Replacing Forests???

OK, I am looking for some friendly advice. After going through 3 pairs of Forests in a 6 month period, my dealer is allowing me to trade them back in for full value towards another speaker set-up. I am a HUGE fan of the Totem sound, and have never had problems with Totem before these Forests.

I have owned the Tabus and Arros with great results. Moving to a larger space forced me to move away from the Arros and up the Totem line. I had longed for the Forests for a long time, but the problems I've had with these in the short history of owning them has me throwing in the towel with them!

This is a 2-channel music/HT set-up powered by a Simaudio i-5. I am thinking of going with one of the following 2 options:

Totem Sttaf with 2 Dreamcatcher subwoofers


Totem Hawks

Although I think I am more partial to the Sttaf sound, as I have never been 'wowed' with the Hawks on the gear I've listened to them on (Naim/NAD - both bad; Ayre - pretty decent, small hotel room set-up), I would love to hear people's opinions.

Any comments/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
If you are anyways going to use 2 Dreamcatcher subwoofer, why not go for the Rainmakers?
I have auditioned to the Rainmakers and Hawks, but not the Sttaf. The dealer was using the NAD pre/power combo to drive the Hawks and I thought they were very nice sounding speakers than the others I had auditioned till that date. The Rainmakers were being driven by NAD C352 and were pretty neat sounding. Small footprint but large/musical sound.
i have also owned many pairs of totems, arros, model 1's, and currently have a the mani 2's for my audio room and their in-walls for my den. it is a shame that the forests didn't work out for you. if you had a larger amp, i would recommend the mani's. with your i-5, i would try the hawks or a pair of model 1's with either the lightning or a rel strata III amp. good luck.
What are the problems with the Forests?
I've owned a pair of trouble free Forest for about three years now and love them. I did however have some trouble with the pair of Totem Signature One's I had previous to the Forest. I'm interested in hearing in more detail what kind of trouble you experienced and Totem's response to your issues.
I don't have any suggestions, but have some questions (!). What happened to your Forests that you had to replace them 3 times in six months? That seems like a lot. Also, how well did your I-5 drive the Forests (I have an I-5 and am considering Totem shopping, too). Finally, what did you prefer about the Sttafs relative to the Hawks in your prior demo's. thx, walkman
if you need to stay in the totem line and you are suggesting a small room i would not go with the subs,etc. if you can go out of the totem line, do they offer anythingelse?
Jsbail/Walkman - Well, with my first pair of Forests, one of the wire coils inside of the speaker had broken free in shipping. While setting them up, I heard something 'clunking' around inside the cabinet. I took the binding post cover off and saw that the wire coil had broken free of the tie wraps that had been securing it. I was nervous that that coil may have bashed something else inside the speaker, so I never played them and easily exchanged them for another pair.

Then about a month or two later, while listening my left speaker started making a scratching noise on low bass notes. Upon further inspection it seemed as if the woofer was blown. I sent this back to have the woofer replaced - again easy to work with, just time without a speaker.

Speaker came back, sounded good. Now 3 weeks later, and it is now the right speaker in my system and that same scrathy noise is occuring, exactly as before. So, I am just tired of having to worry about it and going another direction.

Totem and my dealer have been great, just having this many things go wrong in such a short span of time has me soured on these speakers. I have previously owned Tabus and Arros for extended periods of time with no issues whatsoever!

Walkman - The Hawks never pulled me into the music that way other Totem speakers have - I'm not sure if it's the speaker, or just the systems synergy that I have heard them on???

Dwhitt - I am a fan of that Totem sound. I could go with another line. They also carry Krell speakers, but could acquire other lines for me as well. I have liked the SOnus Faber Grand Piano home in the past. And I just recently heard the Dali MS5 for the first time and loved it, but that is in a whole other price class!!! Any suggestions for other lines I should consider? I am a big fan of Totem and have always found them to 'stand out' in their respective price class.

Milpai/Rbstehno - I prefer a floor standing speaker to a monitor, but maybe I should investigate those suggestions as well???

