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General speaker questions for audio and home theater.

Totem Element Fire, Part 16

In 1987-88, Totem Acoustic got their start. This also happened to be the time, as a high school junior, my life pivoted. My new friends were all girls, a trend which has remained unchanged. My few remaining guy friends always wanted to go out, and play sports, but we just didn't have the numbers. They did what they could, by trying to recruit siblings. I used my connections as a homeroom rep and club secretary, to recruit others, but they almost all turned out to be the stray, smart, 4.0-GPA girls. Primarily wanting to escape from the Nerd Herd guys who did anything to get downwind of them, these girls just wanted to watch. But again, since we didn't have enough players, the girls had to get off the bleachers, and play.



Because many of my friends lived in San Francisco's Sunset District, we frequently went to West Sunset Playground, which had multiple expansive fields.



One time when the girls started blowing bubbles, my friend Arturo gawked, "Bubbles?!!!" After years of us getting killed, he wanted to kick ass in sports. He didn't care if my new recruits were boys or girls, but he complained that our girls were "wussy," as evidenced by them blowing bubbles. Interestingly, because these girls did participate in their class' spirit activities, their theme for 1988-89 became....Bubbles!

Little did Arturo and my guy friends know that, in terms of dating, these girls would become our "bubble." All other girls would reject us, but the nerd girls did not necessarily say NO. And thus, we'd pretty much have only this type of girlfriend, the ones who ran circles around us academically.

In 1987-88, we guys were not yet into "high-end audio." We were just learning about bi-wireable loudspeakers. My friend Jacob thought that bi-wiring was a "British thing," as his dad had bought some British bookshelf speakers, with 4 holes for banana plugs. Totem are a Canadian company, and, for the first 5 or 6 years, their products were single-wire. But since 1993 or so, Totem's models have been bi-wire.

In school, my female friends were well-behaved. But out on the field, we found something different from what the others were playing: heavy metal. Arturo's attitude changed, when he saw the girls get amped up, listening to heavy metal. Some even got out of the house at night, and accompanied us to rock concerts, including at a small club, The Stone, up on Broadway & Montgomery. Not that audiophiles attended these shows, but if they had, they would not have mistaken the 1, 2, or 3 wussy high school girls with us.




But when we weren't listening to heavy metal, Adult Contemporary was the other favorite. That music, combined with our activities, got many to like each other. And then there was synthpop. We were eating lunch on the sidelines, when one of our girls was playing the Pet Shop Boys' Actually. As side 2 came to an end, "King's Cross" played. 4 or 5 of the girls just broke out singing. You stopped what you were doing, and just stood still in the moment. You never forget such incidents, and then realize that nothing we do as audiophiles ever comes close.

My friends and I would later furl our brows, as to why "King's Cross" was never released as a single. It's long been a fan favorite, and should have been a hit. At audio shows, Totem's Vince Bruzzese would liken audio products to a "bridge" between music and listener. No doubt, the staff at Totem listen to the Pet Shop Boys, though we're unsure, if they've latched on to "King's Cross."




The 2-way Totem Element Fire does not really have a crossover. And so, we have crossed it up, and tried various single-wire cables. Tweeter or woofer, the Fire basically waits for whatever you feed it. As such, it will tell you the difference, between a cable which has been Cooked, and one which has not.



When we went out to play sports, we had a mixture of boys and girls. Likewise, you can mix up the speaker cables, leading to the Fire. The Fire effortlessly reveals that the XLO Ultra 6 is not as open, see-through transparent, and extended up top as the AudioQuest CV-4.



So in this case, to make things sound less like an AM radio, you may want to run the CV-4 to the tweeter, and the Ultra 6 to the woofer. The latter is fast, grippy, slick, tight, and powered. With the right upstream products, the Ultra 6 can rock. So this configuration may be better-suited to your heavy metal.



But watch out. If you mix speaker cable brands, it's the soundstaging, which could become warped. The girls loved going to the Exploratorium, which used to be near the Palace Of Fine Arts (above). Nowadays, you see lots of prom and wedding photography at the latter. Mixing speaker cables can give you a skewed soundstage perspective. It's like looking up at the Palace Of Fine Arts, and not being able to see that it actually has a floor and a dome. Or, as my friend Karen says, it's like when she was our second baseman. If she were wearing her reading glasses, she had a difficult time, looking up, and gauging pop-ups. At the same time, her reading glasses were fine, for when groundballs were hit towards her. Even if she muffed or bobbled the ball, her reading glasses kept her vision focused. But if she were using her regular glasses, looking down felt like she was stepping into a pit or gopher hole.



If you like a particular speaker cable, sure, get two of it, in order to biwire. But again, do be aware of the placement of the Fire's binding posts. Unless your cable's leads are long, routing spades to the tweeter post is a challenge. Also, the Fire has such resolution, that it reveals that the AudioQuest BFA banana exhibits slightly more treble curtailment than the spade (!).



Yes, we have used speaker cables, which cost as much or more than the Fire itself. By being accurate and transparent, the Fire shrugs, and says, "I'll take and keep up with whatever you feed me." When partnered with the similarly and equally transparent Tara Labs The One CX, the Fire disappears, leaving you with a clear path to the upstream electronics.

Due to COVID, your friends aren't over. Still, if you listen to PSB's "King's Cross," you harken back to West Sunset Playground. In real life, our boomboxes were pretty ratty-sounding. But it gave us the music, which, at times, was magical. The backgrounds blurred or faded, leaving you with your friends singing "King's Cross." Regarding biwiring, the Totem Element Fire is not biased. If you want to mix it up, and risk getting a funhouse mirror, fine. But find cables similarly transparent, and the Fire will get out of the way, leave you with vivid memories, and place you back at the scene.

Hahaha, one of my audiophile friends shouted, "I wish we [audiophiles] were placed in a bubble with those girls!"

Whether or not you broke out of the dating bubble, when it comes to biwiring, there are no restrictions. You may mix or match, to your heart's content.

-Lummy The Loch Monster



Edits: 11/11/20

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Topic - Totem Element Fire, Part 16 - Luminator 15:04:36 11/11/20 (0)

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