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Totem Element Fire, Part 15

Posted on October 10, 2020 at 23:03:21

Posts: 4913
Location: Bay Area
Joined: December 11, 2000
In the late-90s, I lived in San Francisco's Fillmore, with its concomitant small rooms. An audiophile lived just three blocks up Cathedral Hill, on Cleary Court. His unit faced south, and was not high enough, to see over the hills. But to your right, you had a direct view of Sutro Tower. He had just purchased the new Audio Research VT-50 power amp. His place, too, had a relatively small and square living room. He did not like his slim Audio Physics loudspeakers, which really needed to be brought well into the room, toed-in, for a single listener. So he invited me over, and asked that I bring my little Totem Model 1 Signature.

He really liked the Totem M1S in the maple finish. He pulled open the curtains, which revealed floor-to-ceiling glass. It felt more like a gloriously sunny summer afternoon. You placed the M1S pretty close to the back wall, which freed up your living room. Another huge positive was that, like all Totems, you fired them straight ahead, without any toe-in. As long as you didn't lie on the floor, or stand right above the Totems, you were treated with stable sound.

He had the XLO Reference Type 5 speaker cable, which was a single-wire model. However, the M1S was a bi-wire model. While I did have XLO jumpers, my speaker cable at home was the internally bi-wired XLO Ultra 12BW. I don't recall the sources, but the preamp was a solid state ARC LS3, which did NOT have balanced outputs. Therefore, a single-ended XLO Reference Type 1 was used between LS3 and VT-50. He had the sense, to get both ARC components in the silver faceplate. But anyway, the M1S had the flatter tonal balance, when the XLO Ref Type 5 went to the tweeter posts first.

The sun went down pretty early, his wife came home, and we were ensconced with the music. The wife invited me to stay for dinner, and she made a thin, Jamaican-style steak, which, all these years later, you can't forget.

Back at home, my then-girlfriend, KJ, and I were listening to Savatage's Wake Of Magellan. Interestingly, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (which came from Savatage) had greater success, with The Christmas Attic. We walked over to Japantown, and cleared our minds, about internal bi-wire speaker cables. For the Totem M1S, we would also use Cardas Cross, Tara Labs RSC Prime 1800, and Kimber Bi-Focal XL. Yeah, yeah, the latter cost as much as the M1S itself. But what a match! You felt like you were getting the most out of the M1S. Nothing was missing, and when you put on your audiophile hat, you did not think or worry about the back end.

I would move across the Bay, to a home with a medium-sized living room. While the M1S was okay, the larger Element Fire was a better match. As long as you supply appropriate stands, the Element Fire just sits there, and lets you know what's going on upstream. You hear everything, including how you bi-wire.

Assuming you are using high-quality sources and amplification, the Element Fire reveals what happens, when we scroll through, for example, XLO's internal bi-wire Limited Edition, Signature 3-5.4, and that old Ultra 12BW. As good as the latter is, it glosses over micro detail, can't reproduce all of the air and breath, and reduces see-through transparency.

Audiophiles like to change gear, so when they write to me, they indicate that they don't want to commit to an expensive internal bi-wire cable. So they inquire about the combination of a conventional stereo speaker cable, plus a bi-wire jumper. Yeah, yeah, the Tara Labs The One CX ($5400) plus Prime M1 Speaker Link ($795) cost more than the Element Fire itself. The One CX is a shotgun (one run each for positive and negative), so that's a lot of cable to wrestle with. And if you need to bi-wire, are you really going to get two pairs of The One CX?! Anyway, the Element Fire reveals all of the resolution The One CX (in the photo above, it goes to the Element Fire's tweeter posts) can dish out.

"Goddammit Lummy," emailed an Inmate, "I've seen you review the Nordost Valhalla and XLO LE" bi-wire jumpers, which cost over $2000. "The Prime M1 might seem cheap compared to these, but $800 is more than most people's speaker cable. Hell, $800 is a lot for the speakers themselves!"

The Nordost Valhalla and XLO LE bi-wire jumpers certainly have strong personalities. But if you are judging by simply passing signal from post to post, the Tara Labs Prime M1 Speaker Links are better. That makes them one of my favorites. Here, you can do some experimentation. Try the negative speaker lead going to the tweeter, while the positive leg goes to the woofer. And vice versa.

Since the woofer covers a wider audible range, you might prefer that the speaker cable goes first to the woofer, which is opposite that of the M1S. The point is, the Element Fire is neutral, merely telling it like it is. Some audiophiles do not like this. If you have an Element Fire and a regular stereo cable, be sure to take your time, and play around with the jumpering configurations.

-Lummy The Loch Monster


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