This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

This review first appeared in the January 2013 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Totem Element Ember in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Totem - Ed.

Reviewer: Martin Mertens
Sources: Thorens TD 160HD with TP250 arm and Benz Micro MC Gold cartridge; Creek CD43 MkII, Logitech Transporter,
Amplification: Lehmann Black Cube SE II phono; Jadis Orchestra, Exposure 2010S, Musical Fidelity AMS35i integrateds
Loudspeakers: Geithain ME150, Thiel SCS4
Signal cables: Vampire CC interconnects, Fast Audio Compact 6M biwire speaker cable
Power delivery: Audioplan FineFilter S, PowerStar S power bar, PowerPlant S conditioner, PowerCord cables
Equipment rack: BassoContinuo
Review component retail: €5.684/pr

Berlin's last Aviation Show introduced the world's first functional passive radar which no longer emits any radar waves and thus can't contribute to the electro smog which is suspected of screwing with the sound of certain hifi crazies. In other circles meanwhile the real selling point of passive radar becomes that it renders stealth technology obsolete which until now was how militaries around the world have concealed their most secretive weapons from enemy radar.

Where am I going with this? Rationalizing why we haven't had the speaker firm Totem firmly on our radar until now.

With their angled walls, the models in the Canadians' Element range look a bit as though inspired by camouflage tech. Which obviously isn't the case. Quite the contrary. Swiss HighEnd Company import is rather keen in fact on introducing these speakers to our German-speaking markets. Their macro-faceted geometry simply avoids parallel walls to minimize internal standing waves. That's nothing new but due to more complicated assembly not routine practice. Companies who do embrace the added costs usually reserve it for their dearest models.


So does Totem. The Element models are their best efforts. Metal and Earth become mid-size monitors, Fire and Ember compact variants, the latter today's focus and smallest of the range. Wood is the center channel and a Water subwoofer is on the books. The boxes in their other ranges are more conventionally styled. Top models, various ranges ... Totem definitely is no recently mushroomed startup which in our industry reinvents the wheel on a monthly basis yet claims breakthroughs as though styling in iDesign high-gloss white did that business.
Totem have been in the speaker biz for 25 long years already and contrary to possible suspicions given the fresh marketing campaign surrounding their latest series not with short-lived lifestyle products. Their formerly top compact monitor by the plain-Jane name Model 1 has been in the portfolio for more than two decades. Did all this historical substance now justify forwarding a Canadian speaker to Berlin via Switzerland when at first glance it was nothing but the 1001st take on the subject of a compact 2-way bass reflex box, never mind sells for the not inconsiderable sum of €5.700/pr? Finding out would be my beat today.

Whilst the non-parallel walls can't claim exclusivity, the mid/woofer most definitely can. Developed by Totem and built in-house, the firm claims for it a number of unique things. Unlike the customary centering of the voice coil from the stabilizing forces of surround and spider, here the primary force is said to be the magnetic field. Since the membrane would undergo extreme excursions without conventional mechanical brakes, Totem claims a completely new concept for their voice coil and motor system.

Sensitivity was another factor of importance. This led to rectangular voice coil windings that make for greater packing density, hence higher efficiency. The usual energy-sucking low-pass filter was eliminated next. Various mechanical build details achieve the desired clean roll-off instead. Though made from standard polypropylene, the diaphragm is said to be layered up in an unconventional way to render the ubiquitous electrical filter redundant.