Product Review - Totem Acoustics Model 1 Signature Mini-Monitor Speakers - October, 2001 Arvind Kohli
Third in my series of mini-monitor
reviews, I have chosen this highly reputed unit from Montreal, Canada. I have
been curious about it for a long time, because of all the raves, and really
needed to find out for myself.
The origins of Totem Acoustics began in
1985 when Vince Bruzzese started research on designing and building speakers
in Montreal, Canada. Originally, he pursued speakers of a flat configuration,
suitable for wall mounting. During collaborations with another manufacturer,
Totem was taken by surprise when the other company suddenly launched a line of
wall mounted speakers. Vince decided not to fight, and instead go in another
direction. The majority of the work already done was easily transferable to
small enclosure designs, and thus in 1988 Totem Acoustics was founded in
Montreal, and the
Model 1 was launched.
The original Model 1 was the first
product introduced by Totem. According to Vince, it was the first ever to
feature Dynaudio woofers and WBT connectors. The goal was to build a speaker
with quickness of response, fairly efficient, and enough bass to sound musical
all in a small enclosure.
My listening room is 16' by 16' by 8'.
For casual listening, the speakers were placed so that they were 70" between
the tweeters, and 128" from the tweeters to the listening position. For
critical listening sessions, all three points were about 80" from each other,
and well away from room boundaries.
These are beautiful looking speakers
indeed, and are as small as I have seen a mini-monitor get without
compromising sound quality. This speaker is sure to score very high on the
Spousal Acceptance Factor, as it did in my house. The review sample was
furnished in a Mahogany veneer; other finishes available are Cherry, Black
Ash, Clear Ash and Maple.
The tweeter is a 1" aluminum dome
sourced from SEAS. Vince strongly prefers metal to cloth for two reasons. One,
he feels that the backwaves will reflect in the rear chamber and
return through the cloth out of phase, resulting in a smearing effect. Second,
cloth will fatigue over time and change its tonality. The tweeters from SEAS
are specially made to Totem's specification, and then further modified at the
Totem factory. Vince would only say that the modifications have to do with
damping and the rear chamber. My natural response to this was, why not just
make your own drivers, instead of buying OEM and modifying it? Vince answered that it would require a lot of investment to develop and build a
driver, and then the temptation would be to use it in all or most models in
order to spread the development cost. He would not want to feel committed to
use a driver for a new model if he did not think it was best suited. A quick
survey of some of Totem's other models verifies that Vince employs a wide
range of components and designs in his speakers. As you can see, this is
certainly a unique approach to building speakers.
There currently are several hundred brands
of loudspeakers available in the North American market. One of the questions
that has always perplexed me is, if I buy brand A for $100, then is there a
brand B offering the same quality for less, or brand C offering better sound
for about the same price? I guess we all want to avoid 'buyer's regret', but
the answer to that question is not simple.
If at all possible, do make sure you
listen to this speaker in your lifetime. It indeed is a marvel of performance.
It has very high quality components, design, and
craftsmanship. Considering the size of the box, it is a near miracle.
Speakers: Dynaudio Contour 1.1; Triangle Titus XS; Monitor Audio GR10;
- Arvind Kohli -