Definitive Technology initially made a name for itself with a highly regarded line of large bipolar loudspeakers, one of which I used to own -- the original BP10. The company still manufactures a full line of bipolar speakers, including some with powered woofers and even an updated version of the BP10, now called the BP10B. But Definitive also produces sub/sat systems, lifestyle speakers, in-wall and in-ceiling speakers and even outdoor speakers.
One of the latest and most successful Definitive products is the Mythos line of lifestyle speakers that combine high performance with slim, stylish aluminum cabinets. Last year, Definitive introduced the Mythos ST SuperTower, which is priced at $2998 USD per pair. It incorporates a powered woofer section into the sleek extruded-aluminum cabinet that earmarks the entire Mythos line. Earlier this year Definitive followed that up with the slightly smaller and $1000-less-expensive Mythos STS SuperTower, which is the subject of this review. After hearing a very promising demo of the Mythos STS at this years CES, I jumped at the chance to review this interesting and innovative speaker.
While the newer Mythos STS is slightly smaller than its sibling, it is still a little wider and deeper than most lifestyle speakers. Its cabinet curves inwards toward the back, and its polished-granite base looks extremely elegant. It is available in gloss-black or brushed-silver finishes. Because of its slender dimensions and high-quality finish, the Mythos STS will perfectly complement a flat-panel display. If you like the contemporary look of those slim lifestyle speakers that often come packaged with low-priced receivers at big-box electronics stores, then you will like the look of the Mythos STS.
But those visual cues are where the similarities to most other lifestyle speaker systems end. Nearly the entire surface of the Mythos STS's front baffle is covered with Definitive-designed high-tech drivers. The top portion houses two midrange drivers and a tweeter in a DAppolito configuration. The tweeter has a 1" aluminum dome and an acoustically contoured faceplate to aid in dispersion. The 4 1/2" mineral-filled mono-polymer midrange drivers feature Balanced Double Surround System (BDSS) technology with surrounds that support the cone on both the outer and inner edges for more linear excursion.
The woofer is unusual. It's a 5" x 10"carbon-composite, "racetrack-shaped," powered driver, and there are two similarly shaped passive radiators to aid the bass response. Because the front baffle of this speaker is so narrow, the oblong-oval shape of these drivers maximizes their surface area. The woofer is driven by a 300-watt amplifier, and both it and the two passive radiators have heavy-duty surrounds for high excursion. Definitive claims that this configuration is equivalent to having one of its SuperCube powered subwoofers built into each Mythos STS.
The enclosure is sealed, with the subwoofer section separated internally from the tweeter/midrange section, and heavily damped to make it as non-resonant as possible. Tapping on the unusually solid and inert exterior of the speaker confirms the enclosure's deadness. The front baffle is also said to be slightly larger than the space that it fits into so that the pressure it exerts on the rest of the enclosure will make the entire assembly even more rigid. The back panel has gold-plated binding posts, a line-level RCA subwoofer input, a power indicator, and a level control for the powered woofer section. The detachable IEC power cord connects to the bottom of the speaker.
The granite bases are a little difficult to attach initially, but they are quite attractive and provide good stability. Spikes are provided, but plastic inserts can be attached in their place if the speakers are to be situated on hardwood floors or other surfaces prone to damage. The grilles are removable; I did all of my listening with them off.
I positioned the Mythos STS speakers in the usual location in my room -- about six feet apart and approximately nine feet from the listening position. This placed them roughly three feet from the front wall and about two and a half feet from the side walls. I toed them in slightly more than I usually do with speakers in my room, which improved the treble balance. The variable level control for the subwoofer section took some experimentation to get just right. I ended up setting it at just past the 12:00 position.
I used the Mythos STS speakers with my usual suite of electronics: a Trends Audio UD-10.1 USB converter and Oppo DV-970HD universal player used as sources for an Anthem D2 A/V processor, which acted as both a DAC and preamp feeding either two Bel Canto e.One REF1000 mono amplifiers or an Axiom A1400-8 mutlichannel amplifier. Partway through the review period, I also took delivery of Arcams FMJ A38 integrated amplifier and FMJ CD37 stereo CD/SACD player. Interconnects and speaker cables were Analysis Plus Micro Copper Oval-In and Black Oval 9 respectively with Essential Sound Products AVP-16 power cords also used. Power conditioning was performed by either a Zero Surge 1MOD15WI or Torus Power RM 10.
Loudspeaker manufacturers often claim how good their lifestyle speakers sound and how well they compare to conventional speakers. More often than not, audiophiles are disappointed by the sound of these speakers because their performance is compromised by their small enclosures, the necessarily small drivers, and the seeming devotion to form over function. Thus, you will be excused if you find it difficult to take a speaker that looks like the Mythos STS seriously. Although these speakers sounded wonderful at the demo in Las Vegas, I was also expecting to hear some obvious compromises from a speaker as slim and attractive as the Mythos STS.
Therefore, to say that I was impressed by the Mythos STS would be an understatement. It sounded utterly spectacular. It was hard to believe the quality of sound that was coming from these slim, stylish speakers. Not only was the sound exceptional for a $3000 pair of lifestyle speakers, it was exceptional for any $3000 speakers. In fact, the Mythos STS would compare favorably to many more expensive speakers. And the Mythos STS did not excel in just one or a few aspects of reproduction. It was smooth and balanced from top to bottom with no obvious shortcomings I could detect even after extended listening.
Listening to Dadawas Voices from the Sky CD (Warner 706301876824), I was struck by how dynamic the Mythos STS sounded. It could play incredibly loud without strain, and the bass was amazingly tight and articulate. And when I say bass, I mean the lowest octaves played with enough volume to shake the room. The eerie imaging of vocals on this album was beautifully reproduced, but when the lowest frequencies kicked in it was difficult to believe that such quantity and quality of bass was coming from these svelte speakers.
