Totem Acoustic Skylight loudspeaker Measurements

Sidebar 3: Measurements

I used DRA Labs' MLSSA system to measure the Totem Skylight's farfield behavior with a calibrated DPA 4006 microphone. For the speaker's nearfield responses, I used an Earthworks QTC-40 mike, which has a small, ¼"-diameter capsule that doesn't obstruct the sound from the woofer or port.

Totem specifies the Skylight's sensitivity as "88dB," presumably for 1W at 1m. My estimate was 85.4dB(B)/2.83V/m, which is about what I would anticipate from such a small loudspeaker and 1dB higher than that of the KEF LS50. However, while the Totem Skylight's nominal impedance is specified as 8 ohms, the solid trace in fig.1 suggests that 10 ohms would be more accurate; this would increase the sensitivity expressed in terms of watts, but only by about 0.1dB.

520Totemfig1

Fig.1 Totem Skylight, electrical impedance (solid) and phase (dashed) (2 ohms/vertical div.).

The impedance magnitude remains above 8 ohms for almost the entire audioband, with a minimum value of 7.2 ohms at 230Hz. While the electrical phase angle (dashed trace) is high at some frequencies, the impedance magnitude is also high at those frequencies. The Totem Skylight will be a very easy load for the partnering amplifier.

The traces in fig.1 have discontinuities in the midrange and low treble that suggest the presence of panel resonances. When I investigated the enclosure's vibrational behavior with a plastic-tape accelerometer, I found several high-Q modes on the sidewalls (fig.2), the highest in level at 488Hz and others at 800Hz and 900Hz. (The mode at 800Hz was the highest in level on the top panel.) The frequencies of the resonant modes are the same as the wrinkles in the impedance traces. I assume that this behavior is why Totem pays a lot of attention in the Skylight's manual to how the speaker should be coupled to its stand, specifically stating, "Totem recommends decoupling the loudspeaker to break down cabinet resonance for optimum results." I measure a loudspeaker's impedance and panel vibrations with the enclosure supported on three upturned cones, which reveals the speaker's fundamental behavior. As I showed in my 1992 article on the loudspeaker/stand interface, using compliant coupling to the stand can reduce the amplitude of the resonances.

520Totemfig2

Fig.2 Totem Skylight, cumulative spectral-decay plot calculated from output of accelerometer fastened to center of sidewall (MLS driving voltage to speaker, 7.55V; measurement bandwidth, 2kHz).

The saddle centered on 43Hz in the impedance magnitude trace suggests that this is the tuning frequency of the port on the Totem's rear panel. This frequency—low for such a small speaker—was confirmed by the fact that it's the frequency at which the nearfield response of the woofer (fig.3, blue trace) has its minimum-motion notch. (The back pressure from the port resonance holds the cone stationary at the tuning frequency.) The nearfield response of the port (red trace) peaks broadly between 30Hz and 80Hz, with initially a clean upper-frequency rolloff. However, its output is disturbed by very high-amplitude peaks at 500Hz, 800Hz, and 900Hz, the frequencies of the discontinuities in the impedance traces and the cabinet panel resonances. I could hear this behavior as a whistle imposed on the noise-like MLSSA signal.

520Totemfig3

Fig.3 Totem Skylight, acoustic crossover on tweeter axis at 50", corrected for microphone response, with the nearfield responses of the woofer (blue) and port (red), respectively plotted below 500Hz and 1kHz.

Totem's specifications state that the woofer is crossed over to the tweeter at 2.5kHz, with first-order slopes. However, while the tweeter (fig.3, green trace) does roll in at 2kHz, the woofer's output (blue trace) continues at a slightly lower level until it finally rolls off sharply above 10kHz. This overlap in driver outputs makes the Skylight's balance critically dependent on listening axis. The black trace above 300Hz in fig.4 shows the Totem Skylight's farfield response, averaged across a 30° horizontal window centered on the tweeter axis. The upper midrange and treble are respectably flat, though a significant suckout can be seen between 7kHz and 10kHz, this due to interference between the two driver outputs. (This measurement was made without the grille; repeating it with the grille in place slightly widened the frequency region affected by the suckout but didn't otherwise change the response.)

520Totemfig4

Fig.4 Totem Skylight, anechoic response on tweeter axis at 50", averaged across 30° horizontal window and corrected for microphone response (black), with the complex sum of the nearfield woofer and port responses plotted below 300Hz.

The Skylight's manual doesn't give specific instructions on which listening axis will be optimal, but it does mention that listening below the tweeter is preferred to listening above it. I therefore repeated the farfield response a couple of inches below the tweeter axis, again without the grille. The suckout has filled in (fig.5); indeed, there is now a slight excess of energy in that region.

