Totem Acoustic Sky Loudspeaker Review Page 2

Test tones confirmed that the Sky had quite audible bass output below the 48 Hz -3dB limit that Totem specs for the speaker. There was also an incredibly even match in the timbre of both Skys when I played pink noise on them. Switching from test tones to music, I played a reference track, Bill Frisell's “Blues Dream,” from his With Dave Holland and Elvin Jones CD and heard, clean, tuneful, and notably extended bass given the Sky's compact size. Frisell's electric guitar had a clear presentation and crisp bite, though I wouldn't say it ever veered off into sounding sizzly or harsh.

To double-check and confirm that the Sky's rendering of high frequencies was something I could live with, I streamed the track “Darling,” by Indie rock band Real Estate, from Tidal. The song's bright, jangly 12-string electric guitar sounded well forward in the mix on the Totems. Here again, though, I didn't find the presentation harsh or edgy. Nonetheless, it became very apparent to me that the Sky is a very revealing speaker compared with a more forgiving model like my GoldenEar Tritons, which usually sound fine with most things you throw at them.


To check the Sky's imaging abilities, I played a high-res 24-bit/96 kHz HDtracks download, “Alabama,” from the album In Movement by Jack Dejohnette, Ravi Coltrane, and Matthew Garrison. The shimmering sound of DeJohnette's cymbals spread wide across the room and I heard plenty of detail in his deft drum rolls. I also noted good front-to-back depth in the recording, with ample space between the drums and Coltrane's saxophone. The powerful, raw, textured quality I heard as Coltrane plowed through his solo also showed the Sky to be highly capable of delivering fine dynamics.

Another track, “Is this the Life We Really Want?” from the recent Roger Waters album of the same name further demonstrated the Totem speaker's dynamic ease. Waters' voice floated palpably at dead center while dry flourishes of strings heaped drama onto the laid-back beats and bass. The Skys conveyed the song's expansive mix in an authoritative manner, with precise layering between instruments and voices in the mix.

When it comes to speakers, my personal preference favors lushness over precision, though I'm glad to hear it when a speaker can provide some of both. Listening to a Tidal stream of a techno track, “Syncope,” by Steve Hauschildt, the electronic kick drum had a taut wallop and I heard impressive low-end extension when the synthesized bass drifted in. I was also impressed by the Sky's rendering of ambience: the swirling female vocals had a rich, airy presentation and soared without strain when I turned the volume knob up. Another thing about the Totems that impressed me on this track was their ability to deliver consistent performance at different volumes. Bass remained solid and present even when I turned the level down, and the strands of voices, synths, and percussion retained a vivid, layered presence in the mix.


Totem Acoustic's Sky speaker delivers dynamic, exciting sound from a surprisingly compact package. I normally crave a subwoofer when listening with a standmounted speaker like the Sky, but in this case I was happy with the bass that it managed. I was also impressed with the speaker's imaging, and by its ability to render complex music in a precise, detailed manner without sounding clinical.

Reservations? While I found the Sky's overall sound exciting, on some tracks the presentation could be a bit in-your-face. There are also other great-sounding compact speakers to consider in the under-$2,000 price range, including numerous models that are priced quite a bit less. Still, the Sky is undeniably well-engineered and well-crafted, and it should appeal to listeners seeking something extra from a compact speaker.

Totem Acoustic

bsher's picture

*Sigh* I am hoping to purchase a pair of these very speakers when I move this Summer, specifically because they are NOT choosy about placement. 6 inches from the back wall is as close as I have found for ANY manufacturer of bookshelf speakers, and the fact that they can be as close as 2 feet apart, or as far as 8? I encourage you to do the following: Those other speakers that cost under two grand that you mention toward the end of your review? Download the manufacturer's manuals for ALL of them, and see what they recommend for placement. If these Totems can really sound good a foot from the back wall, I'm sold.

Al Griffin's picture
My comments about the Sky being finicky had to do with my own struggle to get them to sound good in my room/system. You may have better luck in yours. Otherwise, they are fine-performing speakers and since Totem only sells through dealers, you'll get an opportunity to give them a listen before you buy.
SuicideSquid's picture

I've owned Totem speakers for years (Forests and Rainmakers) and they are very good. However, Totem goes full-in on the audiophile-nonsense. The idea that any speaker could possibly require 70-100 hours of break-in is factory-farm grade BS.

willieconway's picture

The fact that the cables used are even mentioned negates the whole article for me.

Of course, the manufacturer of the particular cable has an ad right by the article. And if the commenter above thinks that Totem goes full-in on nonsense, he should click on the ad and see what nonsense really is.

SuicideSquid's picture

Willieconway - look up Totem Beaks for peak audiophile shenanigans.

willieconway's picture

Oh wow. OK, you win.

buckchester's picture

Are you going to measure these speakers? Based on some other measurements I have seen from Totem speakers, I would say they are all hype, and no substance as they appear to have some very large resonances.

Decibel's picture

Always liked the sound of Totems. Their imaging has always been outstanding among other attributes.
As far as cables are concerned; I dare you to connect your speakers with a single fine strand of wire and listen. Then connect them with any decent audiophile cable and listen again.
Condemning a free internet publication for advertising is like saying that everybody should work for free in this world and making an honest living is a sin. Sounds like a perverted form of communism or anarchy to me.

willieconway's picture

You misspelled "audiophool". Also, I don't think anarchy means what you think it means.