Little Speakers Rokk and Roll
by Jim Bray
samples for this column were provided by K&W
Audio of Calgary, Alberta.
Remember pet rocks?
Well I've just played with a pet Rokk that actually returns some tangible
benefit to its owner.
The Rokk in question
is a $900/pair loudspeaker that gives a lovely aural experience from a
small and attractive package.
Montreal's Totem Acoustics,
maker of the Rokk, is the corporate child of designer Vincent Bruzzese,
a man who marches to his own drummer. Bruzzese designs and tests his speakers
unconventionally - he dares to use his own ears rather than relying totally
on test labs and technical measurements.
I like this. While
some might laugh at his approach, I can't fault someone who actually listens
to his speakers in the real world. After all, that's where they're going
to be used!
Besides, I've participated
in listening tests in controlled environments and, though I have nothing
against them, they're more "scientific" experiences than they are musical.
When I want to get a feel for how a speaker sounds, there's no better
place than in my own home theater: I know the environment, the best places
to sit, and I'm familiar with its many idiosyncrasies.
This is why you should
always try speakers at home before you buy them
So having heard the
Rokks at my local dealer's, and listened to their virtues being extolled
with gusto, I brought them home for a real listen.
Rokk is the second
from the bottom of Totem's line. The two-way (they contain a woofer and
a tweeter only, no midrange) ported speaker's cabinet measures 15 x 6.5
x 9.75 inches and weighs 11 pounds. The pair I tested came with optional
heavy duty stands that raised them nearly two feet off the floor.
Totem recommends the
Rokks be placed two to three feet from your listening room's side walls
and at least a foot away from the back wall. You can move them as far
away from the rear wall as you want, though Totem says you should increase
their toe in (angling the faces a bit toward each other) the farther into
the room you bring them.
encouraged here, and I was pleased to comply. I ended up putting them
back in their original recommended positions, about a foot from the back
wall, because they sounded fine there and didn't get in anyone's way.
Rokk's combined midrange/woofer
is a very small 4 ½ inches in diameter, yet it puts out a surprising
amount of good, clean bass. The tweeter is a one inch titanium "dome"
type. The rear panel includes two sets of gold-plated terminals connected
by removable jumpers (you can separate the terminals and bi-wire the speakers)
and the bass port.
Despite there being
no speaker grilles (in fact, there's no logo or other sign of pedigree
except for a small sticker on the back), the mahogany box - which is also
available in black ash - is very handsome.
You'd have to be some
kind of nut - or overly concerned with your image - to buy a speaker based
on its looks, of course. My reference speakers are just about the ugliest
I've seen, but I'll keep replacing blown woofers until I can't get parts
any more rather than trade them in.
Fortunately, the Rokks
come through where it counts: they sounded wonderful with any type of
music I tried.
They positively disappear,
creating a wide and spacious soundstage that has to be heard to be appreciated.
If you close your eyes, you'll forget about the dinky little woofer and
imagine that you're listening to a speaker that's much larger than it
You'll also imagine
that the rear wall of your listening room has been moved back substantially
to make room for all those musicians and their equipment.
Unfortunately, I didn't
think the Rokks really cut it when it came to home theater duties. While
they sound great with music, they aren't nearly as good with helicopters,
explosions, laser beams, and the like. They'd probably be fine if you
paired them with a good, powered subwoofer (which, alas, I didn't try
with the Rokks), but on their own they weren't up to snuff.
That's okay in the
grand scheme of things, though, because not everyone wants a bone rattling
home theater speaker. Many people just want a wonderfully warm musical
experience, and that's the market at which Totem's Rokks are clearly aimed
Jim Bray's technology
columns are distributed by Creators
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