520Totemfig5

Fig.5 Totem Skylight, anechoic response 3" below the tweeter axis at 50", averaged across 30° horizontal window and corrected for microphone response, with the complex sum of the nearfield woofer and port responses plotted below 300Hz.

The black trace below 300Hz in figs.4 and 5 shows the sum of the Totem's nearfield woofer and port outputs, taking into account acoustic phase and the different distance of each radiator from a nominal farfield microphone position. Not only is the usual excess of upper-bass energy due to the nearfield measurement technique, which assumes that the radiators are mounted on a baffle that extends indefinitely in both horizontal and vertical planes, absent, but almost the entire midrange and bass are shelved down. This speaker's low-frequency balance will benefit from being placed relatively close to the wall behind it. Totem recommends 6"–36".

The plot of the Totem Skylight's vertical dispersion, referenced to the response on the tweeter axis (fig.6), indicates that the speaker's balance does change radically above and below the tweeter axis. Again, the optimal balance will be obtained just below the tweeter, but listening more than 5° lower than the tweeter sucks out the low treble. In the horizontal plane (fig.7), again referenced to the response on the tweeter axis, the on-axis treble suckout fills in to some extent to the sides, which is why there are apparent peaks off-axis in this graph. Other than that, the contour lines in this graph are relatively even throughout the treble, which implies stable stereo imaging.

520Totemfig6

Fig.6 Totem Skylight, vertical response family at 50", normalized to response on tweeter axis, from back to front: differences in response 45–5° above axis, reference response, differences in response 5–45° below axis.

520Totemfig7

Fig.7 Totem Skylight, lateral response family at 50", normalized to response on tweeter axis, from back to front: differences in response 90–5° off axis, reference response, differences in response 5–90° off axis.

In the time domain, the Totem Skylight's step response on the tweeter axis (fig.8) indicates that the tweeter is connected in inverted acoustic polarity, the woofer in positive polarity. The tweeter's step, which arrives first at the microphone, doesn't quite blend smoothly into the start of the woofer's step, which confirms that the optimal balance will be obtained just below the tweeter axis.

520Totemfig8

Fig.8 Totem Skylight, step response on tweeter axis at 50" (5ms time window, 30kHz bandwidth).

Even though I had a compliant rubber sheet placed between the speaker and the stand for this measurement, the decay of the woofer's step is overlaid with regular undulations with a period a little longer than 1ms. This behavior correlates with a ridge of delayed energy centered on 900Hz in the upper midrange in the Totem's cumulative spectral-decay plot (fig.9), this the frequency of one of the resonances I found in both the port and panels. The decay in the treble is cleaner, though the on-axis treble suckout is accompanied by another ridge of delayed energy. (As always with my CSD plots, ignore the small ridge just below 17kHz, which is due to interference from the computer monitor's line-scan frequency.)

520Totemfig9

Fig.9 Totem Skylight, cumulative spectral-decay plot on tweeter axis at 50" (0.15ms risetime).

The overlap between 2kHz and 10kHz between the outputs of the Totem Skylight's tweeter and woofer will make choosing the optimal listening axis critical. In addition, its low-frequency balance mandates careful experimentation with the distance between the speakers and the walls behind them. While I could readily hear coloration due to the port and cabinet resonances with the MLSSA pseudo-random noise signal, the audibility of this behavior with music will depend not just on the speaker's coupling to the stand but also on the recordings being played. I have found similar behavior in other speakers to be very noticeable with solo piano recordings due to the spectral sparseness and the associated lack of masking, but it might well not be a problem with other kinds of music.—John Atkinson

COMPANY INFO
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COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

Solo piano music is needed for 'un-masking' the distortions in loudspeakers ...... says, JA1 :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be RS could also review the Polk Legend L100, $1,200/pair ........ RS mentioned favorably about the L100 at a dealer demo :-) ........

Brian in Oregon's picture

Not sure that crossover could even be considered first order. It would appear that the woofer is rolled off between 1 and 4kHz at slightly less than 6dB/octave, before it peaks up again at 6kHz and then extends, with a couple of ripples, out to 10kHz, creating a phase nightmare due to its extended overlap with the tweeter. I suspect that only a single inductor is in series with the woofer, with no impedance leveling (Zobel), so that the rising impedance of the driver nullifies the lowpass coil's effect above 4kHz. I looked at some Stereophile measurements of earlier Totem models, and noted that they did not have this issue -- their woofers continue to roll off properly above crossover frequency.

