Dohmann

HELIX ONE & TWO = State of the Art Turntables - The Gold Standard
unparalleled analog playback performance

MARK DÖHMANN – SYSTEMS ARCHITECT – HELIX-1 & HELIX-2
Each form of media, digital or analog, is a facsimile of the original performance. No media is truly inclusive of every detail of the performance, however, are we extracting all the available information from the media? Mark Döhmann has proven yet again we are not!

The Döhmann Helix-1 & Helix-2 delivers unparalleled analog playback performance due to its unique Micro Signal Architecture© (MSA) engineering that sets new noise reduction and micro-signal preservation benchmarks.

MSA is a cohesive approach to design that uses the most advanced techniques available to remove physical and mechanical vibration and electrical noise. This approach to signal preservation is the brainchild of Mark Döhmann, who has conquered the seemingly insurmountable obstacles frustrating turntable designers since the 1950’s. 

Mark is respected among his peers for original thinking and an understanding of a turntable’s architecture and which elements influence psychoacoustics (how our brains perceive music and sounds).

By joining forces with a team of talented scientists, engineers and designers, Mark has addressed each aspect of noise and vibration suppression utilising the latest in visualisation techniques, engineering concepts and patented technologies.

DESIGN TEAM
MARK DÖHMANN – SYSTEMS ARCHITECT
Mark is recognised for continuously developing analog systems having been a staunch advocate of the core technology since the early 1980’s. He has a well-respected track record in innovation and design of advanced turntables and tonearms of the highest calibre since 1982. He generates original ideas and understands the influence these innovations have on the sonic result.

Mark created the Micro Signal Architecture© design for the Helix 1 table which formed the underlying directive to each of the engineering teams.

In 2012 Mark experienced firsthand the use of Chladni plate analysis in the creation of bespoke stringed instruments by a world renowned luthier. Mark was impressed by the luthier’s mastery of his art and recognised the potential for the same techniques to be used in deriving the sonic attributes of a turntable. This “eureka” moment opened a whole new panorama of creativity and new tools for turntable design.

In 2013 with an introduction from Rumen Artarski he approached Dr Plamen Valtchev to build a software model to use the Chladni “method” and verify and predict eigen modes in a new design. 

The Helix 1 is a bold new direction in turntable design and the core knowledge gained during the development process will be expanded upon into allied components in the near future.

Mark originated the tight integration of NSM technology into the Helix 1 design with Dr David Platus from MinusK. The engineering team constructs each mechanism from exacting specifications needed for the Mechanical Crossover to function as designed. The end result is a customised NSM system capable of consistent laboratory grade integration of the technology into every table we manufacture. 

RUMEN ARTARSKI – EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF ENGINEERING AND MARKETING
Rumen aka “Cesar”, the Director of Engineering, has well established international credentials in the audio and video industry. His journey started with an Electrical Engineering degree from University of Denmark before working in UK (London) in several high end recording studios as an engineer and studio designer. As a successful entrepreneur in many industries; including clients in aerospace, defence, and big budget film and television it was only natural for Rumen to return his focus to his true passion for music.

Rumen is the key integrator and facilitator of the engineering team used for the integration and application of the “mechanical crossover” and Micro Signal Architecture© directives. His collaborative efforts successfully incorporated the subassemblies, motion control systems and drive technologies; all possible noise sources that exceeded the MSA specification. His patience, knowledge, effective communication skills and commitment to our customers is the key factor in the successful development of the Helix 1.

FRANK SCHRÖDER – ANALOG DESIGNER
Frank is one of the most respected analog designers of his generation and one of the industry’s true gentlemen. His immense knowledge of audio history of the audio art provides insight into the genesis of ideas and who they should be rightly attributed to. He has designed several impressive analog systems in his own right and his tonearms are among the most sought after in the market. He holds patents for his technologies and is a regular visitor to Audio Union’s main European manufacturing hub.

