Totem Dreamcatcher Review 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Bookshelf/Monitor Loudspeakers
Written by Andre Marc   
Monday, 12 September 2011

One of the biggest challenges a speaker designer has is making a very compact, low mass speaker sound lifelike.  There have been a number of notable “book shelf” designs, like the Rogers LS3/5a and its variants, the Proac Tablette, and the Paradigm Atom, among many others.  A successful execution of such a speaker certainly shows off the designer's skill. The fact is, that mini monitors are valid designs in that many music lovers are relegated to smaller spaces, and don’t require, nor can they accommodate, full range speakers.

Totem Acoustic is based in Montreal, Canada. The company was founded in 1987, and makes a complete line of well reviewed loudspeakers ranging from in wall to full range floor standers.  I had heard much about Totem products, but up until recently I have not had an opportunity to spend any time with them. That all changed when I got the chance to review a pair of the Totem Dreamcatchers, the smallest speaker in the line. The Dreamcatchers retail for $575 for the standard finishes Mahogany and Black Ash, with additional cost for premium finishes, which include Cherry and Satin White.

The Dreamcatchers are indeed small, yet very attractive. They measure 5.1” x 11.3 “ x 7.1” and weigh around ten pounds each.  They are two way and, interestingly, bi-wirable. There is also a rear-firing port.  The 1" titanium dome tweete made by German Acoustik, works with a 4" Scan-Speak woofer.  The speaker is rated at 4 ohms, sensitivity is around 87 db, and frequency response is a surprising 57Hz–25kHz. According to Totem, the Dreamcatchers offer the following features:  “high-performance, acoustical finish, large-gauge air core coils, high-level point source imaging, full mono-shell, hand-assembled chassis,lock mitered cabinet joints,exclusive, hardwired crossover, solid twin-pair, gold-plated terminals, and no-compromise drivers.”

Set Up & Listening:

Totem recommends 40 to 50 hours of break in time, and strongly suggests listening without the attractive, supplied grilles.  I adhered to the recommendations above. Initial set up took all of five minutes. I used Kimber speaker cable, positioned the speakers in the classic triangular listener to speaker configuration, with a hint of  toe in. What first struck me about the Dreamcatchers' sound was their luscious midrange.  Although some could characterize it as on the warm side, I have truly not heard such lifelike mids from speakers at this price point. The music, no matter what genre, was seductively present in the room. Not scaled down, thin, or lacking in body.

High frequencies were smooth, detailed, and superbly integrated.  Instruments like cymbals, acoustic guitars, and snare drum were nicely rendered, without a hint of unnatural sizzle.  Maybe the most interesting aspect of the performance was low frequency extension. Even though the Dreamcatchers are pretty small speakers, there was legitimate, believable bass weight in a medium sized room.  On cuts from David Bowie’s seminal Ziggy Stardust, the glammed out psychedelic power of the band was amazingly powerful and rocking. The same applies to Bowie disciples U2 and their most current work, No Line On the Horizon. Although the scale was a bit smaller in the greater scheme of things, the band sounded big and bold. Vocals and electric guitars were particularly well served by the Dreamcatchers.

One aspect of the Dreamcatchers performance that was interesting was that they were enjoyable to listen to regardless of listening position. Of course, sitting in the sweet spot produced the best balance, but sitting off axis produced surprisingly satisfying results, and even more so when they were not toed in. The cabinets also surprised me with their lack of resonance, although I did not push them beyond reasonable volume levels.


Conclusion:

I have always been a fan of small speakers.  The obvious reasons are they easily integrate into a room, are generally coherent if well designed, and they image nicely without calling attention to themselves. I’ve owned and evaluated quite a number of two-way monitors, and I would generally say it takes a pretty ham fisted designer to screw one up. But conversely, it takes a talented designer with a deft touch to make one stand out from the crowd. Totem Acoustics' Dreamcatchers do stand out from the crowd for a number of reasons.

Totem Dreamcatcher

The Dreamcatchers are as coherent a two way as I've heard.  Across the frequency spectrum, the entire presentation was seamless. This was rather addicting, to say the least.  The bottom end weight, within the limitations of such a small speaker, created a solid foundation for all types of music, even classic rock. As a matter of fact, for one of the only times I can remember, I found myself totally involved in the music, completely oblivious to the system, the speakers, or anything else. Ironic, since big power house flagship speakers are known for this kind of performance.

As a huge bonus, the Dreamcatchers are very attractive, and are not fussy about set up. They deserve to be mated with high quality electronics despite their diminutive size and moderate price.  They are musically involving in a way that makes the listener really want to focus on listening. They are tough speakers to relegate to background music.  To sum up, there is certainly lots of competition in the “budget” book shelf speaker market. But I feel the Totem Dreamcatchers are a step ahead of the class when compared to similarly priced models from Paradigm, Epos, B&W, and PSB. If shopping for speakers in the $500-$600 range, the Totem Dreamcatchers are a must listen.


Specifications

Totem Dreamcatcher. $575, depending on finish.

Frequency Response:    57 Hz - 25 kHz ± 3 dB (in room)
Impedance:    4 ohms
Sensitivity:    87.5 dB/W/m. Maximum SPL 101 dB before dynamic compression
Recommended Power:    20 - 80 W
Speaker Terminals:    4-way bi-wireable
Dimensions (w x h x d):    5.1 x h 11.3 x 7.1" /
130 x 287 x 180 mm

Totem Acoustic
9165 rue Champ d'Eau
Montreal, Quebec H1P 3M3
Canada
(514) 259-1062



Review System 1


Cd Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X,
Server: Squeezebox Touch, Olive O6HD
Preamp: Audio Research SP16
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables: DH Labs Revelation (IC), Kimber KCTG (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC),  Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Element Cable Element Cord, (AC)  Shunyata Venom (AC) Pangea AC-9 (AC) Audience powerChord e.(AC)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands,  Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Salamander rack

Review System 2


Cd Player: Marantz 5003, Audiolab 8200CD
Music Server: Squeezebox 3, Marantz NA7004
DAC: CIA VDA-2 with VAC-1 Power Supply
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Preamp: Belles Soloist 3
Amplifier: Belles Soloist 5, Revox A722
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio, Pangea Audio (AC), RS Cables, Element Cable






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