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Feature | The Best Monitors Ever?

STUDIO SUPERTEST

We set out to find 2009’s best new


monitors – and we found the competition
more fierce than ever. But one pair edged it.
Robbie Stamp meets Event’s remarkable
new Opals. The new standard starts here…

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The Best Monitors Ever? | Feature

T
he last time we put a bunch of
WHAT IS IT?
monitors head to head the
Active two-way near-field
studio monitor fighting – sorry – discussion
went on for weeks. Now, with
CONTACT
a couple of years of water under the
Who: Source Distribution
Tel: +44 (0)20 8962 5080 bridge we decided to do it all again.
Web: event1.com Flip to page 35 for details of our day in
HIGHLIGHTS the hotseat, but for now, settle in with
1 Incredible depth and the inspiration for the new test –
clarity Event’s new Opal monitors.
2 Excellent off axis response
3 High amplifier and power Event Electronics president Peter
handling headroom Freedman is a man on a mission to let
SPECS the world know what a ‘no compromise’
Input Connection: Combo design brief and three years of R&D can
XLR/TRS (balanced and create. This ambitious project has been
unbalanced)
a massive undertaking, producing
Frequency Range: 36Hz
to 22kHz several patents (granted and pending)
Crossover Frequency: for speaker driver technology along the
1600Hz way. There is something of the
Crossover Type: Acoustic maverick about this product – and its
8th order (48dB/Octave) claims of exceeding the finest
3rd Harmonic Distortion: three-way studio monitor systems could
0.08% (500Hz – 7kHz),
0.2% (200Hz – 20kHz), be construed as foolish – so we just had
1.5% (<200Hz) – all to find out for ourselves.
measured at 90dB
SPL @ 1m Indeed, there is an awful lot to say recorded/played back. In the time spent a track. During tracking, the Opals also
Average Long-Term Power about the Event Opal and an awful lot with the Opals, I have never tracked shine as multi-mic phase issues are
Consumption: 220watts of work has gone into its design, but for and mixed so effortlessly and with so laid bare, low frequency aberrations
Quiescent Power once let’s skip the preamble and get little need to reference other speaker (eg. footfalls coming through mic
Consumption: <20 watts
straight to the heart of the matter. systems. This kind of aural stands) are easily isolated and mic/
LF Transducer (woofer):
EX8 8” driver with transparency also translates into an preamp selection can be sped up to
neodymium magnet, carbon Aural truth increased work rate and less ear make sessions more efficient.
fibre composite cone and The Opals sound so amazing and fatigue, which has got to be worth some
patented X-Coil voice coil
LF Transducer Power
perform so well I am loath to return the investment alone. Black mass
Handling: 360W (program review pair. By ‘amazing’ I mean that The Opals are capable of monitoring So how is all this possible? The key
power), 720W (peak power) the frequency response is frighteningly levels way beyond what would be word is mass, and at 21.2kg the Event
HF Transducer (tweeter): accurate across the audible range, with expected in relation to their physical Opal has plenty of it. The injection
ULD1 1” beryllium copper
dome with neodymium a wholly acceptable roll-off from ~60Hz size. I may be a little sensitive, but I moulded aluminium cabinet may be a
driver magnet to the vanishing point at ~30Hz. The think my ears/brain started to distort lot more expensive than a wooden
HF Transducer Power accuracy and transient articulation is before the monitors left their linear option, but the performance gains are
Handling: 50W (program enormous as
power above 1.6kHz), 100
watts (peak power
above 1.6kHz)
LF Amplifier Frequency
Let’s skip the preamble. The Opals acoustic design
(contouring) can
be actualised
Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
+/-0.1dB (operating band
pass 20Hz -1.6kHz)
sound so amazing and perform so without
compromise. The
LF Amplifier THD: 0.009%
@ 300 watts into 5Ω load
HF Amplifier THD: 0.003%
well that I am loath to return them metal cabinet
means rigidity so
resonance very low
@ 90 watts into 5Ω load
HF Amplifier Frequency such that I have been mesmerised performance region! In any reasonable without reducing the internal volume
Response: 20Hz – 20kHz while listening to music I thought I size control room (50m³ to 100m³), the necessary for low frequency
+/-0.1dB (operating band knew inside out. The off-axis response even frequency response and overt lack amplification. Standard bass porting
pass 1.6kHz to 20kHz)
is truly excellent and allows for a of electronic/acoustic distortion will be has been replaced by two ‘variable
Cabinet/Waveguide
Construction: uniquely wide ‘sweet-spot’ and first-rate maintained right up into SPLs that are impedance’ vertical ports at either side
High-pressure injection stereo imaging. Sometimes monitors only advisable for very short periods. of the cabinet face that work over a
moulded aluminium
seem accurate and revealing, but the Even bass-heavy tracks do not seem wider range of low frequencies than
Cabinet Volume: 28 litres
listener is in fact responding to to challenge the power of the Opals. In normal fixed-frequency designs.
Dimensions
pronounced phase distortions and their fact I have rarely experienced such While this design helps extend the
295 x 273 x 450mm
psycho-acoustic effects, which then rapid low frequency amplification and low frequency amplification, the main
Weight
becomes noticeable with the rapid found it a revelation for tweaking the contributor has to be the EX8 low/mid
21.2kg each
onset of ear fatigue. transient shape of bass elements in a driver (woofer), a proprietary 8” design
It is instantly apparent with the mix. The mid- and high-frequency utilising a neodymium magnet and
Event Opal, you are hearing the real accuracy is such that vocal placement patented voice coil design (X-Coil).
deal, free from artificial enhancement, within a dense mix or reverb level Without going into the techy details,
allowing for a remarkably true setting is a breeze and time can be this means the carbon/paper composite
representation of what is being spent dealing with the finer balance of cone can travel faster and further

