Totem Dreamcatcher Home Theater Speakers
By Ron Goldberg
Even though home audio performance is scaling impressive new heights with SACD and DVD-A, pure sound quality is an increasingly difficult selling point for smaller loudspeakers. MP3 files now pass for hi-fi. Retail demos are conducted with crash/boom/bang surround movies. The market is being driven by designer-ish models that are often better seen than heard, and in-wall speakers that often sound as invisible as they look. In this rush to "lifestyle," products that raise an eyebrow on the actual listening front are getting harder and harder to come by, and genuinely audiophile-caliber, "music-first" speakers that are small and unassuming enough to work in said lifestyle contexts are rarer still.
This why the Totem Dreamcatcher speaker system is worth writing about. Totem is a small, Montreal-based manufacturer that's been a darling of the extreme-audio set since the late 1980s. The company made its name with small-box designs featuring startlingly clear, uncolored, detailed sound. The company has since expanded into a full line, from mini monitors to floor standing models at various price points. The Dreamcatcher, a matched system suitable for surround sound, sells for $1,600.
At a glance, this unassuming complement looks no different than dozens of small surround systems you can name. It consists of four rear-ported, bi-wirable satellites (5˝W x 7˝D x4˝H) for mains and surrounds, each with a four-inch woofer and a one-inch titanium tweeter, as well as a larger center speaker (21˝W x 7˝D x 5˝H) with dual woofers, and a compact sub (7.75˝W x 10.75˝D 4˝D x 10.25˝H) with dual rear ports and 200 watts of power. A closer look provides some clues as to what differentiates the product, as the solidity, woodworking and finish are all top-rank. According to Totem, the Dreamcatcher uses a "monocoque" construction, which means that the enclosure is effectively a single rigid shell. The unusually extensive attention to internal construction and bracing results in an audible absence of resonant coloration. The end product is sonic focus and transparency that makes you remember why you fell in love with audio in the first place.