The CB tonearm is generating industry discussions as being one of the finest tracking arms ever made. The bearing system offers lower friction numbers lower than even the venerated Technics EPA-100. Sonically, the CB it is a musical masterpiece. 

His contributions to the Helix project include advanced magnetic pre-loading systems and the ingenious arm bearing design. The Helix 1 is evidence of Audio Union’s ability to collaborate effectively to attain our lofty goal, restoration of “High Fidelity”. 

LEE GRAY – INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER
Lee is one of the rising stars in the Audio engineering community having penned several award winning industrial designs. The look of the Helix 1 table is a testament to his abilities, aesthetics and integration skills. He is part of the Audio-Union consulting team.

BO CHRISTENSEN– INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER
Bo is one of the most acclaimed creative designers in the Audio industry having penned several award winning iconic designs with Primare and Bow Technologies as well as other commercial brands. Bo was part of the genesis of the Audio Union team and provides his considerable master skills to guide the aesthetic values.

STANISLAV STOYANOV – MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
Stanislav is a graduate of the European and Russian Aeronautical engineering schools and holds qualifications in advanced engineering disciplines, science and advanced metallurgy. He heads up the mechanical engineering team at Rumen’s facility and oversees the many millions of dollars of CNC and surface finishing technology. He continues to work on projects for advanced projects and contracts for NATO and Lufthansa Technik for commercial aeronautical projects. This means the Audio Union products are able to access the best systems for quality manufacture and repeatability. Full CMM and Quality Assurance systems ensure parts are built to best practice. 

DR. PLAMEN IVANOV VALTCHEV – ENGINEERING CONSULTANT
Plamen is a senior technology contributor to Audio Union and the Helix project. He is an expert in the use of advanced software visualisation, FEA modelling and acoustics. In a jointly owned facility with Rumen Artarski our CEO, Audio Union has access to the most advanced test and measurement equipment. Plamen developed new software driven tools for the Chladni plate analysis methodology and also worked on the physical test models.

DR DAVID PLATUS – VIBRATION SPECIALIST AND FOUNDER OF MINUSK
David is one of the most respected designers in the field of vibration isolation and holds numerous patents in the field. A close association with Dr Platus led to the design of a new custom low frequency isolation system for the Helix 1 table. This technology is a world first for a turntable project. 

THOMAS KLEINBECK - MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
Tom is one of the guiding forces behind the EnKlein Systems company and hails from Kansas City MO. He is a senior mechanical engineer and advanced fabrication specialist. He holds numerous patents for engineering innovations and aeronautical technology. Everyday people travel safely whilst relying on some of Tom’s inventions. Tom was highly trained by the US government in technology during his tenure in the armed services and this broad experience means the Helix 1 is built to most exacting standards and achieves high reliability. Tom works closely with Mark to ensure the conceptual world is translated into reality. He provides engineering services to the European team at Audio Union and coverage to our Support team in USA and Asia/PAC.

DAVID KLEINBECK – DIRECTOR AUDIO UNION INTERNATIONAL
David is the founding member of EnKlein Systems and also hails from Kansas City MO. David is one of the world’s leading RF/EMI/Transmission engineering consultants. He holds a BSECE, Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering from University of Missouri-Columbia. David has worked for several US Government agencies in various technical capacities before joining the commercial sector with Fluor Daniel, Nortel Networks, Sprint and most recently K&M Systems as VP Research and Development. He holds several patents and is regularly consulted by global telecommunications companies for technology initiatives.

David provided the electronic and RF shielding topology for the Helix 1 to ensure the Micro Signal Architecture© extended across the electrical and RF spectrum.

David also heads up Audio Union International the USA based Head Office and provides technical, business and corporate governance to the business to allow our USA customers access to quality business support and services.

