The most prominent characteristic of the Tribe III's measurements is a wide swallow from 150 Hz to 1.3 kHz that is 6 dB down at its deepest point. When measured in a horizontal array, it delivered similar results, albeit with an additional narrow 5 dB notch centered at 3.8 kHz. The Tribe I's measured frequency response proved to be nearly identical to the vertically arrayed Tribe III.
Storm displayed limited low-frequency dynamic capability, and its response has nowhere near the higher frequency bandwidth suggested by the crossover frequency dial. Also, the sub's protective circuitry announces itself with both a 'clank' and an obvious lowering of loudness when driven into overload. However, SPL capability is reasonably well balanced over the Storm's bandwidth. - Tom Nousaine
MUSIC & MOVIE PERFORMANCE
Unlike most speakers that you mount on or in a wall, the Tribe IIIs managed to create a wide and well-defined soundstage, delivering a healthy dose of apparent depth with the right music. The title track from Bruce Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad is a good example. Bruce's vocal really jumped to life when I listened to this excellent, mostly acoustic recording. In addition, Garry Tallent's plummeting bass line, drummer Gary Mallaber's subtle brushwork, and the distinctive twang of Marty Rifkin's Dobro all sounded clear and transparent. The system's overall balance was warm and inviting, and once relative levels were properly tweaked, the blend between the Tribe speakers and the Storm subwoofer was practically seamless. The Storm acquitted itself well overall, remaining tuneful and tight while adding a welcome measure of heft.
Next up, I loaded the DVD-Audio version of the Beatles' Love, a remarkable disc that brings fresh insight to recordings that most people think they know like the back of their hand. "Get Back" opens with a snippet of the drum solo from Abbey Road's "The End," and then launches into a great surround mix. Billy Preston's Fender Rhodes piano sounded particularly rich, with none of the clanginess you sometimes hear from speakers that fall on the bright side of neutral. Listening to this track also clearly highlighted the close timbral match between the Tribe III speakers and the smaller Tribe I pair.
Totem built its reputation by creating speakers for music lovers, so I was eager to see how well these diminutive on-walls would hold up under the all-out assault of a dynamic movie soundtrack. The airport fuel-tanker fight scene from Casino Royale (2006) is especially demanding, with gunshots, explosions, vehicle crashes, and a jetliner go-around keeping the sound mix loud and busy.
I first started watching Casino Royale using a 65-watt-per-channel Outlaw Audio 1070 receiver but quickly switched it out for the more powerful Integra DTR-8.8. Continuing with the movie, I was truly impressed by just how loud the Totems could go without apparent distress. At one point, I attempted to push their limits, achieving 105-dB peaks from 14 feet away before backing the volume down to avoid hearing damage. (For those not fully up to speed with SPL readings, that's really, really loud.) But even at those silly levels, the Totems' slightly warmish sound kept things from becoming painful. At a more reasonable volume, the sound remained dynamic and engaging, with the Storm sub offering plenty of impact, even if it couldn't quite match the ultimate air-moving abilities you get with some larger models.
As I noted when listening to surround music, the mixed Tribe models showed an ability with movies to blend as if they were five completely identical speakers, with pans sounding seamless across the front three channels and from front to back. Vince Bruzzese's design for the Tribes keeps all three drivers in each speaker grouped closely together, so the sound remains consistent whether they're positioned vertically or horizontally. This attention to detail proved especially beneficial when listening to dialogue over the Tribe III that I used as a center speaker, which remained full and clear even when I listened from well off axis.
With its Tribe on-wall system, Totem manages to elicit big sound from inconspicuous speakers. The Tribes can disappear into a room, keeping all but the most persnickety homeowners placated. Yet their big and inviting sound and excellent imaging capabilities are well suited to movie soundtracks and music alike.
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