Totem speakers and others that I should consider?

I've liked the Totem speakers for a while, they image very nicely, and while somewhat laid back, not too much so...

I'm looking to put together a new system (starting from scratch), and was thinking about the Totem line (Forests, at first). I listened to Totem at RMAF, and was very impressed with the new Element line, so that has me thinking of those instead. They are a bit more forward compared to the older speakers, but not terribly so, and I think they will not be fatiguing to listen to long-term. I'll have to do a bit more listening to be sure of that.

They image better, and the bass is very deep and controlled.

Anyway, I was thinking about the Totems Fire or Earth speakers (probably the Fire), and I was wondering what other speakers people feel will match up favorably to the Fire? They must be similarly priced, and ultimately similar in size or form-factor (I don't want large cabinets).

My exposure to speakers in the last decade is somewhat limited, but I have heard Sonus Faber, and while I find them very musical, I don't think they match up at the price point, but I don't think I've heard the most recent models.

Recommendations for other speakers I should audition in the $6000 dollar range are appreciated.

Check out the Tekton Lore or Pendragon. I have heard very favourable things. Prices are far below your budget as they sell direct.
The Tekton OB Sigma apoparently casts a wide soundstage and goes for $5K. Very non-fatiguing.

I have not heard them, but spoke with people who have as well as the designer. I like his philosophy, but as I am in Europe, its hard to get personal experience with those speakers.
I built my HT around Totem speakers. I started off with Forests but moved to Winds and the Shamans. I have not listened to their new line so I can't compare the sound but with the Winds you will get better sound sage and dept and bass way more than the forests. Beside having a good amp the most important item you should have is a good DAC
believe me when I tell you they are a totally different
speaker when using a sound that come out is amazing.
The DAC I am talking about is MSB Tech. if you email me I can fill you in
Check out Dynaudio.
Paradigm 'S' series.
Thanks for the comments. I'll look into the speakers mentioned.

I'm a little surprised that there isn't more discussion on the forum on the Element speakers from Totem. From my perspective, they are remarkably good speakers. I would have expected some discussion bandwidth about them here, but there is relatively little.

Forests are IMHO the best speakers built by Totem line. There are better models than Totem Winds/Shaman at higher price ranges.
Did anyone mentioned Nola Contender? I believe that it's a value winner of the year.
I you like the Totems, then you will surely love the Quad line of dynamic speakers.
Check out Aerial Acoustics Model 7T. There is a review this month in either Stereophile or TAS, can't remember off the top of my head which mag. They are in your price range.
I think the Element series is pretty new, so that's most likely why they aren't discussed very much. Haven't heard them, but I'm a big Totem fan.

I was looking for new speakers about 3 years ago, and the Arros were the speakers to beat for me (my budget was less than yours). I ended up buying Audio Physic Yara Evolution Bookshelves. I think Audio Physic and Totem have a lot in common. To my ears, Audio Physic's speakers as a line image and soundstage a bit better, and they're more forward than Totem as a line. I don't mean an in-your-face forward, I mean the soundstage comes closer. Most Totem speaker's soundstage is at or behind the plane of the speakers (especially the Arros). They just seem more distant sounding to me. Those comparisons aren't solely Yaras vs Arros, they're comparabley priced models vs each other. If I didn't find Audio Physic, I'd have bought Totems and lived happily ever after. I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy a pair of Dreamcatchers and wall mount them with Totem's bracket so I can baby proof my living room and still have music. The Yaras won't work well at all that way, and will be stored until I can have a dedicated room (hopefully within the next year).

Audio Physic isn't easy to track down, and their second-hand market isn't very strong. If you can find a dealer within a reasonable distance, they should be on your list of speakers to audition. If you really like Totems, you should make it a point to hear APs if possible.

I also like most of the speakers mentioned here. I'd really like to hear the Element series, even though I can't afford them. Knowing Totem, they're excellent and worth every penny of their price.
Hi Michael,

If I may express a slightly different opinion about Totem speakers: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAN! DON'T DO IT!!!!!!

