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Quicky Impressions: Totem Hawk, Forest, Wind, & Mani-2

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I spent the last couple days checking out various speakers in the local shops, to see what's out there and also to recalibrate my hearing a bit. The first place I stopped by was a Totem dealer, and they had the entire line except the flagship Shaman setup in their 2 demo rooms. I started with the Forest and then worked my way up & down the line. Equipment was Bryston amps and Arcam CD players, along with Totem Sinew and Bi-Wire cables.

Standard disclaimer: All impressions are mine, made in show room conditions, limited time & music, etc.

First, read the Stereophile review of the Forest, it can be found here. About the only thing they got right was the description of the imaging and soundstaging. The bass which they claim to be surprisingly deep & impactful isn't. The strong bassline and kickdrum on SRV's "The Sky is Crying" is lean and has little impact to it. The nice room filling bass groove isn't there, it sounds like someone hit the Rumble Filter which is found on some older receivers and amps which rolls off everything under 100Hz. It's like listening to headphones but with speakers, you get all the sound & detail but no feel.

It also did bad things to SRV's electric guitar, notes which should ring out and scream with feedback don't. It sounds like they're being held back and muted, the dynamics just aren't there. The midrange in general just sounds confused, and tends to blend things together. And when the speaker's cranked up a bit to try and get more dynamics, it starts compressing and distorting the guitar tones as well as making the snare drums & cymbals harsh. Speaking of the treble, it's a bit on the bright side but usually stays under control until things start falling apart elsewhere, which unfortunately is all too often. Cymbals are nice & clean if a little too loud, and snare drums have a good whack & impact to them.

Playing something a little less demanding, in this case "Sweet the Sting" by Tori Amos, they sound pretty sweet except for a bit of sibilance. It got her voice pretty much right and managed to capture most of the subtle shifts & inflection, but again, the funky bass groove wasn't there. I played a couple more track but it was more of the same. Overall, I'm not a fan of it and wouldn't recommend it. Save a few more bucks and get the Mani-2 or B&W 804, both of which kick the crap out of it. Even the Fab Audio Brats at a bit over half the price of the Forests are far better.

Next I tried out the Hawk which is one model below the Forest. Take everything bad I said about the Forest and multiply it by 5. I listened to it for all of 5 minutes and that was all I could take. Blech.

So I went up the line to the Mani-2 super bookshelf speaker. Once again, read Stereophile's review here. Except this time they're dead on correct. This is one groovy musical speaker that makes you forget about all that audiophile crap and just bop along to the tunes. First thing I noticed? Bass, nice deep groovy room-filling bass. If I didn't know better I would've sworn that someone turned on a hidden subwoofer. Music sounded whole and complete again. And deep & powerful as the bass is it remains crisp & fast, even when faced with sorting out the drum & bass lines on SRV's "Wham". On many speakers & headphones, the electric bass gets buried by the drums & guitar and I end up loosing it several times. On the Mani-2 it only gets lost once, for a few seconds around the half minute mark.

Midrange, yeah, nice. Everything stays separate, no blending, compression, distortion, or any weird monkey business. I'd say it's a bit on the warm side, just the way I like it. Vocals, male & female sound the way they should, as do guitars, drums, and everything else. Natural. There is a minor weakness though, it's lacking the last bit of detail that the great speakers have. For instance the sound of Natalie MacMaster's violin isn't quite complete. It's missing a few of subtle resonances from the violin's body and the scrape of the bow against the strings is a bit soft. Still, the rest is good enough that I can easily live with it. No glaring flaws, really well balanced all-round speaker, I'd definitely recommend it.

To be continued, impressions of the Wind going up tomorrow...
post #2 of 13
I have heard the Forest's and they have presented the bass stereophile described. They were being driven by VAC amps an a Linn LP12...not sure how that would change everything. Bryston's are powerful beasts? Strange, maybe it was the room?

The first time I heard Totem's...I was listening to Hawks with some lower mid-fi amps and frontends (Cambridge Audio stuff I thikn) and the sound was really pathetic, bright, no bass, but the Totem imaging was retained.

