Ordinary isn't a word normally associated with high-end kit. Yet outwardly, it suits Totem's Mani 2 perfectly: at first glance, there's little about them to suggest anything special, even though these speakers have been in production for two decades with just gentle tweaking.
Dig deeper, and there's far more to these two-way ported standmounters than is initially apparent. The solid cabinet is made from variable density MDF, with the denser layers sitting closer to the exterior.
This helps control resonances, leading to a cleaner sound. Each enclosure's corners are mitre-locked too, which allows for greater glue area, improving strength.
The Mani-2's other stand-out feature is its use of two mid/bass drivers. These are mounted one behind the other, and work in tandem. In theory, this allows a halving of cabinet size without loss of bass output.
Twin drivers make fine bassIt also reduces sound coming through the cone from inside the cabinet. As for materials, a 25mm metal dome tweeter and polypropylene mid/bass don't sound particularly impressive next to exotica such as diamond, beryllium or kevlar found in rival designs, but then every material is a compromise of one sort or another.
More after the break
Besides, drive-unit integration here is simply superb. Vocals are articulate and brim with emotion when required.
Whether you listen to the immaculately recorded Sanctus on the Opus 3 label or Alicia Keys' The Element of Freedom, the Mani-2s deliver midrange with top-class agility and naturalness: the sound really is spellbinding.
Despite being relatively small, the Totems are capable of stupendous scale too, lacking nothing in authority even compared with rival floorstanders.
That twin-driver arrangement is clearly worth the trouble: these speakers produce arguably the deepest, most powerful bass we've heard from standmounters.
Top-class timing and dynamicsPlay Massive Attack's Heligoland and the Mani-2s spit out the lows with venom: usually the downside to such extension and power is a loss of agility, but not here. The Totem's timing and dynamics are top-class too: they also convey the drama of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring brilliantly.
Issues? You'll need a powerhouse amp, plus plenty of room and a pair of heavy stands. The drive unit array means they don't like being pushed too hard: at a certain volume level the drivers say ‘go no further'.
Finally, you should use refined electronics, or you'll provoke some edge from the tweeters.
So, the Totems aren't exactly perfect. No matter: when it comes to outright enjoyment, we can't think of any rival speakers we prefer for this money.