However, it seems that most of those older Totems exhibit the same out-of-control port (and cabinet) resonances around 1kHz, although this is the most severe example yet. There's no way this "port noise complaint" can NOT be audible, especially as the speakers must be placed close to a wall due to their lack of baffle step compensation, and the port output will be reflected back at the listener.

Quite frankly, these look rather poorly designed, especially at their price point. Apparently the "designer" has little use for measurements or established speaker engineering theory, and voices his creations entirely subjectively, possibly for the distortions he finds most euphonic.

There are plenty of speakers out there of comparable size, at the grand-a-pair price or significantly lower, that are better engineered and would outperform these in just about every parameter. Thinking of recently reviewed offerings from Wharfdale, Elac, Quad, PSB, etc.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You can see the port resonance peaks at 800-900 Hz (Fig.3 red) :-) .......

supamark's picture

and only a 1st order high pass for the tweeter. I agree, that port is poorly behaved. It could be mostly tamed by placing acoustic foam directly behind the speaker to absorb the high frequency output from the port (or, preferably, a better design for the port) but you shouldn't have to modify a $1,000 mini-monitor to tame port output that exceeds the forward facing driver(s). They really should do a rev. 2 on this speaker and clean it up. Totem has shown in the past the ability to design a better behaved speaker, not sure how this one got out into the "wild," as it were.
.
I will say, keeping the impedence high is a refreshing change from a lot of today's speakers that dip into the 2 to 3 ohm range in the bass.

Brian in Oregon's picture

. . . due to the rolloff from 1kHz to 4kHz. But if the woofer has a rising impedance above that, it will keep pushing the reactance frequency of the inductor upwards, so that it ceases to attenuate output.

And there's probably just a capacitor and resistor in series with the tweeter.

The phase errors induced by the broad overlap between drivers will make it challenging to find the optimum, and very narrow, vertical and horizontal axes. The weak bass will be ameliorated by near-wall placement, but then there's that port whistle. Maybe just plug the damn ports with some rolled-up felt, and run 'em sealed? Should get an f3 about 90Hz, suitable for crossing to a decent sub.

Indydan's picture

How can there be such a disparity between the listening impressions and the measurements? Robert S. compares the Skylight very favourably to the KEF LS50. But, it sounds like JA is talking about a different speaker in the measurements section.

rschryer's picture

...is a great question.

Why did I hear what I heard?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be if you played more well recorded classical music, you might have heard more distortions? ...... I don't know, I'm guessing :-) .......

tonykaz's picture

You captured me with this one.

You are one hell of a Storyteller.

Mr.JA is probably the highest integrity person in all of Consumer Audio yet actual listening is what determines longevity of ownership ( doesn't it? ).

Thank you for bringing this transducer to us. We need more of your thoughts and discoveries. I wonder if you might do interconnect reviews ( as a specialist ), you seem to have what it takes.

Tony in Venice

ps. I imagine your Logo Cover Art of a Cabin deep in the North Woods with Mother Nature's Wildlife positioned to help Jury Audition and collaborate your discoveries. I can feel the fresh pristine quality of your ambient Air. You would be a must-read!

rschryer's picture

...North Woods with Mother Nature's Wildlife positioned to help Jury Audition and collaborate your discoveries."

And don't forget my soundproof-isolated 9000-watt generator of pure, off-the-grid a/c that powers my system.

It's the secret sauce to the great sound I'm getting in the Canadian wilds.

tonykaz's picture

Lets hope you "also" have a PS Audio PowerPlant P12,P15 and/or P20 to provide Electrical energy that's Pure as the Wind driven Snow. Made right here in North America and reliable as any piece of Commercial Power gear ever made. Every review should be based on the electrical gear having Gold Standard Power.

We all ( probably ) realize that the Air itself is cleaner the further North we go. Hmm, you could base up by the Arctic Circle. Imagine how the PURE Air alone would help with transparency revealing. Pure Air and Pure Electricity, what more could you hope for?

Solar panels with 18600 lithium storage batteries might suffice to keep your Wildlife from being Diesel exhaust & noise traumatized.

Tony in Venice

ps. I'll contemplate your reviewing future as i take my daily swim in our blue water pool set at 89F. Three laps will suffice.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

There won't be any restaurants, bars, movie theaters, shopping malls, sports arenas, not even pizza delivery, McDonalds etc. etc. near the Arctic Circle :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

RS could invite some 'Sasquatch' to listen to his audio system in the Arctic Circle :-) ........

tonykaz's picture

The Vast watery reaches of our Great North Pole are now a navigable Transportation Route between Europe and China. A person can even book a birth on one of the Russian Nuclear Ice Breakers that keep the traffic moving smoothly. Ice breaking sounds like hitting a empty barrel with a hammer.

