We recently had a customer looking to purchase a pair of high-end studio monitors, so naturally, we wanted to seize this opportunity to spend the boss’s money and round up some staff picks for the audition.
James – Event Opal
James chose the Event Opals as they’re marketed with nothing short of a proclamation of being the best studio monitors ever. Big claim. Add to that several thousand forum posts by engineers and end-users singing their praises. It’s a pretty safe bet if speculation is anything to go by!
Paul – Quested S8R
It’s a matter of national pride! Quested are a solid English company and Event are an American company. Actually, they were an American company. Now, Event has been bought out by RODE and are by all accounts an Australian company. Like me, Event have been seduced by Australia and are enjoying a better life within its boarders. However, I prefer the smooth, balanced sound of English designs over the mid-scooped sound that Americans seem to enjoy.
Leveling the playing field
Our first task was to make sure that all the acoustic controls on both sets of speakers were set flat, including the volume. Underneath a rubber cover on the front of the Opals is a plentiful selection of controls covering EQs with variable q’s, high and low frequency shelves, acoustic space controls, even a DIM control to set the brightness of the illuminated logo!
The back of the Quested speakers was sparse by comparison with only dip switches for high and low frequency compensation and a level control. We used an SPL meter to match the volume level of the speakers. If loudness is a factor here, the Events have it in the bag! Unfortunately, as nearfield monitors, we’re not giving out any prizes for sheer volume.
Now that we had made sure that each speaker was going to get a fair chance to prove itself, we set about listening to everything from hip hop to classical. What we found was frankly what we expected to find…
The Opals had a very present high-end, a somewhat less present mid-range and punchy sub low frequencies. With electronic music, they sounded great, but when we switched genre, we found that acoustic bass drums took on the same tone as electronic bass drums, with less definition than pumping low frequencies. The other thing we noticed right away was that most of the sound seemed to be coming from the direction of the tweeters. With high-end monitors, there shouldn’t be any noticeable separation between the tweeter and the woofer, but the Opals clearly gave away where the sound was coming from. Overall the Opals were very impressive, but we couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed after the hype that has built up around them.
The S8Rs could not have been more different. The sound was smooth, with no accentuation or attenuation of frequencies, and the low end was certainly all present and correct despite having the disadvantage of being 15Hz shy of the Opals impressive 35Hz low frequency response. Electronic bass drums pumped away while acoustic kick drums had a beautiful woody tone to them and an air around them that suggested that 50Hz was plenty low enough. The other factor that impressed us was the incredible stereo imaging of the Quested’s. It’s said that you’ll never look at good monitors – they seem to disappear because they present sound in a natural and balanced way. Well, I can say the same for the S8R. The only thing we didn’t like was a low-mid frequency that was very pushy and made the speakers a little uncomfortable to listen to. However, a day later we moved the speakers slightly and this went away.
Well, the customer went away with the Quested S8R and we think he made the right decision. In the interest of being impartial, I will say that the Event Opals are incredible speakers and well worth the money. My preferences for studio monitors may not be the same as your preferences. You may be mixing hip hop and/or electronic music primarily and I may be mixing rock. In this scenario, the Quested S8R was favoured by the four Better Music staff members who wandered over to check out the monitor battle and certainly the customer, who now owns a fantastic set of monitors, and I’m told that his mixes are translating very well.