How much power do I really need for Totem Tribe Tower? LFD NCSE II, Sugden ANV-50 or?

Over the years I’ve had a number of Totem monitors and floor standers, as well as many others including Vandersteen 3A, Avalon Radian HC and Joseph Audio Perspective. But I now prefer smaller speakers. And I’ve owned a range of electronics, most recently Rogue M-180 monos (breat but too big and too hot) and, for a short time, a Lyngdorf TDAI-3400 (flat and lifeless - on a number of different speakers; just meh).

Earlier this year I picked up a used pair of Tribe Towers (89dB into 4 ohms), which I really, really love. They’re always musical, never fatiguing and have fantastic imaging and amazing bass in a small package. With them I’m currently running a PS Audio Directream DAC directly into PS Audio M700 monos. My room is pretty large at ~18’x20’. I’m looking to upgrade from the M700s. Budget is $4k max, used.

Totems have a reputation for really coming to life with powerful, high quality electronics. Manufacturer suggests min 50 w/ch. The M700s are fantastic for the money, easily drive the Tribe Towers and are never fatiguing. My Dad’s got a PS Audio BHK 250 amp that he’s going to be selling (and is in budget), so I gave it a try back to back with the M700s. Wow, the BHK is phenomenal, on a whole different level in every respect, not surprisingly, and a nice match for the TTs. My only misgiving is it’s BIG and HEAVY.

Dad also has a smaller secondary system with an LFD LE IV integrated (only 60 w/ch) so I tried it back to back with the M700s. The LFD is more musical, images better and has a deeper soundstage. On the downside, bass isn’t quite as deep or well controlled and it was a bit too forward, for me a no go.

Think I’d like to keep it simple and stick with a solid state or hybrid amp or integrated, preferably <10 years old. The LFD NCSE II and Sugden ANV-50 are appealing and within budget used but I’m concerned they won’t have enough juice given the size of my room. Ditto for Luxman integrateds. Also thinking about a more powerful Rogue Medusa hybrid amp, an older BAT VK-3000se hybrid integrated, Coda Csib and others.




I’ve owned several models of TOTEMs in prior systems, so I know their strengths, their limitations, and their warts very well.

TOTEMS are generally all comparatively power hogs that demand high-end / high-current amps to perform at their maximum. There are many prior posts here on AGON and CAM that repeat this common theme. Do your own research.


- Fuhgeddaboud about wpc ratings on your amplifier as leading clues as to eligible amp contenders ….it’s lotsa current / amps to make them open up fully. Any suggested 50wpc is a bare minimum threshold and wholly inadequate IMO to get them to,open up. You need headroom. I had to bi-amp a matched 100wpc high current power amp to its stablemate spec integrated amp to get my FORESTS perform at the maximum potential.Similarly it was a high-current 100wpc integrated even for the diminutive ARROs to strive to their max.

- Fuhgeddaboud tube or hybrid amps …it’s beefy output solid state for TOTEMs.

- Intuitively, also fuhgeddaboud any receiver …there isn’t one receiver that can do them proper justice because of their inferior and comparatively cheap power supplies packed into a unibox and are a major compromise.


- Simply ignore all upfront power ratings at 8ohms, and see what are the specs when the impedance drops to 4 ohms…. Full stop.

- The “standard” marketing specifications puffery might say the output power is 100 watts RMS at 8 ohms. Notice the power output (100 watts) is at a specified load (8 ohms).
- The above metric shows that for an ideal amp, halving the impedance doubles the power output

- if the power output nearly doubles-then you have a high current amp.



SIMAUDIO ( their better models are my fave .,,, SIMAUDIO and TOTEM are both in Montreal and are used to voice each other’s products)



All of the above are fine performers paired with TOTEM at the audiofests.

Thanks for the detailed response and insight.  I have read those earlier posts about good matches for Totems but was looking to expand the field of possibilities.