Maybe I need to give the Hawks another shot???
Fascinating, but helluva story. Sorry for the legwork you had to do, it must have been quite annoying -- I can see why you'd not want to bother with the Forests, let alone any other speaker from the company, but you seem to be pretty mellow about it, and that's pretty gentlemanly of you. Good luck in your next speaker quest...

- walkman
I say if you are not going to move up from the Forest you should look into the Sonus Faber lineup.
Walkman - if this had been my first pair of Totems I may have been a little more irritated. Being the third, and that Totem has been bringing beautiful sound to my ears for the past 3+ years is why I assume I am so mellow about it? ;)

Baroque_lover - I am going to give the piano homes another listen...
I've owned a pair of Sttafs for 2 years now. I still think they're fantastic in many ways, and would recommend them to anyone. I've never tired of listening to them. I'm a fanatic for deep bass however, and in my room they were lacking. I was happy with them without it, but I added a Rel Storm III to them and that's a great combination. As long as you can have them some distance from the wall they are easy to position and tune. Super easy to integrate with the sub. So . . . I guess that's my endorsement for the Sttaf/Dreamcatcher idea, fwiw.

I haven't compared them to the Hawks, but I recently added a pair of Mani-2. The Manis are much better because they are mor precise, and they have better, deeper bass w/o a sub, but they did not cause me to become unsatisfied with the Sttafs - I move the Sttafs to room #2.

I own a pair of Forests and have not had any problems, but if I experienced what you did I would not have so patient. Have you heard Equations? The Equation 7's are about the same price as the Forests and, I think, more musical. It is too bad about the Forests though for they are a good speaker. Great imaging. Anyway good luck in your choice.

24u, do you have a link to more information on the Equations? My google results didn't turn up much...

Bdgregory, thanks for the comments! I would love to do without a sub, but I think in my space the Sttafs would need a little help. I would go the Mani route, but that would require an amplification change at the same time!!! ;)
Jh2os - I meant to comment on the power requirement - My Manis need all of the 200 wpc my monoblocks can drive (actually 400 wpc @ 4 ohms). I've driven the Sttafs with as little as 60 wpc and they're fine. Not as efficient as other speakers but pretty forgiving. They also sound nice without driving them hard. That is - it seems the Mani's want to be opened up before they really sound good. Not so with the Sttafs, which is another one of the appealing qualities.
You should seriously look at Audio Physics offering.

The Tempo would be a REALLY nice match with the I-5.

RE: Link for Equations:

Audiomat is the NA distributor

Also UHF Magazine has reviewed the Equation speakers and their reviews can also be found on the Mutine web site. (The company is also known as Mutine) I think their web site sucks so you may need to tour around a bit to find what your looking for.

One complaint I have read many times on the Audiogon site is the lack of Audiomat dealers.

I know they are more expensive, but I heard Living Voice speakers at the last Montreal show. Yum yum--nice speakers I would be proud to own and they would be very easy for you amp to drive i.e., ***sensitivity 94 dB***

In reality there is a lot of good speakers out their this is just my 2 cents worth.
Well I listened to the Staffs in my system this weekend and was surprised at how good they sounded - well, I shouldn't say surprised, but impressed.

When I moved the Arros to the larger space I quickly realized that I needed to move to a larger speaker as the Arro just couldn't flesh out the soundstage in the larger room - this prompted the purchase of the longed for Forests. The Sttafs had quite some presence in my room - not that of the Forests, nor the pinpoint detailing and precision, but they they didn't have a 'chuffing' woofer either! ;)

Having listened to the Sttafs on their own, I can say I probably wouldn't even need to add a sub? I am not a bass junkie and the presentation seemed full enough for me to enjoy. I would also like to keep the room less cluttered - less two subwoofer 'boxes', and the system simpler as well.