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Feature | The Best Monitors Ever?

(36mm linear excursion – that’s kind of flat frequency response (+/-0.1dB from I’ve ever heard. At an RRP of £2,495 a
massive) than other drivers, and with a 20Hz - 20kHz) that in combination pair (with an expected street price of
peak power handling of 720W it is no with the EX8 and ULD1 drivers make around £2100) they are not cheap, but
wonder the bass and mids are so the most of the moulded cabinet. they are in a league where similar
ALTERNATIVES accurate. The ULD1 high frequency The final points of interest are the performance will be closer to £4k or
transducer (tweeter) is also a bespoke four M8 mounting bracket holes on the more (mainly three-way systems), which
creation, again using a neodymium large rear heatsink, a set of signal lights makes them a relative bargain. I hope
magnet to drive its 1” beryllium copper on the front (start-up state, signal other manufacturers put a lot more
dome and possessing a very high power present, overload, fault and effort into their products instead of
Focal Twin 6 BE
trading on a name.
£1,660 per pair
These ‘Johnny 5’ look-alike
near-fields are much lauded
and have a forward
The Event Opal is a staggering In weighing up
value, one must
consider what a
mid-range that is pleasing
to work with. They don’t
have quite the frequency
achievement and the best active product can do for
your business, and
range extension or sheer
power of the Opals, but
worth a listen. near-field monitor I’ve ever heard in this case it can
save a lot of time
as you can trust
focal-fr.com
handling (100W peak) to make sure it overheating) and a 25-pin D-Sub what you are hearing, increase
never distorts. This has been set in an connector at the rear for connecting productivity due to less ear fatigue and
aluminium waveguide that is fully expansion modules (eg. digital input be happy working as these are a true
. rotatable so the user can set the conversion or surround pleasure to listen to. The frequency
Klein & Hummel monitor on its side. interconnection), though no modules accuracy, transient response, stereo
300D
The amplifiers use the classic ‘best are available as yet. imaging, construction/design quality
£3,340 per pair,
of both worlds’ class A/B topology to and raw power of the Opal is staggering
This three-way near-field is
around 50% more balance low distortion with electrical The weigh-up and worth more than the price. Oh
expensive at street price, efficiency. They have a low-distortion/ The Opal is a staggering achievement yeah, and they come with a calibration
but it is the nearest monitor
high-power characteristic as well as a and the best active near-field monitor microphone and analysis software to
I’ve heard with regard to
soundstage clarity and optimise their performance within a
stereo imaging. Worth room. I can’t recommend this monitor
comparing, but still short
on power compared to Opal Control enough, so if you’ve got the money do
the Opal. not hesitate to buy them. If you don’t
klein-hummel.com Beneath the EX8 cone is wall or in a corner. This is removal of a particular quite have the money, wait until you
a rubber cover that hides a unique and useful frequency, though I found
have – it will be worth it.
a row of eight small feature that does a great the frequency on the
control knobs. The first job of keeping the not legending did not match
adjusts the input inconsiderable low-end the real frequency of the
VERDICT
sensitivity by +/- 6dB in performance of the Opal notch. As if this level of
3dB steps from the in check. A notch filter is control is not enough, BUILD
ZZZZZZZZZZ
Dynaudio Air 6 standard 0dB reference of provided across three there are also LF and HF
£2,247 per pair, 0.755v RMS. Following knobs for fine-tuning the shelving EQ trims (centred VALUE
ZZZZZZZZZ
Comparable on price but this a knob labelled low frequency range at 200Hz and 5kHz with
not close on power, these ‘Space’ which acts as an (40Hz to 280Hz) where +/-1.5dB) for a very gentle EASE OF USE
ZZZZZZZZZZ
represent a more overall low frequency standing waves can adjustment of the two
technological alternative. loading control with three seriously hamper monitor ends of the spectrum. The VERSATILITY
Utilising the TC Link ZZZZZZZZZZ
communication system, settings (1/1, 1/2 and clarity. The Q and Depth final knob controls the
1/4) to compensate for controls allow the user to illumination of the backlit RESULTS
the Air range offers stereo ZZZZZZZZZZ
to multichannel ‘intelligent’ the acoustic effects of range from a subtle, ‘Event’ badge which, like
monitoring for sweet spot room positioning, i.e. in gentle Q cut to a very the tweeter waveguide, is
and frequency response Easily the best active monitor you
an open space, close to a pronounced and sharp fully rotatable. Nice.
management. can get for the money and sets a
dynaudioacoustics.com new standard for the industry.

