To us, northern Europeans, Greece is associated with a country of myths, Grappa and warmth. Because this is the most important place where the Mediterranean culture developed, that we now are a part of, ancient history, philosophy, literature, etc, is being taught in schools, also in Poland. Or at least it should be taught. But in terms of audio, it happened that this country is a white spot for us. And it turns out, that many interesting things happen there. Because I saw the company for the first time in Munich during the High End 2006 (reportage HERE) and I was enchanted by the unusual visual design of the products, so I quickly contacted the distributors and agreed, that they will send me a pair of speakers for testing. Because there is no distributor of Mythos in Poland, the agreements took longer than usual. And in addition the popularity of the products – because every item is custom built – so sales was more important than promotion. So the year passed – while exchanging nice emails, thoughts, ideas, etc. The time was fortunately not lost, as we got acquainted a bit better and for the Greek Poland started to mean a bit more than just JPII and a cold place where thought does not reach anymore… During that time Mythos Audio started to distribute in the country of Panathinaikos Athens the products from Ancient Audio. But this year’s show in Germant became a break through (HIGH END 2007 – reportage HERE), where the Greeks exhibited and where we agreed to the details.
Finally, the long awaited stand mount speakers Ligeia reached me. The loudspeakers come in big, wooden boxes with the company logo on them – three woven ovals, that create the letter “M”. Packing the speakers out was a challenge. Although I’ve seen them on the show, and I knew how they are built, the size and weight surprised me. Because those are really big speakers, I think even larger than the already exceptionally big Davis Nikita. And they are heavier. The cause for that is the unusual way of manufacturing. Instead of composing the speakers from MDF, wood, etc, or bending them in a lute shape, like in KEF, the speakers are made from VERTICAL layers, with the chamber cut from inside after everything is glued together. The individual layers are from thick pieces of plywood (or another similar material, but – I am a layman when it comes to that). Every layer is finished in a different color – the natural light and a dark one, that make a characteristic Mythos “zebra” looks. My daughter called them “tigers”. So be it. Such a buildup is extremely time and effort consuming, not mentioning the costs. But it allows for creating a very rigid enclosure, that behaves like a wooden one (like in Sonus Faberze), and is as rigid as if it would be made from composite materials. We should add, that the loudspeakers from the Italian company Eventus Audio, are also made like this, but there different drivers and different visual concepts have been utilized.
The Greek loudspeakers are from the beginning to the end, from the visual project to the sound, for people that know what they want. So just like one cannot abstract from the unusual form, one cannot escape the fact, that the Ligeia have their own, very defined sound – their own world. In general, the tonal balance is shifted to the lower frequencies, and one could even talk about warming of the sound. But what kind of warming this is! After day-to-day listening and daily switching between them and my reference Dobermann from Harpia Acoustics I stopped thinking about that character of sounding as being warmed, but that this is just organic playing. First impressions are always related to the sense of vision. There is no way around that, and this can even be good – the user will look at them and receive those as a whole, a package of sound and looks. And organic seems to be the best word I can think of. Because leaving the question of timbre aside, I must say, that the Greek constructors achieved in gluing the two speakers into one, absolutely undividable whole. I tried to find the cross-over point, but was not successful. It was easier in case of the energy, because at the cross-over point is often significantly lower, but it was not easy anyway.
And all this started with just one disc. And nobody should say that the first impression doesn’t matter. Between the first and the last disc of the test a few dozen others were listened to, but this one was that, what defined my view on the loudspeakers. The first disc was played by coincidence. Just after unpacking and putting in place of the loudspeakers a friend visited me, the representative of EMI, that brought two packages with him – a beautifully issued box with all recordings Sinatra made for the Capitol label (review in this issue) and the second one was the vinyl album Tour The France. Soundtracks from Kraftwerk (EMI, 5917081, 2x 180 g LP). Coincidentally the ingenious gramophone preamplifier Sensor Prelude IC from RCM Audio found its place. I put on the disc and I was taken already with the piece Étape I. There was sensual, saturated, incredibly warm sound. It was not as resolved as from the Dobermann or the parallel tested Magnepan MG1.6, but it was absolutely finished and undividable. Also from the very beginning the bass went very low and coherent – given very strong on this disc. This frequency range is a very basis for the rest of the frequency band. Its timbre should be described as warm, and the coherence is really good. Nothing is trailing or idling. There is no such quick and clear attack like in the mentioned constructions, but the saturation is splendid.
