Totem Dreamcatcher loudspeaker Page 3
Working from home one day during yet another snowstorm, I was on the computer, two rooms away from my large listening room, where I'd cued up Louis Thiry's solo pipe-organ performance of Messiaen's La nativité du Seigneur (CD, Calliope CAL 9928). This complex work, which I've heard performed live, puts the organ through a wide range of texturesfrom subtle to bombastic, dissonant to consonant, delicate to complexthroughout the instrument's entire frequency range. Even heard as background music, the realism of the Totem's reproduction of the organ was so arresting that it was difficult for me to work. It sounded as if an actual pipe organ was being played two rooms away, and the music was demanding that I pay attention to it. Finally, during a high-level passage for pedals that covers the 2040Hz range, I raced into the listening room. The Dreamcatchers were trying their best, but the woofer cones were audibly flappingfearing the speakers were about to be damaged, I turned the volume down.
This Messiaen recording illustrated the Dreamcatcher's greatest strength: It forced me to involve myself in the experience of listening to music. Every hour I spent listening to the Totems made me want to listen for another hour. About halfway during the reviewing process, when John Atkinson told me that publication of this review would be delayed, I was elated: I now had at least another month to listen to the Dreamcatchers before I'd have to make room for something else.
Toward the end of my reviewing process, I would enter the listening room, look at the Totems, and smile. The mere sight of those little white beauties brought me happiness, and triggered memories of many hours of enjoyable listening sessions. At one point I even postulated that, should I ever decide to throw in my reviewing towel, I could sell my Audio Valve Eklipse line stage, Audio Research Reference 110 amplifier, and Alón Circe loudspeakers, get a pair of Dreamcatchers and an ARC VSi60 integrated amp (which I enthused about in the September 2010 Stereophile), and be a happy camper for many years. (Well, I didn't think about it too long, but the thought did cross my mind.) The sound of the Totem Dreamcatchers was so addicting that, whenever I removed them from the system and substituted another speakerany speakerI itched for the Totems' return.
I dismissed out of hand the idea of comparing the Dreamcatcher with bookshelf speakers also priced at or around $575/pairthe Totem's real competition is speakers costing three to four times as much. So out came the Epos M16i ($1998/pair) and Linn Majik 109 ($1590/pair).
The Epos M16i shared with the Totem a gorgeous, silky midrange, but had a bit less resolution of detail. The Epos's high frequencies were also slightly less detailed and extended, but were a bit more silky than the Totem's. At the low end, the Epos's midbass was richer and its bass extension was deeper, with a greater sense of high-end dynamic slam.
The Linn Majik 109's midbass was warmer than the Totem Dreamcatcher's and not quite as clean. The highs were maybe a bit more extended through the Totem, but were just as delicate and detailed through the Linn, and a touch silkier. The Majik 109's capabilities in high-level dynamics were superior to the Totem's, but not as good as the Epos's.
Despite the fact that the Epos M16i and Linn Majik 109 are my two favorites of all the affordable speakers I've ever reviewed, and despite the fact that both have always enticed me into a high degree of involvement with a wide range of recorded music, when I removed them from my system and hooked up the Dreamcatchers again, I smiled. The Totems were a breath of fresh air.
The Totem Dreamcatcher is more than a nearly flawless affordable bookshelf speaker that competes with speakers at triple its price. Never before have I heard a small speaker whose sound was so enticing and intoxicating that it made me want to never stop listening. Of all the speakers I've reviewed in the last 28 years, I have never enjoyed music more through anything else, regardless of price.