If you’re looking for a pair of quality bookshelf speakers you should definitely consider something from Totem’s compact line-up of speakers. Among its extensive speaker catalogue, Totem offers a wide selection of bookshelf speakers suitable for just about any budget. If you’d like to own a speaker that comes with a pride of ownership, Totem’s got you covered here as well – all of its speakers are made right here in Canada.
The Rainmaker, which we asked Totem to send us for this review, sits comfortably near the middle of the compact line-up and comes reasonably priced between $1100 and $1300, depending on the finish. This isn’t a new model but rather a timeless speaker that was introduced a few years back and is currently one of Totem’s most popular bookshelf models. So what makes the Rainmaker tick?
The Rainmaker is a two-way, rear-ported speaker that combines a 5.5-inch (140 mm) woofer with a 1-inch (25 mm) aluminium, chambered tweeter. This 4 ohm speaker has a frequency response rated from 42 Hz to 24 kHz (+/- 3 dB) and a sensitivity of 87.5 dB/W/m. Its crossover is dialed in at 2.3 kHz, second order. Totem recommends that an amplifier of 30 to 100 watts be used with the Rainmaker. The rear of the speaker is equipped with a twin pair of gold-plated terminals that have a factory-installed jumper between them. Removal of the jumper will allow for the speaker to be bi-wired for improved performance.
Like all Totem speakers, the Rainmaker has a simple and pleasant aesthetic design that is available in five veneers: Maple, Black Ash, Mahogany, Cherry, plus a new White finish. My review unit came in a beautiful, rich Mahogany finish, priced at $1100. The overall fit and finish of the cabinets, drivers and all other components appears to be first class. If you’re interested, Totem will be happy to sell you a speaker stand, the Totem T4S, that’s perfectly matched for the Rainmaker for an extra $660 for a pair.
I set up the Rainmaker speakers with my reference Classé Audio system – the CP-500 preamplifier and CA-2100 amplifier. Playback was provided by an ARCAM DiVA CD73 CD player and my trusty Goldring GR1.2 turntable. Totem recommends for these speakers to be placed 1 to 3 feet from the back wall and 4 to 8 feet apart from each other. I placed my review pair 1 foot from the wall, with 7 feet between them. I auditioned the speakers with a variety of musical offerings ranging from alternative rock to classic symphonies.
The Rainmaker speakers were easily able to resolve the complex layers of sounds on Nine Inch Nails’ latest album, The Slip, on vinyl. The layers weren’t just mashed together into noise like they can be by a lesser speaker, instead each layer such as Trent Reznor’s voice, drums, piano and various audio effects were clearly distinguishable. I listened to the first three tracks at a moderate volume and then turned it up for Discipline. I was very pleased with the mid to lower frequency performance of the Rainmaker speakers – these bookshelves belted out surprisingly low notes. The bass line, halfway through this track, was reproduced with great articulation and enough power to actually make me feel the bass notes. With tracks like “Every day is exactly the same” and “Right where it belongs” from the With Teeth album, the Rainmakers were capable of creating a powerful, emotionally dark atmosphere in my room. Not too shabby for a pair of small bookshelves!
Then, I proceeded to explore our solar system with Holst “The Planets” performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta. “Mars, the Bringer of War” indeed sounded like a musical war, with powerful drums and fast, aggressive passages. Once again, the bass did not disappoint from the Rainmakers nor did the speakers ever exhibit any strain in the mid to high frequencies. The speakers communicated the dramatic dynamics of this track very well. My blood pressure instantly shot up but a few minutes later was brought back to the norm thanks to the romantic sound of “Venus, the Bringer of Peace”. “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity”, my favourite part of this voyage through the solar system, sounded wonderful on the Rainmaker speakers – with pleasing highs and great detail resolution. The more I listened to the Rainmakers, the more it became obvious that they were able to reproduce every instrument in the orchestra with realness and incredible clarity. During the writing of this review, a friend invited me to see the Toronto Symphony Orchestra perform “The Planets”, conducted by Peter Oundjian, which gave me the opportunity to compare the live performance to what I was hearing in my sound room the very next day. The performance of the evening was recorded live and should be available on the TSO label by the time you read this – I will definitely be picking up a copy. With the audio system turned up to about the same level as the live performance, the performance in my room sounded convincingly real. The Rainmaker speakers produced a soundstage with great depth and width. With my eyes closed, I was able to visualize the locations of the various sections of the orchestra within the soundstage. The sound presentation was completely transparent without a hint of any colouration.
The Rainmaker speakers spent time at my house during the winter holidays so it was only appropriate that I also listened to The Nutcracker Favourite Selections performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, conducted by Erich Kunzel. These classical pieces were rendered by the Rainmakers with an amazingly high level of detail in the mid to high frequencies, yet never sounded harsh. “Variation II: Dance of the Prince and the Sugar-Plum Fairy” created a magical atmosphere in my listening room. The soft ringing of xylophone bars, triangles and bells sounded perfectly crisp and decayed naturally. A couple of the louder, more aggressive pieces once again reminded me of the great dynamic capabilities of these speakers. The Rainmakers played with enough realism that when I dimmed the lights and turned up the volume, I caught myself on a couple of occasions conducting the orchestra with the remote in my hand. Does that ever happen to you when listening to classical music?
To evaluate the Rainmakers’ vocal performance, I listened to a few tracks from “Best of Audiophile Voices” volumes II and III on CD as well as Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” album on vinyl. There was no question that these speakers were capable of accurately reproducing both male and female voices, across all frequencies. Every performer’s voice sounded natural and uncoloured. At times, I felt like the performer was singing right in front of me.
At the end of my listening tests, I came back to my rock ‘n’ roll roots with Oasis’ latest disc, Dig Out Your Soul. Being a long-time Oasis fan, I listened to the entire album the first time I placed it in the CD player. The stand-out tracks, some of which will likely become singles on the radio, were easy to spot. It wasn’t long at all before I began singing along (to songs I didn’t even really know!) – I suppose a good speaker will make you do that. The Rainmakers presented this (clearly) Beatles influenced album with exactly the right manner: The louder tracks were packed with rock’n’roll lyrics combined with the enthusiasm of distorted guitars and the quiet tracks were filled with passionate riffs and heart-felt lyrics.
Totem’s Rainmaker bookshelf speakers have a lot to offer for their $1100 price. First, they are very versatile for a pair of bookshelves. From classical and vocal selections to rock and alternative, these speakers gave a very natural, detailed presentation of every recording that I listened to. Secondly, their build quality and finish is simply superb – you shouldn’t have any problems fitting the Rainmakers with any decor. And last, but not least, it makes us very proud that all of this is achieved right here in Canada. If you’re looking for a high quality, reasonably priced bookshelf speaker, Totem’s Rainmaker is one easy speaker to recommend.
Totem Rainmaker Bookshelf Speakers
Price: $1100 to $1300 CDN (depending on finish)