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DN 01 TT HELIX2
NZ$ 44,995.00 (incl. GST)
We caught up with Dohmann in Munich who took us through a few of the Two's features. Ultimately though, you just need to hear it for yourself. The Helix Two has been engineered to deliver...
As a dealer you work with good equipment day in day out. It’s actually easy to become a bit blasé...
DN 03 TT HELIX1
NZ$ 79,995.00 (incl. GST)
HELIX 1 ARCHITECTUREHelix 1 rewards the listener with the closest facsimile to master tape yet realised. How do we know this?  Our engineering facilities and listening rooms use several studio...
FEATURES INCLUDEMSA - Micro Signal Architecture©NSM - Negative Stiffness Mechanism Vibration...
It’s no surprise to anyone who’s read my frantic scratchings here the past few months that I am an...
Designed by Mark Döhmann, who headed the design team at Continuum Audio and now works under the...

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Turntables

DN 01 TT HELIX2
NZ$ 44,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
We caught up with Dohmann in Munich who took us through a few of the Two's features. Ultimately though, you just need to hear it for yourself. The Helix Two has been engineered to deliver...
As a dealer you work with good equipment day in day out. It’s actually easy to become a bit blasé...
Turntables
DN 03 TT HELIX1
NZ$ 79,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
HELIX 1 ARCHITECTUREHelix 1 rewards the listener with the closest facsimile to master tape yet realised. How do we know this?  Our engineering facilities and listening rooms use several studio...
FEATURES INCLUDEMSA - Micro Signal Architecture©NSM - Negative Stiffness Mechanism Vibration...
It’s no surprise to anyone who’s read my frantic scratchings here the past few months that I am an...
Designed by Mark Döhmann, who headed the design team at Continuum Audio and now works under the...
Turntables

Tonearms

SR 01 TA CB9
NZ$ 6,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Tonearms
SR 02 TA CB9E
NZ$ 8,250.00 ea (incl. GST)
Tonearms
SR 03 TA CB11
NZ$ 7,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Tonearms
SR 04 TA CB11E
NZ$ 8,075.00 ea (incl. GST)
Tonearms

Reviews

I have seen a standout in turntable design and it is the Döhmann Helix 1. @ RMAF 2015
Rafe Arnott

REVIEW SUMMARY: The sound the Helix 1 was producing was incredibly compelling, engaging and supremely musical. The level of detail and nuance to the sound, the deep, authoritative bass and immense sound-stage scaling made available through the SAT arm and Lyra pick up were deeply involving. I’d be hard pressed to list another turntable that was as capable as the Helix 1 in producing such an absolutely black, dead-silent background for the music to leap from

It’s no surprise to anyone who’s read my frantic scratchings here the past few months that I am an analogoholic. I will never enter a 12-step program for this unabashed addiction from which I craft numerous fetishes. Rare Japanese MC cartridges? Check. Obscure step-up transformers? Check. British valve amps and phono stages? Check. Turntables designed by Mark Döhmann? CHECK.

Döhmann is quite well-known in international audio design and engineering circles for his advanced analog work since the ’80s with turntables and tonearms.

This turntable is the result of complex, and advanced engineering technologies, the likes of which I’m not getting into too much here, needless to say this is truly next-level thinking in design (to me). The people at Audio Union have a great breakdown on the tech. The Helix 1 features advanced motion control and many proprietary technologies such as incorporating a Negative Stiffness Mechanism (NSM), Vibration Isolation with Mechanical Crossover Technology, and a Tri-Modal Platter system (to name just a few) that sees the 15 Kg platter fitted with an Edge Damping Ring.

From the Audio Union website:
“Helix 1 design is a significant enhancement on state of the art and its motion control defines what will become part of a new breed of “super turntables”.The 120mm (four-inch) plinth is made from precision CNC aircraft grade aluminum and structural alloys and weighs close to 50 kg (100Lbs) when assembled. Connected by a series of interlocking plates which are fitted closely to the MinusK suspension system and allow for the mounting of the sub-systems such as motor, bearing, tonearm combinations. A laminated glass plate is used to add ballast and lower the center-of-mass. This glass plate provides visual access to the MinusK suspension for performance monitoring.

