Totem Acoustic Bison Twin Tower
One of the best things about Gramophone is that we have so many different products at so many different price levels. At $4,000 per pair, Totem Acoustic’s Bison Twin Tower is not an entry-level speaker product. But it’s also a speaker that punches well above its weight. For most of us in the sales and marketing groups who have sat down for an audition, this speaker is exceeding expectations, both regarding its price point and its relatively compact size.
Many of today’s most sought-after speakers are pretty large, and some just aren’t acceptable in the average living room. Bison Twin Tower is compact, at just 38 1/2” tall and about 7 1/2” wide, and it fits easily into spaces that many tower speakers won’t. This is a Totem hallmark: a sonic performance that’s bigger than the cabinet size and budget suggests.
Totem Acoustic is a Canadian company, founded in 1987 by Chief Designer Vince Bruzzese, who still leads the company today. Totem strives to deliver clear, natural sound, using advanced driver design and high-quality materials, both in their drivers and their cabinets.
All right, you may say, Totem surprises in what they can deliver for the size and price. How do they manage to deliver great sound from compact cabinets? The answer seems to be “it is their intention to do so, and their attention to detail in the design and build process”. Vince wants to create aesthetically appealing products! With the same person leading the charge for a company that is now in its fourth decade, Totem has learned a lot about how to get the most out of speakers that fit into homes more easily than some audiophile-grade products.
Let’s start with the cabinets. Totem’s sonic signature has a lot to do with the box, as their cabinets are so carefully designed. They simply don’t resonate the way that most cabinets do. So Totem can generate more sound, especially better quality bass, than the diminutive size might lead you to believe, due to what they call “Artisanal Cabinet Construction”.
Here are four elements of the Bison Twin Tower cabinet that enable this slim tower to generate plenty of rich, deep bass:
First, Totem’s Lock-Miter assembly means the edges of the cabinet physically interlock. They are not just glued together like many speakers, showing vinyl wrap edges butting up against each other at 90-degree angles. Totem says that with their interlocking design, the resulting cabinet is up to 4 times the strength of a conventional V-groove cabinet.
The Lock-Mitered assembly also results in a much nicer-looking speaker. The chamfered edges present a gentle bevel, rather than the sharp edges of so many similarly priced products. The cabinet will age better too, looking just as nice decades from now.
A second aspect is that their variable density fiberboard is more dense at the extremes than at the interior. The sonic benefit is that resonances die away more quickly, so you hear the notes from the drivers, not the cabinet “ringing” and adding its own coloration and distortion.
Third, borosilicate, a high-tech material, is applied to the inner cabinet walls. That helps dissipate energy and minimize cabinet vibration or resonances, for both better bass and clearer midrange. Fourth, the cabinet walls are both externally and internally veneered, which rarely happens in speaker manufacturing. That helps minimize warping over time, for consistent sound even when your Totem speakers are many years old.
So, what’s under the hood? This simple design has a single 1.3” soft dome tweeter, modified specifically for Bison Twin Tower. Custom twin 5 1/4” woofers keep the front baffle narrow, which makes the speaker slim, yet able to generate solid bass. The narrow cabinet also means the speaker’s dispersion of high and midrange notes is excellent. Bison Twin Tower is ported in the rear for both high efficiency and powerful bass.
High efficiency (90 dB at 1w / 1m) means that with a superb amp, these will sound great - but a superb amp is not required. They will get plenty loud on modest power. This arrangement of one tweeter and the twin midrange/bass drivers means that the crossover network can be kept simple. That enables Totem to invest more money in the few crossover components that are required and keep the retail price down.
When listening to Bison Twin Tower, what do you hear with your favorite music? Surprisingly good bass from a slim cabinet that takes up very little room. Put on music with a strong bass line, and you’ll clearly hear bass notes that you may miss on lesser speakers. You’ll also hear excellent imaging, with not only height and width but also a depth of image that really surpasses the size of the box. You’ll notice a very smooth and well-extended top-end via the custom soft-dome tweeter.
Totem Acoustic’s Bison Twin Tower is a speaker that really surprised us. At $4,000 per pair, it is relatively affordable when compared with so many of the elite speakers of the day. From a cabinet that does not dominate your floor space, you get excellent performance. We’d love to play them for you, so if you can, please visit Gramophone someday soon.