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ENIGMAcoustics Mythology M1 standmount loudspeaker

ENIGMAcoustics Mythology M1 standmount loudspeaker

When it comes to supertweeters, normally a brand starts with complete loudspeakers and builds up the registers from there. ENIGMAcoustics instead first burst onto the audio stage with its Sopranino supertweeter, and from there looked down into the regular loudspeaker world with its Mythology M1 standmount. The M1 was designed from the outset to work with the company’s unique, self-biased electrostatic supertweeter, which sits atop the two-way box.

The Mythology’s main cabinet is a rear-ported rectangular box, sporting a custom-made 178mm polypropylene bass driver (with a 50mm voice coil) coupled to a 34mm silk dome tweeter. These sit in a laminated thin-walled birch wood cabinet, reinforced with toughened glass top and bottom. Because of the dimensions, the appearance of the gently curved matt black aluminium front baffle, and the single column stand it rests upon, the main cabinet looks similar to a Magico Q1. However, on closer investigation, this is a little like saying George Clooney looks like Karl Marx because they both have beards.

ENIGMAcoustics goes down the custom drivers route because it can guarantee tight tolerance of drive units, down to within 1dB of a reference driver. And it also means the tweeter (larger than the standard one-inch soft dome) can be used across a far wider frequency range than usual. This took some considerable research to get right, but it has very obvious benefits; it’s not only an extremely efficient design, but it works down into the midrange, meaning the crossover point between treble and bass unit is down at 1.1kHz. Thus, practically everything from 1kHz-20kHz is covered by the same drive unit, which significantly improves phase characteristics and linearity across the mids and upper registers in the process.

The combination of drive units and comparatively wide baffle means the M1’s off-axis performance is extremely good. Because the tweeter takes on such a starring role in the midrange, the bass driver doesn’t get to exhibit the darker side of a cone’s performance at higher frequencies, and there is little ‘beaming’. Audiophiles, especially those who listen alone in the sweet spot with free-space loudspeaker designs, often dismiss this off-axis performance. However, even under those conditions, the effect of poor off-axis performance on the information you receive from first reflections can negatively influence the speaker system’s performance, and should always be a key indicator of good loudspeaker design.

The two drive units are paired with relatively complex crossover network, which is both unusual and more complex to design than the more common first-order crossover typically found in this style of ported two-way. Specifically, it uses a third-order network for the bass-treble integration and a second-order network for the bass roll-off. This not only controls the slope of the bass roll-off significantly better than simply relying on the natural mechanics of the drive unit, it provides greater time alignment, and better phase coherence across the full frequency range. This is not the kind of network ‘dashed off’ in an afternoon, but more the result of painstaking analysis and listening, and as a consequence the network bristles with audiophile Big Names, like Solen, Mundorf, and WBT.

 

As discussed, the Sopranino supertweeter is pivotal to the design (our own Jimmy Hughes was seriously impressed by the passive electrostatic Sopranino supertweeter, when he reviewed it for Hi-Fi+ way back in issue 98.), and this is one loudspeaker where reading the manual is important in getting the tonal balance just right. Not only does the supertweeter allow for gain and crossover, but there are positioning indicators that recommend you move the Sopranino slightly forward and back to balance the speaker. This is at once frustrating and fascinating, because the output of the supertweeter is mild, but its impact is wild.

To onlookers, this may seem like audio homeopathy – a dose of nothing doing nothing to the sound – and, in fairness, it takes some time both to tune the supertweeter to the room and attune yourself to the subtleties of that tuning process. In other words, be prepared to follow the instructions to the letter, then repeat the process once more a few days or even weeks later when you have become more used to what the entire loudspeaker system is doing. Then, and only then, should you go ‘off piste’ with the manual. For the system, room, position, and my personal listening, setting the Sopranino to ‘flat’ gain (as opposed to -3dB) and ‘high’ (12kHz crossover), with the supertweeter back a couple of notches on from the front baffle elicited the best response.

