounds remain full and rich, even at relative volumes. There’s a ride cymbal hit in a track by ‘Lior’, panned ¾ to the right, and I believe it scared the crap out of me with its realism. But more on the mid range, which is I think the defining characteristic of these TWO WAY speakers. The Crossover point seems non-existant. Truly a three way sound in a two-way box. A warmly recorded vocal (again, Lior) will sit smack bang in the centre of the stage, and pronounce a thick and rich mid range that has changed the way I’ll be recording vocals. I will not be eq’ing anymore vocals ‘upwards’ to get them to poke out from the sludge. I won’t needlessly be pushing ‘air’ into a sound, thereby degradating it, to feel like I’m breathing life into a dull track. The Opals have lighted the path, and shone a critical eye over my mixing.

The technology behind the low drivers is also worth a read. Alas, it won’t be here though. For me, this aspect of the speaker has taken the longest to adjust to. But after many hours over the last two weeks of just shuffling through music, I am coming to terms with the low end. Although my musical taste is wide, and I produce many varied forms of music for myself and other people, my primary bread and butter is progressive trance, with lashings of techno. I’ve been doing this successfully for over ten years now. It’s ESSENTIAL that I have deep (very deep) bass response, and a quick bass response, too. The most important freq range of my music is from 40Hz up to say 300Hz. I’ve been getting it wrong for a while now, I see this now. Even worse, I’ve been releasing music that didn’t match up. My old boxes hid freq’s and boosted others that made me mix in error. Sure, I learned to deal with them and compensate, and I’ve done some really nice mixes, but nothing really beats having the honesty right there in front of you. I’ve already noticed it takes less than half the time and far less headaches to do ANYTHING. I just zone in on a frequency, and correct it. No more guessing.

As you can tell, I’m a very happy customer. I would have been happy with a lot of monitor brands in this price range or higher, but I now know I made the best choice for my particular needs that I could have made. I don’t know how I went so long without them. I don't think I would have typed so much for any other speaker in the price range though.

Event is a completely new, re-imagined brand. Thankyou Mr. Freedman and co.

There really is something about these speakers. Believe the hype.
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Re: User Review: Event Opal (Warning! Long post.)

Postby onesecondglance » Fri Nov 13, 2009 2:04 pm

good review, thanks man. it would be interesting to me to hear your opinions in a couple of months, to see if there's anything that has started to bother you or in mixes that doesn't translate that well.

i must say i've very tempted by these though...
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