I have owned the Model 1’s, Mani-2’s (the best of the lot) and the Forests and at first you may like them because they are so revealing. But that is because of the eardrum piercing SEAS metal dome tweeter that they use. Listener fatigue comes quickly with them and the belief is that if you don't like what you are hearing, it is because there is a problem somewhere else in your system. I then find that people work backwards though their stereo to remove anything that they think is making the treble hard and harsh and that usually means trying to “cable down” the speakers using Cardas cable and perhaps removing a good solid state amp and putting in a lower-powered tube amp to round the sound down at the extremes. Because most of the Totems take a lot of power to drive, unless it is a really big (re: expensive) tube amp, the speakers then become lifeless. There is nothing that really can be done that can tame those tweeters. I’m ranting because I have lost money trying to make these speakers work in the past.

If you like the midrange quality that Totems have, simply buy the much more well-balanced Dynaudio equivalent. The Contour 1.1 has way more finesse than the Model 1, the Contour 1.3SE more than the Forest, etc. If you want a speaker that no one I know dislikes, look for a nice pair of used Harbeth Compact 7’s. If you want a speaker with a SEAS tweeter (but a MUCH BETTER SEAS tweeter) buy a pair of Tyler Acoustic speakers. I personally like the Super Towers if you want great imaging. If you want a speaker for a large room, the Tyler Signature System speakers are amazing. There is currently a pair in Chicago for only 2500.00. The drivers alone for that speaker cost 2000.00. If you have a really large room Ty has a used pair of custom speakers that he is selling that have all SEAS Nextel drivers including the very expensive Crescendo tweeter (which is a much, much better tweeter than the aluminum dome SEAS Excel that Totem uses). He is only asking 3200 for that pair and that is likely just a bit more than what the drivers alone cost in that speaker. What I like about Tyler Acoustics is that Tyler is “cooking” with the best ingredients. Totem, not so much. I think that the Forest was a great design when it came out in the mid 90’s but time and speaker driver technology move on.

If you were planning to spend as much as 6K and if you can go used, I would look at Piega speakers, or Vandersteen Quatros, or Green Mountain just to name a few. Kudos also makes a very nice speaker in the C-30. Usher speakers are generally very good as well and like the Tylers, he is using good quality drivers. If you can find them, the WLM speakers (made in Austria) with the Super Pac tweeters are amazing and image like nothing else. I think that there is a pair up for sale on Audiogon for 4500.00 and those would be well worth considering.

Anyway, I hope that I did not offend you or others who like Totem speakers but in my view (as a former 3-pairs-of-Totem-speakers owner) there are so many better choices out there, I would hate to see someone spend that much money and not find a speaker that will consistently make them happy.

Mjm6...go audition some more speakers. Totem's are awesome, but it doesn't sound like you've spent a lot of time with others. If you don't audition others, you'll be very unhappy in the future. This will also give you a basis of what you might like in the future. Being a new kit, I would purchase brand new from a local dealer and NOT used on Agon. Reason being is that you need a good starting point. Your local dealer should carry lines that work well with each other. You will also help out your community, but most importantly you will have access to a lot more than your purchase. My local shares all his 24 bit, sells cable at cost, invites me to dinner etc. I can go there any time to shoot the bull about music etc. It's the greatest.
I would agree with the last poster regarding working with a dealer. Especially since you are starting from scratch, work with somebody who knows which audio components play well together. Listen with your own ears... this audio thing is so very subjective. Find a SYSTEM that you find immensely pleasing.

If you work with a dealer, he/she should let you demo the system in your own listening room. I think this is critical.

Do you have an overall budget for your new system? What are your listening tastes? Can you describe your room?

BTW, I've enjoyed my Totem speakers for several years now. Be sure to give them a good listen. Many folks agree that each model has a different personality.

Let us know how you make out!
I hate to say, "get what I got!", but since you asked, if you are able, check out a pair of the EgglestonWorks Fontaine IIs. I have the originals, not the IIs, and they are not as laid back as the Totem, but not in your face either - perfectly in-between. Smooth and sublime, with just the right amount of bite. Very true sounding tone.
If you like Totem, you might also like Dynaudio or PSB.

Merlin would be another more esoteric line to consider.