I'm aware of Simaudio, Ayre and Plinius's known synergy with Totems and that lots of power is a safe bet, though I do appreciate the minimalism of the LFD. I figured the NCSE would be leaps and bounds better and it has a little more power than my Dad's LE IV but it's still short. 

The hybrid PS Audio BHK 250 is a pretty phenomal amp with plenty of juice, is a great value and there's synergy with the TTT imo.  The Simaudio 600i v1 is on the radar screen; the 700i v1 is a bit out of my range. I understand Ayre is great but the AX-5 Twenty and VX-5 Twenty are too pricey for me and the AX-7e is too old and not powerful enough. Not sure the the older V5-xe would be competitive with the BHK 250.  My impression of Plinius is they're not well represented or widely known in N America and service could be a pain.

For a powerful hybrid integrated that's well respected, it seems the Coda CSiB should be on the list.  For a little less $ the hybrid Rogue Medusa has plenty of power.

Specifically for Totems what are your thoughts on an integrated vs running the DAC direct into the amp? I know the DAC direct into an amp vs including a preamp has been tossed around a lot and it seems the majority say go with a high quality preamp.  I don't want separates and my budget isn't huge so for me it's integrated or amp.  All the switching capabilities of the Simaudio, for example, are great but I don't really need them.

(1) Pass on any notion of a DAC plugged directly into a power amp.. It’s definitely either (a) Integrated amp or (b) discrete preamp/power amp combo .

(2) Regarding ANY hybrid integrated amp option: … choose wisely.

I WOULD NEVER buy one without a detailed multi-hour direct hands-on audition first. Do not get blinded by marketing puffery about “juice” and do NOT minimize the contributing factor that each of the contenders and pretenders has its own bespoke sonic signature, that is not insignificant.

Q why?

A, (1) Up here in Canada,, we see many more TOTEM products, They can sound lovely, but the darker side of them is that their criticisms revolve around them being characterized as “fatiguing” . TOTEMS continually form the largest cohort of Pre-owned listings on CANUCKAUDIOMART. The “fatiguing” factor has at least a large share in poorly matched upstream electronics. TOTEMs are fussy IMO, and their system synergy requires a careful matching with upstream components.

A (2) ask yourself a key question: With all available options open to them, why does TOTEM pair up with solid state amps at their audiofests? Not hybrids and not tubes.

FWIW , TOTEMs are fussy. My audiophile BFF borrowed my FORESTS to test drive with his top high-end CARY tube gear. In short, it was a big disappointment and a distinct “yuk” in comparison to SS.

A(3) Ask yourself a further question in the same vein. With all the myriad of available platforms out there , how key is it that TOTEM chose SS when developing their own integrated amp? NOTE: If you want the Holy Grail in integrated amps with your TOTEMs, it would be the discontinued TOTEM AMBER integrated amp. But they very, very rarely come up for resale for intuitive reasons.

TOTEM had its own SS integrated ("AMBER") amp with a ton of grunt (now discontinued) that was a JV with SIMAUDIO based on a SIM integrated amplifier design and platform.


- Choose wisely , based on direct auditions. Ignore isolated amp reviews that have no relevance or reference in their reviews to TOTEMs. System synergy with TOTEMs is acute in my experience.

Sure … some drive Fords and some drive Chevys….np. I favour a top SIM AUDIO kit in current offerings. (I’ve auditioned them all ) SIM AUDIO and TOTEM are both based in Montreal and they are used to voice each other products. That ethereal system synergy match has a track record.

the last wild card: TOTEMs can stir your drink for sure, but they are not the ideal match in some classes of music in my experience. I enjoyed mine a decade ago , but as my music tastes changed from pop and classic rock, and my upstream components were also upgraded into a much higher strata; they were sold off . Lower volume light jazz, classical, piano, and female vocals dictated a change. I found better options for MY bespoke tastes and low-level volumes.

