Definitive Technology Mythos Four Speaker System
So I was chatting with Paris Hilton the other day about some arcane aspect of cosmic string theory (OK, all aspects of cosmic string theory are arcane to me) when it suddenly hit me: The slender, silvery beauty of Definitive Technology's Mythos speakers might actually be a drawback. I was so disturbed by this realization that, using ancient Latin with such eloquence it would have brought tears to Cicero's eyes, I cancelled our date to go shopping for the latest opera releases on SACD, returned the new issue of Foreign Affairs that I'd borrowed from her, and headed home to drink a seaweed-and-algae smoothie while meditating on the problem.
There's simply no doubt about it. The Mythos speakers that Def Tech sent me for review—floorstanding Mythos Fours for the mains, a Mythos Three for the center, and a pair of never-before-seen-by-normal-humans Mythos Gems for the surrounds, plus a SuperCube II subwoofer—were drop-dead gorgeous. I'm talking stunning, can't-get-them-out-of-your-mind, wouldn't-kick-them-out-of-bed-for-eating-Limburger-cheese-and-Wassa-crispbread gorgeous.
The Mythos Four exudes class and style as it presses upward from its elegant glass base. It soars toward the ceiling like a refined cathedral spire built to appease the gods of great sound and stylish décor. The sylphlike horizontal Mythos Three rested lightly atop my TV, looking for all of the world as if it were only temporarily reclining and might, at any moment, choose to soar upward, as well. The Mythos Gems, about as perfectly proportioned as tiny speakers can be, beckoned from their perches in the back of the room.
There's no law of physics nor any pending Constitutional amendment that I'm aware of declaring that speakers must look average at best and toad's-butt ugly if at all possible. But our collective puritanical background subconsciously forces most red-blooded Americans to be highly suspicious of any component that even has a whiff of style about it (Apple's iPod being a giant—or, more accurately, a tiny—exception to the rule). Our feelings run much the same with people. Geeky nerds aren't expected to be the best dressed guys at the lunch buffet; and, well, I don't really think Paris Hilton reads Foreign Affairs, either.
Some misguided people are going to dismiss these Mythos beauties as just another collection of pretty faces with no substance to them—and they'd be wrong. Stultifyingly wrong. If Def Tech had just jumped on the rapidly moving lifestyle bandwagon and simply crammed a few basic drivers inside a cabinet cosmetically tailored to appeal to the flat-panel TV-buying crowd, then none of this would matter. The fact is that, while Def Tech most admittedly designed these speakers around a contemporary cosmetic concept, they also used their engineering prowess to breathe silky sonic life into their creation.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Def Tech engineered the Mythos Fours, Threes, and Gems (plus the Mythos Twos, which the company sent me before they had a pair of Gems ready for me to listen to) with the intention that there would be a subwoofer in the system, so there's no midbass peak designed into the speakers. Some manufacturers use this trick to fool the listener into thinking there's bass where there is none. In addition to detrimentally altering the sonic balance, such a peak makes it more difficult to smoothly integrate the speakers with a subwoofer.
That's a rather bold step because, if you put these speakers on a demo wall in a store and compare them with another speaker that's been voiced with a peak in the midbass, your first reaction is likely to be that the Mythos are a little thin and weak, rather than highly accurate and neutral. But, here again, your thinking would be going in the wrong direction. Add a subwoofer, such as the SuperCube II, and—like a rich socialite with a dark past—these mild-mannered, highly refined beauties turn into adrenaline-pumping, take-no-prisoners competitors that will eat for lunch (belch included) just about any other system in the price range.
The system's blending of bass and beauty is quite astounding. I've rarely run into a combination where it was so easy to match the subwoofer to the speakers—or a combination that sounded so natural together. It's as if they were made for each other (which, now that I mention it, they were).
If you've long been a fan of Def Tech's bipolar speakers, this Mythos system has a slightly different sonic character than you might be used to, largely because the Mythos speakers feature a forward-radiating design, not a bipolar one. As a result, the soundstage isn't as big as that of the larger bipolar towers. There's something here that's equally as appealing, though. The Mythos are so intimate in their imaging and precise in their reproduction that they create a sonic portrait with such subtlety and sincerity that, if you could somehow freeze forever such an audible moment, it would be worthy of hanging in the Louvre.
The cabinets' narrowness, the lack of parallel sides, the excellent internal damping, the PolyStone mineral-filled polymer front baffles, the specially annealed aluminum dome tweeters with silk surrounds, and the Medite planar bass radiators that refuse to let midrange frequencies bleed into the room combine to provide the unfettered, thoroughly unencumbered lightness of being a Mythos speaker. But what it really boils down to is this: How do these slender silos sound when you plunk them on the floor or pop them on the wall next to your plasma? In a word: three-dimensional and thrilling. Well, that was three words, but you get what I mean.
Strong yet Subtle
The underlying nature of the Mythos Fours, Threes, and Gems (which, by the way, also fared quite well as main speakers when I paired them with the SuperCube II subwoofer) is a subtle sweetness and unerring accuracy. The sonic blend of the bass with the midrange vocals, guitars, and harmonica on Blues Traveler's Truth Be Told DVD-Audio disc is a great example of this; at the same time, the ensemble flawlessly reproduced the maniacally defined antics found on Chesky's Musical 5.1 Surround Show SACD. In fact, if you don't think these speakers have what it takes to run with the ugliest but best sounding speakers in the price range, listen to "Music for Cello, Helicopter and Cars" on the Chesky disc. If the system is dialed-in properly, it'll change your opinion of how good a lifestyle product should be.
All of the aspects that make music sound so good achieve similar results with movies. Master & Commander was much more than I bargained for with this system—especially early in the movie, when you're lulled into calm by the creaking of the ship and the breaking of the waves just before a hell storm of canon shots is released. These Mythos are no passive wallflowers, let me tell you. Seabiscuit, a much less rambunctious movie that relies on subtlety of sound and narration as a large part of its story, was just as engagingly portrayed and just as enjoyable.
Hopefully the Mythos are an early indication of a paradigm shift in the way manufacturers and consumers think about how products should perform and fit into our lives. I, for one, am certainly ready for this shift. Even if other manufacturers don't follow Def Tech's lead, this system is still a mighty fine-sounding and damn good-looking group of speakers.
• Mythos beauty is more than skin deep
• Gems utilize wide-dispersion bipolar array
• Music and movies are equally stunning