As people slowly grow accustomed to the idea of thin, stylish flat-panel televisions in their living rooms, it's logical to assume that sooner or later they'll start looking at large, bulky speaker systems as a blight on their carefully constructed lounge-scapes. Finding speakers to fit the whole thin and sexy look isn't the problem; finding speakers that do this while still managing to sound good is much harder. The problem is, any compromise of the physical bounds of a loudspeaker's casing will generally have an adverse effect on the sound it can produce. After all, there's a reason high-end speaker manufacturers spend considerable time and money designing the cabinets their drivers reside in. A good speaker cabinet needs to be solid enough in its construction and internal damping so as to not resonate unduly during music playback, colouring the audio.
Why all this talk about speaker cabinet design? The Mythos System by Definitive Technology is purpose-built to complement flat-panel TV and speakers no more than 15cm deep. Comprising eight different speaker designs ranging from floorstanders to bookshelf designs, you can mix and match to your heart's content. We tested a 5.1 configuration consisting of two Mythos One floorstanding fronts, two Mythos Two surrounds, a Mythos Three centre channel and a SuperCube II subwoofer.
Apart from the SuperCube, all the Mythos speakers are made using a heavy-duty, extruded aluminium cabinet with what Definitive Technology calls a "PolyStone" front baffle. The result is a cabinet free of resonating frequencies that not only sounds good but looks the business too. A quick knuckle-rap test presents a promisingly dull thud as opposed to an empty-sounding, hollow knock.
Each Mythos One tower contains a D'Appolito driver array (a 1-inch aluminium dome tweeter sandwiched between two 5 ¼" drivers) with another two midrange/bass drivers flanking two planar passive radiators. The purpose of all these extra drivers/radiators is to allow such a shallow cabinet to produce a reasonable amount of bass. Even though they're rated as full-range speakers, they are nevertheless specifically designed to be used with a subwoofer; without one they simply couldn't produce clean sound at high volume.
Fortunately, the little SuperCube II subwoofer (an 8" driver with two passive radiators) is adept at creating beautifully deep sub-bass to fill in the low end of the Mythos Ones. If your amp allows it, cut the towers at about 80Hz to alleviate some of the strain of producing low-frequency sound and things will sound much better.
The Mythos Three centre has a wonderfully full quality to it that provided impetus to movie soundtracks, while the Mythos Two surrounds chimed in beautifully as required.
Used in a stereo configuration for music playback, I quite enjoyed the sound the Mythos Ones and SuperCube II created. Music and movie sound was detailed and pleasingly rich throughout the frequency range. If I put on my ultra-picky audiophile hat for a moment I'd say the aluminium tweeter tended to be a little harsh for my liking. Not so much that I'd be dissuaded from enjoying these speakers, but just enough to add a little unnecessary sibilance to "ch" and "sss" sounds. Likewise, without proper subwoofer integration the mid and lower midrange booms a little at high volume. But like I said, I'm being picky here and my overall impression of the Mythos System is very favourable indeed. Given the difficulties that must have been overcome to produce a slimline, aesthetically pleasing speaker with great sound, it's quite an achievement that these tall, slender beauties should produce the sound they do.