I like Totems and Dynaudio also but OHM Walsh speakers are my choice in general at similar price points. These are omni directional and present music differently, so most have to get used to that. Many who do never look back.
Thanks for all the feedback everyone... I am quite experienced with audio, just not in the past 8-10 years, as I had a system that I was very satisfied with, and happily listened to it without feeling the need to change.

That system is gone now, and it's time to build a new one, but I want it to be simpler than last time if possible (maybe a high quality integrated, smaller speakers, etc.).

I agree that I need to listen to more speakers, including the Totem's so my query was mostly about trying to find speakers that sound as good or better with similar characteristics (not huge cabinets, reasonably easy to drive, great imaging, comfortable sound that can be listened to long-term, etc.)

Sleepless, I appreciate your candor, and do not consider your opinion inappropriate. In fact, me asking the question is ultimately trying to get to the heart of people's opinions about speakers that are 'better' sounding but comparable such that they could be reasonably compared. Ultimately, you have decided that the Totems couldn't work for you, and offered several alternates that you feel sound better. That's exactly the kind of information I'm looking for.

I do feel that there used to be somewhat of a 'house sound' to the Totem line, even though each had it's own characteristics, but the new Element speakers are so substantially different (not radically so, but nonetheless substantially) that I feel they have departed from their 'sound' somewhat. Ultimately, whether it is good or not is up to the beholder, but I feel they are a considerable improvement in many ways, with the one possible exception being listener fatigue, which may have increased due to the slightly forward presentation now.

Listened to the Aerial 7T and the PSB Synchrony One today to begin my auditioning of other speakers...

The 7T easily bested the PSB in comparison, but that is somewhat to be expected considering the pricing difference ($4500 to $9850, if I recall correctly). The imaging is cleaner and the bottom end control is MUCH better than the PSB.

The 7T has a general soundstage that appears to begin at or slightly in front of the speakers and extend to the wall behind the speakers, and generally from wall-to-wall to the sides. Now, this could be improved possibly through ideal setup in the listening room, which is not a luxury afforded a showroom listening session, although we did move them into the room with the Wilson speakers and drive them with the Audio Research front end since I generally prefer tubes. So while that may have not been 'perfectly' set up, they were reasonably arranged.

Sonic effects in some recordings did reach out toward me, and in specific recordings with substantial dynamic character and heft, a veritable wall of sound was presented. In some cases, this felt a bit confused, however, rather than a coherent sound stage presented (like from an orchestra). Again, this could easily be the fault of imperfect room setup, and a lively room causing some trouble.

The speaker is quite revealing, and will probably demand top-notch components to not be somewhat let down by the GIGO of upstream components.

Tonally, it felt somewhat neutral, slightly laid back. It has plenty of sparkle in the voice when needed (for example on cymbals or harpsichord), but doesn't feel overly so. The bass is fairly deep and well controlled, but I did notice a bloom in the bass region that I am attributing to the rooms that I listened to it in, and not the speakers. It does the bass so well otherwise, that I can't imagine the response peak would be in the speakers; it was too substantial to be ignored by the designers.

The sound from the 7T felt very natural (I used to own a pair of 10T's, so I was somewhat expecting what I heard, although the 7T's do feel to be the superior speaker based on my memory). All said, the 7T's felt very listenable, and for long listening sessions as well. This is not at all a surprise as well.

I have to say that the speakers felt 'comfortable' and that is not necessarily an attribute that I would consider desirable. I guess I feel that I wasn't substantially moved by them in the first listening session. If I were to make a decision today, I would not buy them. However, much of audio is about acquired tastes and familiarity, and I certainly wouldn't rule them out at this point. Not being viscerally moved by them is probably what makes them listenable and not prone to fatigue. This aspect of their character is desirable, so while it may make them feel somewhat unremarkable initially, this attribute could very well rule the day in the end.

Overall, I would give them a very favorable response. I'm going to hold back on direct comparisons with the Totems until I've have another go with them in a few weeks.

I auditioned a set of Synchrony Two's recently. I felt they were too laid-back and with a soundstage that extended back behind them. Wasn't my cup of tea.

I actually preferred PSB's Imagine series much better. A slightly more dynamic sound with a soundstage that projects out into the room.