Our Great "Ends of the Earth" reporter/reviewer can even enjoy Air Transport from/by Buffalo Air, based in Yellow Knife.

Tony in Venice

ps. I just now got driven out of the Swimming Pool by a sudden cold shower of rain water. Oh well, take the good with the bad!

tonykaz's picture

These advanced creatures are known to prefer Pro-Audio In-Ear monitors, they can't carry around loudspeakers all day, where would they plug them in?

Besides, they take "Social Distancing" to extremes, don't they?

Please, Mr.BH, do try to not stray "off-topic".

Tony in Venice

ps. they "discovered" one in Belarus that speaks perfect N.Y & New Jersey accents. Is there something perfect about a NY accent???

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I don't know about NY 'accent' ...... But, NY-ers do have certain 'scent' ....... Even with 'social distancing' you can smell them ....... Just kidding ....... Just kidding :-) ........

tonykaz's picture

naughty

Tony in Venice

tonykaz's picture

I wonder if you mind or object to us "tire kickers" re-locating you to the far reaches of Off-the-Grid Solitude ?

It's because we love you and hope to protect your significant talents from the Marketing recruiters for Globalization.

Of course, Montreal and Quebec are both very far from any sort of Stateside image creators and key word manipulators.

You continue to have my applause.

Tony in Venice

JHL's picture

...is an excellent example of the sighted bias inherent in the presumed supremacy of the speakers' amplitude response. It pushes onlookers to consider where apparent aberrations to accepted conventional design technique become offensive to the ear, and how the ear responds to myriad of things not evident in simple amplitude.

The good news is that it's become a question instead of a flat denial. Given the complexity of asymmetrical multiway loudspeakers, it's a start.

Put another way, are we able to investigate all permutations of design, from the minimalist to the technically complex, as to sound? Given that the purpose of audio is in fact the ear, can we set aside the bias that favors what we *think* is superior and what is inferior and just listen?

There are an almost endless number of design types, each with a cluster of outcomes, whether to the microphone or the ear. I've thought for years that the assumption that simple amplitude linearity as the ne plus ultra of multi-way speaker was an unfounded assumption, and a proof of the bias of the straight line. If we were to challenge that bias - which we must if we're to be complete - how would we catalog our work?

None of this is an approval of the design in question, but it's certainly not a flat condemnation of it either. All we have so far is the assumption that function follows form, and since our assumptions are all rooted in static simple amplitude even though speakers are transient energy devices, we haven't begun to go steps below amplitude into how it composes itself on all design axes.

JRT's picture

... Floyd E. Toole's book, "Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms (Audio Engineering Society Presents)", now in third edition. It is an easy read.

There is much well established science and engineering applicable to the subject.

https://routledgetextbooks.com/textbooks/9781138921368/

JHL's picture

...my third paragraph was specifically if indirectly aimed at Toolism, which for even more irony, typically misquotes that *segment* of the purported science. Do you know how and why?

Or did you think it was the whole bible on the subject?

JRT's picture

Though his is not the last word on the subject, Doctor Toole is an expert, is recognized as such by other peer level experts, and is an intelligent man who spent most of his life wrapped up in the subject matter.

I am not surprised that you think that you know more about the subject than Doctor Toole.

Your various rantings have clearly shown that you eschew the practice of engineering and applied science.

JHL's picture

...this latest salvo tends to confirm a reliance on the projected slight; the continuing presumption that not only does a Tool - as I'll call the armchair expert - think that by waving a title he knows something his imaginary interlocutor somehow cannot, but that the latter is also an intellectual hick and a rube where the research goes.

I don't have a problem with one exposing his hindquarters like that, JRT; I'm just curious if it dawns on him that it's out there like that. I mean, those are rather preposterous allegations even when it's apparent he means to make an argument where none had existed, instead of - as you allude - actually *knowing* something.

No, to answer my own question, it hasn't occured to too many of the Tools many of us know that not only are they taking the Vaunted Work far too simplistically, but that they're clueless as to what vacuum that entails where real sound goes.

The curiosity is just how far they'll take their folly before it dawns on them how it is one.

PS: The reviewer liked the sound of this speaker. This is because it is a good-sounding speaker. There are technical reasons for this sound. Evidence of some of it distinctly appears in the measurements but they are not the product of the measurements.

