Totem Model One B [From the Archives]

      Date posted: September 5, 2009

Totem Model One
Sugg. Retail: $1695 (CAN)
Size: 12.5″H x 6.5″W x 9″D
Manufacturer: Totem Acoustic Inc.,
9165 Champ D’Eau,
Saint-Leonard, QC. H1P 3M3
(514) 259-1062 FAX 259-4968

Originally Published in the Winter 1996 Audio Ideas Guide

Last reviewed in Winter 92, this small speaker has since set a kind of standard for its size, as well as being the progenitor of a line of compact speakers notable for their bass extension. Hallmarks of the Totem Model One are veneer on both inside and outside of the cabinet (to equalize interior stresses in the wood; see the Linn review), “multilayer borosilicate damping” inside the enclosure, “lock mitre cabinet joints”, a “full plane crossbrace for extreme rigidity and increased damping”, and WBT 5-way terminals. The version tested here was the B one, which has two sets of these terminals for bi-wiring or bi-amping.

This, then, is an update of a review that employed our previous UREI test system, and given the differences in vertical scale calibration, the measurements look very similar, though our current LMS set is more extensive and revealing. In that review I noted the “quite astonishing bass for a 4″ woofer”, and that “the metal dome tweeter is very fast and fluid, with great articulation on acoustic guitar, with excellent focus and ambient detail.” The woofer is a DynAudio model also seen in smaller PMC models like the LB1 (Smr 95).

Looking at our current measurements from top to bottom, we start with the Summed Axial Response curve, which is +3/-2 dB over much of the range, showing response down to 30 Hz. The quasi-anechoic curve on axis is shown below, and it is here where we see the characteristic midrange dip centred just above the 2.7 kHz crossover point at 4 kHz. As you can see in the axial curves below, this dip is less severe as we move off axis, smoothing out at 15 and 30 degrees, the midrange turning into a broad dip at 60 degrees. This means that the Totem 1 will sound very neutral over a quite wide listening area, with a hint of extra brightness as one moves closer to either speaker.
Totem Model 1B Frequency Response and Impedance
Impedance is rated at a nominal 4 ohms, but really only approaches that value in the lower midrange and upper bass frequencies. The bass peaks are typical of a ported system, especially a small one, but are moderate at 11 and 14 ohms. Electrical phase is quite linear, varying by +/-20 degrees or so in the midrange. The Model One should be quite easy to drive, and while it may lack some authority in the mid-bass with tube amplifiers with limited current, it is otherwise a simple load in both impedance and phase respects.

My original comments about the sound still apply in spades, with the bi-wire versions able to handle more power and provide some extra bottom; the new version goes a little deeper, and seems slightly more articulate in the midrange and upper frequencies. I do find it a little etched for my taste, especially when compared directly to the Mani-2, but, then, I grew up in audio with AR-3As, and prefer a more laid back balance. A more recent perspective might be a comparison with the aforementioned PMC LB1 (Smr 95), which I used for monitoring on our newest CD with organist Ian Sadler; I would call it smoother and more to my personal taste, but then it’s also bigger, and more expensive at $2695.

But other professional ears heard these Totems and were mightily impressed by the mighty mite: our CD editing and mastering engineer, Clive Allen, bought the review pair after hearing them. He now uses them for on-location monitoring. And that’s probably the best last word on the bi-wire Totem Model One. It’s available in black or natural rosewood veneer, the latter a very nice finish, with foam grilles optional and supplied with velcro attachment kit.

Andrew Marshall

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