The 15Kg (30Lb) platter is made of triple layer of an engineered thermoplastic (made for Audio Union by a European supplier of polymers), and non-ferrous alloy machined to close tolerances. Each high-mass platter is balanced and shaped for lead-in groove and record label.Special features include an EDR – Edge Damping Ring which damps the platter and LP edge and a damping mat to interface to the LP.”

I managed to get a hold of Döhmann down in Australia via email and a very enlightening phone call with Dave Kleinbeck, who is president of Audio Union International.

Here are the questions I asked, and Döhmann‘s responses:

PTA:
Your long involvement in turntable design and research on many types of turntable drives, isolation, vibration control and damping has led you to Audio Union and the design and current production of the Helix 1. This is a radical design on many levels. How does it feel to have accomplished packing so much technology into one design and have the outcome be such tremendous musicality?

Döhmann:
“I’m very proud to be part of a great team of very talented engineers, scientists and designers at Audio-Union. I admire the work of great watch designers who in the last 20 years have had to adapt to the almost ubiquitous use of digital technology and create timeless mechanical designs with ever more complex movements and features. Some of my favourite designs have a visual feature where you can see all the complex mechanical workings. The Helix One  showcases the mechanics, so one can see the inner workings of the suspension system with all its intricate parts. These inner workings are key to the musicality of the table isolating the core systems from deleterious noise and vibration. It looks simple but to get all the mechanisms to fit without adding more and more outrigger devices is a challenge. We managed to do so using advanced software modelling tools. Having a clear vision of the architecture before starting did help too.”

PTA:
What previous turntable designs and industrial or medical designs did you draw inspiration from in the design of the Helix 1?

Döhmann:
“Emile Berliner, Thomas Edison, Garrard, Neumann, EMT, the great Japanese vintage tables, Rockport, and Meitner definitely provided the inspiration. Industrial designs include classic automotive icons and Frank Lloyd Wright, Denton Corker Marshall architectural influences and the pioneering work of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic. Medical inspiration was provided by the great technicians at Scottish firm Glenmorangie.  ;)”

PTA:
How has the design and technology incorporated into the Helix 1 influenced your thoughts on future ideas for turntable design?

Döhmann:
“Software driven systems where every parameter is adjustable and tunable. This is the future.

PTA:
Lastly, how critical, in your opinion, is the interface between tonearm and turntable, vs turntable and its environment.

Döhmann:
“The foundation of a good house is often unseen as we focus on the parts we see. But build it on an unstable foundation and you will soon experience the lack of foresight and planning in a crumbling house. The foundation of a turntable is its isolation from the environment it sits on. The Tonearm benefits from this. Look back far enough and you will see speaker floor interactions showing up in Tonearm responses. Remove that interference and you advance the performance. Early EMT tables understood this. Helix One takes that to the level demanded by atomic force microscope users for critical operations. That’s where the world of science has opened the door to better music.”

The sound the Helix 1 was producing was incredibly compelling, engaging and supremely musical. The level of detail and nuance to the sound, the deep, authoritative bass and immense sound-stage scaling made available through the SAT arm and Lyra pick up were deeply involving. I’d be hard pressed to list another turntable that was as capable as the Helix 1 in producing such an absolutely black, dead-silent background for the music to leap from.
........ Rafe Arnott

Combined with the engineering skills of Audio Union it resulted in an incredibly fast sound with great momentum. Differentiation provided by Helix 1 is amazing and the sound reminded me a bit an analog master-tape,... if you seek the truth give it a try
Wojecieh Pacuta

SUMMARY: This is the first known to me turntable built around MinusK system. It is not placed on top of it, it doesn't use it as a decoupling system but actually is integrated with it. Such a radical exploitation of any technology does not happen to often and I'm incredibly curious about results it could yield used for a CD Player.