Now I just have to decide if I give the Hawks a shot against them? I guess the only way to know for sure is the bring them home and compare.
I played the Sttafs on their own (ie no sub) for about 6 months. They have very good low end, especially for their size. The speakers I upgraded from provided deep bass - flat to 22 hz, and it wasn't until I played my old progressive rock cd's that I decided something was lacking. If your tastes don't include rock and progressive with deep bass tones as a key element, then I imagine you'll be quite happy without adding a sub.

If it were me, and I believed I wouldn't need a sub with the Sttafs, I would certainly give the Hawks a try (if trying them is an option). I think they buy you about 5 hz deeper extension (ie 38hz - 33hz), but the bigger advantage from what my salesman told me is tighter and more precise - whether it's enough difference to impress you can only be deternined one way. When I bought mine, I maxed my budget with the Sttafs so decided not to look further . . . The great part about them is I had no regrets that I didn't have more money - they're such a great sounding speaker - but I think this is true about the entire Totem line.
Yeah, coming down from the Forests, the Hawks may retain some qualities of precision that the Sttafs can't hold onto? I am hoping to give the Hawks a listen in-home in the near future so I can let my ears decide...

I am eagerly awaiting your comparision of Hawks with Staffs and Forest. I am in the same boat as you trying to decide between Staffs, Hawks, Forest, SF GP Domus and SF Concerto Domus.

I will highly appreciate if you can post your observations of Hawks and I will really appreciate if you can post your comparision of Staff, Hawk and Forest.


You have been mulling this decision for quite some time now. Why not go down to a dealer and make a judgment of you're own? You will always be pulling at you're hair "wondering" if you don't listen for yourself.
Grakesh, I will happily post my thoughts. The Hawks have to be ordered, so it may be a bit until I get the chance to compare?

What you said is right....auditioning makes most sense to make a decision. Un-fortunately dealers close to my place do not carry Hawks and Staffs. I will have to drive atleast 450 miles one-way to listen to Hawks. I am willing to do that and just waiting for the right weekend. As you said, I will not buy a speaker without listening to it.

Currently have both the Hawks and the Sttafs in house right now. Letting the Hawks 'burn in' over the week and hope to do some serious listening this upcoming weekend.
My mom picked picked the Sttafs over the rest of the Totem line up for 3 reasons.

1. looks. no silver claws (she thought they looked obnoxious) and still pretty small.
2. lacked the ultimate clarity of the Arros, but in turn had a broader and fuller range. Can play pretty loud.
3. Much better bang for the buck than the Hawks/Forrests.

My personal observation is that they sound good at all volumes, can be driven with pretty low power (she's usiing 60w), and are very easy to get into. Probably the best all around compromise you can get out of $1400 of speaker.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing your decision.
I love the look of the claws. So much so that I got them installed on my Arros. It makes the speaker look much classier and the Art Deco look contrasts nicely with the rich cherry wood.

I prefer the Arro's over the staff. Room size would be a factor though, if the room was large I would porbably consider the Staffs.

Jh2os, nice to hear you got the Hawks in you're room. Play around with different positioning when you listen. Glad you are letting them burn in first - it't worth it.

Eagerly waiting for your feedback. Hoping that you will compare Hawks with Staffs and Forests as well.

JH2os: sorry to hear about your sad experience. I got bashed for starting a thread re: Forest using Swan's drivers but I guess there may be an issue with quality control somewhere between China and Montreal...
A year and a half ago, I had to let go the idea of keeping the Hawks I had on loan as the dealer, well informed, told me their driver was way too delicate for a HT use - he made same comment re: Forest... I then turned to the Yara but he recommended I stayed with Totem but went the Dreamcatcher way, 2 monitors with two subs or Staff + 1 sub if needed (room size). I was not thrilled with the idea of a monitor + a sub * 2 and did not like the Staff on pure 2ch audio so I went the AP Yara way.

