A short revisit of Stereophile’s Totem Dreamcatcher review / A word about great Mini Systems

Regardless of merit, if any, of reporting on the sound quality of $575.00 speakers while using a $6000.00 (Audio Research R110 w/a Tube Line Stage Preamplifier rig)I’d like to make a couple of points.   Thankfully, Robert Reina also uses in his May 2011 Stereophile review, a Creek Destiny CD Receiver ($2200.00). Naturally, all of us who do equipment testing use a reference system, otherwise, we would have no standard of measure, and little clue as to how various components or speakers actually perform.  However, the absolute highest level of a system I would report results on for $575.00 speakers, would be something in this price range, in our case, the $2500.00 Reference Mini System (Teac Reference ADH660NT/PDH60).  Additionally, I tested these with several more real world priced systems, each including modest Integrates & Receivers from $350.00 to $800.00, and did comparisons with several monitors ranging from $279.00/pr to $2000.00.  In fairness to Robert, the Dreamcatchers do use such high quality parts that one must test them with ultra expensive equipment just to see where they’ll go?  However, it should be noted that the diminishing returns are with such a system as his, or our reference ($6000.00) will be well in play. I believe that most people building a system around these speakers will likely use them not at their absolute ultimate performance level , but ultimately, in their real world price class of $575.00.  

One of the Dreamcatchers most important design attributes, is that they DO NOT need amplifier rigs of the afore mentioned prowess to achieve 80 – 90% of what they are capable of.  As unfortunately do the vast majority of high-end mini monitors, and sadly, many lower end ones as well. This is where the honest genius of Totem’s chief Engineer, Vince Bruzzese, becomes so important, as all of his mini monitors are so well designed.  I also agree with Robert that they do perform like much more expensive monitor speakers, so  giving them a go with reference gear is irresistible. And it is only then that you can appreciate their measure of performance with modest electronics.  It should be noted that there are a good many speakers that will fool you.  Being relatively easy to drive and giving good performance with modest gear, yet really coming to life when hooked to high end equipment.  Thankfully, in my examination, at minimum, you’ll achieve 85% of the Dreamcatchers ultimate performance with modest “quality gear”, like our NAD C316BEE & C515BEE Integrated Amplifier & CD Player ($650.00 for the pair).  So for the quaint sum of about $1500.00 with proper accessories, the Dreamcatchers allow you do just that, “catch the dream of what super costly mini monitor rigs give you”, at a fraction of the price!  And for those who aspire to touch the rewards of a reference caliber system, but of smaller proportion and dollar amounts, the Dreamcatcher coupled with the Teac Reference electronics gives an extraordinary performance! Articulately broad frequency range and shockingly immense soundstage, easily tackling even highly complex material like symphonic music.  Quite frankly, a rare feet for any system at just $3350.00. But at the $3350.00 level, a nudge toward the Totem Mite should be considered for the paltry $200.00 more.  Clearly, a balance of modestly priced, but well chosen, high quality speakers and electronics makes for a most musically rewarding experience!  For testing I used all Ultralink interconnects, speaker wire, and line filtration.  We have all the tested models above here for your auditioning pleasure.

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Here’s another Montreal show report, from my friend and colleague, Wayne Munie. Wayne is a vastly experienced audio professional/audiophile. Wayne’s professional experience dates back to the early 1980’s as a sales consultant at Audiomusical, a High-End Audio Store in Belleville IL,. He later managed The Great St. Louis Sound Co. in St. Louis Mo, before working with me at Audio by US, back in Belleville, IL. I enjoyed reading Wayne’s take on the show. So here it is…

This was my second visit to Montreal for their Son et Image show. First I must say I truly enjoyed my visit to this beautiful city and its magnificent selection of restaurants. The Salon Son et Image show is a wonderful opportunity to hear a wide range of audio products.  What was different this time from my previous visit in 2007 (beside the change in sponsor, name [formerly Festival Son et Image], and deletion of video games) was the extensive use of iTunes as a source.  While I appreciate and personally take advantage of the convenience of having a music server hooked up to an audio system all my wow experiences at the show involved the playing of a CD or LP. Tube electronics proved to still be relevant in high-end audio; wonderful sound from the inexpensive Peachtree driving Dynaudio speakers, AudioNote, Audio Research, and Mastersound all were among the best sound at the show.

I have been to several consumer electronic shows and their are a few manufactures that always have good sound (Totem and Magnapan), but many manufactures just don’t know how to demonstrate good sound. Good sound is a cumulative result of the recording, playback equipment and listening room. A great system will allow good recordings to give you goose bumps and create an emotional experience.  Good music poorly recorded is disappointing because you expect so much more but playing that music on a boom box only lowers your expectation doesn’t fix the failings of the recording.

The Audes speaker rep was set up in the entry to the Liberty Trading room using Roksan CD player and Mastersound amp and was consistently playing great music as a result I spent more time and more visits to this set up than any other. Great music masterfully presented that’s what we all want isn’t it?

Wayne Munie

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