Combined with the engineering skills of Audio Union it resulted in an incredibly fast sound with great momentum. Differentiation provided by Helix 1 is amazing and the sound reminded me a bit an analog master-tape, ie. there was no warming up of the sound that is characteristic for vinyl records. It comes at a cost of this slight stiffening of the upper bass attack and not really "sweet" treble. Maybe some music lovers will prefer designs that offer richer midrange. However, if you seek the truth, but one that generates interest in material you're listening to, be sure to give it a try, because it's a great example proving how to show abundance of detail and not kill listener with it, how to tell about how the album was recorded, but not spend all time just talking about it.

EXTENDED REVIEW: A trick of a wobbly rack and turntable placed on top of it, which did not even twitch, while the rack wobbled, as if it was about to fall apart, was one of the highlights of this year's High-End Show in Munich (more HERE). Every visitor could approach this product, wobble it personally and than wonder about the solution that made this is possible.

And this is really a really advanced solution. The turntable was in fact integrated with anti-vibration MinusK platform, designed for research laboratories as a support used under electron microscopes and sensitive to external vibrations measuring instruments. A similar pedigree has the Mr. Ken Ishiguro's pneumatic Acoustic Revive RAF-48H platform, used at the University of Tokyo, but in this comparison, it is like a bicycle, and MinusK as high-class Mercedes.

Innovative feature of this solution lies in such decoupling of the element placed on it that the resonance in the horizontal plane equals 1.5 Hz and in the vertical, 0.5 Hz. This is a significant achievement, as it means that they are far below the usable bandwidth. The mechanical, passive system is called Negative-Stiffness Mechanism (NSM), and it uses a solution called the Micro Signal Architecture (MSA), reducing noise and micro-vibrations and it was developed by an American engineer, Mr. Dr. David Platus.

His company MinusK Technology has developed a unique system of mechanical isolation, where the central part rests on a large spring, but in both planes it is supported with thin shanks, which prevent two boards from moving – the upper one, on which the isolated device is placed - and the lower one, which the actual basis. The system is extremely sensitive and needs to be adjusted for a particular load.

AUDIO UNION

His company MinusK Technology has developed a unique system of mechanical isolation, where the central part rests on a large spring, but in both planes it is supported with thin shanks, which prevent two boards from moving – the upper one, on which the isolated device is placed - and the lower one, which the actual basis. The system is extremely sensitive and needs to be adjusted for a particular load.

This is not the first creative manufacturers' group, which included Mark DOHMANN. He is the man who designed the Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn turntable and Cobra tonearm! This turntable has been in Michael Framer's, from the "Stereophile", reference system for years. He is one of the most influential personalities of the analogue world. This realisation of this project was possible thanks to the financial support of David Payes, privately analog audio fanatic, who made a fortune on the PC market.

HELIX 1 TURNTABLE

The novelty of the solutions used in this turntable lies in the fact that the MinusK system is permanently integral with it, or in fact it is the turntable that is integrated with the system. The upper board of the system is at the same time a top cover of the turntable, with motor and platter attached to it, and the lower board is integrated with feet. The whole system can be viewed through a large glass window in the front wall. The upper board is made of precision machined aluminium and integrated with the "collar" screening the platter. It seems that it is serving an aesthetic purpose, because he platter consists of several elements of different diameter, which does not make it look good.

It's a thick aluminium latter, to which via sort of separating layer, a lower, wider platter is fixed. It features three layers - aluminium, metal similar to iron and pasted on the top, fairly soft mat. The brass pin is threaded so that a clamp can be screwed on. One needs to be careful not to overdo it – if you tighten it too much that record might warp.

The motor is bolted in an unusual spot – behind the platter and close to its outer edge. We know this solution from Rega turntables, but in the extreme high-end it is rarely used. It seems that it was just in order to best balance MinusK. Driving torque is transmitted from the high aluminium shaft screwed to the motor shaft, to the bottom platter using two, translucent strips of circular cross-section.

