Totem Acoustic Forest loudspeaker Page 2

Although the Forest's rated voltage sensitivity of 87dB/2.83V/m is close to the average range of B-weighted speaker sensitivities noted by this magazine, I had to set the volume control of my Krell KBL preamplifier a bit higher than usual when driving the Forests with the 100Wpc Mark Levinson No.334 power amp.

Final adjustments included comparative nearfield (8') and farfield (16') listening, low-frequency sweeps with a signal generator, phase checks, listening to pink noise, and adjusting my listening position for the best soundstaging and imaging.

The Forest's deep-bass output fell off smoothly between 49 and 41Hz in my listening room, with no doubling (where the sound of the bass sinewave starts to be dominated by the second harmonic and octave higher than the fundamental). Playing the "Channel Identification" and "Stereo Channel Phasing" tracks from Stereophile's Test CD 3 (STPH006-2), I carefully positioned my listening chair in the speakers' nearfield until I could hear the in-phase pink-noise signal as a centrally focused image. Soundstaging was optimized when speakers and chair described a 7' equilateral triangle, measured from the tweeter centers.

The Forest's tweeter sits 31.5" above the floor, so its axis is just below my ear level (38") when I'm seated in my listening chair. The speaker's tonal balance changed significantly when I played pink noise and stood up during the "sit down, stand up, walk around" test.

Before doing any serious listening, I broke in the Forests by playing music from an FM source for 12 hours, followed by 12 hours of the "Special Burn-In Noise" track from Test CD 3.

Totem Acoustic has produced several small dynamic loudspeakers with prodigious bass response. Would the Forest follow in that tradition? Surprisingly, the Forest's bass response was not overdeveloped; it produced clean bass down to only 40Hz in my room when playing a 1/3-octave warble tone at -20dB (from Stereophile's first Test CD, STPH002-2).

The Mark Levinson No.334 power amp proved a fine match for the Forest: the sound was solid, transparent, and dynamic without being edgy, and the bass response was controlled and eminently detailed. The bass lines on Massive Attack's Unfinished Symphony (Circa WBRX2) were solid and full. On Lyle Lovett's "Church," a wonderful foot-stomping gospel tale from his Joshua Judges Ruth (MCA MCAD-10475), the Forest presented a very clean, tuneful, well-defined kick drum that propelled the music but did not overwhelm it.

The bass drum on Owen Reed's La Fiesta Mexicana, from Fiesta (Reference Recordings RR-38CD), was well-defined and tuneful, but lacked the dynamics, rhythm, and jump factor of the Revel Salon. The final organ chords of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, Part 1 (Test CD 2, Stereophile STPH004-2) were musical and clean, but did not provide the deep underpinnings of the music, as the Revel Salon does. Michael Arnopol's plucked standup bass on Patricia Barber's "Use Me," from Companion (Premonition/Blue Note 5 22963 2), didn't overwhelm me with gizzard-rattling vibrations, but conveyed more of the upper string resonances.

About now, I usually write in my listening notes that "this is not the speaker for the king of instruments"...but I found the Forest to be quite the opposite. I could clearly hear the hall ambience surrounding the great pipe organ of the Zürich Tonhalle during Jean Guillou's performance of Gnomus, from his transcription of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (Dorian DOR-90117). The deep pedals were there, to be sure...but did not vibrate objects in my room or cause the air to shudder. The upper pipes sounded sweet, pure, transparent, and had no harshness. This airiness and spaciousness was not so evident listening to the Revel Salon, even though the larger speaker could do a far better job on the 32Hz pedal notes.

Through the Forest, the conga-drum solo that opens "Hotel California," from the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over (GEFD-24725), was much tighter, cleaner, and faster, with none of the overhang and room resonances I'm used to hearing from the Revel Salon, or from the pair of 18" Snell subwoofers that had been in my listening room in the past. Sitting out in the room, the Forest had a very controlled, smoothly tapered bass response that did not excite room modes, and that let the rest of the music come through on these bass-rich recordings.

The Forest's midrange was very seductive; it excelled with vocal, clarinet, and piano recordings, voices and instruments floating free of the speaker positions. The Totem provided a wealth of musical detail, making it easier to delineate spatial positions. I could clearly hear each time Robert Silverman used the sustain pedal of the B;dosendorfer 290SE reproducing piano in his recording of Beethoven's Sonata 14, the "Moonlight" (Orpheum Masters KSP830). When Silverman lifts the pedal at the end of the first moment's dying note, it makes for an extremely dramatic moment.