Totem Dreamcatcher Home Theater System

      Date posted: October 24, 2003

Totem Dreamcatcher Home Theater System
Sugg. Retail: $2295 pr (CAN)
Size: Satellites (4) 10″H x 6″W x 7″D;
Centre: 21″W x 6″H x 7″D;
Subwoofer: 10″H x 7 3/4″W x 11″D
Manufacturer: Totem Acoustic Inc.,
9165 Champ D’Eau,
Saint-Leonard, QC. H1P 3M3
(514) 259-1062 FAX 259-4968

(Reprinted from the Fall 03 Audio Ideas Guide)

I first heard this system, Totem’s first dedicated home theatre system, at a CEDIA show a couple of years ago. And it wasn’t just that designer Vince Bruzzese was playing Ray Montford’s music through it that impressed me so much. The sound was clean, dynamic, spacious, and very involving musically. I don’t know whether it was a case of demand, but it wasn’t until this spring that I could coerce a review sample out of Totem.

     Beautifully finished in “a variety of exotic real wood veneers inside and out”, according to the brochure, the Dreamcatcher is very compact and elegant, comprised of the four identical satellites, a centre channel, and a very compact bandpass subwoofer that is ported at rear. The largest driver is the 6″ one in the sub, the other woofer/midranges all 4 1/2″, mated with metal dome tweeters. Having heard them in a large open space at the show, I wasn’t prepared for the bass performance of this system, but that’s something I’ll elaborate on below. And, before I forget, the “inside and out” veneers are part of designer Bruzzese’s philosophy that even invisible veneer inside the box walls has sonic effects, reducing structural resonances and increasing cabinet rigidity, as well as making the wood laminate less prone to warpage from internal stresses over time.

     The Dreamcatcher system is designed to be as simple to set up as possible, even the subwoofer having minimal controls, with just a level control and a +/-180 phase toggle switch, with RCA line inputs only. I had it up and running in a matter of moments, and setting levels all around was a pretty straightforward process.

     Though I usually measure speakers with grilles on, in this case I followed the Totem recommendation against doing so, “if you wish maximum performance”. Also, I think most users will prefer the nicely veneered front baffle surrounding the drivers naked (I prefer all my reproducers naked, but that’s another story I haven’t yet told my grown children).

Totem Dreamctcher Frequency Response

     As can be seen, the Dreamcatcher system measured very well, with an appropriate midrange dip for a system designed for relatively small rooms. The top traces are for the satellites at 0, 15, and 30 degrees off axis. We see a little upper bass warmth and excellent treble smoothness and extension, the tweeter just starting to roll off at 20 Hz, and not showing any resonances below that frequency. Many metal domes have quite a large peak in the 25 kHz area, something that may only interest your dog, but it doesn’t seem likely here.

     The centre channel curves are just below, and, again we have a little midrange reticence, but it can be seen that response is smoothest at 30 degrees off axis, something that may please the kids at either end of the couch; anyone closer to centre will also be closer to the centre channel, all this contributing to very good dialogue intelligibility at virtually all listening positions. On axis we also see a rising top end, which may make dialogue a little more crisp, though I did not really notice this in extensive listening with movies and music.

Totem Dreamcatcher Center Channel Impedence

     Looking to the left, we see the subwoofer’s response at full, middle, and minimum crossover settings. Its performance is quite amazing for its size, coming close to that of the Sunfire subs at a fraction of the price (the little bump at 10 kHz is a computer artifact, probably based around monitor operating frequency leakage). The real indicator of this subwoofer’s capabilities is the flatness of frequency response in the lowest setting, +/-2 dB from below 30 Hz to about 70 Hz. I had set it in listening experiments at about 1/3 rotation, which would give a little more bass up to the 100-Hz area. And I noticed that it sounded quite a bit cleaner that way than when operated flat out; the satellites, and the centre in particular with its two woofers, have good bass extension into the 50-Hz range, so I would recommend such a lower crossover setting on this excellent subwoofer.

Totem Dreamcatcher Satellite Impedence

     Looking at impedances and related phase angles, it is clear that you don’t want to use this system with your average $699 receiver, but why would you want to do that? Impedance drops into the 5-ohm range on the satellites in the bass, the dual woofers on the centre keeping it higher. In both cases, the phase angle through the crossover region in the midrange is quite benign, which accounts for the extremely good imaging specificity, and very natural sound on voices and musical instruments.

     I drove the Dreamcatcher system with Bryston HT components and with the NAD L70 DVD receiver. In both cases, the synergy was exceptional, the satellites and centre with as much as 150 watts per channel, or as little as 45, respectively. In both cases, there was plenty of detailed, dynamic sound, with especially good definition from all corners, and broad, clear soundstaging between any two speakers. The L70 has more current capability than many receivers in its power category, and seemed very comfortable driving the Dreamcatcher system. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these speakers, whether listening to music, or getting into the cinema experience. Not only do they work superbly together with seamless timbral integrity, and very quick and natural dynamics, but they are also complemented by a first rate subwoofer that produces astonishingly tuneful and powerful bass, especially for its modest size.

     There are many excellent home theatre speaker systems available in the $2000 price area, but this very well engineered and beautifully styled system from Totem Acoustics stands out among those selling for as much as $5000.

Andrew Marshall

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