A couple of years ago, a friend and I were on a quest for the perfect bookshelf speaker. With a budget of $1100 a pair this quest certainly had its challenges. Although our needs were slightly different, I was geared more towards hometheater and he towards two channel, we did agree on one thing; the little speaker had to sound “big”. In the end we settled on the speakers of our choice and came to the realization that a good speaker design should perform well in both arenas. When I agreed to take the Totem Mite’s for a test drive I rekindled my excitement for bookshelf speakers. Audiophiles all over are familiar with the Totem brand. Their reputation for making outstanding loudspeakers is well established. I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. Well, let’s find out.
- Design: Two-way, Ported
- Drivers: One 1″ Soft-dome Tweeter, One 5.5″ Woofer
- MFR: 50 Hz – 20 kHz ± 3 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 87 dB/w/m, Maximum Sound Pressure 102 dB Before Dynamic Compression
- Crossover Frequency: 3.2 kHz
- Recommended Power: 20 – 80 Watts
- Dimensions: 10.8″ H x 6″ W x 8.4″ D
- Weight: 9 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $695/pair USA
- Totem Acoustic
The Totem Mite’s can be found under the compact header on Totem’s website. When they say “compact” they aren’t kidding. The Mite’s are a micro-monitor measuring 10.8″ H x 6 “W x 8.4″D. The cabinet itself is beautiful to behold. The review speaker was finished in a cherry wood veneer that’s a real eye catcher. The Mite’s are a grill-less speaker. Both the tweeter and woofer are exposed. No holes in the speaker for grill attachment positively attribute to the look of the speaker. It’s hard to believe that a subtle change in speaker design could have such a large impact on its looks, for me it did. With that in mind, I would keep pencil toting children away from speakers such as these, just a suggestion. Turning to the rear of the speaker I was shocked to see a pair of gold plated speaker terminals.
This to me says a lot about the manufacturer, anyone who designs micro-monitors capable of bi-amping is serious about sound. Although I wasn’t sure how much use I would get out of this ability as I intended to use the Totems with a subwoofer, that didn’t stop me from experimenting; more on that later. The speakers’ port was also located in the rear.
It was obvious the Totems needed to go on a road trip. After all the time we spent listening to monitors over the past few years I couldn’t dream of leaving my buddy out of the fun. For two channel use we connected the Totem’s to a BAT VK-3iX tube preamp, a Behringer EP1500 pro amplifier, a Mirage S12 subwoofer, and the disc spinning honors went to both a Panasonic DVD-S97 DVD player and a Onkyo DVP-S504 universal DVD player (also currently under review). The Totem’s were set atop a pair of reinforced Sanus Ultimate stands and connected with Monster M series interconnects. Because of the amplifier limitations we were unable to bi-amp the totems in the two-channel setup. The Behringer amp puts out prodigious amounts of power so I wasn’t concerned about driving them effectively. The Totems are mildly efficient at 87db, the manufacturer lists a recommended power rating of 20-80 Watts, but from firsthand experience I can tell you that the Mites aren’t afraid of power.
Totem recommends that you experiment with placement and toe-in. Totem states on their website; “Due to the fact that all Totem speakers have great off-axis dispersion, toe-in is generally not needed. Imaging will therefore be more stable from any point in the room. If the speakers are placed very far apart (over 7 feet) then a slight toe-in may be experimented with.” I found this to be true in both the two channel and hometheater setups. For two channel use the Totems were spaced 6 feet apart with both monitors firing forward. My hometheater space is a little larger, in this configuration the Totems were 8 feet apart but I still preferred to not have them toed-in. Totem also recommends a break-in period of 70-100 hours, a break-in period that I happily honored.
Steely Dan’s Gaucho SACD is a great recording. The first song “Babylon Sisters” was the perfect track to get the Mite’s going. Right away the Totems established a laid back sound with terrific focus. Soundstage and imaging were good compared to other speakers I’ve heard in this price range but excellent when you consider the size of the speaker. My reference bookshelf is twice in size by comparison. What surprised me most about this speaker was the amount of bass the midrange was able to deliver. Bass remained controlled within reasonable limits. Adding the subwoofer was an obvious step-up in low frequency output but the Totem handled itself quite well without a subwoofer. The Mite’s aren’t as dynamic a speaker as I’m accustomed to, something I can again attribute to its size. Fast pace passages sometimes lost their flare, though this is more of a criticism of two-way speaker designs and not of the Totems themselves. Properly crossed over in a two or multi-channel system, its size limitations became much less apparent.
Looking over my review notes, one word jumps off the page, “effortless”. Music seemed to flow easily from the Totems. As with all good speakers, bad recordings sounded bad and good records sounded good. The Totems aren’t afraid of power, switching back and forth between the stereo and multichannel systems it was obvious the Totems were right at home with beefy amplifiers. My Denon AVR has an option for bi-amping which I use regularly. Feeding the Totems extra power was a welcome addition, bi-amping can sometimes have negligible advantages. In the case of the Totems the difference was less subtle, they like power. When pushed to extreme volumes the sound stage began to narrow some, but those levels are uncomfortable for extended listening sessions. Larger speakers can be pushed harder but the Mites aren’t intended for head-banger volumes.
The Dreamgirls Blu-ray is equipped with plain ol’ Dolby Digital 5.1 but was perfect review material for the Totems. Musical passages were clear and enveloping. It was interesting to hear Dreamgirls processed into two channels, the experience wasn’t nearly as lackluster as I imagined. Credit the Totems. Again, there were instances where I could’ve have benefited from a larger speaker but my large listening space can be extremely challenging for smaller monitors. Switching to hi-res material such as Chicago reinforced my earlier impressions; the better the recording, the better the sound. This was a first class reproduction.
The Mighty Mite’s which I’ve grown to affectionately call them, are an outstanding micro-monitor design. While they don’t have the advantages of some larger speakers they are capable of effortless musical reproduction, rivaling the best bookshelf designs. With the Mite’s, Totem has sparked my curiosity. I would love to hear how Totems larger speakers sound. In a small to medium size room I recommend the Mite’s without hesitation. Mated with a good subwoofer and similarly warm leaning equipment you will be treated to musical bliss. Totem has proved that tiny speakers don’t equate tiny sound. At $695 for the pair, these micro-monitors beg to be listened to.