If I could afford tube amps taht would pair nicely with Totem's I would love a pair, especailly the Winds!
post #3 of 13
I too was unimpressed by the floorstanding Totems. The setup I heard was driven by McCormack amps and Musical Fidelity's digital gear. Perhaps there is something to the tube/Totem combination, but I haven't been to a dealer who has them set up like that.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zanth
I have heard the Forest's and they have presented the bass stereophile described. They were being driven by VAC amps an a Linn LP12...not sure how that would change everything. Bryston's are powerful beasts? Strange, maybe it was the room?
I was guessing the speakers (Forests) were too fresh since what I heard is stereotypical of minty fresh just out of the box speakers. I asked the sales guy about it and he said the pair had been in the show room for ~3 months, and that tube gear is a must for making them sound right. He mentioned that the pair he owns is driven with big VTL amps, and though the bass is still missing a little something it's much better, and the midrange issues are taken care of.

Anyway, on to the Wind.

Take everything good about the Mani-2 and add bass and power. Though the speaker is huge it soundstages and disappears almost as well as the Mani-2. It manages to sound like it's not even straining no matter what I played through it. Wild Hendrix guitar solos were produced complete with screeching feedback and overtones, you could tell that Jimi's poor tube amps were screaming for mercy. Playing a few of SRV tracks, it's about the best I've heard him sound, though strictly speaking it's not the most accurate or detailed I've heard. The bass is a bit slow and electric bass notes seem to linger on a bit too long & blend together a bit. Groovy & fun, but not quite as snappy as the Mani-2.

Next for a complete change in music I put on "Little Amsterdam" by Tori Amos. This speaker does piano beautifully. The rich notes of Tori's Bösendorfer concert grand piano were played back about as well as I've ever heard them outside of Massey Hall (I had 2nd row seats there when she opened her concert with the same song). Warm wonderful sound, I heard the whole piano instead of just the notes of the keys being struck which is how my headphones and lesser speakers portray it. On lesser equipment I hear the key being struck, the sound of the keys being lifted, the pedals being pushed, and the note itself. I don't hear the resonances and warmth that the body of the piano contributes to the sound. The Wind lets me hear that, and fills the room with the entire piano's sound.

Downsides. They suck a lot of power. Even with powerful Bryston amps the volume control was cranked up almost halfway in a roughly 12'x16' room. They're still lacking that last bit of detail, detailwise they're only a bit better than the Mani-2, which I think is the winner in their lineup.

I would honestly be quite happy with them if I hadn't heard the Fab Audio Model One, which trades off a bit of bass & richness for more detail, speed, and a much higher efficiency. I still like them, and I would recommend them, it's just that they don't fit my needs quite as well.
post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by aerius
I would honestly be quite happy with them if I hadn't heard the Fab Audio Model One, which trades off a bit of bass & richness for more detail, speed, and a much higher efficiency. I still like them, and I would recommend them, it's just that they don't fit my needs quite as well.

Nice impressions again! I am very intrigued by the Fab Audio Model One's. First, I think they are the ugliest speaker of all time. My wife would NEVER go for them in any room that was public. I would have to have a dedicated room for my "toys" to ever get those. I would sorely miss richness in tone but I love PRaT, I hate feeling that I am out of step with the music, my mind figuring where the sound should be but the system never getting there in time...

That said, I have never heard a bad thing about Fab Audio's speakers. So many people claim they are incredible! This says a lot about them. I hope to hear them one day.
post #6 of 13
Hello again Aerius, good to hear from you again (we met at Tomek's one time).

I assume that you have been at Bay Bloor Radio? I have seen many sets of Totems there, and as a former owner (for 10 years...) of a set of Rokks, I am a fan of their house sound.

I am willing to bet that the Mani-2 eats just as much power as the Wind, since the Mani uses an isobaric bass driver (inside the enclosure, there is another identical woofer to the one you can see, running in phase...) and is well respected for the sound it can create.

I liked the other FAB Audio speakers that Tomek had, but have not heard the Model 1's that he eventually bought.