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The Best Monitors Ever? | Feature

The Focals get carefully


positioned in our
endless round of
head-to-head tests

THE TRACKS

Marilyn
Manson,
Tainted Love
This dense wall of
noise was an ideal
test for mid-range
definition.

D’Angelo,
Untitled
The warmth and
deep bass of this
track put the cat
among the pigeons.

The Big Test


Daft Punk,
Revolution
909
A fizzy, filtered club
record designed to
test the top and
bottom end.
Take five pairs of monitors, borrow a studio for the
day and fill it with Future Music’s test crew. Our
AC/DC,
goal? To find the best in show. Ready? Fight!

B
Back In Black y now you’ve read our the back of van was, of course went for Equator Audio’s distinctive
Which of our test
review of Event’s new Opal Event’s Opals, a monitor swathed in Q8 monitors which put in a great
subjects coped best
with the dynamics monitors, and probably so many superlatives that someone review performance a few months
of a Rock classic? been knocked out by its had to be lying. Surely? Rocking up back. And completing the pack we
astounding scores. In fact, we were next was Focal’s JM Labs Twin 6 BE opted for another review favourite the
so astounded by the new contenders – our favourite monitors of last year KRK VXT8s – when it comes to
that we had to rack them up against and the best £2,000 many of our making Dance music we’re
a line-up of FM favourites. Just to reviewers and celeb interviewees hard-pushed to suggest a better pair
Stevie make sure… have ever invested. Representing a for the money.
Wonder, And so off we went to Modern dependable studio standard we
So What The
Fuss? World Studios in Tetbury with a host reached for PMCs superb TB2S-A – a Choose your weapons
Solid, polished of test subjects (and a box of CDs) all safe choice and an ideal benchmark The first order of the day was
Funk to provide a hand-picked to separate men from for potentially wayward claims. With deciding on a playlist of test tracks.
full-on workout. boys and wheat from chaff. First into a nod to the more unconventional we Our intention was to find the sweet

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Feature | The Best Monitors Ever?