Power to the motor is supplied by a large, massive module, resembling a power amplifier in a well-made aluminium housing. It is connected with turntable using two cables – one for power (4-pin XLR) and another for control and feedback signals (Ethernet). The power supply is in fact a complex, microprocessor-controlled digital voltage converter. When we look at the rear panel we can see another socket, that allows software actualisation. It turns out that the control has a lot of different modes of action, and each of them results in a different sound! Perhaps manufacturer should let users to select one of them?

The turntable can be fitted with two tonearms attached to the dual modules. Originally they were single, and therefore lower, but Polish distributor, RCM, suggested that they needed to be strengthened – and manufacturer agreed. Usually turntable designers seek for the greatest possible rigidity of the arm (stylus) - platter (record) system. Here it is solved differently. The bases of tonearms are suspended on a heavy element, which is in turn suspended on thick pulls and controlled with magnetic cushion. The compliance of this element has to be determined in each case for particular arm/s.

SETUP

As you can see, Helix 1 is not just "another" turntable. It is a decoupled design, but also a mass-loader like once Thorens Prestige. Its decoupling system, however, can move not only up and down but also sideways - SME prided itself on the fact that although their turntables were decoupled, they were forced to move only vertically. This was an element distinguishing them from other decks, eg. from Avid, Linn and so on.

This is an a-typical design, so it requires an unusual preparation. I would suggest using the services of a distributor. They will not only assemble the turntable - and this comes in a large, sturdy box - but perform the whole setting and adjusting. MinusK system is very sensitive to changes in pressure, so it's a pity that the manufacturer did not provide users with an indicator that would inform them whether the turntable is in the optimum position (balance).

Another problem might be turning the rotation on. This is done with two buttons - for 33,33 and 45 rpm, glowing green - "ON" - or red - "OFF". The buttons are located on the board, which on the lightest touch moves, bumping inside the base. In my opinion some sort o locking mechanism would come handy - even a very simple one – that would allow to lock MinusK in a given position (maybe even via remote control).

The person installing the turntable will also be obliged to get rid of hum – the power supply is extremely eager to introduce interference. You can overcome this, but a help of an expert will come handy. Anyway, the PSU must be put as far as possible from the turntable. During this test it was placed a bit too close, but it was acceptable. The idea was to put it on anti-vibration platform - please try it with high quality power cables and elements protecting from RF and EMI interference, such as X Block Brown and you will see for yourself how it changes the sound.

Following my own recommendations I did not participate in the process of turntable assembling (on the upper board of Finite Elemente Pagode Edition). It allowed me to study the design and its execution. Distributor delivered it with Frank Schröder's dedicated CB Tonearm and Shelter Accord (13 500 PLN) cartridge – almost the same setup as with TechDAS Air Force Two. CB is a fantastic tonearm with an unusual length of 9.4 ", and its tube is made of carbon fibre.

The rest of system was my usual setup: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC phonostage, Ayon Audio Spheris III preamplifier, 710 power amplifier and Harbeth M40.1 loudspeakers placed on stands made by Mr. Ken Ishiguro of Acoustic Revive. The signal between phonostage and preamplifier was transmitted using Siltech Triple Crown IC, and Crystal Cable Absolute Dream was used between preamp and power amp.

SOUND

I approached Marek DOHMANN's turntable test with a certain dose of distrust. Apparently on one hand, the designer himself guaranteed a high class of the product and appreciated the idea behind the Helix 1, confirmed by other two, highly respected designer participation in this project, Messrs Frank Schröder and Rumen Atarski, and yet ... Let me put it this way: many smart, accomplished guys in the past came up with something that either turned out not to function well in the real world, or was so technologically ahead of its time that it was impossible to realise the idea exactly as planned. The idea itself is sometimes not enough.

