Out of the north comes Thunder! As there is no Rainmaker subwoofer available
at this time, Totem sent the hearty Thunder. All Totem lines are available
in any of the finishes, and the subwoofer was perfectly matched in mahogany. Totem
did not send along the grilles which are available separately. Sitting on
three solid rigid foam feet, Thunder is nicely sized at about 16" high, 18"
deep, and 12" across. Itís hard not to spin this unit without seeing a
10" driver, because it has three. Thunder sports a front firing active driver, and
two passive radiators on the sides. All are "variable shaped non resonant"
metal cones with a carbon graphite conical dust cap.
It has a 500 watt amplifier and in-room frequency response is specified at
20 Hz to 200 Hz. On the rear youíll find a volume control, line level connections
including one pair of RCA inputs, one pair unfiltered, and a pair of high-pass
line-level outputs for satellites.
Youíll also have control over phase and frequency, and the crossover can be disabled
to allow the processor to have a say. Lastly, there is an auto on/off switch. Thunder
will automatically detect a signal, and a pretty bright blue LED lights up
Set-up and Listening
Set-up for me is straightforward: I have a 12' wide room, about 16' deep
with 8' ceilings. The Rainmakers center was placed directly on my
television, about 40" off the floor. The front right and left units were
placed about 9' apart, approximately 18" off the sidewall, and a full 2'
from the rear. Surrounds were set about 12' back, while the fronts were up against
the wall. On their stands, the monitorís horizontal sweet spot was about
32" - 36" from the floor.
A word about aesthetics: On more than one occasion, I was complimented on
the appearance of the Rainmakers set-up as people came through our living
room. This has never happened as much as it has with the Totem package. As I
would tell them that they were review units and would be returned, the
reaction was always, "Thatís too bad, they look so good in here".
At my disposal, I was fortunate to use the Parasound 7100 controller/5250
power amplifier, and also the Integra DTR-10.5 receiver (future review). For
some of the two-channel-listening, I also paired the Rainmakers with the
remarkable Onix integrated tube amplifier, a knock-out combination.
Realizing the price-point Totem was after, I also spent some time with the
package running off my own Denon AVR-3805 receiver. All cabling, speaker, and
interconnects were from Ethereal.
I do strongly recommend the best possible amplifier for the sound
these speakers are capable of delivering. I can only say this from my
experience running them from a variety of sources.
Speaker break-in is very important at Totem; in fact their website lists all
their products and the recommended break-in time, some as long as 250 and
300 hours. You may or may not subscribe to this theory, but I respectfully
allowed the 100 hour minimum Totem recommends for Rainmakers before I
conducted a serious listening evaluation.
I hoped that what I heard from the Rainmakers several times over the last
year, including the NY Shows and CES, would be recaptured in my own home.
Speaking to Vince Bruzzese during auditions, I heard him repeat words
like timing, snap, and rhythm.
What I came
away from their demonstrations was a feeling of clean, articulate imaging, rich tones,
lightness and air.
Do also keep in mind, the new Rainmaker center originated the review, and
much of my reference will deal with this particular aspect of the 5.1
system. But as all speaker systems are founded on two-channel sources, I could not help
but spend up front time with the rangy Rainmakers bookshelf speakers.
Although there is some sense that the Rainmakers "talk to you" almost
intimately, you never feel the speakers have a narrow listening field; on
the contrary a nice broad soundstage was the immediate impression.
Feeling nostalgic for some Canadian music content (nope not Celine, please),
considering the origins of Totem (ok, this was for fun), I knew Gordon
Lightfoot was soon to be playing in my area. His folksy rustic style and
raspy voice along with some fine guitar playing, the Rainmakers were loyal
to his music. By that I mean, very nicely detailed, neutral imaging and
reproduction. You knew I was going to say it: "Sundown" was exhibited with
wonderful pace and richness. (Iíll keep April Wine and The Guess Who on the
However, in keeping with my Canadian theme, into the CD tray went Diana Krall. The opening track on her sweetly recorded CD,
The Look of love,
"SíWonderful" was presented softly and forward through the Rainmakers.