Choose your own bespoke fave music genres and volume levels as the building blocks in auditions ..,

FWIW ..I am well aware of LFD integrated amps … they were on my short list when I upgraded to my REGA OSIRIS. But LFD favour British speakers  ( think NEAT, PROAC, SPENDOR et al ) . LFD  would not be in my initial LIST of ideal amps with your TOTEMs 

I'm planning to visit Hudson Valley Hifi in NY.

They carry Totem and a number of brands I'm interested in including Rogue, Simaudio and Luxman.  Will report back...

As a Totem user for over 10 years I have to chime in here. I have used Rainmakers, Forest, and Arros, still have the Rainmakers and Arros.  For the majority of that time I have used them with high power solid state. First an original Bryston 4b, then a 4bsst2, and then a McIntosh mc302. I’m now running a Primaluna at 36 watts or whatever and enjoying them more than ever. I bought into the whole need lots of power thing for a long time and now wish I didn’t waste so much time doing so. I’m not saying the high power solid state is a bad match, just that it really domes down to preferences. If you like solid state then you’ll like it with Totem. Also, if you like tubes I’m guessing you will like them with Totem. I find tubes really enhance what I love most about Totems. That is their ability to image and also their smooth beautifully midrange.  Bass is probably preferable with solid state for many but I actually prefer the bass I get form my tube amp still.  When it comes to treble I think tubes clearly are a better solution. Totems can certainly be a bit hot up top. Vince at Totem loves solid state and I feel that’s been taken as some sort of law that Totems will always be better with high power solid state.  Just like always in this hobby it’s all about preferences. I personally don’t get the solid state thing with Totem. First they have practically no bass so I don’t understand what ss has to really offer there. Sure it’s a smidge tighter, but I think you will have a hard time getting the little Totem drivers to sound loose with any quality amp. With my Harbeths I understand clearly why some would prefer ss, because there woofers can certainly sound a bit loose.  

I really think if you like lower wattage amps then that’s what you should use with your Totems. Try not to let all these insistent opinions about high power sway you. High current maybe, but high watts are for the birds, or Americans I guess really. Bigger is always better in American if you haven’t noticed. It doesn’t seem the rest of the audio world agrees with us too much though.  I say get what you want and likely you can tune it with cables, tweaks, and tubes to sound absolutely lovely with your Totems.  So much is made about synergy between components which is important but I think you have to look at it more holistically. You can take a great amp and speaker match and make it sound poor by using a source or cabling that doesn’t match well. You can also take an average speaker and amp pairing and make them sound great with the right source and other accessories. Buy what appeals to YOU, and you’ll love it! 

Also just to throw it out there I’d stay away from more neutral amps with Totem in general. When I switched from Bryston to McIntosh my enjoyment went up substantially. The catch with Totems from my experience is prominent upper mids and treble. I find smooth amps to really balance that much better than neautal amps do. 


I have Totems fed with an integrated tube amp… they sound simply wonderful. Your comments outline my journey over decades with high power amps that slowly led me to all tube power on my systems.

For the first few decades in high end audio I searched out slam (to my mind somewhat artificial) with high power amps with a bit lean midrange and fast bursts of power in the bass… slam. But with good tube gear you get a so much better midrange and very articulate, nuanced, and detailed bass… that, I noticed it is way more natural, like real music. They trade off for me is a no brained. Wished I figured this out a couple decades earlier.


My systems went from something I liked listening to for 30 - 45 minutes to something I can’t drag myself away from after hours. 

@ghdprentice you nailed it. You have to find that synergy that breathes life into the musical reproduction. +1 

Thanks for all the useful advice.

After a lot of additional research I concluded a powerful hybrid integrated was the way to go.  About 9 months ago I took the plunge on a BAT VK-3000SE for $2700 and haven't looked back.  VERY pleased with the performance, value and synergy with the Tribe Towers.

Imaging and bass depth and control are great; highs are a little sweet and never fatiguing; soundstage depth is very good. And upgrading the power cable took it up a notch.  Probably will try upgrading the fuses later this year.