Totem Acoustic Bison Monitor loudspeaker review

A bijou bookshelf loudspeaker named after the largest land mammal in North America? This compact two-way piques Mark Craven's interest, especially after adding a sub...

Founded in the mid-'80s in Montreal, Canada, Totem Acoustic's product catalogue has grown from a single loudspeaker model to a far wider range encompassing architectural/custom install speakers, soundbars, wireless active designs and various conventional cabinet models. Its Bison Monitor, launched late last year, is one of the latter.

Outwardly, this 33cm-high bookshelf appears supremely simple, with a standard-looking two-way driver array of dome tweeter and bass/mid unit. The styling is also decidedly unflashy. However, the price tag of £2,495 hints that it aims to go a little better than a budget bookshelf.

The smallest model in Totem Acoustic's Bison series (there are floorstanders that are perhaps more worthy of the beastly name), the Monitor is described as a 'luxury bookshelf' offering 'enormous imaging' and 'remarkable bass response'. To that end, its custom-designed tweeter unit is a larger-than-normal 33mm, and backed by a neodymium magnet, while the 5in mineral-loaded polypropylene bass/mid is ported to the rear via a small aperture optimised to control vent speed and flow stability.

The cabinet itself, available in White Oak, Satin White and Black Ash finish, is not a conventional MDF type. Instead, Totem Acoustic has used Variable Density Fibreboard (VDF), which allows its walls to increase in thickness from inside to out to better control resonances, and its lock-mitred monocoque construction is horizontally braced.

As the Monitor name suggests, the speaker is good for near-field listening and installation in tight spaces, with the manufacturer recommending just a 15cm minimum clearance from boundary walls.

Open invitation
This speaker doesn't offer gut-busting bass, but its low-end delivery is always tuneful and still more potent than you might imagine given the cabinet and driver spec. Yet where the Bison Monitor excels – and where it lives up to Totem Acoustic's 'luxury bookshelf' moniker – is with its really rather exceptional imaging ability and mid-range resolution. It crafts a wide, open soundstage where elements are precisely placed, always natural-sounding and not fighting for space. And the speakers themselves become almost invisible, so your focus is on the sounds they're making, and not the units themselves.

This means the Bison Monitor is a very impressive compact speaker for music playback in a small/medium room. Fed everything from acoustic jazz to classical to the new, hard-hitting Metallica album 72 Seasons, it has the knack of making instruments and vocals sound immediate and life-like. It also gets into quite a groove with rhythm tracks and guitar riffs, bouncing along with plenty of energy so nothing ever sounds sterile.

Come on down This is all hi-fi talk, of course. Where I found the speaker particularly interesting is its potential use in a 2.1 system for TV and movie fun. Using KEF's ultra-compact KC62 subwoofer, I achieved an – admittedly somewhat expensive – bijou 2.1 setup that was a pleasure to kick back with; the KEF model filling in the low-end and the Bison Monitor getting to work higher up the frequency range. The speaker's superb imaging ability delivered solid, central dialogue, while the expansive nature of its soundstage resulted in an involving L-R spread; the zippy action of Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania (Disney+) wasn't lost in this two-channel guise.

Totem Acoustic's Bison Monitor is therefore a speaker of some talent, albeit rather blandly styled. Musos will enjoy its fine-touch performance, and if you add a sub you're in real business.

HCC Verdict: 4/5

Totem Acoustic Bison Monitor
Price: £2,495

We say: From Totem Acoustic's nondescript but well-made Bison Monitor cabinets comes a sound of remarkable finesse. Grab a listen!


DRIVERS: 1 x 33mm textile dome tweeter; 1 x 5in bass/mid ) ENCLOSURE: Yes. Rear-ported bass reflex FREQUENCY RESPONSE (CLAIMED): 40Hz-29.5kHz (+/-3dB) SENSITIVITY (CLAIMED): 87dB IMPEDANCE (CLAIMED): 8ohm (nominal) POWER HANDLING (CLAIMED): 150W DIMENSIONS: 333(h)x 171(w) x 243(d)mm WEIGHT: 5kg

FEATURES: White Oak, Satin White and Black Ash finishes; magnetic grilles supplied; Variable Density Fibreboard (VDF) cabinet construction

Totem Acoustic