Knowledge of this technical basis is probably not in the Tool's library. What is in the Tool's library is an assumption about sound, about the engineers that make sound; and the degree to which reviewers can hear, engineers engineer, and knowledge is distributed.

The measurement is not sound. It is an abstract. It is therefore incomplete, meaning it needs interpretation.

This interpretation does not appear in the Tool's knowledge set to a sufficient enough degree to inform sound. The reviewer, on the other hand, hears it.

This is a conundrum, but only if we ask the wrong questions and jump to conclusions, and only when we forget or deny the reason for the endeavor.

Jim Austin's picture

I will endeavor to keep it brief, but I have two points to make, about Floyd Toole's audio science and about the Totem review. It's likely to take a few words.

Toole first: Several of us (me, Kal, JA1) are quite familiar with Toole's work, and admire it. Toole's project is important: To provide a scientifically rigorous foundation to inform the choices made by audio designers, especially designers of loudspeakers. I'm trained as a scientist: I approve.

The foundation of that sort of work is statistics. It averages over preference. That's precisely what needed (needs?) to be done. It does not, however, take into account individual variations in acuity and taste--or, rather, it does so only in a generalized way. A loudspeaker designed to the classical Toole template will sound the best to the largest numbers of people. (The fact that there tends to be agreement between trained and untrained listeners makes it clear that it's more than just a survey of consumer preference--that there's something deeper going on--but the work is nevertheless based on populations.)

It's necessary work, and the profession and hobby are better for it. Much better. And yet there are variations on the Toole theme, and outright radical experiments, and people--some of the most deeply committed people--who don't buy in at all. The world is better for that, too. Some people are going after something completely different. That is something I'm very happy about. When you go to audio shows (assuming you do), do you go in search of the most conformist designs?

So it is regrettable when speakers (and other components) that so obviously do not aspire to the "classical" model continue to be judged according to the classical model. As much as I admire Toole's work, I do not admire conformists who insist that everything be judged by such narrow criteria. There is I am sure a single best way to roast a chicken, but I'm glad all restaurants do not do it the same way. I am not sure--I haven't asked--but I assume Toole would agree.

Crucially, Stereophile was founded on the notion that what matters most about audio components is what they sound like. Measurements had achieved a hegemony that was not improving the sound. Much as I sympathize with the Toole approach, I would never have accepted this job if it had meant betraying almost 60 years of Stereophile tradition. Fortunately I didn't need to. I was never tempted.

As I've written before in the magazine, when it comes to judging the emotional impact of music, the scientists do not have hegemony. On the contrary: It isn't obvious that they have much (directly) to say on the subject of music's emotional impact, and won't until we start to use fMRI or some other technique to judge the response in the emotional centers of our brains to different crossovers, etc. The fact that, as Toole showed, most people prefer certain things counts for little in a world where the most passionate are often the nonconformists.

As for the review itself, there's not a lot to say, except this: According to the classical model, that port is obviously very badly behaved. Anyone who has ever read the Loudspeaker Design Cookbook knows the pipe is too long or too narrow or both.

You can bet that Vince is among the people who know this. Of course he does. He knows it, he considered it, and he kept it. You don't have to like it--Rob obviously did, but you don't have to--to acknowledge that a designer can have different aspirations than you would have if you were doing the work. And anyway, unless you've heard it, how can you know? (You could save a lot of money by not buying speakers but instead projecting JA's measurements on the wall in your listening room.)

That egregious violation of good design principle: How does it sound? It's clearly audible on solo piano. Solo piano, as a consequence, does not sound completely natural. If JA had done this review--or, I like to think, if I had--this would have been reported. The port behavior a legitimate strike against these Totems. But, sonically, as experienced, there are many points in favor, too. Clearly that port resonance does NOT destroy the sound, even if it's clearly audible. Even if it is a grave sin against loudspeaker design orthodoxy--and this from someone (me) who believes in loudspeaker design orthodoxy (but also variety).

Is this a manifestation of ignorance and incompetence? Unlikely. Vince was after something and he seems to have achieved it. If you don't like it, don't buy it. Even criticize it if you wish, but just have a little humility please. Don't assume that all noncomformists are ignorant or that noncomforming speaker designs are evil. Just please acknowledge that not everyone in this world likes or aspires to the same thing. Give people a little credit.

At Stereophile, we believe in providing a complete picture. We did that here. Our published measurements are the precise reason that you are attacking the subjective review. That's balance. You never would not have gotten that from our main competition. And for those who doubt the editorial independence of Stereophile reviews, please note that we did publish those measurements; if we hadn't, we would not be having this conversation.

