Totem Acoustic Forest loudspeaker Page 3

Ken Peplowski's clarinet on "Stompin' at the Savoy," on John Pizzarelli's Let There Be Love (Telarc DSD CD-83518), was seductive and entrancing, according to our household's clarinetist. Suzanne Vega's startling a cappella "Tom's Diner," on her Solitude Standing (A&M CD 5136), was stunningly lifelike. And Harry Connick, Jr.'s tenor voice on "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," from the When Harry Met Sally... soundtrack (Columbia CK 45319), had a slight amount of darkness and richness that might signify a minor midrange suckout near the crossover point's 2.5kHz frequency. Similarly, Willie Nelson's rich voice had all the timbre I'm accustomed to, with an extra measure of darkness; this was heard best on "Don't Give Up," from Across the Borderline (Columbia CK 52752).

The Forests' imaging was first-rate, and reminiscent of the Revel Salons'. Like the Totem Mani-2s, the Forests seemed to disappear, and leave no audible clues of positions. The soundstage was very wide and deep, the positioning precise, with substantial separation between instruments. Interestingly, there was a very well-defined sweet spot between the speakers within which vocalists "snapped into focus." In just the right position, José Carreras' tenor voice sounded virtually three-dimensional as he sings the opening Kyrie of the Misa Criolla (Philips 420 955-2), with the seamless image of the chorus spread across the soundstage behind him. The preacher's voice on Lyle Lovett's "Church" was placed well to Lovett's left, and was more clearly delineated from the backing chorus than through any comparison speakers, including the Quad ESL-63s. The chorus was layered, the space around and behind them well-delineated.

The Totems' imaging abilities were heard to good effect on the instrumental finish of Richard Thompson's "Why Must I Plead" (Rumor and Sigh, Capitol CDP 7 95713 2)—the electric guitar appeared just outside the right speaker, as it should. Soundstage depth and width were exemplary on Holst's Chaconne, performed by Howard Dunn and the Dallas Wind Symphony (Reference Recordings RR-39CD). And from Stereophile's first Test CD (STPH002-2), at the end of Anna Maria Stanczyk's performance of Chopin's Scherzo in B-flat, Op.31, the spoken "Well done!" from Stanczyk's manager is heard at the left of the soundstage, well behind the speakers, as John Atkinson, who recorded the session, tells me it should.

The Forest's highs were transparent and beguiling, with no brightness, steeliness, or metallic edge. This was evident listening to "The Mooche," from Rendezvous: Jerome Harris Quintet Plays Jazz (Stereophile STPH013-2). The Forest captured and defined Billy Drummond's opening cymbal work—a shimmering, metallic sound—rather than something that seemed to be soft, hissing static. Through the Forest, Steve Nelson's vibraphone had a pure, transparent clarity that matched the transparency of the Revel Salon. This could relate to Totem's selection of the SEAS aluminum-dome tweeter that JA admired so much in their Mani-2.

The Forest's dynamics were remarkable: The final rim-shot on Harry Connick's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" erupted out of total darkness with tremendous speed and no compression. It startled me every time I heard it.

The Forest's asking price—$3000/pair for a pair of diminutive minitowers—makes buying them a serious investment...but I can't think of any other speakers for $3000 or less that image as well. The Forest's reticent deep-bass response, the tendency for its tweeter to sound duller when I stood up, the small sweet spot for imaging, and the extra richness accorded male vocalists, are clearly "buts" worth mentioning...but are probably not killer buts.

After JA has measured the Forests, I'm going to ask him to send them back to me so I can stay on top of these concerns by listening to them every chance I get.