When I visited the high-end audio demo rooms at the Consumer Electronics Show 2017, I quickly discovered some of the biggest surprises came in deceptively small packages. One such surprise took the form of the new Signature One stand-mount monitors ($2,650/pair) from the Canadian firm Totem Acoustic. This is the 30th anniversary year for Totem and the Signature One is intended as a heartfelt homage to the loudspeaker that first put Totem on the high-end audio map: namely, Totem’s original Model 1 monitor.
In many ways the Model 1 set the pattern for future generations of Totem products in that it was a modestly sized, reasonably priced, and wildly overachieving stand-mount monitor whose performance far exceeded listeners’ expectations for a speaker of its size, type, and price. Enthusiasts hearing the Model 1 monitors for the first time would walk away shaking their heads in amazement because the speakers sounded bigger, more sophisticated, more capable, and more revealing than at first seemed possible. It is with Totem’s new Signature Ones, which represent a next-generation take on the original Model 1 concept, but executed with the latest and best technologies 2017 has to offer. In a press release on the Signature One, Totem says its goal is to replicate “the excitement generated by the original Model 1… while surpassing its original attributes.” But Totem goes on to explain that the performance bar for the Signature One is set even higher still in that the speaker, “is designed to achieve the same levels of vertical imaging, speed, and articulation as our reference grade Element Metal (floorstanding loudspeakers), but in a much smaller and more accessible box.”
The Signature One is a mid-sized, two-way monitor that features an extremely rigid and well-damped bass reflex enclosure. The enclosure is made of 19mm thick variable density MDF panels, veneered both inside and out for maximum stiffness. To further improve rigidity, there is also a thick, front-to-back stiffening plate with relief holes that enable the speaker’s mid-bass driver and reflex port to ‘see’ the full volume of the enclosure interior. For even greater cabinet strength and long-term stability, enclosure panels are locked together via so-called ‘lock mitre’ corner joints, which offer roughly four times the gluing surface area of alternative joining methods. Finally, the entire enclosure interior is treated with borosilicate damping materials to fight unwanted resonance.
Within the enclosure is found a 165mm mid-bass driver and a 25mm dome tweeter. The mid-bass driver is a very long-throw design and one that uses an extremely large 75mm voice coil, plus a powerful neodymium motor magnet. Company founder and chief designer Vince Bruzzese says the mid-bass driver is fully capable of handling dynamic peaks of up to 600 watts, meaning the driver is not only highly expressive, but also durable. In turn, the 25mm tweeter is a very high quality chambered metal dome design sourced from noted driver maker SEAS and that uses a diaphragm made of a titanium/aluminium alloy. Totem says the Signature One driver complement, “can best be equated with our Forest (floorstanding loudspeaker) model, but with a potential for a bigger and taller image.”
Totem uses premium parts throughout the Signature One and especially in the speaker’s second order, 2.5kHz crossover network. Accordingly, the woofer section of the Signature One crossover features Orange Drop capacitors bypassing other specialised foil capacitors, while the tweeter section uses ClarityCap specialty grade high voltage, metal encapsulated, paper/oil capacitors “for an uncoloured sonic character.” In turn, the crossover incorporates what Totem terms “a mix of very low tolerance and tightly matched resistors from Dale, RCD, and Archromic” to achieve “perfect phase consistency on all dimensional axes.” Inductors are large air-core units that use no magnets or iron, for lower distortion and to prevent saturation that could otherwise occur on dynamic peaks. The speaker is internally wired with custom made Teflon-coated cables whose conductors are comprised of 80% OFC copper and 20% silver. Finally, on its rear panel, the Signature One provides a low resonance annealed aluminium connection plate fitted with gold-plated WBT binding posts.