So, if you must stay with Totem and you like Staff, go for it otherwise you may want to start "cheating" on Totem and go somewhere else...$ for $, the Yaras will likely blow away the Staff for 2ch audio IMHO.
Beheme, the Hawks came with a red 'important notice' sheet regarding the drivers and break in. They recommend the first 150 hours to be at moderate listening levels; 'This said, even after break in, because of extreme long throw of the woofer and taking into consideration its dimension, one has to use a certain amount of restraint and judgment in order to protect the woofer elements. These are precise reproducers that extend very low in frequency and restraint is sometimes required in order to not overtax them beyond their physical limitations.' So read the 'important notice'. I found this sheet curiously interesting and even more so reading the comment from your dealer above.

Grakesh, I no longer have the Forests to do a head-to-head-to-head comparasion, but the woofer was blown, so the Forests wouldn't have faired well anyway. ;) I can comment on their performance having recently owned them though, although my thoughts/comments may be a bit skewed regarding my recent history. ;)

The Hawks have about 50 hours on them so far, been playing John Pizarelli 24/7 since Saturday at 'moderate levels'. Listening to some movies on it for the first time this evening. Seem to have a lot more presence for HT compared to the Sttaf. Haven't done a direct head-to-head yet though, so I'll post back later - after the 150 hour mark.
Jh2os: that is interesting! The loaner I had came with no instructions but the dealer warned me and my HT need were better served by the AP. I am a real fan of Totem products and their designer but a $2,000 floorstander that cannot take an occasional beating and/or that comes with such a written warning is really disappointing. Long throw or not, one should be able to hit them as hard as their specs tolerate. Even a careful music listener may be surprised by the dynamics of a new record and induce some pain on these babies. To me, the disclaimer is almost a warning that these speakers have been over-engineered to reproduce bass excessive for the size of their woofer.

On the other hand, the one that matters.... they are something special when associated with the right gear. I loved them with the Cary SLI 80. Let us know after 150 hrs how you like them and if they are still intact!

I understand that you dont have forests anymore with you for a direct A/B comparision. It will be great if you can relate to your recent audition of forests and throw some comparision points.

It is very disappointing to see such a disclaimer 'important notice' on a 2000 dollar speaker. I hope this notice is atleast in-reference to HT only and not for 2 channel. I am plannng Hawks for 2 channel use and may be as rear speakers in a HT.

Jh2os..Did you remember seeng any such disclaimer notice with Forests ? How did forests do in a HT set-up ?


When you say "They are something special when associated with the right gear"...I am assuming you are referring to Totem Hawks. Are you saying Hawks - Cary SLI 80 combo is a good system synergy for 2 channel Music ? I had a chat with totem folks and they said Hawks being an already WARM speaker, they will have more system sunergy with a slightly NEUTRAL amp like Plinius 9200 (SS - 200 watts/ch). But Totems folks recommended Cary-SLI 80 and VTL IT-85 ( warm amps ) for more neutral sounding speakers like Forests. Can you please let me know what your experiences are with Hawks/Forests with cary SLI 80 and any other Amps for 2 channel music and HT.

Will do! I listened to them in an HT environment before at my dealer and they seemed to have no qualm about it - playing a LOTR DVD. It wasn't until I read that notice that it concerned me. I have an email in to Totem regarding the use of the Hawk in an HT environment, we'll see what they say...
So, Jh2os, how are you defining "moderate levels"...? I have a pair of Hawks coming to me in the near future and would like to make sure I treat them right. I don't blast my music anyway (rarely above 80db from listening position 8 feet from speakers), but would still want to not "overtax" them.

thx, - walkman
The Forests did not have any red 'important notice' sheet with them. The Forest woofers may have failed (or became damaged) during an HT passage, but I am not certain of the exact cause of the woofer blowing? In 2 instances, during HT play the Simaudio i5 'warning' LED came on. I contacted Simaudio about this and their response that this is an indication of 'DC' at the output and to turn the level down until this did not occur. This could have damaged the Forest woofer, but at the same time the Forest woofer blew two different times, each time it was a different channel in my system - once left, once right AND once before the i5 was even in the system. The other speaker never had any issues, which led me to beleive that the 'warning' light was not the cause of the damage, there was something inherently wrong with the one speaker - otherwise, both would have had issues?

I do think, in a space the size of mine the Forest needs more power than the i5 has to offer.

