The Event Opal monitors.
The national gemstone of Australia, opals are born from hydrated silicon dioxide under just the right combination of conditions, forming translucent gemstones of extraordinary brilliance, sparkle and rarity that have been prized by humans for thousands of years. Yet in late July, a new generation of Opals were found—not in the Aussie outback, but at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, where more than 100 audio dealers, distributors and members of the international press (myself included) assembled for a sneak preview of Opal, a cutting-edge series of new studio monitors from Event Electronics.
Event Electronics president Peter Freedman unveiled the Opals at a private gathering in Las Vegas.
The speakers are the culmination of a two-year research effort spearheaded by Event president (and RØDE Microphones founder) Peter Freedman, who set his goals on something well beyond the realm of the typical two-way, 8-inch near-field. "I wanted to redefine the concept of the near-field monitor," Freedman explains, "with a no-compromise approach to engineering." The essence of that goal was to create a two-way system that delivered the power and fidelity of large 3-way monitors.
The project began with assembling a team headed by Event's director of engineering Marcelo Vercelli—well known for his work with Mackie, KV2 and RCF—in charge of transducer and acoustical design, and former QSC designer Anibal Yusem, who created the system's high-performance analog amplification.
Unlike most monitor products that are based around existing drivers, all of Opal's components were built from the ground up. Opal's 8-inch EX8 woofer touts specs such as wide 30 Hz to 10k Hz response and 1,000-watt handling. Its unique X-Coil™ dual-coil design (combining active and static voice coils) is said to increase piston speed for better transient response, while lowering harmonic distortion by 18dB for greatly improved midrange performance. Extensive research was also paid to extreme LF reproduction, with the large neodymium magnet structure on the cast aluminum woofer basket. The blended woofer cone, combining long-strand carbon fiber and paper pulp offers strength, low mass and stiffness, and the entire motor assembly provides linear cone excursion well in excess of 24mm—most impressive for a driver only eight inches in diameter.
A rotatable waveguide allows the Opal monitors to be used horizontally.
The EBT1—another custom driver design—handles the other end of the audio spectrum, with a 1-inch beryllium dome and aluminum voice coil mated to a neodymium magnet structure for ultra-low distortion and smooth response. This tweeter is mounted on an asymmetrical waveguide for dispersion control in the horizontal and vertical planes and the entire HF unit can easily be rotated by the user to provide correct splay if the monitors are used on their sides. Adding another detail, an internal switch makes a minor phase correction to compensate for horizontal placement and yes, even the illuminated front-panel "Event" logo is rotatable.
Yusem's audiophile approach to amplification led to traditional linear power supplies with large, heavy toroidal transformers (thankfully, weight isn't typically an issue in studio monitors) in a Class-B topology that accounts for much of each cabinet's 55-pound heft. Heat from the 750 watts of internal bi-amplification is kept under check via huge anodized aluminum heat sinks that cover most of the rear panel. Full power THD specs are in the 0.0004% range.
Thanks to the wide bandwidth of both the LF and HF drivers, the crossover is a straightforward, second order (12dB/octave) design with a minimalist, simpler-is-best philosophy, although onboard circuitry is provided to protect the drivers against input overload and overexcursion. All components are top grade throughout—no skimping here.
Hidden beneath a removable rubber "Opal" logo insert cover on the front on the cabinet are knobs for tweaking the system to personal taste or acoustical considerations. These rotary controls include Level, Space (quarter/half fullspace), Q (bandwidth) Low Shelf, High Shelf and Dim. Here, the knobs' front placement makes access easier than the rear-mount controls on found on most near-fields, while the pop-out cover keeps them out of sight from unauthorized twiddlers. The front panel sports status LEDs for power-on/signal presence/clipping.
On the rear panel, a Neutrik Combo XLR/TRS ¼-inch connector accepts balanced or unbalanced analog line sources and a 15-pin D-sub connector mates to the optional AES/EBU digital input module. Along the rear panel and heat sink are multiple threaded inserts allowing for various secure wall mounting possibilities, which will surely be appreciated in 5.1/7.1 installations, particularly for hanging rear surround channels.
A key ingredient in the Opal design is the enclosure itself, with its molded composite front baffle/sides and thick aluminum rear panel. The cabinet itself has no parallel surfaces—in fact the only flat surface is the bottom plate and further, all sides are radiused to minimize diffraction effects. Rather than a rear ported approach, where LF energy exiting the back of the enclosure tends to have unpredictable acoustical results, designer Vercelli opted for front porting. However, as a solution to port noise issues—common in front-ported baffles—he developed what he calls "variable impedance" ports. The latter is a patent-pending design that combines slotted vents along either side of the drivers, with flared airways that are intended to substantially reduce air distortion artifacts.
THE FUTURE—AND MORE
Based on listening tests on a variety of material from the group of audio pros at the launch party, the overall impression of the Opals was favorable, especially in terms of the sheer amount of LF this 8-inch, two-way system can produce. Many remarked on the clarity of the critical mid-bass regions, while the upper mids in the range of the crossover and the highs seemed nicely balanced. And there were plenty of comments on the well-defined imaging within the stereo soundstage.
Slated to ship in September, the Event Opals carry a street pricing of $2,995/pair, and a dedicated room mode analysis software/calibrated microphone package will be offered as a no-cost option. Event is also developing other products in the Opal line, including a smaller 6-inch model, but that's at least months away. Meanwhile, we're keeping our eyes—and ears—on the 8-inch Opals and will provide a detailed test report under real studio conditions in an upcoming issue of Mix.
For more information on the Event Opals, visit www.event1.com.
For a video interview with designer Marcelo Vercelli, go to http://mixonline.com/video/.