Totem Acoustic Sky Loudspeaker

Forecast: Cloudless and Sunny

Equipment report
Totem Acoustic Sky
Totem Acoustic Sky Loudspeaker

When I consider the loudspeakers from Totem Acoustic, I think of designs with unalloyed speed, quick-twitch transient reflexes, and crystalline transparency. For me, Totem loudspeakers have always captured the musical intimacy and the fragility of the live moment like few other small affordable speakers. There’s a good reason for this. From its beginnings nearly thirty years ago, founder, president, and designer Vince Bruzzese has taken the same approach to building small transducers with wide bandwidth and high output—an approach first realized in 1987 with the now iconic Model 1. Simply stated, there is always a lot of music going on each time I light up a Totem.

Sky continues a bloodline of fine compacts from the Canadian firm, and appropriately coincides with Totem’s 30th anniversary later this year. Visually, the Sky is classic Totem—clean, seamless, rigid cabinetry with beautifully finished veneers. Sky is a two-way, bass-reflex design with a rear-firing port. The driver complement is unusual in a couple of ways. The soft-dome tweeter is a large 1.3" unit with a hefty neodymium magnet that gives the transducer the ability to operate linearly at lower frequencies than smaller soft domes typically do, minimizing compression and distortion. The design also permits higher output and extension to 30kHz. The 5.25" midbass is a long-throw design (longer than any similarly sized driver Totem currently produces), with an oversized three-inch voice coil wound with flat wire to avoid air gaps. It boasts an astounding power-handling rating of 500 watts, giving it the ability to play lower with greater dynamics and output. The Sky’s vault-like cabinet employs lock-mitered joints and uses a borosilicate dampening that controls energy release yet maintains a certain cabinet liveliness. The hard-wired crossover is a first-order design at 2.5kHz and uses only one Litz large-gauge, air-core coil. 

Solid, twin-pair, gold-plated terminals adorn the back panel, and magnetic grilles make for easy removal. Sky is available in three finishes: satin white, black, and mahogany veneer. (A personal note: The grilles could use slightly stronger magnets—I found the merest touch tended to dislodge them.)

The goals of the Sky project, according to Mr. Bruzzese, were foremost to “be easier to drive so it didn’t require extremely powerful amplification,” and to “provide even deeper bass than models we have with similar dimensions.” He paid particular attention to on- and off-axis response to not only create the wide stage the brand is known for but also to allow users to place Sky “just about anywhere [they] choose within their home.”

Turning to sonics, the Sky was prima facie evidence of just how much small speakers have evolved. Lay to rest any memories of the li’l screamers of yesteryear—all peaky white-hot speed, a rising top end, a 100Hz bait-and-switch bump masking a stunted bass region. The Sky is not a speaker that will bite on top and turn listless in the bass. Sky was all about a more full-bodied and warmer musical balance rather than the cheap acoustic tricks that tend to rapidly wear out their welcome. While it may be light on its feet when the music demands, it also impressed me as firmly grounded—images stable, rooted, and unwavering. Tonal balance was very good, neither forward nor laid back and recessed. Additionally, there was a coherent of-a-piece quality communicated by the tweeter and woofer. The soft-dome tweeter was superior in its grain-free refinement and speed. And upper-midrange and top-end transient and micro-dynamics were excellent, as I’d expected from the oversized tweeter. On occasion a random percussion cue or upper-octave brass note would reveal a sunny splash of surplus treble through the sibilance range, but this was a relatively minor deduction. Overall tweeter performance represents a level of resolution that favorably separates the Sky from much of its sub-$2k competition.