In the fall of 2016, the Montreal’s Totem launched the small Sky speakers at the TAVES (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) in Richmond, Ontario. The Sky model is considered a “bookshelf” type speakers at Totem. I was able to test this little speaker with pleasure in the pages of Mag@zine TED and it was quickly followed by the Sky Tower, a floor-standing version of the lineup. This new arrival would eventually replace the Staff tower speaker that has been on the market for at least 25 years. At Totem, you don’t change models just for fun, especially when you’re dealing with a winning recipe. The Sky Tower is shaped in the form of an elegant slender column that can be easily integrated into all types of decors. On the manufacturer’s website, we can read that the Tower has the same virtues as the smaller Sky, but with a greater output in the low frequencies. Let’s see how she differs from her older sister whom we enjoyed so much in her 2016 product review.
How Is The Tower Constructed?
The dimensions of the Sky Tower are roughly similar in width and depth to those of Sky. We are talking about 16.2 cm in width, 23.2 cm in depth, but whose height grows to 85 cm. Since the Sky Tower does not require a stand, its compactness and its footprint remain substantially the same as those of the Sky. It can therefore be adapted to a variety of rooms and uses as much in high-fidelity as for home theater applications. According to the manufacturer’s instructions, the positioning of the Sky Tower in the Listening room is facilitated by the fact that it can be as close as 15 cm from the rear wall and requires a minimum distance between the two speakers of only one metre. The closer the speakers are to each other, the less it is necessary to orient them to the listener (commonly referred to as “toe-in”), because of their wide sonic output. If the size of the listening room is large enough to increase the distance between the speakers and to keep them as far away from the side walls as possible, this will improve the stereo imaging, which will be wider and deeper.
As with all Totem Acoustic speaker models, the cabinet is constructed of fiber-board panels covered with natural wood veneers both inside and out. The panels are assembled using pressure-bonded miter joints, which is similar to a very sturdy monolithic box, a time tested resilient and durable design. The edges of the front panel are rounded to minimize diffraction phenomena. The internal walls are coated with an industrial borosilicate layer which is used to cushion the vibrations generated by the rear waves of the woofer and to eliminate the internal accumulation of energy. Unlike any other natural or synthetic fiber insulation, this technique allows a good damping without requiring to increase the necessary internal air volume too much so that the lower midrange transducer can perform with ease.
As always, the finish is impeccable on all surfaces of the enclosure which is covered with a semi-gloss lacquer that lets the texture of the wood shine through. The finishes offered are white with satin finish, black or mahogany with semi-gloss finish. As with the Sky, a magnetic protective grille is provided with magnets concealed under the veneer of the front panel. The transducers are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, allowing them to do their work without using their grill, thereby ensuring that the stereo image can be better projected. The enclosure stands on three high-density composite claws arranged in a triangle. This configuration stabilizes the enclosure preventing it from wavering. A cavity that can be filled with sand is even provided at the base of the enclosure to improve stability and optimize its low frequency response.
The Sky Tower’s Construction
The Sky Tower is a two-way speaker enclosure that includes the same 3.3 cm diameter tweeter as the Sky. It is a fabric impregnated soft dome and laser-cut tweeter. This transducer is made specifically for Totem and can produce a frequency of up to 30 kHz. The low and medium frequencies transducer is different from that of the Sky. This 14.6 cm diameter woofer has a copper-coated 7.5 cm voice coil. Its magnet is powerful and almost as wide as the woofer’s diaphragm. Its acoustic loading allows it to reach frequencies as low as 36 Hz. The first order type crossover has a transition point between the two loudspeakers of around 2 500 Hz. This crossover circuit is manufactured with quality components, hollowed core coils (air inductance) and with hand-wound or mechanically crimped wiring. It is connected to four external binding posts that allow bi-wiring or bi-amplification. The manufacturer’s specifications indicate a sensitivity of 88 dB/1W over an average impedance of 8ohms, which should not cause any problems for most amplifiers with 30 to 125 watts of output power per channel. Obviously, and as with all Totem speakers, you can expect that higher quality electronics feeding the speakers will help the Sky Tower will give the best of itself.
I tested the Sky Tower speakers with two integrate amplifiers, one 60 watts/channel and the other 150 watts/channel. The sources were my CD player as well as my music server plugged into the USB input of the second amplifier. This integrated amplifier has a most efficient digital-to-analog conversion section. I also used as a source a video game console plugged into one of the two optical inputs of the integrated amplifier to watch different videos on Youtube as well as TV series on Netflix. The speakers were placed about 38 cm from the rear wall and with a separation of 230 cm between them. They were a little over a metre away from the side walls, with a slight inclination (“toe-in”) towards the listener. Using a funnel, I filled the cavities at the bottom of the speakers with about 3 kg of cat litter, an easy to find and inexpensive product. If you have access to dry, clean sand, that would be even better. This suggestion from the manufacturer is recommended, but not mandatory. By lowering the center of gravity of the enclosure, it improves its stability on the ground and the delivery is more solid in the low frequencies. So I recommend this option as much as possible.
