Totem Bison Tower Floorstanding Speakers Reviewed

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The market for floorstanding audiophile speakers in the $2,000 dollar range is incredibly diverse, and quite competitive. You can find a pair of speakers in nearly any color, as well as many different shapes and sizes, at this price range. The Bison Tower speakers from Totem enter this market segment as something a bit different from their competition. These speakers are what I think of as compact ported two-way floorstanding speakers ($3,000 per pair – price updated). They are a mere 34 inches tall, with the claws (what Totem calls the feet for the speaker) installed. They are only 9.5 inches deep with the grille on. They feature a 1.3-inch laser-etched textile soft dome tweeter and a 5.25-inch copper clad voice coil woofer. These speakers cross over at 2.5 kHz and they are rated at a modest 88dB efficient. The Totem Bisons have “tower” in their name, but they won’t tower over much in your room, which is a big part of their appeal in the marketplace today. With that said, let’s take a look at how well these speakers perform. Even if they aren’t large speakers, they could still be a great fit for medium to small-sized listening spaces. Are they worth the money and some valuable real estate in your listening room? That’s what we are here to find out. 

Totem's Bison Floorstanding speaker installed in an artful audiophile listening room.
Totem’s Bison Floorstanding speaker installed in an artful audiophile listening room.

What Makes the Totem Bison Tower Loudspeakers Special?

  • The Totem Bison Towers are easy to move around to get them in just the right spot to perform best in your room. With the Totem Bison Tower’s size and weight, (Totem doesn’t list the weight, but I would guess they are around 25 pounds each), they are very easy to maneuver so that you can make the adjustments you need to get the imaging just right in your room. Their weight also goes a long way toward making it easy to install the claw feet as well. These are things you don’t always think about, but after trying to install the feet or outriggers (as other speaker companies call them) on speakers that weight closer to 100 pounds, you can certainly appreciate the value of a speaker that is somewhat easy to move around.
  • The Bison Totem Tower Speakers sound very musical from the first note. These speakers provide an imaging that is able to create a very musical sound. It was easy to feel like the music was being played, live, right there in front of you. Even with more electronic music, it was easy to feel like the music was in the room with you; you didn’t need to lean into it or use your imagination. 
  • The bass is better than you would expect for a speaker of the Totem Bison’s size. When I read about a rated 30 Hz on the spec sheet as the low end of the frequency response for these speakers, I was skeptical. However, once I broke the speakers in, you could really notice the bass. For a two-way speaker, that is saying something, especially one that comes in such a compact form factor.

Why Should You Care About the Totem Bison Tower Speakers?

As an audiophile, few things are as important as finding the right speakers for your room. Bisons provide you with a physically smaller option, without going as large as most floorstanding speakers in this category get, and without going as small as a bookshelf speaker. Now the size is a bit closer to a bookshelf, but I know I like having my speakers be able to sit on the floor, especially with younger kids at home, who are still clumsy enough to accidently bump into speaker stands and knock them over. 

The Totem Bison floorstanding speakers make a pretty big sound from a small floorstanding speaker.
The Totem Bison floorstanding speakers make a pretty big sound from a small floorstanding speaker.

Some Things You Might Not Like About the Totem Bison Tower Speakers

  • The Bison Totem Tower Speakers feet are not adjustable. The “claws” that come with the Bison Totem are not adjustable. If your floor isn’t completely level, these speakers might not be right for you, as you won’t be able to make those small adjustments. You can try to shim them like a standalone table at a Greek diner, but that isn’t the most elegant option for an audiophile speaker installed on a harder flooring surface. On carpets, things are easy to get perfect when it comes to installing and leveling your speakers with the Bisons. 
  • The diminutive size of these speakers won’t be for every room. While these speakers will work well in small and medium-sized rooms, they won’t be a great fit for larger rooms that simply need more drivers to energize the listening space. Adding a mid-level, audiophile-grade subwoofer could help this if you need a smaller-height speaker in a room that needs some serious bass reinforcement, too. 
  • The sound of the Totem Bison Tower speakers may vary, based on your personal height.One thing I noticed with these speakers is that they sound significantly better from the listening position then when listening standing up. I suspect biggest reason for this is that the placement of the tweeter and the woofer are both at the top of the top of the speaker box. Now, I’m not a tall person by modern standards as I’m five foot inches tall. When I am sitting down, my ears are well-aligned to the level of the speakers. However, I could imagine someone who was six foot three might find themselves with a different experience when they sat down, as their ears are going to be much higher. This effect was also noticeable simply by just standing up. All of this is to say, if you’re tall, or you’re someone who struggles to sit still, these speakers might not be ideal for you.
The Totem Bison speakers bring audiophile sound to tough-to-fit-speakers type living spaces.
The Totem Bison speakers bring audiophile sound to tough-to-fit-speakers type living spaces.

Listening to the Totem Bison Tower Speakers…

I performed my testing with these speakers with the HIFI Rose RS520 integrated amplifier (review pending) as both an amplifier and a streamer, as well as with an Anthem STR preamp, Anthem MCA 225 GEN 2 class AB amplifier and Music Hall cd25.3 CD Player (click to read the reviews).