I have to admit that I do prefer my bass to be a little richer and fuller than that of the Mythos STS, but that type of performance is usually reserved for large and expensive dedicated subwoofers, and the bass from the Mythos STS was far more desirable than the boominess that is often associated with lesser speakers that attempt to reproduce quantity over quality. Definitive Technology isnt kidding when they say the powered woofer section of this speaker is like having a built-in SuperCube subwoofer. The Mythos STS really pounds.
But this speaker isnt just about bass power and high volumes; the midrange was smoother and cleaner than I would have ever expected from such a reasonably priced product. Diana Kralls Girl in the Other Room SACD (Verve 602298620465) sounds great, but with the Mythos STS the recording really shone. The percussion on "Temptation" was startlingly realistic and the imaging was razor sharp. Everything in the soundstage was placed exactly where I thought it should be and with absolute precision. I often describe good vocals as sounding "palpable and real." With the Mythos STS it was almost as if Krall were standing between the speakers in my listening room, such was the stunning level of immediacy in my system.
Peter Gabriels Up SACD (Geffen 60949353629) is a difficult recording to reproduce and can sound murky and homogenous on less accomplished speaker systems. With the Mythos STS, every tiny nuance of the recording was audible. The atmospheric and brooding melody of "I Grieve" sounded superbly atmospheric and brooding. The gentle percussion was clearly reproduced and differentiated from the rolling violin and synthesizer riffs. Again, the vocals had an immediacy that was astonishing. "The Barry Williams Show" is a particularly demanding track, but the Mythos STS handled it with ease. The pinpoint imaging provided an almost three-dimensional quality, and simultaneous lead, harmony and background vocals were easily distinguishable. Even more impressive was the speaker's handling of the delicately undulating bass line that can often sound blurred and monotone with less capable speakers.
In the end, after extended listening to the Mythos STS, nothing jumped out at me as being obviously lacking. The entire frequency range was balanced, and the midrange was exceptionally present. The powered woofer section provided true subwoofer-quality bass that is rare with any speaker, let alone such a slim floorstander.
As I mentioned earlier, the Mythos STS is an exceptional value at $2998 per pair, and in terms of absolute performance it compares favorably to the more expensive Paradigm Reference Signature S8 (discontinued, but $5400 to $6000 per pair depending on finish when available), my current reference speaker.
The clear and balanced midrange presentation of the Mythos STS was equal to that of the S8. With both speakers, vocals had breathy realism that was captivating. Listening to some of my favorite vocal tracks from k.d. langs Hymns of the 49th Parallel CD (Nonesuch 07559798472) or Neil Youngs Live at Massey Hall CD/DVD-V set (Reprise 09362433272), I was constantly amazed by how lifelike voices sounded with the Mythos STS. In fact, the slightly sharper imaging of this speaker gave Youngs voice even more immediacy than it had with the Signature S8. The 24-bit/96kHz tracks from Live at Massey Hall sounded sublime, as if I were listening to the original analog master tapes of this recording. The whisper of a vocal on "Heart of Gold" sounded more natural and lucid than I had ever experienced with my system. Both speakers had similarly wide and expansive soundstages, but the S8 seemed to extend a little further back, displaying greater depth. This allowed the S8 to better capture the intimate ambience of Massey Hall, but the somewhat sharper image outlines of the Mythos STS placed Neil Young more precisely within the soundstage.
In absolute terms, the Signature S8 could play louder and more cleanly than the Mythos STS, but it took a fair amount of power to do so. With high-power amplifiers like the Bel Canto e.One REF1000 monblocks or the Axiom A1400-8 rated at 500 and 200Wpc respectively, the S8 could play Dadawas "Seven Drums" as loud as I could tolerate. The Mythos STS could also play extremely loud, but could not quite keep up with the S8. At extremely high volumes, the sound became a little compressed up top, but the bass, although not quite as prominent, remained composed and was even a little tighter than that of the S8. At more normal listening levels that most people would still consider to be very loud, the Mythos STS was a stellar performer.
The powered woofer section of the Mythos STS also gave it a distinct advantage over the S8 by being better able to be driven by lower-power amplifiers. To put things in perspective, my normal reference stereo rig actually consists of the Signature S8s and a pair of Paradigm Reference Servo-15 v.2 subwoofers ($2200 each). Even so, I found that the much less expensive, smaller and aesthetically pleasing Mythos STS speaker system provided more than enough bass and volume to satisfy me.
In terms of amplifier power, the Arcam FMJ A38 integrated is rated at a solid 105Wpc, but it would reach its limits when driving the S8s at very high levels. The Mythos STS had no such problem -- the Arcam amplifier was able to drive it with ease. Although the S8 clearly benefited from the use of the more powerful Axiom and Bel Canto power amplifiers, using these amps with the Mythos STS resulted in only minor improvements to the speakers performance.
Some people might purchase the Definitive Technology Mythos STS SuperTower speaker based solely on its appearance, and they would unknowingly get a high-end speaker in the bargain. With its combination of slim, attractive styling and high performance, the Mythos STS truly provides the best of both worlds. At $2998 per pair, it is at the upper end of the price spectrum for a lifestyle product, but it is decidedly on the lower end of the scale for a high-end floorstanding speaker. If you are looking for a speaker in this price range or even a little higher, be sure to audition this one and prepare to be amazed. The Mythos STS is one of the most exciting products that I have come across in a long time. If I were shopping for a speaker in this price range, it would be at the top of my list. Its combination of beautiful contemporary styling, small footprint, powered woofer section and high performance is unrivalled at its price point.
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