Naim NAC 282 – Pre-Amplifier
Lehmann Audio Linear Headphone Amp
Ovation High Fidelity 1501/1701
Ovation Model 1721 Power Amplifier
DEAL OF THE DAY
NAD M51 DAC/Preamp
How It's Made - McIntosh Tube Amp
The Event Opal Studio Monitors – By Steve RB Review
It’s an interesting predicament I’m in here, how to review Pro Studio gear on a ‘hifi’ website. Am I a music ‘pro’, no, do I have a studio, er, no…. am I an Audiophile? Well, probably, I may not be a hifi purist but I have sought excellence in music replay in my rooms and systems constantly over the years so I guess I qualify on that count. Also, what is ‘hifi’, this is where it gets interesting and has formed the basis of some fairly heated exchanges on here. According to the dictionary “High fidelity : An electronic system for reproducing high-fidelity sound from radio or recordings, (re. Electronics) a set of high-quality sound-reproducing equipment”. Wikipedia goes one step further to describe that “high-quality sound-reproducing equipment” as “Ideally, high-fidelity equipment has minimal amounts of noise and distortion and an accurate frequency response. “ Well that’ll raise some eyebrows and questions again, which is not my intent. I’ve had some stunning sounding systems in here that measured like the coast of Scotland, others I’ve heard are allegedly mill pond flat and sounded horrific.
Still, preface made, I had long understood the benefits of active speakers, the removal of that God-awful crossover and generic design rules that speaker and amp manufacturers have to contend with to maintain optimal suitability with each other’s products. I’d also considered the merging of technologies and the goals of both Studio gear and hifi gear with reference to the above ‘high fidelity goal’. Pro stuff ranges from full on monolithic main monitors capable of 130dB+, through larger midfield monitors that also arguably don’t really have a place in the domestic living room, to the smaller near field monitor end of the spectrum which is more suitable from a volume, space and cost point of view. But there are more and more people who swear by things as not only competing with, but in many ways surpassing traditional domestic hifi when used under the same conditions. As ever with me, itches don’t often go unscratched for long and research began. I spent huge amounts of time reading all the active monitor threads I could find, asking for advice, time on Gearslutz proved very helpful too and in the end it was some extremely polite and knowledgeable guys in a pro shop in Scotland that bent over backwards to help that convinced me to go for a home demo. It’s a very competitive market out there and there are as many different concepts, implementations and companies (almost…) as there are in the domestic world. Actually my budget turned out to be rather aspirational, you get a huge amount more for your money, that’s for sure and I am likely at the top end of the 2-way near-field segment with my chosen units.
And so to the chase, what are they? They are the Event Opals, Event being an Australian pro company, recently taken over, who embarked on ‘re-inventing the 2 way from the ground up’. 4 million dollars later and the Opal was born. Specs are incredibly impressive for a hifi guy, a cast aluminum clam-shell cabinet that is solid as a rock, peak volumes of 120dB, peak power of 1kW, a unique double voice coiled neodymium magnet 8” driver that has a linear excursion of 36mm! and boy does that thing move… All this in a finished item that promises (marketing tie on…) the lowest distortion of any comparable speaker on the planet, a challenge which they formally laid down. At 22Kg they are bigger than they look in the pics and came strapped in dedicated vac formed packaging, nice cloth bags and include a dedicated room set up mic and software system.
I’d got them set-up on some very heavy duty stands filled with 30Kg of iron shot. Also in here are my BK400 subs, the Opals are famed for their incredible bass articulation and power, but they are not full range, rolling off pretty steeply below 40Hz as physics takes over. The BKs are flat in room to 18Hz and could potentially integrate pretty well with the Opals given their custom top roll off starting at 30Hz. Still, not cheap by any means, but in theory this gives me an incredibly powerful and articulate full range speaker system (including amplification) for about £3500.
It’s damn hard not to make first impressions it really is, but a smile spread across my face in those first 20 seconds, then the work began. Set-up, integrated, positioned, run in, measured, knobs and dials tweaked etc – and they are off. The little rows of LEDs which run from green, thru yellow, orange to red indicating the general state of happiness of those amps and drivers. To this day, I have not managed to even get the green light to stay on, it just flickers saying it’s detecting a signal and not breaking a sweat. The coils can get up to 170 degrees and they certainly blow hot air out of those front slot ports as you turn up the wick. The BK subs run out of juice long before the Events do, although they are filling in only 1 octave at the bottom and are minimally set they do add a useful sense of scale and depth to things on certain recordings. If I didn’t already have them I probably wouldn’t bother though.
So how did things work out….? Well as I posted on the Studio Monitor thread, my first proper listen proved to be an utter epiphany, started listening at 6pm, by 4am I was seriously considering not going to bed at all. I’m not ashamed to say it but I had a tear in my eye on several occasions. Literally an out of body experience sitting there with music all around me, no perceptible source, dramatic 3D spacial imaging and utter blackness between the stunning dynamics, the sheer detail I could hear was incredible – and yes, all from a SBT and an Audiolab MDAC. I’ve not heard better. Period.
Indeed following that ‘Event’, everything was up for sale. For me it is the uncanny realism and detail – literally every recording I listen to is new, I can place instruments in absolute precision, I can shut my eyes and gaze around the venue or studio. I can hear each and every cock up, or shift in positioning or mixing error, which is also pretty entertaining. They don’t throw out a huge soundfield with dramatic scale, the OBs are on the opposite end of the scale here, they are everywhere and nowhere which is also an entirely appropriate presentation to love, it’s just completely different to these things which are immediate, pin point, rock solid and clean. The texture and detail in the bass in also superb, there is so much information down there and considering this is a relatively small 2-way is presents it with enormous power. I do have to sit a lot closer, they don’t project as well as some bigger speakers I’ve heard, but sitting 3-4m away it’s completely being at the gig. I’d expected the mids to let it down compared to the 845 SETs and OB Sabas which made probably the finest vocal sounds on the planet, and they are a touch more raspy, but I’m splitting hairs in comparison against some serious competition, the vocal range is still spine tingly realist and different inflections / presentations are so much easier to discern. Treble is clear and crisp without being sharp or sibilant, it’s more forward than I’m used to but not in anyway too much (and you can shelve / tune it anyway!).
What Event have managed is amazing, these things would replace some serious kit for me in a heartbeat. We know tastes differ and these will not be the cure all for all men, but they are genuinely a turnkey solution that damn a impeccable job of reproducing those hifi tunes….
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