Seek perspective. Look at the big picture.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

beave's picture

Edited. My mistake.

beave's picture

I haven't read Dickason's book, but I'm not convinced that the port dimensions are the problem here. The fundamental resonance of the port is sound, so to speak, in that it occurs at the right frequency, is of appropriate amplitude, and is of appropriate Q factor. Those are things determined in large part by the port dimensions.

The problem is the higher-in-frequency, unwanted resonances coming out of the port. Those too are related to port dimensions, yes, but reducing/removing them is more about placement of the port location and absorption of said resonances inside the cabinet via dampening material, or via some sort of flexible port ala KEF, and not so much about changing port dimensions, right?

Jim Austin's picture

You could be right beave. I'm thinking of the so-called pipe-organ resonance phenomenon. There are some graphs in the Dickason book that make the point quite clearly; I just pulled the book out to remind myself; I'll take a pic and paste it in.

This (below) is from a simulation. Plots for the different ports are offset for clarity. As you can see, the longest ports are at the top. The bottom-most plot is for a dual-port configuration. I'm not sure what diameter port(s) this assumes.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

beave, you are right about lack of adequate internal damping causing the resonance peaks ...... Look at Fig.2 in measurements ...... There are huge resonance peaks/vibrations in the upper midrange including at 800-900 Hz ........ These resonance peaks are causing cabinet vibrations and port resonances (Fig.3) ......... JA1 describes about them in the text :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Some old British loudspeakers were intentionally designed with thin walled cabinets and inadequate internal damping to produce certain kind of sound ....... See, Stereophile review and measurements of old model Harbeth M40.1 speakers (Fig.2, measurements) :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Those resonances are probably like harmonic distortions in amplifiers ...... They probably add certain euphonic quality to the sound :-) .......

Ortofan's picture

... see these speakers go, then why didn't he buy them?
If they were really that good, wouldn't he want to keep them as a reference?
(Presumably $1,000 speakers are not out of his budget range.)

Perhaps a longer term evaluation and comparison with the KEF speakers might determine whether or not the various resonances and spurious artifacts uncovered in the measurements might be acting as a form of embellishment, resulting in the Totem speakers being perceived to be a "better storyteller", while the LS50s might be truer to the source.

Likewise, some investigations could have been conducted into Totem's recommended use of their "Beak" accessory. The Beak is a cone-shaped device intended to be placed on top of the speaker and claimed to "control resonances and allow for better driver integration" resulting" in imaging and dynamic improvement."
Also, "the high frequency difference when using the “Beak” is measurable and quite apparent. The tweeter generally has better linearity in the 8 kHz to 20 kHz range. Therefore, better staging and imaging is evident. At the crucial crossover point, frequency dips both on and off axis can be alleviated by as much as 1.5dB. Outcome: better harmony between woofer and tweeter, resulting in enhanced speed, impact and transients."

https://totemacoustic.com/pdf/manuals/Totem_UserManual.pdf
https://totemacoustic.com/accessories/

JHL's picture

The LS50 is a good example of a speaker that jumped off the shelves until it was shown how it deviated from the popular straight line. In the LS50's case, the amplitude trend was significant enough and unrelated to crossover type - the latter being the complaint about the Totem - that it was ultimately relegated to the status of tone control. The tide shifted.

But the LS50 could always have been better. It had both inherent design challenges it could not circumvent, and it had tuning challenges it was apparently not developed sufficiently to solve.

Yet the assumption had been cast: The LS50 was, by dint of its amplitude uniformity - there's that term again - around the transfer function between drivers, assumed to image and focus better. Amplitude response met the assumed superiority of the coaxial amplitude uniformity and minds were made up.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

What is in your opinion, is an ideal amplitude response? ...... Is the amplitude response of this Totem Skylight speakers, is ideal in your opinion? :-) ........

JHL's picture

...that there is sufficient granularity in simple loudness uniformity graphics to warrant them predicting speaker sound?

Do we believe we have a sufficient grasp of the thousands of design permutations - once we include all drivers, all topologies, and all transfer functions; for obvious reasons which we've never tried to do - to warrant loudness-versus-frequency visuals being the standard?

Why would we immediately revert to asking what visual abstract constitutes sound rather then just hearing the speaker?

The reviewer heard the speaker and reported on it in depth. Isn't his experience sufficient, or are we in the perpetual mode of demanding his credentials in light of what we anonymous armchair experts want to think is our superior sighted information, itself really just a bias?

We need make a distinction between the limited theoretical ideal and the global real-world outcome. This is why we review.

Which raises the final question: Are we here to learn about sound or to second-guess whatever doesn't fit out preconception?

