Totem Acoustic Bison Monitor Loudspeaker Page 2

Pain Free
With the Monitor name, and cabinet dimensions, some buyers might consider these speakers ideal for nearfield listening and/or desktop use. Totem's placement recommendations are certainly accommodating here, with rear-wall clearance from a tight 15cm and cabinets 1m to 2.5m apart. For a more laidback listening experience, I settled upon a 2m-wide layout with a very slight toe-in, and a 25cm distance to the rear wall, which didn't seem to bother these ported speakers at all. Indeed, positioning the Bison Monitors proved to be pain-free, requiring less of an exacting approach to placement than some other loudspeakers to achieve good results.

sqnote Snap Chat
I'd wondered if the Bison Monitor's ported cabinet might yield a more 'adventurous' low-end output than its physical dimensions and elegant appearance suggest, but this proved not to be the case. There's impressive depth to bass delivery, but enjoyment comes more from its snap and rhythm than wobble-the-windows extension. Meanwhile, the clarity and texture across the mid and treble makes for an insightful listen, as does its open soundstaging. Another description Totem Acoustic gives to its new speaker is 'luxury bookshelf', and such language goes well with a sound that's about the finer things in life.

For example, with Guns 'n' Roses acoustic ballad 'Patience' [Lies; Geffen GFLD 19287], the Bison Monitor extracted plenty of fine detail and imaging subtlety. Unusually for the band, this piece features three acoustic guitars and vocals – no bass or drums/percussion. Said to be a single-take recording, it has its occasional fluffed elements, be it singer Axl Rose croaking a few words or a buzzing guitar string, and the Bison Monitor uncovered these idiosyncrasies. Of note was the separation given to the instruments, the feeling of three players arranged around the room, not to mention high-fret steel-string notes that had both edge and sweetness. This clarity of performance is not only revealing, it plays a part in giving the music a sense of propulsion and rhythm. Percussion details are crisp and immediate, and rapid-fire playing is ready to be appreciated.

Cracking On
Another Guns 'n' Roses track, 'Locomotive (Complicity)' from Use Your Illusion II [Geffen GEFD 24420], moved along like its titular train, helped by clear interplay between the guitar parts and the forceful crack of the snare drum. And with the upbeat rhythms of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Little By Little' [Street Survivors; Geffen/UMG 0602517571662] the loudspeakers bounced along and punched hard, every note in the walking bassline distinct.


Pairs of bi-wire/bi-amp compatible 4mm cable binding posts connect to the 2.5kHz crossover. The small bass unit is reflex-loaded via an equally bijou rear-facing port

For a speaker that can almost disappear into a room, it seems only right that, when playing, the Bison Monitors are basically invisible. The spread of instruments present in Miles Davis' 'Miles Run The Voodoo Down' [Bitches Brew; Legacy 889-85474622] felt divorced of any physical cabinets, with the twin drum kits either side of Davis' trumpet easy to picture, and additional players joining the throng with well-defined placement. This piece has a variety of textures, from dynamic blues guitar chords to low woodwind and higher-pitched brass, and Totem's Bison Monitors sounded au fait with all of them, steering clear of brittleness while adding a welcome hint of richness to the bass.

Flying Solos
A fun aspect of this production are the various instrumental solos that appear across the soundstage, almost as if a jazz-club stage manager has flicked on a spotlight. This spread was apparent even when listening quite far off-axis horizontally, and the Bison Monitor didn't lose much of its tonal grip at the vertical either. There's little obvious sweet spot here.

Add this all together and you get an assured, full-range performance that welcomes lengthy listening sessions. Different productions are ably conveyed, so that Gladys Knight And The Pips' 'Midnight Train To Georgia' [Imagination; Music Club Deluxe MCDLX061] has a wonderfully rich, smooth quality, and sounds a world away from the icy, sterile riffs of Metallica's 'One' […And Justice For All; 96kHz/24-bit], where again the pairing showed fine stereo imaging as it tracked the machine gun and helicopter effects that kick it off.

The ability of this speaker to unravel treble detail, to dive deep into what you're listening to, meant I was drawn to material that deserves it: jazz, classical, country, well-recorded rock. Given something more rhythm focused, such as Orbital's 1990s-throwback track 'The New Abnormal' [Optical Delusion; London Records LMS5521858], and the more basic textures of the synthesisers made for a less interesting listen. The speed of the speaker's woofer meant a lively performance though.

Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Born On The Bayou' [Bayou Country; Fantasy FCD 8387-2], a floating, bassline-driven rock jam, did have me hankering for a speaker with a thicker, warmer and larger-scale output. Yet there were no such worries with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter's Across The Stars album [DG 479 7553]. The Bison Monitor shone a light on her remarkable talent, be it the dexterity of the flighty 'Rey's Theme', or the long sorrowful notes of the 'Schindler's List' piece. It also leaned into the depth and dynamics of the 70-piece orchestra, delivering a soaring performance of clear, defined musicality.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The look of Totem Acoustic's Bison Monitor is unlikely to garner much attention, but listen to it and you'll forget all about superficial style. Tight, quick bass handling, superb midrange definition and sparkling detail result in a sound that's always enjoyable and often eye-opening when weighed against the cabinet size and price tag. Consider it proof that good things really can come in small packages.

Totem Acoustic
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Supplied by: Redline Scotland Ltd, Essex, UK
01268 858222