This experimentation process is worth doing because it essentially removes a considerable amount of the influence of the room from the loudspeaker’s performance. It’s as if the high-frequencies ‘flood’ stray first reflections and especially residual flutter echoes, allowing the loudspeaker to be itself. It won’t make a bad room good, and it doesn’t obviate the need for good room treatment, but it does help bring out the best in a good room, and give the loudspeakers ‘proper’ a better foundation. There’s another significant benefit too; you can use this to subtly tweak the soundstaging in the room, making the sound more forward or recessed to taste. This is not homeopathy nor is it radically changing the tonal balance of the loudspeaker; this is just seasoning to taste.

The complete Mythology M1 system is therefore relatively unfussed by room size, working well both in surprisingly large and surprisingly small rooms. The same could not be said of matching the M1 to partnering electronics – the M1’s tweeter may be efficient, but at 85dB, this is not an especially sensitive loudspeaker, and its four-ohm nominal load is possibly not entirely benign, especially in the upper registers. This was not a loudspeaker that sat entirely comfortably with tube amplifiers, the resulting sound too ‘soft’ in the treble. On the other hand, a good ‘grippy’ solid-state design brought it to life.

The unexpected aspect of the M1’s performance is the amount of bass it delivers. We Brits know our way around a two-way standmount, but they all tend to be a little lightweight when it comes to delivering a full-scale orchestral ‘thwack’. We have come to think that ‘good’, but the M1 – coupled with a beefy power amp – begs to differ. It packs a surprising punch, evidenced by the closing passages of Mahler’s Eighth [Solti, Decca]. This is basically an excuse to throw an orchestra, a choir, and an organ at the listener, and the M1 aces this in the way only big floorstanders can. Floors shake, teeth rattle, squishy internal body parts move around… lovely!

With this mail’d fist comes the velvet glove. For all that force of bass, this is a remarkably subtle loudspeaker too. It’s extremely natural sounding, almost to the point of hiding its light under a supertweeter. As you might expect from one drive unit covering most of the mid and treble, it’s extremely coherent, expressive, and articulate – Martha Wainwright’s ‘Can You Believe It’ from Come Home To Mama [V2] demonstrates this perfectly as her voice can be hard to distinguish clearly at times, and the M1 simply opens out this shut-in mix. And, perhaps best of all, the treble stays just the right side of rolled off, a distinct improvement from the often bright, stinging sound of audio systems.

 

If there is a criticism of the Mythology M1 it’s that this subtlety may be lost on many people, although that feels like criticising an honest design for being too honest. Nevertheless, we have become so used to loudspeakers that try to impress that when we encounter one that doesn’t, we don’t question ourselves – we question the loudspeaker. Instead, think of this as like one of those basically honest, but bass-light, BBC-derived designs, just one that has been given a bass transplant.

The ENIGMAcoustics Mythology M1 needs careful partnering and careful installation if it is to give of its best. Fail to follow these rules, and you will wonder what all the fuss is about. But, if you get it right, you get a different loudspeaker, one that truly delivers the goods. This is a very big, very good loudspeaker hiding inside a relatively small loudspeaker, and it needs that supertweeter and a big amp to realise this. This is a deft, precise, and powerful loudspeaker, and that’s a combination we should all strive for.

Technical Specifications

Type: Two-way, rear-ported standmount with freestanding passive electrostatic supertweeter

Drive units: 1x 38mm soft dome tweeter, 1x 178mm polypropylene bass cone

 Frequency range: 40Hz–40kHz (w/Sopranino)

Sensitivity: 85dB (2.83V/1m)

Recommended amplifier power: 50–200Wpc

Nominal impedance: 4 ohms

Finishes: Black lacquer, birdseye maple, red makassar

Dimensions (W×H×D): 23 × 38 × 35.6cm (speaker only)

Weight: 19 kg (speaker); 20 kg (stand); 2.7 kg (super‑tweeter)

Price: £14,690 w/stands; £13,690 w/o stands

Manufactured by: ENIGMAcoustics

URL: enigmacoustics.com

Distributed by: Select Audio

URL: www.selectaudio.co.uk

TEL: +44(0)1900 601954

Tags: FEATURED

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