Walkman, I haven't pulled out a db meter, but for the 24/7 John Pizarelli I've had the i5 set to '20'. While actively listening to music I have it set at '25', and while watching HT I haven't gone past '28'. I was imaging these levels are all well below 80db. I will pull out my meter and let you know though. When driving the forests, I usually listened to music at '25' and movies at '31'. Some movie soundtracks required going to '33' or above, although usually not an issue, it was at these levels the i5 'warning' indicator blinked.
i sold Totem for 2 years and I can say without hesitation that Beheme comments towards the 'Hawk' driver being fragile is garbage. Type in Scan-Speak Revelator in any DIY community forum. I remember in early 2004 we had the Hawks doing HT duty in a 15x25 room powered by Bryston Monoblcoks and the Hawks performed without a hitch. Yes there are mechanical limitations, but this hogwash about them being "too fragile" for HT is simply not true.
Jh2os. Thanks mucho. I also have an I-5, so your volume control metrics make total sense to me. With my vandersteen 1c's, I usually listen to music with the I-5's volume 18-23, when I want to go loud, it's at 25. The vandy's are rated 90db at 6.8ohms nominal.

What I have to add next could shed some light on your blown Forest woofer situation, although it's a little late for you. Once upon at time the red warning light on my I-5 was triggered. After also conversing with Sim Audio, and swapping out cd players, it was definitively determined that this was due to DC offset from a CD player I had at the time. I was able to make that light come on whenever the cd player was turned on and I turned the volume up on the I-5 past 30 or so, even if a cd was not in the player (i.e. no music was playing).

Since then, with a Sim Nova replacing the cd player that had the DC offset, I have never-ever seen that warning light. I don't expect to see it with the Hawks I am getting (better not!) either. From the little I know (and I know just a little), DC offset is usually caused from something else in your system, not the speakers, and it could have maybe blown your Forest's woofers; it was not likely the I-5 (admittedly, I am not knowledgeable about this electrical stuff, but am basing my comments on my personal experience and email exchanges with Sim Audio, who were most helpful). It could have been another component in your stream, like it was for me with my cd player that caused your DC offset (and FYI, using a voltmeter, the technician later confirmed my cd player was indeed emitting DC).
Oh, and Jh2os, thanks for testing the levels with your db meter.
Grakesh: what I am about to say is very relative to one's ear but Cary and VTL are not, in general for me at least, your typical lush warmish sounding tube gear (not a CJ) and they can have a more "neutral" sound than some solid state. The dealer I used to buy Totem from would play the Hawks with YBA, SimAudio and Shanling. With the right cable (make it rather lean-clean), the Hawk-Shanling was exceptional while the combo with YBA was not seducing.
I would agree with Jh2os that Hawk can be non-involving sometimes and I do not consider these to be warm speakers.

There are so many factors to consider that my comment on the Cary-Hawk may not fit the bill for others...but it did for me. Their exceptional midrange coupled with the immediacy of the right tube was truly exceptional. When I moved out to the AP Yara, I lost a tad of midrange magic but gained in overall robustness, slam and versatility.

In any case, in a small room with tube gear for 2ch audio only, Hawk are great speakers. Especially at CDN retail prices.... But they are not alone out there!
Walkman, our components are identical then. Simaudio did mention to check all connections as it could be a source component as well. Thinking about it, the light only ever came on while using the Sony 999ES as a source. I have cranked music through the Nova as high as 35 (too loud to listen to for long) with no indication of that light as all. Perhaps the Sony is the culprit???