A speaker that may give my Imagine B's a run for their money is the new Monitor Audio GX Gold series. I hope to get a listen to some GX50's in the next couple of days.
Listening fatigue from Forests? Never had one for past 10 years of usage.
I have to reluctantly agree with Sleepless on the SEAS wore me out after 15 mins of music.

Owned Arros, thought I "upgraded" to Model 1 Sigs...felt like someone was shouting at me after a few songs. Couldn't take it anymore...went back to soft domes of Arros and still have them today.

Having said that, my friend owns Forests and they sound awesome and breathtaking in his house.
Hopefully my question will also be of use to the OP. Has anyone had the chance to compare Tekton Lores to Totem Forests? Can you characterize sound from the two?
+1 to sleepless, ive had the forests in the past and they are relatively bright speakers, listening fatigue was an issue for me as well, totem makes good speakers in general but the forest is overrated/overpriced imo
I bought a pair of Totem Element Fires a few months ago and have been very happy with them. I auditioned lots of monitors, eventually coming down to a extensive comparison between the B&W 805 diamonds and the Totems. Both are outstanding monitors, but I felt the highs were more realistic & less sharp, the midrange was smoother, low bass stronger and the dynamics more accurate with the Totems. I'm driving them with an NAD M3 integrated amp, the combo sounds great at all volume levels with a wide range of music.
SLEEPLESS nailed it.

I've personally had ARROS and FORESTS. In either case they need hi-current and high wattage amps to drive them fully: TOTEMS are all power hungry. From my experiences I had to bi-amp them to perform best.

THE POINT: No, I do not think that TOTEMS excel at low volume listening. Rather they excel when "let loose".
Translation: listening fatigue.

Because I listen to a lot of classical and female vocals, low level / comfort listening nirvana was also my Holy Grail.

Yup... I finally found my comfort level listening Holy Grail, but only after I capitulated, admitted this was not going to work to my satisfaction, and sold off the Totems, and sold the all the matched hardware; and replaced them all with REGA R9 speakers driven by REGA OSIRIS integrated amp / REGA ISIS valve cdp.

Other choices: check out the TANNOY line and be prepared to be amazed. I bought the Revolution DC-6s for my B system. be prepared to be pleasantly stunned by what you hear.
At that price point the Joseph Audio Pulsars might also be worth a listen. Should image very well -- I haven't heard the Pulsar but their lower models are very good in this regard -- and sounds like they may be a little easier to drive and and present less possibility of listener fatigue as mentioned by others. Just another option, and best of luck.
Indeed it's a FACT what pleases ones may fatigue the others. I've never been pleased with any of Joseph speakers any model I've listened to and same to B&W and ML
I run 2 pair of OHM Walsh, a pair of Dynaudio monitors, and a pair of small Triangle monitors in different rooms off my central system using a speaker switch and in-wall wiring from when the house was built.

Each of the three lines have a very distinctive sound running off my main system.

The Dynaudios most resemble the Totem Elements I heard just recently. They deliver a significantly hotter presentation than the OHMs, which are more relaxed and laid back. Some may find that more fatiguing over long listening sessions.

The Triangles are somewhere in between and sound competitive at low to moderate volumes but their small size handicaps them in terms of delivering a lot of punch at higher volumes compared to the others.
You may want to check out the kef R series. I have compared them to many of the lines mentioned and more including Totem and they performed better. I now own a set of 900s with no fatigue. Yes they are very good at all listening levels and music genres. Best luck
I heard a few Tidal speakers at Capital Audiofest recently among many others.

WHen I heard Totem Elements at a local dealer shortly after, I found the sound overall reminded me most of the Tidals of the speakers I had heard at CAF but of course much different looking and lower cost.

I also found the newer Totem Elements sound leaning more towards the Focal type sound. Older model Totems I have heard did not so much and were more like somewhere between Focals and some PSBs I have heard, which tend to be a bit more laid back. Focal and Triangle are both French companies that I have found to have some similarities in sound.

My audition was not long enough but I did have some concerns about potential fatigue factor over longer listening periods with the Totem Elements. I suspect though that things could be done with teh rest of the system to relieve that concern. The source gear when I heard the Totem elements was all Mark Levinson.