One of the test tracks I used was “National Anthem” by Radiohead from their seminal album Kid A.  If you’re not familiar with the history of Radiohead, Kid A marked a seismic change in their music. Prior to this album, the band had largely been a traditional five-piece group, including guitars, bass, drums and a singer. Kid A changed that, and while having all of those four things, it added a heavy dose of electronics into their newfound sound. Now, I don’t think anyone will confuse this music with casual listening; the only way to enjoy this album is with some serious, sit-down audiophile listening. The Totem Bison Tower definitely rewarded that serious listening session. While the “National Anthem” track can sound like utter audio chaos on less refined transducers, the Totem Bisons sounded quite articulate, even when pushed with some higher volumes. It was easy to hear each and every sound, allowing you to place them with ease as well. This is always a fun track for dedicated listening, and the Totem Bison tower speakers handled the track without issue.

“National Anthem” by Radiohead

The next track I used was Jóhann Jóhannsson’s “Flight From the City” from his 2016 album Orphée.  Jóhansson is an Icelandic composer, who is famous for his work composing scores for films, including an Academy Award nomination for his work on the Denis Villeneuve film Arrival. This is a largely piano-oriented track, and as you know the piano can be a difficult instrument to reproduce accurately because of its dynamics. In my listening, the Totem Bisons were able to handle the dynamics of this track, and the piano sounded accurate to my ear. The dynamics of this track, as it starts slow and builds toward a crescendo, were fantastic. The crossover never seemed to have any issues passing the signal up and down its chain, and it led to a very pleasurable listening experience. 

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s “Flight From the City”

Finally, the last track I used is one that is quickly becoming one of my favorites for testing, and that is Eric Clapton’s “Nobody Knowns You When You’re Down and Out” from his The Lady In the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions. In many ways, you could think of this as Clapton redoing his famous MTV Unplugged album 20 years later, but this time with a full band. If you haven’t heard them, these recordings are fantastic and, within the first 10 seconds of the track, you get to hear the bass guitar sounding vibrant yet taut, along with Clapton’s vintage acoustic guitar and the piano dancing in air in conjunction. The Totem Bison Tower speakers delivered on all aspects of this newly-released audiophile classic recording. The bass is clear and noticeable, the acoustic guitar sounded natural, not too sweet, and the piano sounded realistic. All of this while you could easily close your eyes and imagine the musicians are right there in front of you. Again, a fantastic recording with one of the legendary guitar players of our time.

Eric Clapton’s “Nobody Knowns You When You’re Down and Out”

Will Totem Bison Tower Speakers Retain Much Resale Value?

I would be surprised if these speakers didn’t hold a good portion of their value over time. Totem is a well-known audiophile brand, and these are quality speakers. With that said, though, I couldn’t find a single pair of them for sale on the resale market. This bodes well for anyone looking to sell them today. 

The Totem Bison Loudspeakers installed in Andrew Dewhirst's listening room.
The Totem Bison Loudspeakers installed in Andrew Dewhirst’s listening room.

Who is the Competition for the Totem Bison Tower Speakers?

The PSB Alpha T20s ($850 buy at Crutchfield) are very similar in size to the Bison Totem Towers (32.5 inches tall), thus they are smaller audiophile floorstanding speakers.  I enjoyed my time with these speakers, but they certainly don’t deliver the bass that you get from the Totem Bison tower speakers. Having said this, though, with the difference in price, you could add a pretty high-powered subwoofer to make up the price difference.

The Paradigm Premier 700Fs ($1,799 per pair – buy at Crutchfield) present another interesting value proposition. They are physically bigger speakers, and they offer more drivers. I still feel like the Totem Bisons, even in the smaller form factor, deliver more bass output, but I think they are both speakers that are very musical, and the difference in price allows you to make other upgrades in your system if you’re working with a tight budget.

The Monitor Audio Silver 300 7G ($2,850 per pair – read the review) speakers fall right in the price range of the Bison Totem Tower speakers. The Silver 300 7G featured (two) six-inch woofers, a one-inch tweeter and a three-inch midrange driver. With this you have fuller-featured tower speakers in a larger form factor than the Bison Totem, mind you, for nearly the same price. 

Take a look at the rear port and binding posts on the rear of the Totem Bison audiophile loudspeakers.
Take a look at the rear port and binding posts on the rear of the Totem Bison audiophile loudspeakers.

Final Thoughts on the Totem Bison Tower Speakers

Totem has made a uniquely appealing set of floorstanding speakers with the Bison. They sound great, and there is certainly more than meets the eye with their physical size and form factor. The person who will end up buying these speakers is looking for a specific form factor, and is willing to spend a little bit extra to get there, as there are other (often larger) musical speakers that can be had for a little less money, but they often don’t deliver on the level of refinement that the Totems do. 

At risk of potentially overstating the obvious, there is a lot of stout competition in the $3,000-per-pair floorstanding loudspeaker space. Some people who are spending that amount will want something that is bigger, but I would challenge anyone who is looking to buy in that space to try to audition a pair of these speakers if they reasonably can. Keep in mind that they do have some break-in time. They sounded much different after a month of listening than they did when I first took them out of the box. Out of the box, they sound great and really deliver sound that I think many audiophiles will be very satisfied to have as part of their system for a long time to come. 

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Ted hahn

Could you comment on the Bison twin tower speakers ND CONPARE both

Jerry Del Colliano


Daniel Ardeline

Hello Andrew: I believe some of the things you had experienced are due to Totem’s use of first order crossovers; a wide soundstage, good imaging and the sound changing greatly as you change your listening position. There aren’t any coils in the network. I had learned a lot from Brent Butterworth’s article in 2015 on first order crossovers. I had met Vince at AXPONA, but I don’t think they had brought Bisons. They had Element Fires playing the whole time.

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