Definitive Technology's Mythos sub/sat speaker system has everything that's required of a plasma-friendly setup. The speakers are tall, thin and designed as satellites, so their bass response is distinctly limited. Deliberately limited, too; controlling the bass output of the speakers by sending it to a sub is generally considered the best way of setting up a home cinema system.
The Mythos system here comprises two £1,395 Mythos Four floor-standers, a pair of Mythos Two wall-mount speakers (£465 each), a £465 Mythos Three centre speaker and a £899 PowerField SuperCube II subwoofer. You need to look closely at the Mythos Two and Three, as they look virtually identical on cursory inspection.
We would normally recommend putting the Mythos Fours at the front and the Mythos Two at the rear, but, if the setup is to be used with a plasma screen, it's probably best to stick the floor-standers at the rear. This is largely because the Mythos Twos are a better visual match for a wall-mounted screen, but also because the unique method of bass management recommended by Definitive Technology (more on this later) means the ever so slightly deeper bass of the Mythos Four is best used in the rear speaker role.
Each speaker has its own hardware supplied - glass base plates in the case of the Mythos Fours, plates and wall brackets for the Twos and a mounting plate for the Four. There are even full-sized mounting cut-out templates supplied for the Twos and Threes, to make the lot of custom installers slightly less fraught.
And each speaker has the same gorgeous alloy finish, making it look like an ELAC sub/sat system for Cadillac Escalade drivers (that is what this system is, in a way). Aside from the narrow profile and profusion of driver units, the speakers are relatively conventional, single wired designs using a very similar drive unit configuration.
All have a 25mm aluminium dome high-frequency unit, flanked either side by 115mm midrange units. These are bolstered by two additional 115mm pressure-driven (or passive radiating) drive units. The only real differences between the speakers is cabinet volume and how the drive units are arranged.
The centre speaker's passive radiators are placed either side of the main trio of drive units, while in the Two and Four they are placed below the three units. The Four's bigger chamber helps to give the speaker more bass than the other two designs.
Most of the bass is handled by the SuperCube II subwoofer. Powered by a whopping 1,250W power amp, this deceptively small sub contains no less than three 200mm bass units - one powered forwardfiring driver and two (on the left and right sides) driven passively as with the other speakers. This means the SuperCube delivers considerably more bass than any sub with a single 200mm driver.
As we mentioned earlier, there's a slight departure from the norm in terms of bass management and how the subwoofer should be set up. Instead of delivering 'true' 5.1 sound, receiving its signal from the subwoofer output of the amplifier, the Mythos system will work better with the subwoofer fed from the left and right speaker terminals.
This is the traditional method of hooking up a subwoofer to a two-channel hi-fi system. In this case, you must make sure to set your amplifier's bass management to deliver bass to the front left and right speakers, instead of its default 'point one' setting. This also means you'll have to spend longer than average tangling with the controls to get the bass 'just so'. But it's worth the effort - you'll be rewarded with some of the most integrated bass sounds around.
Once the system was carefully set up, we found bass entirely seamless. The Mythos manages to make the satellite speakers sound like full-range models, without any gap or change in tonality between the two. This makes the speakers appear physically larger than they really are, and widens the 'front image'.
In other words, you can place the speakers either side of a plasma screen but still get a sound that seems to come from speakers around 8ft apart. This is not so pronounced that it makes the speakers sound odd - it makes them sound as if they are in the perfect position... and about twice the size.
What's more, the seamless integration isn't just across the frequency range; it's seamless from speaker to speaker, too. There are no tonal shifts around the room, and every speaker blends into the others perfectly. Each is as detailed and as articulate as the centre speaker, and the sound moves, breathes and comes to life in the room.
Definitive Technology is perhaps best known for its bipolar rear speakers that create a rich, room-filling sound and, while that technology is not a part of the Mythos system, you can hear the family resemblance. Sounds are more precisely placed in the room than with bipolar speakers, and the room is filled with sound. Even relatively low-key movie soundtracks like that of our Shaun of the Dead test disc spring to life, with all the obvious sound effects perfectly blended with the in-studio dubbing.
The Mythos is not quite perfect, however. Although the integration and speed of the bass makes this a better-than-average sub/sat system for the audiophile, the 'image depth' and 'openness' that hi-fi buffs may crave are not quite as well covered.
A good hi-fi speaker system should make a three-dimensional sound that appears between the front speakers like a hologram; the Mythos makes a sound that is rather flatter. However, this is ideal for cinema - and another example of where hi-fi and home cinema needs diverge.
Hi-fi buffs are often obsessed with sound at the expense of looks. Home cinema has no such obsession, but the audiophiles do sometimes have a point. Definitive Technology's Mythos system is a notable exception. Style and quality can co-exist. It may be expensive, but it's worth every penny.