I eventually sold off my Totems, and built my own single driver speakers, that a couple of people have heard...

Take care,
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgsxr
I am willing to bet that the Mani-2 eats just as much power as the Wind, since the Mani uses an isobaric bass driver (inside the enclosure, there is another identical woofer to the one you can see, running in phase...) and is well respected for the sound it can create.
Almost, but not quite as much. I'd say it eats enough juice that I'd almost certainly have to use a solidstate amp unless I wanted to double my monthly hydro bill.

Quote:
I liked the other FAB Audio speakers that Tomek had, but have not heard the Model 1's that he eventually bought.
Same family sound, but with more detail, smoothness, a fuller sound with more bass, and even more efficiency. It'll play as loud as I'll ever want on a mere 3W amp. Speaking of which, I need to go bug Tomek for more listening sessions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zanth
Nice impressions again! I am very intrigued by the Fab Audio Model One's. First, I think they are the ugliest speaker of all time. My wife would NEVER go for them in any room that was public. I would have to have a dedicated room for my "toys" to ever get those. I would sorely miss richness in tone but I love PRaT, I hate feeling that I am out of step with the music, my mind figuring where the sound should be but the system never getting there in time...

That said, I have never heard a bad thing about Fab Audio's speakers. So many people claim they are incredible! This says a lot about them. I hope to hear them one day.
Thanks!

According to the Fab Audio website, Stereo Passion in Ottawa is a dealer of Fab Audio goodies. You should be able to pop by one day and take a listen. The speakers, weird looking as they are, do grow on you, it's not as bad as it looks.
post #8 of 13
I really like the Mani-2. I needed stand mounted monitors that sounded like large full size speakers but still dissappear like bookshelves, and the Mani-2 gives me that. They have excellent extensions at both ends of the frequency extremes and are quite smooth. Soundstaging is excellent as well as imaging. They are slightly on the warm side, which gives the midrange just a smidget of sweetness. As a Senns guy, I like that. The overall sound is full (but not sluggish) and clear. They aren't the most detail, dynamic or quickest speakers around (as compared to the Avantguard Duo that I auditioned). But when I'm listening to them, I don't think about any of that. I do not feel like I'm missing anything. I've been using them with MF A3.2cr (225 wpc@4ohms) power amp and Ray Samuel's stealth.
post #9 of 13
I think the best of the bunch are the Arro's. Fantastic speakers that I am listening to right now.

The next two up - Sttaf and Hawk, I didn't think much of. Forest and above are good, but there is a lot of competition in that price range.

IMHO, the best amplification for Totem is Simaudio. i-5 up to Hawk, and maybe Forest. i-3/w-3/w-5 for the bigger speakers.

Auditioning anything at Bay-Bloor is a waste of time. Too much ambient noise. Try American Sound. You can cut a much better deal there too.
post #10 of 13
I heard the Rainmakers along side the Arros at a dealer in San Fran.

The Rainmakers had more impressive bass and made more of an impact. Overall, I was tempted by the fullness of the sound and dispersion of the entire soundstage which the Arro could not match because of physical limitations.

That said, the Arros make a very compelling case for themselves and are in no way an inferior speaker, save for being bested by the Rainmakers. Unfortunately, I was unable to listen to the Mani-2s or the Model 1 Signatures. My appreciation of the Totem range is sadly limited.

Just curious, I heard the Sim Audio I-3 and was quite impressed. Unfortunately, I was unable to hear the I-5 as they didn't have one in the room. How does the I-5 sound in comparison to the I-3 and what other amps share a similar sonic signature?

Thanks
post #11 of 13

 Perhaps a Cerwin Vega D9, or Old School Klipsch would be more to your liking?!!!

post #12 of 13

You really did use the search function  

post #13 of 13

what size of amp were you using by bryston, and how do you feel about the new 4bsst2 amp driving the mani 2.

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Cables, Power, Tweaks, Speakers, Accessories (DBT-Free Forum) › Quicky Impressions: Totem Hawk, Forest, Wind, & Mani-2