Obviously nobody knows what response is ideal. The "ideal" is severely flawed by gross want of information, and even then, the ears-on reviewer suffers virtually no such limit. He's been doing this for decades on average.

There's a popular internet meme to remind us: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/63/96/da/6396daf5550bc84954a7d47ea2b45f59.jpg

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Also, are those port resonances ideal, in your opinion? :-) ........

JHL's picture

...to a troll?

rschryer's picture

I think you're putting too much faith in the audibility of measurements.

I know you're well read, so I assume you know that Doug Schneider of Soundstage! Hi-Fi, a man who, like JA1, appreciates a good set of measurements, also praised the Skylights.

His words: "What sold me on the Skylights was how smooth they sounded in the midrange and high frequencies, the latter having an almost feathery lightness that I really liked."

And: "I liked the Skylight a lot. I think it’s the best-value speaker Totem Acoustic has offered in years."

Doug heard what I heard.

beave's picture

Calling this speaker the "best-value speaker Totem Acoustics has offered in years" just might be an example of damning with faint praise. Just because it might be a better value than prior Totem speakers doesn't mean it's a good value relative to several speakers from other brands.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Totem speakers with a 'Beak' on top, would almost look like 'Coneheads' :-) ..........

rschryer's picture

...was written in anticipation of the day I would return the speakers, which I planned to do right after I submitted the review. I knew I'd be heartbroken.

Turns out I still have the Skylights. They are currently on my stands while the LS50s, which I am also very fond of, are sitting on the floor.

I'm not ready to part with the Skylights. Not yet. I'm keeping them a while longer and considering buying them.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

In addition to Polk Legend L100 (1,200/pair), if you could, compare them to NHT C3 (1,000/pair) or NHT C3 Carbon (1,100/pair), acoustic suspension speakers :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

There are several reviews available on-line for NHT C3, including Home theaterHiFi, with measurements :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

There are also, several reviews of Polk L100 available on-line :-) ........

Ortofan's picture

... a new section in Stereophile entitled 'But wait, there's more'?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It is like the 'Star Wars' movies or 'James Bond' movies ...... but wait, there is more :-) .......

jimtavegia's picture

I know that now that I am at 73 and have tinnitus and HF loss so that very few speakers would sound bright to me, (might make me a Klipsch customer??), that would be no surprise anyone might perfer one speaker over another if their measurements matched their hearing deficiencies/differences better.

Most amplifiers test very flat in EQ, but you all can hear differences that I probably could not anymore. We all have seen from JA1`'s measurements speakers are all over the place and will be again in OUR rooms. If the EQ of a speaker is a better match your one's hearing and what you like, enjoy it. If not, find one you like. I don't get on to someone for what they like, that is pointless.

AaronGarrett's picture

That Jamie Branch record should be a new classic.

NeilS's picture

"..Curious, I played a poor recording, Bob Marley & the Wailers' greatest hits package, Legend (CD, Tuff Gong CCID 103). "

Are you sure you were playing the Barry Diament remaster? His remaster of Legend sounds good to me, and I don't think I'm alone.

https://www.discogs.com/Bob-Marley-The-Wailers-Legend-The-Best-Of-Bob-Marley-And-The-Wailers/release/652959

Anton's picture

Their "house sound" is quite delicious, all in all.

They have also seemed easy on the room for set up - and they almost always show well at shows, which is not a universally easy task.

This was an interesting "measurement vs. subjective listening" exercise. I haven't heard this specific model, but I have encountered many Totem speakers on life's peyote walk and will lean toward trusting the reviewer on this one.

boMD's picture

Jaimie Branch’s Fly or Die albums are some of the best music to be released over the last few years. They recently played at the 2020 Portland Jazz Fest (one of the last few live gigs I caught before lockdown) and they certainly delivered the goods.

I’m a Totem owner also, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Skylights share a similarly quality containing Totem’s “house sound”. Both Fly or Die LPs sound incredible on my Totem loudspeakers. Love Chad Taylor’s drumming too. Have you listened to the new Chicago Underground Quartet yet?

rschryer's picture

Yes, I'm new at reviewing, and I'm not as technically inclined as some posters here, but I like to think that after so many years of listening to audio gear I can spot audiophile sound when I hear it.

The Skylights are certainly not perfect — I apologize if I gave the impression that I thought they were — but they do possess a set of sonic virtues that appeals to me to a degree that any deviation from neutrality they're guilty of doesn't detract me from admiring their overall sound. The Skylights are expressive little devils, full of vim and vinegar.

