Totem Acoustic Sky Loudspeaker

Forecast: Cloudless and Sunny

Equipment report
Totem Acoustic Sky
Totem Acoustic Sky Loudspeaker

 As the speaker is only a foot tall, I wasn’t surprised that the Sky’s output levels and dynamics were limited when pushed to the extreme. But given the right room (medium to smallish) with strong amplifier support and sturdy floor stands, the Totem Sky just clears its throat and lets loose. And boy does it ever! On the full orchestral version of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” it had a pure midrange and startling presence. While the lower strings of cello and bass violin lacked the full weight and drama of the live event, the Sky still made a heroic effort and provided tuneful bass cues and resonant energy that were honest and organic rather than manufactured or suggestive of aggressive port tuning. Commendably, the port went about its business in near silence with little in the way of localization artifacts. Thus a well-recorded acoustic bass, for example, maintained pitch precision and resonance qualities that were consistent in the mid and upper bass ranges. Often when small speakers attempt to reproduce these octaves, they produce lumpy results where response dips and rises with each note.

The Sky is no pile driver in sub-80Hz macro-dynamics but it’s honest, with clean pitches and good balance. It grows a little shy and self-limiting on deeper macro-dynamic excursions. As if standing at the edge of a cliff, it delicately backed off during Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. But considering its size the Sky is one gutsy little transducer that’ll race headlong into challenging crescendos and dynamics without shying away.

On male and female vocals I found the Sky to be a performer that projected much of the chest and physicality of the artist. On a tune like Tom Waits’ “Come on Up to the House,” the contrast between the Sky and some other compacts was like the difference between sitting listlessly in the pews listening to a dull sermon and hearing an inspiring speaker and rising to your feet in appreciation. The Sky was just as full-blooded on Waits’ “Georgia Lee” with its noisy antique piano and barnyard atmospherics complete with tape hiss and chirping birds. The speaker couldn’t quite capture Waits’ full chest resonance—that would be too much to expect from any one-foot loudspeaker—but vocal presence was generally very good overall. Soundstage scale and dimension was impressive for a twelve-incher. The Sky didn’t reproduce music in miniature. Thanks to its nicely honed midbass, it managed to reproduce a high-resolution track like Malcolm Arnold’s Sussex Overture with considerable ambience, acoustic weight, and an image size well beyond the modest confines of its enclosure.

A caveat: There are two sides to the Sky personality worth taking note of. It plays easily and pleasantly with lower-priced low-to-medium power electronics—perfectly at ease, but also a bit dry with a whitish top, its limits more perceivable. Fact is, what it really needs to take flight are higher-quality electronics. After all, that’s what those big voice coils and long-throw diaphragm are all about, right? Strap on seventy-five to a hundred watts or more of high-end power and watch the Sky soar. When that occurs, a hard-hitting, heavily tweaked studio track like Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” rises from the ashes with renewed dynamic vigor and slam. Similarly the Traveling Wilburys’ vocals during “Handle With Care” grow significantly more textured and realistic. And on Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” the atmosphere surrounding the singer becomes airier and more defined, while Elton’s backing vocals have greater clarity, definition, and texture. The drum fills and cymbals also gain a shimmer, liveliness, and immediacy that, for me, were all the encouragement I needed to start playing air drums along with Nigel Olsson. Totem’s Sky is proof that high-performance audio happens in all sizes, shapes, and segments. The message that most resonates is that listening to a small-footprint compact doesn’t condemn the listener to a diminished musical experience. Hats off to Totem’s Bruzzese and his continuing quest to coax big-time performance from a small two-way by harnessing the virtues of speed and transparency. My forecast: I can’t imagine any music aficionado not taking to the Sky after hearing this loudspeaker. A fine and impressive effort.

Specs & Pricing

Type: Two-way, bass-reflex
Drivers: 1.3" soft-dome tweeter, 5" mid/bass
Frequency response: 48Hz–29.5kHz
Crossover: 2.5kHz
Sensitivity: 87dB
Impedance: 8 ohms
Dimensions: 6.35" x 12" x 9"
Price: $1850/pr.

Totem Acoustic
9165 Rue du Champ d’Eau 
Montreal, Quebec, Canada 
H1P 3M3 
(514) 259-1062

Associated Equipment
Sota Cosmos Series IV turntable; SME V tonearm; Sumiko Palo Santos cartridge, Ortofon Quintet Black, Ortofon 2M Black; Parasound JC 3+; dCS Puccini; Lumin S1 Music Player; Synology NAS; MacBook Pro/Pure Music; ATC SCM19A, TAD ME-1K; Audience Au24SX cables and power cords, Synergistic Atmosphere Level Four, Nordost Frey 2 and Audience Ohno; and Kimber Palladian power cords. Audience USB, AudioQuest Carbon firewire, Wireworld Starlight Ethernet; VooDoo Cable Iso-Pod. Audience aR6-TSSOX