Is there any home-theater component sexier than a big flat-panel HD monitor? According to industry analysts and my own unofficial polling (friends, family, and other lovable eccentrics) the answer is a flat N-O! And this in spite of the unanimity among TPV’s crack video writers that the boxless panels remain a few pixels short of imaging perfection. No matter, the market has spoken—and thin is most definitely in.
In response, loudspeaker companies, feeling the pressure to nip and tuck, have been thinking outside the box. For industry veterans like Definitive Technology, the challenge is designing a speaker consistent with the svelte packaging of plasma and LCD flat panels, while maintaining a broad envelope of performance. Sound reproduction in-volves powerful physical and acoustic forces, all of which are influenced by transducer size and enclosure construction and volume. Definitive Technology is answering the challenge with its Mythos lineup. As rail-thin as a Parisian supermodel, Mythos is not just a hollow-cheek poseur. There’s genuine substance beneath its aircraftaluminum good looks.
The gleaming aluminum fuselage of the Mythos Five Tower slides out of its packaging with the heft and feel of a part fabricated for a classified project at Lockheed’s Skunk Works. The curvilinear sides and back of the 40" front left/right floorstander are a single continuous section, mated to matching aluminum top and bottom caps. The PolyStone front baffle is remarkably narrow. A thick plate-glass base secures to the bottom, and spikes are included to ensure stability. The Five is a three-way configuration with dual midrange drivers bracketing the aluminum- dome tweeter, D’Appolito-style, at the top. Directly below are dual woofers and passive radiators, which are fully isolated in a separate internal compartment.
The Mythos Seven center channel employs an identical array of drivers and radiators, with the exception of the two bass units—once again in a D’Appolito arrangement. For surround- sound duties the Mythos Gem employs a unique twin-angle baffle design for its dual 3.5" mid/bass drivers, to achieve the dispersion of a bipolar while retaining the Mythos’ columnar style. The Gems offer mounting alternatives that include wall-mounting with the included steel plate, a pivoting wall-mount option, and finally the graceful aluminum-and-glass GemStand for floor mounting—a real beauty that integrates seamlessly with the speakers and includes channels to neatly dress the speaker cables. The SuperCube III subwoofer is the fourth iteration of Definitive Tech’s premier subwoofer, reduced to near-miniature dimensions. No larger than a squared-off medicine ball, it’s a micro-marvel that uses 650 watts to drive its single 7.5" woofer and two passive radiators to impressive depths and output in smaller rooms. Connectivity is good with speaker-level inputs/outputs, linelevel inputs, a high-pass filter, and an unfiltered LFE input, as well as variable level, phase, and low-pass controls. The complete system as reviewed sells for $2504.
The character of the Mythos Five Tower conveyed a tangible sense of midrange purpose with good balance and a lighter overall tonality. Vocalists, from baritones to mezzos, sounded lively and upfront. In the lower mids, some resonant heft was subtracted from the vocal character of a bass baritone like Nick Cave or Tom Waits, but not distractingly so. Less appealing was a slight upward tilt in the lower treble that added a trace of extra sibilance, revealing the tweeter’s generally brighter personality. At the frequency extremes, a female vocalist or solo violin could both sound a little dry and clinical at times.
Although the Mythos system was designed and optimized for use with a subwoofer, midbass and upper bass responsiveness was quite good even without the muscle of the SuperCube III. Still the Mythos Towers alone won’t stomp coal into diamonds all by themselves. If you want to follow the acoustic bass to its deepest notes during Tom Waits’ “Georgia Lee” [Mule Variations], you’ll need to SuperCube it. Note: Keep in mind that integrating left/center/right speakers with a sub relies equally on the subwoofer and the satellites to reproduce the bass frequencies at or near the selected crossover point. Thanks to the Five’s neutral mid- and upper-bass response, the transition from subwoofer to satellite is nearly imperceptible.
Imaging and soundstaging mavens will take one look at the rail-thin baffles of the entire Mythos line and begin salivating. And they won’t be disappointed. In both stereo and multichannel playback the Mythos system seemed to vanish with the first few bars of music. From the live acoustic soundstage of a symphony hall to the virtual realities manufactured on a film mixing stage, depth and dimensionality were excellent.
In terms of dynamics there was a modest subtractive quality that obscured the finer micro- and macrogradations. For example, the dynamic urgency of Joni’s electric piano intro to “Woodstock” [Hits: Reprise], where she’s striking chords with increasing intensity, was not reproduced as boldly as it should have been. Again, some mild dynamic compression was audible in the blast from Clark Terry’s trumpet [One on One, Chesky]. Ultimately when it comes to the heavy-lifting required in a Mahler Third Symphony or a Gladiator DVD, the Mythos’ small drivers can’t attain the dynamic scale and scope of sound of a conventional wide-body speaker. But while the Mythos can’t quite ante up the full majesty of epic soundtracks, it’s a system that constantly surprised me by how close it came.
Five Channel Flat-tery
In both movie and music multichannel every speaker in the Mythos 5.1 system admirably pulled its weight to produce soundfields and immersion with such persuasiveness that I had to double-check the wiring to ensure a larger system hadn’t kicked in. A great showcase example is “The 100 Mile Dash”—a scene from The Incredibles, which pits the speedster wonderboy Dash against the saucer-mounted security goons of Syndrome in a tipof- the-hat homage to Hollywood’s finest chase sequences, from James Bond to Star Wars. The Mythos system reproduced a soundfield vastly more expansive than I would have predicted, yet fully in line with the hyper-realism of the animation, where characters are slingshot in and out of frame. It captured the details of branches and twigs snapping underfoot, the Skil-Saw scream of the saucers in pursuit, even the tiny patter of Dash’s feet as he sprints across the lake. The movement through the Gem surrounds was—in spite of the size differences—tonally consistent with the L/C/Rs, a tribute to using identical drivers throughout and a fast subwoofer underneath. The Mythos center channel held up well under dynamic pressure yet maintained good articulation, reproducing challenging low-level dialogue quite well. Finally, don’t be put off by the teeny SuperCube III. It might look like a toy, but its reproduction of the weight and drama from a trio of drummers plus percussion during “All Things Must Pass” from Concert for George was nothing less than grown-up.
In the au courant world of fashionistas and flat panels the Definitive Technology Mythos system is equal parts style and substance. It’s a system that I continually underestimated— only to be proven wrong each time. However, its success will hinge on it being more than a good sound system. Where issues of room integration and lifestyle are concerned it must also be a solution. For this reviewer and envious flat-panel-owner wannabe, Mythos has got this issue flat-out solved.