The upper range of the reproduced sound is equally coherent and also quite warm. And although the word “warm” will pose the most problems here, because it does not fully describe what happens with the instruments and voices in this range. Talking about the Ligeia we rather talk about “organic” than warm sound. Every wooden element, like classic guitars, some percussive instruments, and saxophone, sounded just like we would listen to them live. They were not as open as from other loudspeakers, the drawing was not same, but when the first bars sounded, it was clear, that the sound was incredibly natural. Such way of playing transfers to other elements of the instrumentarium, although this will be more depending on the listeners taste than objective description. The whole is presented in a very well-mannered way, with saturated sub-ranges and without a trace of brightening. This was nicely shown by the disc Love The Beatles in the vinyl version (EMI, 3798081, 2 x 180 g LP; review of the CD/DVD-A HERE), that differs from its digital clone by being much better and easier to assimilate. And this was undisputed on the Mythos loudspeakers. Incredibly beautiful were the guitars of the boys – listen to While My Guitar Gently Weeps and you will know what it is about – the fullness, brilliant integration of all elements – things that were there in the DVD-Audio version, but did not have such a desirable effect.
And so we come to the treble. Because electric guitars are mostly distortion, and those base on the mid and high frequencies. In absolute categories the treble of the Ligeia is a bit recessed. Mostly due to the strong bass, that subjectively makes the upper registers sound weaker, but also due to the choices of the constructors. This can be heard on every disc. When we play a vinyl disc, then the run-in of each disc has a specific noise – here it was warm in every case. The same was with the static – for good and for worse – with those speakers those were less annoying. It was heard even better in the piece Aerial Tal z płyty Aerial Kate Bush (EMI, 3439602, 2 x CCD), where a bird is singing. With the Dobermann it is absolutely believable, it sings in a large space, with breath, etc. With the Mythos this changes in a kind of theatre, we can hear this is a recording. And this transfers to other elements. For example the voice of Diana Krall from the disc From This Moment On (Verve, 1705042, CD), that had large volume and a warmer timbre than usual, and the stronger sibilants, that appear on the disc were suppressed. This does not sound unpleasant – not at all, but this makes the character of the loudspeakers. On the other hand it can be heard that a very good driver is used as the tweeter. This is undoubtedly the lead of soft diaphragm drivers. When the cymbals hit on the disc Lontano Tomasz Stańko Quartet (ECM Records, ECM 1980, CD), we become horrified, they sound so natural. In absolute scale they should be more open and stronger, but their fluency and continuity make them sound very well. This is not a so precise drawing like from the Magnepan or the aluminum Seas in the Dobermann, but it does not resemble a wet cloth, like most soft tweeters tend to present it.
And here one thing became visible. I conducted the first part of the listening session with my Leben CS-300. This is a tube amplifier with 12 W power per channel, but that proves itself with most speakers. It sounded very well also with the Mythos. The constructions seemed to made to play with a tube, because they could reproduce complicated phase dependencies, harmonics and timbres. But when I connected the solid state, class A power amplifier Luxman M-800A with the Accuphase C-2810 preamplifier then it became clear, that the Greek guest likes power. Really! Good 60 W are a minimum. Only then it could be heard, that the speakers play in a very clear and self-controlled way up to very high sound levels. No blatancy and brightening, regardless of the music played, how loud it played, etc. And in this configuration I listened to the Mark Knopfler EP The Trawlerman’s Song EP (Mercury, 9870986, CD). And I was taken again – the same coherence as with Kraftwerk and brilliantly shown electric guitars. It is known, that Knopfler plays with his fingers – he does not use the feather – what gives exactly that sound, warmer and softer.
And this is how the Mythos should be listened to – as a defined proposition for a defined listener. They are not very resolving in the midrange or bass regions, and they do not draw a very big stage. But the latter is filled until the edges with fluid and sound. The bass goes down very deep and the music can be played very loud without the feeling that we come in the region, where the loudspeakers do not feel comfortable. The stronger than usual midrange bass cross-over are the reason, that not everything is ideal, because the monophonic recordings from the mentioned box of Sinatra, and especially the disc Swing Easy (Capitol/EMI 4969852, CD) sounded in a bit too dark way, as through a tube. The voice was nice, warm, intimate, but a slight coloring in the lower registers could be heard. So those are no linear speakers, but they have class. And looks.
Like I mentioned before Ligeia is a two-way stand mount bass-reflex speaker. The enclosure is made from very heavy and rigid elements glued together in vertical layers. The tweeter, 1” Scan-Speak Revelator is placed in a separate dampening cabinet, made from plywood, instead of a standard plastic can. Also the back of the very large motor unit of the mid-woofer, again a Scan-Speak from the Revelator series (6.5”) received support from behind, to fix it even better in the enclosure. The bass-reflex port has a slot shape and is placed in the bottom part of the front baffle. The port outlet is profiled. On the back of the enclosure there is a single pair of wire terminals, screwed to a thick element from aluminum. It is worth to mention, that the speakers have a mechanically equalized phase. The enclosure is very heavy, and the speakers are significantly big. I think it would be best to buy them with dedicated stands.
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