Soundstage was large and open. I felt the Totem was a perfect match for her
Rainmakers have influenced me enough to enjoy music I hadnít previously
appreciated. Having heard a track from Bonnie Raittís new CD Souls Alike,
I was curious to know how it would sound on the Rainmakers. Track 8 "I Donít
Want Anything to Change", a cross-country/pop song was sultry and rich. At
least I give Totem credit for that description. The Rainmakers portrayed the
song less as a studio recording and more as a live performance.
I have more test CD material than I care to admit, one of which is the Rives
Audio Test CD 2. It includes partial tracks from Mapleshade and track 72,
John Cocuzziís jazzy New Orleans style recording "Slipped Disc", challenged
the Rainmakers with horns, percussions and wonderful xylophone playing. I
heard Vinceís voice repeating, timing and rhythm, and I agreed with him. Track
73 with a deep heavy stand-up base solo by Euforia, called "Allegra" forced
the Rainmakers to reach down, and I found the bass extension almost but not
quite there. I looked over to the idol Thunder sub, but said to myself, not
No matter your musical taste, Paul Simonís Graceland should be in your CD
collection. I was hoping that someday Graceland might find its way onto
multi-channel, I donít care which, DVD-Audio or SACD, but it never came.
Regardless, itís a CD that is simply soulful, and it sounded outstanding
played back on the Rainmakers. "Homeless" performed acapella, truly brings
out the width and depth of the possible from the Rainmakers: soft, sweet, and
Having lavished praise enough for the Rainmaker monitors, I did feel them a
bit lacking in bass extension. I then set up my receiver for a 2.1 playback
and engaged Thunder, the subwoofer. I then proceeded to replay the same CDs
and immediately appreciated the deeper bass. Donít get me wrong, the
Rainmakers with or without the subwoofer were extremely pleasurable.
Multi-channel audio was no less satisfying. In fact I understate the beauty
and delicate performance I heard while playing back Lyle Lovettís DTS Joshua
Judges Ruth. The last track "She Makes Me Feel Good" engaged the surrounds
nicely for backup vocals, and harmonies. All four Rainmaker monitors engaged is
double the fun and enjoyment.
Most multi-channel music doesnít take advantage of the center channel, so
therefore I turned to DVD to explore the performance possible of the
The Fifth Element is still an excellent reference DVD and the operatic Diva
scene 21 is mesmerizing and sublime on the Rainmaker center channel. This
scene is demanding on the center channel, as it not only produces the singing
but also the overlaid dialogue and fight sequences. The Divaís voice was
portrayed in an elegant and natural way.
For the entire Rainmaker setup, the DTS version of Master and Commander is
bass-intensive. Canon fire and the subsequent shattering of the shipís wood
hull were handled smoothly with great detail. The musical duets by the
Captain and the Doctor were surprisingly sweet.
Always fun to watch, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with its epic
soundtrack by John Williams is a great DVD. The scene where Indiana disguises himself as a
Scottish Lord takes place in the entry hall of the castle; the center
channel subtly conveyed the slight echo heard from the hard stone walls.
Iím not a big fan of The Chronicles of Riddick, but I will admit it has some
terrific surround sound and visual effects. The center channel Rainmaker
shone with the voices, presenting them all with clarity and precision,
never muddy. Doors slammed with authority, while cages rattled as metal
does. The initial attack of the Necromongers onto the city brought Thunder
to life with explosions and enormous ships landing, right in my living room.
As Iíve stated, the initial intent for the review was to explore the addition
of the center channel to the Rainmaker line. I soon discovered an
appreciation for the entire package, from stands on up. Violins were warm and
woodsy, acoustic guitars were sweet and full, brassy instruments were throaty,
and vocals both male and female deep and natural.
The Rainmakers never disappeared for me, something you might think contrary
to good speakers. However, I say it because I feel the Rainmaker speakers make
their presence felt, like a cello or a piano on stage.
The Totem Rainmakers (and Thunder sub) achieve a tonal balance and richness I
admit I rarely hear in speakers. Itís that tangible tonal quality that Totem
Acoustic has accomplished that makes me say confidently, I highly recommend
the Rainmaker line.
- Piero Gabucci -