● Design: 2-1/2 Way Ported
● Drivers: One 1" Dome Tweeter
and One 5.25" Woofer
● MFR: 39 Hz - 22 kHz
● Sensitivity: 88 dB
● Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
● Dimensions: 35" H x 6.5" W x
● Weight: 45 Pounds/Each
● MSRP: $1,595/Pair USA
Putting together a reference
audio system is really quite a challenge, and in fact it usually becomes a
lifelong pursuit. Establishing a budget or not, you begin assembling the
pieces that ultimately will either frustrate you to no end, or provide the
nirvana we all seek – or I'm sorry to say worse yet, somewhere in between.
Nothing more frustrating than listening to your system and thinking, hmmm, sounds ok.
Most begin with speakers, I think. I'm not sure I buy into how much
percentage each component should take of the pie. Somehow I would think you
research the best sound that appeals to your ears and let Visa® worry about
Others look to manufacturers that present signature work with
consistent quality of sound and build quality known for value.
I'm fortunate to be able to hear a lot of speakers during the year, not only
at home but at the various shows I attend. One of the earliest manufacturers
I discovered that I just seemed to connect with was from Totem Acoustic, and
no matter what show I attend, I'm drawn to their exhibit. Enough to request the
Rainmaker monitor I reviewed last year, and fortunately this year, to welcome
the Sttaf floor-standing speaker when it was offered.
Totem Acoustic, for those unfamiliar, is a Canadian-based speaker company begun
in 1987 by Vince Bruzzese near Montreal. Their early success came from the
very well received Model 1 monitor that is still available today in the
Signature line. Twenty years later, they've built onto the early development
with a complete line of speaker products.
Any dedicated two-channel audiophile would never voluntarily accept anything
other than a floor model for their reference system. Spending upwards of
$8,000 to $12,000 for a pair nowadays hardly raises eyebrows. So, when
presented with spending substantially less, say under $1,600 not each but
per pair, well, you raise your eyebrow with curiosity.
Sttaf is not even a new product; it's been around awhile. Yup, that's an
unusual spelling. Try typing it over and over again without typing Staff at
least once. Like all Totem Acoustic products, Sttaf is a name inspired by
Native American languages. Gimmick or not, the products speak for themselves.
Like most Totem speakers, Sttaf is compact and takes up very little floor
space - barely 6 ½" wide, 9 ½" deep, and standing 35" tall. The speaker is
attached to its base via a putty compound placed at the four corners. The
base is also equipped with carpet spikes.
The finish is typical of Totem - excellent veneering, in this case Cherry,
but also available in Maple, Mahogany, and Black Ash (Mahogany is shown in
the photo above). The edges are chamfered
on all eight exposed edges - no grilles either, please. Internally braced, the
cabinet is constructed of solid MDF, and I'm told it is also dampened with
The mandatory knock-around yielded solid yet interesting
results. The sound differs whether you knock on the back, front, or top – the
sound is rather chamber-like instead of dead, unlike most MDF enclosures.
The modestly scaled Sttaf has the tweeter and woofer mounted right at the
top. In a sitting position this places both drivers at approximately ear
level. The tweeter's flange measures almost the width of the modest woofer.
It's a typical two-way design with the crossover set at 2.5 kHz, 2nd order.
Complimenting the 1" textile dome tweeter is a 5 ½" "long throw"
Sttaf is rated at 8 ohms with a sensitivity of 88 dB, and it handles up to
100 watts. It also boasts deep enough bass to 39 Hz within typically
dB. I can attest to the fact that bass was never an issue.
On the rear you'll find a pair of holes – one approximately 2" in diameter
is a cabinet port placed about half way up, and the second, smaller one is placed
much lower, about 5" up, for filling with some form of ballast (lead
shot or sand). Up top, Sttaf
has a pair of binding posts and gold-plated bridges installed if you have no
interest in bi-wiring.
Having said all that, I set up the Totem pair approximately 6 feet apart with
very little toe-in and about 3 feet from the rear wall and side walls of a 12
foot wide space.
Playing with the placement will alter what you hear – bass
mostly affected. I actually found the bass a bit "fat" too close to the rear
wall but pulling it away cleaned up the chestiness.
Marrying the Sttaf with the right amplifier was a no-brainer for me, as I
predominately used an integrated tube amplifier from Onix rated at 55 WPC,
the UDP-1 Universal Player from McCormack and cables from Wireworld.
Totem Acoustic strongly recommends long term break-in for their speakers –
for Sttaf they suggest 60-80 hours. To say they sonically changed
dramatically after such a lengthy break-in would be an exaggeration. Simply,
they immediately impressed me, and I've enjoyed them from the start.
Totem has a distinct sonic character about them as I recalled auditioning
the Rainmaker monitors. And frankly why not – similar cabinetry, drivers,
damping, and overall construction tend to connect these speakers musically.
And that's just fine with me.
If you read the literature about Sttaf, Totem claims any music can be
enjoyed. What that really means is the speaker's ability to respond to speed
and timing, whether it's pounding bass in rock music or delicate airy
strings in classical. Frankly, I spent most of my time playing a significant
amount of jazz through the Sttaf, as I was influenced in my selection by the
Count Basie's swing CD Straight Ahead and the title track "Straight Ahead"
is so indicative of the range of the Sttaf speakers. Basie's piano is punchy
and vibrant while the upright bass is authoritative and full.
I was particularly interested in vocals, and the Sttaf shined with clean,
precise imaging. Dare I use my favorite female vocalist CDs these days from
Rene Marie who offers an amazing soulful performance in every song! I
especially enjoy her Serene Renegade CD. "Wishes" is a lovely track that
begins slowly and develops into a full rangy song. Sttaf was magical in
placing her voice, rendering it lively and natural. The instruments were
articulated with substance and delineation.
Perhaps the "tube" sound helps, but Sttaf introduces a bit of lushness –
instruments were tonally balanced and voices rich in character. Sting's CD
Songs from the Labyrinth is an unusual collection of music from the writings
of John Dowland. I'm still not sure what to make of this CD, as there is some
awkwardness between Sting's voice and the phrasing. However there is some
wonderful music played with string instruments. The Totem Sttaf transforms
you into an Elizabethan realm of delicate and simplistic music.
Edin Karamazov's lute playing is particularly enjoyable. Sttaf reproduced
each string plucked with a faithful timbre, (having said that, I'm not sure
when the last time I heard a lute played live). Regardless, Sttaf also
presented Sting's readings and slightly nasal singing with warmth and depth.
I'm a sucker for a rich midrange, and the Sttaf is silky and smooth. In fact,
besides the pleasant surprise of deep bass, the midrange sold me. Steely
Dan's Gaucho on SACD had me toe-tapping and head-bobbing to the wonderful
rhythms Sttaf exuded. The vocal harmonies were so spatial – soundstage was
well extended, and the voices hovered just inches back of the speaker's plane.
Moving off-axis, the sound varies slightly, only revealing a bit more detail
directly in front – but I had to do the close-my-eyes and move back and
forth several times to notice the minute difference.
It truly has been a distinct pleasure to have the Totem Acoustic Sttaf for
several months – it reminds me of why I do this, for the sheer pleasure of
fine audio. If I were putting a modestly priced two-channel system together
at this very time, I wouldn't say I'd consider Sttaf for my speakers, they
would be my speakers.
Piero Gabucci -
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