I did some serious listening on the Aon 2 and 3. The Aon 3 is the way to go. I liked them, but I think they're a bit forward. The 3's are more competent down low, as to be expected. "Precision" and "revealing" would be descriptors I'd apply to them, but also "clinical" in a way. They were polite and almost artificially easy to listen to. They never drilled into my ears like a real instrument in a real room is prone to do from time to time. Stuff I know should just bore straight into my forehead didn't on the GE's. That's how I ended up with my Focal. They got physical like that.
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I've been searching for comments on the Rainmakers as I just picked up a pair and have been testing them out. They haven't been broken in yet, and Totem strongly recommends about 100 hours of easy going.
I would be skeptical of this, but a previous Totem sub actually made some mechanical noises when turned up, until I had put some time on it. As it turns out, Totem brings in high end drivers and then modifies them so breaking them in is crucial.
Anyway, I've compared them to Tannoy Precision 6.1($1100), and Ascend Sierra 1($850). The Totems really outshine these other sets. More detail in the top end than the Sierra, which gives better placement of the vocals, etc., and more bass than both, which is quite a feat with a 5.5 inch driver. The overall sound is very musical and live sounding. I can't speak to a blaring horn since I haven't cranked them yet!
The British audio sites Whathifi and techradar are seriously impressed with them, even more than the Precision 6.1, a British speaker. I'd say the Rainmakers can swing with the big boys.
Good to hear your thoughts on the comparison to the Sierra 1. The other speakers I was primarily considering were Sierra 1 and 2 and Dynaudio Excite 12 and 14 (and recently interested in the Tektons). And I didn't get to listen to any of them.
Of course always hard to say what you might like when comparing very good speakers in similar price brackets with similar designs when your listening room may end up having a large impact on the final sound.
After another session with the Sierra 1, the Rainmaker seems more clear with more focus. Also, the Sierras seemed a little louder though they are rated 85 to Totem’s 87.5 sensitivity. The Rainmaker top end seemed more accurate as well. I’ve got a new respect for aluminum domes. Metal domes, when done right, can give an immediacy to vocals.
My amp was the Nadc375BEE, and it puts out 150 watts in either 8 ohms or 4 ohms, which is kind of different. I A/B’d the speakers on the two sets of speaker outputs, so I could toggle between the two.
The weak point of the Sierra 1 is the stock tweeter. I’ve got a set of LCR Sierra 1 in my theater system, and I’m planning to upgrade to the Nrt tweeter with them, but not until Christmas.
The two speakers are designed far differently. Totem uses custom MDF, with 90% density on the outside and 65% on the inside. Both the outside and inside are veneered so the wood will maintain its shape better decades down the road. Then they coat the inside with borosilicate, which was used on the space shuttle tiles. The cabinet panels are lock mitred as well. The tweeters are chambered. Each speaker takes 2 hours to build, and done with Canadian labor, not Chinese. The internal wire is silver coated so corrosion can’t change the sound down the road. The speaker cables they sell, the Tress, are the same design. Wikipedia has a page on totem, that’s where I got most of this and it’s very interesting.
Vince B looked at each and every step and component of speaker building and has made several improvements on the process. Not exactly cheap, but he wanted his speakers to sound exactly as good 20 or 30 years down the road.
Every Totem speaker I have heard, Rainmaker through Forest, always sounded much larger than its size. The model that impressed me the most, for is size, were the Arros. I A/B tested them in the same room with the same gear with Rainmakers and the difference was incredible. The Arros sounded fuller with a significantly much better bass. I think they take up the same amount of footprint as Rainmakers considering the stands.
Like most Totems they have cabinet resonances and don’t measure well so your comments come from a real place. It’s basically tuned to trick the listener, Vince is very good at what he does. They do sound good though. Rainmakers can certainly get fatiguing with the wrong gear.
If you check out the Rainmaker frequency response, it is indeed rising at the top end. They are voiced/designed specifically, one either likes it or not I suppose(In contrast, the Totem Hawk have a much flatter frequency response). I’ve now owned 3 pairs of Totems, and I can attest to the fact that they respond to cables if the electronics are up to snuff. (Oh, you're the james that's been attacking me for daring to not like Tekton speakers, hopefully you can be reasonable in other threads.)
It all depends on one’s tastes. I’ve now compared the Rainmakers to every other pair of bookshelf speakers I’ve got, and they have a sense of being at the concert that is striking. But I would suspect with some electronics I wouldn’t like the result. I had a bright Onkyo integrated, and also an Emotiva amp that was too, those would not blend well with these Totems. My current integrated, the Nad C375BEE has been described as somewhat warm, and I agree. For me the result is good, but I want to be careful about not overdriving the speakers.
Interesting to hear all of the opinions -- thanks to all for responding. After a few weeks of listening back and forth, my conclusion, for my ears, room, and associated gear, is that the two speakers sound much more similar than dissimilar. For the price, the Aon 2 is a great value. I feel like I'm paying some additional money for the Totem for the cabinets and I'm good with that as I know how much time it takes and how expensive real wood veneer is.
Long before I wrote this orginal post, I read all the reviews of both speakers. I know the discussion in Stereophile that Vince used the LS3/5A trick in designing the Rainmaker --the history of the LS3/5A is worth reading. I've also read that Sandy uses some "trickery" in the design on the Aons. I read how much the folks at What HiFi love the Rainmakers and don't give nearly as much love to Aon 2. In the end, I don't care that much about how a speaker measures, I care how it sounds in my room with my gear and my music.
I found that about half of my music I liked better on the Rainmakers and half I liked better on the Aon 2 -- but it was all pretty close. Once in a while I noted a bit of "hotness" in the Totem tweeter. Once in a while I noticed something a bit too "polite" or lacking in the Aon 2 compared to the Rainmakers. I could live just fine with either speaker -- they're both great as far as I'm concerned. I look forward to comparing them to some others and finally finding that unicorn-riding sasquatch of speakers that ticks all the boxes.
I love the Rainmakers for what they are (warts and all) When I was running a Totem dealership they were very easy to sell and you get that Totem magic at a good price point. The Totem Sky is a no brainier if budget allows. As Misstl commented Rainmakers do sound a bit unnatural but they are very "musical" speakers. Revel Concerta2 M16 are more well rounded performers for people that prefer a balanced sound.
The Sky is a great speaker for the price point so I expect the tower version to be even better. It has a really wide dispersion compared to the other Totem models which makes it sound bigger than similar sized speakers. It is fairly easy to drive as well. I had no issues pairing it with a MOON 220i, ACE and Arcam A29 playing at loud levels. The new Signature One should be pretty awesome but I haven’t had a chance to hear it.
The Hawk is an interesting product as it can be disappointing or spectacular depending on the source and amp being used. Paired with the right gear I like it more than the Forest and Forest Signature (the Signature might be the worst value in Totem history.) The custom Revelator is really something special. Two amps that paired perfectly with the Hawks were the Devialet D-Premier and Wells Audio Majestic. IMO the downside of the Hawk is what it can cost to get them performing at a high level. I did have some luck with a Shanling A300 which can be purchased at a pretty low price on the used market. Your NAD would do the trick but if you listen at reasonable levels even an entry level MOON will deliver the goods. I can’t stress enough how important it is to give these speakers room.
I appreciate Totem's approach to speaker design, it seems like Vince Bruzzese is a fanatic for details. I do like the Rainmaker and its somewhat U shaped frequency response, I suppose that's why I'm considering one of their Towers. Thanks for your comments, I'll wait for the Sky Tower's release, but it might come down to price difference between those and perhaps a used pair of Hawks.