That said, I didn't play any solo piano works through the Skylights, and maybe if I had their port-related behavior might have become an issue.

So from here on out, I endeavor to be more thorough in my reviews in terms of the music I'll use to review equipment, and of pointing out potential colorations.

One thing you can count on — I will always be truthful.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The designers of these speakers know Stereophile measures loudspeakers ........ May be they want to prove a point :-) .......

John Atkinson's picture
Bogolu Haranath wrote:
The designers of these speakers know Stereophile measures loudspeakers . . .

So do Stereophile's reviewers, who don't see the measurements until after they have submitted their review texts. I take my hat off to them for having the courage of their convictions!

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I feel sorry for RS ...... His first ever review for Stereophile, turned out to be a disaster :-) .......

rschryer's picture

I'm confident that six months from now most of those who will have heard the Skylights at some length will be like "darn, those Skylights really are sweet-sounding!" and we'll all laugh about what will go down in audio history as the Big Port Controversy.

I'm getting the celebratory pin buttons ready now. :-)

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It would be nice if those fans send you few bottles of 'port' :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You did a great job reviewing the Skylights, RS ....... It was the cruel and vicious measurements devotees, who turned your review into a disaster :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Next RS could review the Lexicon SL-1 wireless speakers with 'steerable sound' technology ........ Speakers of the future :-) .........

Jim Austin's picture

In my opinion, Rob did a great job with this--no disaster here. (I suspect from the smiley that your disaster comment is tongue-in-cheek, but I can't just assume that, can I?)

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It was a 'tongue-in-cheek' comment :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Several loudspeakers which did not have 'flat' on-axis frequency response, or ideal, lateral FR dispersion pattern got favorable reviews by Stereophile reviewers ....... Couple of example are Wilson Sasha DAW and DeVore GibbonX ....... However, majority of Stereophile recommended speakers show ideal or near ideal on-axis and off-axis FR measurements :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JA1 liked the sound of DeVore GibbonX in the 'barn' ....... That was before the Stereophile formal review and measurements :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If the port is blocked or partially blocked, like one of the commenter mentioned, some of the port resonances could tamed ....... Also, using a separate subwoofer for bass frequencies, should eliminate port related problems :-) ........

JHL's picture

...you even partly block a reflex port, will it remain a reflex port?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Of course not ....... I'm trying to suggest cure(s) for the 'disease' :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You can add a well designed 'ported' subwoofer and get the benefits of a port, if any :-) .........

Ortofan's picture

... which of HR's socks you use.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

HR would probably say to JHL ...... 'Put one of my sock in it' :-) .........

Anton's picture

We argue so vehemently because the stakes are so low.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

How low can we go? ....... Let us do the limbo rock :-) .......

Anton's picture

If Totem slapped a $20,000 price tag on these babies they’d sound a lot better.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

In that case, they have to change the name on the speakers to Wilson :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If the Skylights cost $20k and had the name Wilson on them, they would certainly get Stereophile Class-A rating ........ Just kidding ....... Just kidding :-) ......

dial's picture

Probably a good speaker (bi-wiring isn't my cup of tea that said) but for bookshelves, a lot of people won't spend as much, they only got them because lack of space, these little boxes are designed for small appartments. Serious music lovers also agree for their nirvanas for big extreme systems like Wilson, Focal, Magneplanar, Martin Logan etc
But when visiting friends who listen to music, all very old now, I never saw two times the same bookshelf boxes.

Anton's picture

You accidentally conflated “serious music lover” with audiophile!

Common error.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be your friends could buy an external EQ unit, instead of spending money on multiple bookshelf speakers ....... There are several external EQ units available for less than $500 :-) ........

dial's picture

Audiophilie is near to folie, I mean they don't care much about sound quality as soon they can hear something pleasant from their records. Hifi freaks don't buy little boxes but enormous gear. You'll never see an integrated in their homes, but big pre-amps-cables (XLR prefered), loudspeakers about 2 meters tall and of course a gigantic plinth for the turntable.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Tidal is starting to stream music in Dolby Atmos ....... Time to upgrade, audiophiles :-) ...........

eriks's picture

Without looking internally, this speaker looks like a mistake.

The impedance curve suggests at least 2nd order filters, but the response does not.

This happens when you have mismatched the crossover values to the driver impedance.

What a truly curious set of measurements for a speaker to make. I feel like we are back at the design everything by ear and hope we get lucky world. Well, good luck with that.

If this is actually the intended results though it suggests Totem is paying for parts they aren't using.

Update: I found pictures online from an Italian site regarding the crossover. Ahahahahahah. Hahahahaha.

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