The Music as Heard Atop the Sky Tower
I started my listening tests with a choral and semi-classical work composed by Jessica Curry, a British composer specializing in music for video games. This soundtrack was composed for the game « Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture” for the PlayStation 4 console. The recording of this music is of pretty good quality, but it is above all its arrangements and its interpretation that are sublime. The Sky Tower enclosure forced me to relax and forget the analysis mode of the audio columnist. It was rather the music lover in me who took the upper hand and I let myself be taken completely by the sweetness of this work that features celestial voices. Decidedly, the famous soft dome tweeter, also used in the Sky, retakes centre stage to perform superbly in the Sky Tower. This little devil is almost as fast and as capable in the top of the audio spectrum as it is with a metallic tweeter. It is detailed and open, but of an incomparable softness. The transition to the midrange is perfectly controlled without any audible peaks or valleys and a coherence rarely presented at this price range. The midrange displays a beautiful presence of vocals that are both transparent, airy and sensual. Whether it’s the Sky or the Sky Tower, I think this series aptly emphasizes the midrange whose mission it is to reproduce the bulk of music. And when I speak of the emphasis of the midrange, I do not suggest an exaggerated projection of that portion of the spectrum at the expense of others. On the contrary, it is rather a coherent whole that shows us exactly what is happening in a recording.
I continue with a debut album by Dominique Fils-Aimé, a young singer-songwriter of Haitian descent. This artist is a discovery of the 2015 edition of “La Voix” (The Voice) television show when she was recruited into the Pierre Lapointe team. She offers us her first album entitled Nameless, the first of a trilogy. The songs of the charming Do Mi (her nickname) speak of the difficulties of being an immigrant in a host country. Her style is a mix between soul and jazz with a good dose of love transmitted by her suave voice. The recording and mixing were carried out under the supervision of Daniel Lepage of Opus Studios located in L’Assomption. Produced by Jacques Roy, a musician passionate about sound quality. The production and mixing of the album Nameless are very neat with subtle arrangements that highlight Dominique Fils-Aimé’s superb voice. The Totem Sky Tower offers me a beautiful presence of the singer whose voice we can detect was captured very close to the microphone. Do Mi herself assumes the accompanying voices with looping embellished by superb harmonies. The Sky Tower enclosure presents the whole thing in a very airy way in a stereophonic image that develops widely in front of me and around the speakers. The bass and the other musicians are retreated in relation to the singer, a choice by the producer desiring to put all the emphasis on the singer and her emotions. Emotions, moreover, that the Sky Tower delivers without hindrance and with subtlety.
I finish my analysis with a classic piece of music. It is A Fanfare for the Common Man by American composer Aaron Copland. This record on the Reference Recordings label is designed to test the dynamics and frequency range of speaker system. The bass drum hits, from the beginning of the piece, are resounding and of a respectable weight. The brasses retain their usual bite without becoming acidic or too hard. The orchestra is very well positioned in front of me and this good projection of the stereophonic image is surely the result of the low projection surface of the Sky Tower. I also get a good image of the depth of the room where this recording was captured. The dynamic differences are well respected in the soft passages as in those at high output.
I loved the Totem Sky and it is the same for the Sky Tower. The latter takes on the same qualities as the Sky with a little more magnitude in the low frequencies. One does not eclipse the other because they are complementary. These are two different speakers that will be used in rooms of different sizes. In general, the Totem Sky Tower loudspeaker will perform well in small to medium size rooms. Its low frequencies are impressive for a relatively small sized speaker enclosure. In the Sky Tower’s price range, you will probably find larger speakers, with one or two larger diameter woofers, but you will not get the same consistency or magic of the midrange. To have better than the Sky Tower, you would probably pay double its price. They are not very demanding as to their location nor to their amplifier requirements. So if you take care to install them well and match them with electronics of equivalent quality, you will be treated to a superb musicality and a discreet presence unparalleled in your décor.
Price: $2 495/Pair
Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor
Totem Acoustic, tel.: 514.259.1062,
Jessica Curry, Everybody’s Gone to The Rapture, Sony Classical
Dominique Fils-Aimée, Nameless, Ensoul Records
Copland, Fanfare for the Common Man, Reference Recordings, RR-93-CD
André Manoukian, Melanchology, Universal Music France, 2782233
Aline De Lima, Arrebol, Naïve, WN 145089