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General speaker questions for audio and home theater.

Totem Sky, Part 8

When Totem Acoustic began in 1987-88, perhaps they were immersed in the rock guitar (and, in the case of Stuart Hamm, bass) virtuoso explosion. If they had been here in the Bay Area, they would have been closer. Some of the albums were recorded here. And Cacophony's Marty Friedman (later of Megadeth) and Jason Becker (later of David Lee Roth) were based in San Francisco.

When Becker (born 7/22/69) was 15, his grandfather divorced. Saddened, Becker then came up with a melody. When Becker was 17, he had chicken pox. So while he was at home sick, he finished what would become the neoclassical instrumental, "Air." When the 1988-89 school year began, "Air" appeared on Becker's solo album, recorded up in Cotati, Perpetual Burn.

At the same time, girls, especially the studious ones, had this habit, tendency, or penchant, for coming up behind you, and hooking your arm. That meant you two could only walk very slowly. But that did lead to closer, more 1-on-1 talks. Like some of the other nerd girls, your friend KT was in the high school orchestra. Her parents kept making her practice, practice, and practice. But when KT told them that she wanted to be a musician, her parents said NO!

If you had to walk a little faster, one would lead the other by the hand. When you settled down, and got back into the music, the audiophiles covered their ears, and said that rock music was noise. But the nerd girls in orchestra listened, and picked up on where neoclassical metal came from. My wife has always loved Vinnie Moore's "April Sky," while KT has long liked Becker's "Air." Both were taken from Bach.

More recently, KT And her family went hiking. KT does not mind getting wet, while crossing streams. But her two kids used ropes/cords, to guide and rappel across the water. Which brings us to the matter of the Totem Sky and speaker cables. The Sky has the resolution and personality, to tell us how speaker cables fall short. We know this, because we started with Tara Labs The One CX and XLO Signature 3-5.2 [ALL of our speaker cables are properly treated via audiodharma Cable Cooker], both of which cost more than twice that of the Sky itself. As we swapped out these excellent cables for lesser ones, depression set in, as we observed losses and gross inaccuracies.

Starting back in high school, guys would complain that the nerd girls did not have sexy hands and feet. KT furled her brow, "I don't think we even knew about mani-pedi, until 2000."

The XLO Ultra 12BW internal biwire cable is not bad. It's just lacking in low-level detail, space between instruments, and top-end air. But after you have heard what better speaker cables let through, the Ultra 12BW comes across as maddeningly mediocre. It leaves you wanting more.

Note that their Deltron banana plugs do make for an easier connection. However, the photo does not show that, with the angle and the cable's mass, stress is placed on the leads and banana plugs.

We also have two sets of XLO Ultra 6. Interestingly, this discrete biwire arrangement sounds slightly more open, than the internal biwire Ultra 12BW.

On account of the awful stair-step binding posts, the Sky, for practical purposes, really cannot be used with after-market jumpers. The latter's spades simply won't fit, into or onto the Sky's posts. The Sky is so good, we wish we still had the internally biwired Kimber Bi-Focal XL (not pictured) and XLO Unlimited Edition UE-5BW (above, on Totem's Forest).

You might make fun of girls with short thumbs. But the WBT slant banana, with a relatively short male prong, fits nicely, into the Sky's binding posts.

On the Sky, this is the least-bad we've heard the Totem Tress Bi-wire. Imaging is a bit jiggly, or not anchored. It could use more treble body and top-end air. But contrast between music and background space is much better than the XLO Ultra 12BW. The bite of electric guitar remains. Drums aren't as blunted, as they are with other speaker cables. And thankfully, the Tress avoids bloat.

The Tress then leads us to something KT's in-laws have: a discrete bi-wire set of Kimber 4TC/4TC. Sorry, we didn't take any photos, but they have the more recent version, with clear- and white-colored outer jackets. They don't have the WBT plugs. They have the standard but inexpensive Kimber banana. The latter fits perfectly, into the Sky's binding posts. In terms of sound quality, the 4TC is in a similar vein as the Sky. It maintains contrast, pep, verve, breath, enthusiasm, and detail. This combination will lock arms with you, lead you by the hand, and then dance, sing, and celebrate.

So, at a minimum, the Totem Sky needs the Kimber 4TC/4TC. For most of us, we cannot say, regarding speaker cable, "the sky is the limit." While everyone would love two sets of Tara Labs The One CX, that is not going to happen, with the Sky.

Uh-oh, this is like letting go of the girl's hand. See, if you have spades, you have to take one prong, and slip it through the hole in the shaft. But the binding post won't be able to lock down that well.

But hey, scour the used market for the original XLO Reference Type 5 speaker cable. Since this model cannot be internally bi-wired, you will need two sets, preferably with bananas at the speaker end. Within financial reason, the XLO Ref Type 5 is a superb match for the Totem Sky. The Sky loves the Ref Type 5's speed, image focus, tidy backgrounds, resolution, and freedom from coloration. Forget "locking arms." Assuming everything else upstream is hunky-dory, and the music is kickin', the Ref Type 5 and Sky will have you and the girl giddily jumping on top of each other. Or, if you listen to Becker's "Air," the girl will dust off her old instrument, play along, but still remained poised in the present (as opposed to time-traveling to 1988).

-Lummy The Loch Monster

Edits: 03/12/21

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  Michael Percy Audio  

Topic - Totem Sky, Part 8 - Luminator 18:12:08 03/11/21 (1)


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