I will do some db measurements here in a little bit...
TOTEM's RESPONSE (to my inquiry of using the Hawks in HT):

'the Simaudio unit should have no problem driving the Hawk's in home theater (especially if you only listen to moderate / high levels )

that warning is more for multi channel receivers that have boosted THX and DTS levels with exaggerated bass elevations'
Walkman, my db measurements:

Sony DVP999ES at '20' equals approx. 55db (CD)
Sony DVP999ES at '28' equals approx. 65-70db (DVD)

Simaudio at '20' equals approx. 55db (CD)
Simaudio at '27' equals approx. 70db (CD)

So that is where I have been listening at, or not exceeding for the time being. This is in an approx. 450sf room with the speakers 8' apart and my listening position centered between them 8' away. The Hawks are currently about 2' out from the rear wall (measured from the rear of the cabinet).
Jh2os, I can verify your remark regarding the red notice regarding Hawk break in at 150 hours. I blew a set of woofers after only 3 months. I am sure I did not break in properly, I played the speaker at louder levels with challenging music (Tower of Power with pounding bassline) and blew both woofers.

They were replaced at cost of drivers without labor charge by Totem. I broke my present pair in with the proper break in period and have had no problem.

So new Hawk owners heed the red notice not like I did.
Jh2os: I think there is a way to settle on all this: get a sub for HT and set up the Hawk as "small" for HT. You will still benefit from their midrange magic and preserve their integrity for 2ch audio full-range. In the budget sub - if like me you are not a bass freak and do not want to spend for a buzz or two (!)- the Mirage LF100 is of astonishing value and can be had for $150 (LF150 a bit lower and more$).
Thanks for the info, Jh2os. Appreciated. Your Sony could have been the culprit on the dc offset, but if you have have not seen the warning light since, and still have the I-5, well then, that can't be it. It's not the speakers though (can speakers cause dc offset? I don't think so...). It's got to be something...

So, you have the hawks, nova and an I-5. In a week or so we will indeed have identical systems. Cool!

Upstate Audio: Wow, two blown woofers...How loud were you playing the tower of power, pre-break-in?

thx, walkman
Upstateaudio, did you blow your woofer before or after the first 150 hours?

Walkman, yeah, I don't know what caused the indicator light to come on? It has never come on when the Nova is played, no matter at what level. I haven't seen it on the Sony lately, but I don't put the volume past 31 when using that as the source. 34 is where it had occured before with the Sony on the Forests. I just put the volume to 50 (with nothing playing and the speakers disconnected) with the Sony input selected and no indicator light?

Beheme, I would prefer not having a sub, but at that price it may be worth consideration? Just setting the speakers to small in the DVD player then? And sub to 'yes/on'?
Jh2os: Yes, set up sub to yes/on and speaker to small via the DVD player. This should remove those bass that could damage Hawks when too loud. My theory about subs is that either you go for the real musical sub that will costs min $750 used or you go for one that is reasonably fast not to embarrass you but that deliver true value at low price. I found the latter in the LF100 and at that price, how can you go wrong?!
I blew my woofers after the break in period. I was playing the speakers loud before the 150 hours were up probably at around 100 hours. The 2nd set I was considerably more careful. I hooked up my Tivoli radio (rec out)into my preamp and ran it straight for 1 week on NPR at background volumes(mostly talk with some classical, jazz)before I played any serious analog or CD on it. Have not had a problem since ( I am also not playing as loud- loud is now 85-90 dBC to me rather than 90-95).
Beheme, I also have that Mirage LF100 sub. I use it as part of my home theater...I basically have two systems, one for audio (sim I-5/Nova + pending Hawks) and video (outlaw 1050 receiver and mirage surround system with LF100 sub). Lots of coincidences in this thread about similarly owned equipment. I wonder if there's a way to have it connected to both my Outlaw 1050 receiver for home theater usage and to my Sim I-5 which has a home theater pass-thru for 2-channel music purposes. Must be...

Upstateaudio: Good information to know...thx.

Jh2os: Curious but good the indicator light has not gone on for you anymore. I wonder what was causing it in the first place, but if it has not/does not replicate, then I guess at this point, it does not really matter.
Thanks Upstateaudio, I usually don't listen much louder than 90db anyway - more in the 80db range.

Beheme, I think the only issue I have with adding a sub is that I would prefer just the Hawks for music - sans sub. Is there something I am missing that would allow me to use the sub only for movies and not for music? Can the sub be hooker up directly to the DVD player???