In-wall models have always been thick on the ground at CEDIA and in recent years good ones have proliferated. Among the best I heard at this show were Totem Acoustic's Tribe In-wall LCR. Even amid the noise of the show floor, it immediately began communicating musically with a sonic signature that should be very familiar to Totem fans. Bass was strong, dynamics good. Price is $995/each. Totem also showed and demoed the Tribe In-Ceiling, with its dual angled baffles, and considering the acoustic challenges facing any in-ceiling model, it sounded almost equally good. Both have multiple woofers, passive radiators, magnetic grille, back box, anodized aluminum front frame, and biwire terminals.
This is the system that decouples the Totem Wind from the floor. It consists of a back piece plus a front "claw" filled with different sizes of ball bearings. That enables a form of tuning that helps the speaker mate with the room and the amp, we were told. The claw somehow escaped our camera -- see full-size photo in the first item above. Still, two pretty blue pictures in a row. That's class.
Totem Acoustic has updated the 10-year-old Wind, which continues in the line in its original form, with a new variation called the Wind Design Series. It includes a improved crossover plus a high-end automotive-grade polyurethane lacquer finish in four shades: blue, red, white, and black. Pricing ranges from $11,000-12,500 for the new version ("we're still reeling from the cost of the paint") or $9000 for the conventionally veneered old version.
Montreal's Totem Acoustic is a speaker brand we haven't celebrated as often as we'd like because for many years its lines didn't reflect a surround sensibility. But CEDIA 2016 turned up two new lines—one with a center speaker, the other with an LCR—that got our attention.
The beautiful Totem Tribe 5 is 48 inches high with four Montreal-made woofers and a tweeter with no crossover circuitry to pollute the sound. It is ported at both the top and bottom of the enclosure and can produce SPLs of up to 110dB into eight ohms. The speaker can function as an LCR, so you can use five or more of them in a surround system, though Totem also offers smaller complementary models. Price is $3000 with custom finish or $2200 if you're not as fussy. Want sub with that? The Tribe Sub sells for $1795 with outboard amp. It can sit on a pedestal, hide under the sofa, or be built into a wall.
Five years in the making, Totem Acoustic's Element Series features a massive large-diameter magnet structure suitable for arm curls. Even the littlest member of the family -- as it happened, the one we got to hear -- combined the naturalism and balance typical of Totem with a new bass solidity, mated with Accuphase electronics. Pricing ranges from $5995 to $13,000 for the flagship. Note that the competition Totem is aiming at sells products for much more than that.
Totem Acoustic, you knocked our socks off. Now give them back. Technically, the Element Series was announced at CES and it is against our code of honor to cover anything but new-for-this-show stuff. However, the center speaker is new, so we've wiggled out. It's called the Wood ($4500/each) and it will be joined by the Water sub ($5500) at a time yet unspecified. The existing models include two towers and a monitor. Powered by Arcam electronics, the big Metal tower ($16,000/pair) provided the best sound we've heard at the show so far, with effortlessly natural and well imaged vocals that flourished despite noise from the show floor.
The two largest trade shows in the audio/video world are shrinking--just a bit. Since they've grown pretty large and unwieldy over the past several years, a little backtracking is not necessarily a sky-is-falling proposition.