spot in all of our monitor’s range and in focus. The PMCs quickly widest range of results – sounding similarly pleasing ways. Our Stevie
– maybe – find one set that was head established themselves as a superb on the full-on Dance range of Wonder and AC/DC test tracks
and shoulders above the pack benchmark by which the competition our Daft Punk test track but suddenly acquired ‘air between the
regardless of what we threw at it. either triumphed or failed. Their delivering a harsh dense mid-range tracks’, while the low down, grunt of
With the selected tracks loaded performance was deemed for Marilyn Manson’s Tainted Love. the D’Angelo track revealed the
into Pro Tools and ran through ‘predictable’ but every test track – Opal’s magnificent bottom end.
consecutive channels on the studios and our live playing – sounded The final throwdown Things were getting tougher and
SSL Duality desk we were able to exactly as we anticipated. And while So far we were lacking a jack of all after a long break the team
quickly switch tracks and monitors the Equator’s certainly pumped the trades. Time to break out the big demanded the return of the Focals
– essential if we were going to bottom end a little more, they were guns in the shape of those Focals, and Opals – this time in reversed
head-to-head our subjects. And, in ultimately deemed ‘a little boxy’ and and the young pretender, the Opals. positioning – for a final test. Was the
order to further eek out the truth, we ‘forced’ by our test panel. It was the This is where things got rather tough Opal’s bass too much, we wondered?
set up a piano and drumkit in the live KRK VXT8’s however that gave the as both flattered the sound in And did Tainted Love ‘brickwall’ less
room to see how they coped with on the Focals? It was a close thing
some ‘real’ instruments too. but one question helped nail our final
We racked up the monitors two Robbie Stamp, Producer/Engineer decision: If our test team could take
pairs at a time. That way no one set “The Focals are great for fine tuning on away one set of monitors from the
would be disadvantaged through its
stuff – when I’m looking for detail and day, which would it be?’ The answer?
positioning and quick A-to-B Eight unanimous vote for the Event
comparisons kept things moving and don’t need a massive bottom end.” Opals. Gentlemen, we have a winner.

The Listening Panel


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Declan McGlynn Chris Barker Greg Scarth, Ben Muscat Nick Poortman Robbie Stamp, Mike Nyandoro Daniel Griffiths,
Prod Assistant, Features/Reviews Producer/Engineer Engineer, Modern Engineer, Modern Producer/Engineer Engineer, Modern Editor, Future Music
Future Music Editor, Future Music and FM test regular World Studios World Studios and sound designer World Studios

1 2 4 5 8

SPECIAL THANKS TO THE TEAM AT MODERN WORLD STUDIOS, TETBURY, UK. MODERNWORLDSTUDIOS.CO.UK

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The Best Monitors Ever? | Feature

Mike Nyandoro, Engineer

“The Opals
and Focals are
both great. I’d
love to mix on either
one but the Opals just
have so much more.”
The team take an
ear-saving break…
And talk hind-legs
from donkeys

Ben Muscat, Engineer

“The Events have this massive reserve


With the monitors
of power, so bass comes through right
racked up side by
side we were able
across the frequency range.”
to A/B them all
Our live playing and
test tracks quickly
highlighted each
monitor’s strengths
and weaknesses

Greg Scarth, Producer/Engineer

That essential
“The off-axis response of the Opals
component of any
listening test:
sounds way better than the Focals. The
The chin-touch sweet spot is just much wider.”
THE VERDICT THE WINNER

Focal Twin 6 BE PMC TB2S-A Equator Audio Q8 Event Opal KRK VXT8
£1,660 per pair £2,270 per pair £1,595 per pair £2,100 per pair £949 per pair
One of our best buys of 2008, these Deemed the most accurate and With the calibration system supplied ‘First you notice the incredible bass, Punchy and powerful, these gave
super-versatile units once again ‘steady’ set of monitors by our panel, the Q8’s made them great both in then you can’t believe that there’s no great results on the more Electronic
excelled on every test, being able to this tried and tested model coped the main control room and smaller mid-range driver.’ Built like tanks, tests we threw at them and they
‘breathe new life and depth into admirably with all we threw at it. programming room. More heavy as planets and the ‘most remain a true bargain and a pro
every track’ we played on them. Their ‘NS-10-like predictability’ drew ‘exciting-sounding’ than the PMCs exciting’ and ‘in-depth sounding’ performer. However ‘a lack of
Never noticeably enhancing their approval but ultimately meant that and ‘truer’ than the KRKs, they monitor we’ve tested. You might definition and space’ meant more
results, their ‘honesty and depth’ they ‘earned a deservedly respectful nevertheless ‘failed to ignite’ when quibble about their ‘flattery’ but we’d subtle tracks weren’t given the room
was referred to time and time again. nod’ rather than reams of praise. alongside the front runners. record and mix on these every time. they were lavished elsewhere.
focal-fr.com pmcspeakers.com equatoraudio.com event1.com krksys.com

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