You must assume that speakers designed to match a TV are made primarily for movies. That’s why I started my listening tests with 9, a sci-fi movie nobody saw (not to be confused with Nine, a musical nobody saw, or District 9, a sci-fi movie everybody saw). I thought 9 would be perfect for getting the feel of the XTR-50s without risk of damaging them; after all, an animated movie about rag dolls couldn’t be too tough on the woofers, could it?
Wrong. Turns out 9 is a post-apocalyptic piece pitting a truly ragtag group of those rag dolls against robotic killing machines. It’s one of the darkest movies I’ve seen, in large part because of the machine-on-doll violence and the frequent discharge of military ordnance. As I inched my receiver’s volume knob higher and higher, the XTR-50s never complained, never distorted, and never sounded less than superb. They even survived a full-blast viewing of Terminator Salvation, last year’s most bombastic Blu-ray Disc.
Usually, a design-oriented speaker like the XTR-50 hits its output limits at a much lower level than the subwoofer it’s paired with. However, even the good-for-its-size SuperCube III couldn’t keep up with its skinny sibling. I often heard distortion from the sub when I cranked the system, but rarely heard it from the XTR-50.
The tonal balance of the Def Tech XTR-50 suits movies well. Dialogue was easy to understand, with no bloating or smearing. The strings in film scores sounded unusually engaging. Experimentation with my tried-and-true demo discs revealed what I consider to be the XTR-50’s only noteworthy flaw: a mild sibilance that occasionally intrudes on dialogue.
Although the XTR-50 wasn’t designed primarily as a music speaker, it’s gonna be hooked up to your receiver so it’s likely to get some music played through it. When it does, you’ll probably like what you hear. The XTR-50 produced a greater sense of depth than most of the onwall speakers I’ve tested; the instrumental sounds on many recordings seemed to come from well behind the speakers. Many of the midrange instruments — saxophone, electric guitar, etc. — really jumped out at me, much as the strings in movie soundtracks did. When playing music CDs, I only once noticed that slight sibilance I heard in movie dialogue. That’s probably because music vocals are usually better recorded and have less sibilance in the first place.
Music that contains extreme high frequencies, such as brushed cymbals and acoustic guitars, seemed a bit subdued through the XTR-50; I noticed that the title track to Steely Dan’s Aja sounded a little less vivid than usual. So overall, it’s a competent presentation for music, although less compelling than most audiophiles would like.
Listening to the Definitive Technology Mythos XTR-50 do its stuff with movie soundtracks was like watching a 98-pound fashion model sling an 80-pound bag of cement over her shoulder: It’s hard to believe it’s possible even after you’ve witnessed it. As long as you stick to that 100-Hz crossover point, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the XTR-50 even for a large, serious media room. And given that Definitive Technology has priced it no higher than most other on-walls even though there’s nothing else like it on the market, it’s a fantastic bargain.
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