And on top of that there was this irritation, which was growing in me when I was using the turntable – it's quaking during the operation was depressing. And finally, there is this thing that even now, after my conversion to "döhmannizm" bothers me – the turntable's decoupling in all planes was (and still is) for me, contrary to intuition and experience. Because this is one of the features of Avid HiFi turntables, which is raised the supporters of rigid constructions and SME lovers (now also Kronos Audio), that's causing a warming up of the sound and blurring the attack. Plus there is the soft isolation of the tonearm from the platter – a complete heresy.

Although, on the other hand, I could have guessed that there was more to it than just child's curiosity of an engineer who asked "what if ...?" The same goes for Avid turntables, that I really like and that while presenting a certain sonic signature, remain among the most pleasant sounding devices, one of my favourites. If, however, manufacturer used only the original theory, and just decoupling a large mass in all directions, Helix 1 should sound similar to the Avid Reference, right? And maybe even like Kronos Sparta and to some degree as Linn turntables. But in fact it sounds completely different.

I verified my initial expectations to another batch of Polish Jazz reissues. With the first, released a few months earlier, six of these records I assumed that it was only an addition to digital editions (Compact Disc), designed to appeal to young people who have recently bought a turntable and are into vinyl collecting; for true collectors - I thought – new re-issue were unnecessary. I was wrong. Listening and comparing them with the originals and subsequent re-issues proved their high value and made me cautious in my assessments. Ultimately, I had to use a individual approach to each title and each of them could become attractive for both the novice and the experienced vinyl fan.

Another "six" turned out to be even more interesting, mainly due to the stereo (analog) versions of Polish Jazz Quartet and The Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet (respectively, vol. 3, and vol. 4) albums. Mainly because - I think – the turntable under reviewed was incredibly differentiating device. Differentiation is the ability to show changes in the material, while maintaining its consistency. Only partly it is connected with detail retrieval, because that is associated rather with better selectivity, and it is closer rather to a resolution. Helix 1 in this respect was simply stunning. It showed even little changes between successive pressings of Zbigniew Namysłowski Winobranie (new remaster is coming) in a very firm and solid way, as though it perfectly "knew" how the shape of the grooves tracked by the Shelter's stylus changed and in addition it was able to translate it into language understandable for the listener. Also, any change in the pressing method, in the master (digital or analogue) selection of consecutive releases was perfectly clear.

Which brings us to the place where one should ask oneself how much one cares about the "ruthless" truth, and how much one prefers the "liberating" truth. Contrary to appearances, is not only some logical exercise, or useless theorising, but rather the question of the basic priorities for any audio fan. I introduce this concept, because the differentiation test turntable leads to acceptance. It is rare in audio, where the focus is mostly on negation, because it pushes us forward, provokes us to search for new, better devices and recordings. But here the acceptance comes from having all information on system and particular recording delivered by this turntable, and this knowledge allows us to calmly listen to virtually any pressing and release. I have not found even a single record that I would have to remove from the platter before the music ended.

Another important feature of this design is momentum of the presentation. This is a quality known from top-mass-loader, such as the flagship TechDAS top Transrotors; partially also from the SME 30/12 and said Sparta Kronos Audio. It develops sound in a way that makes us believe that we deal with the real size room, in which the recording was registered and the real size of the instruments. This is obviously a trick, otherwise the audio would have no reason for existing – it is not possible in an average listening room, with loudspeaker smaller than two meters, to reproduce something that would be similar to the real event. Helix 1 does not break the rules of physics, nor "smashes the walls and ceiling". But it is so convincing in it that we almost immediately accept that we actually listen to something real.

Because along with differentiation, momentum and power we get excellent dynamics and attack speed. It is the latter that defines how close does the system approach the real sound. Here it is extremely well done, because even though it's obvious that we listen to recordings, all elements of the sound build up a credibility of the performance. There is, for example, a really fast kick drum, an attack of metal cymbals is reproduced brilliantly, sibilants are clearly marked in vocals (because they are natural part of the voice). But it doesn't stop there – the attack phase is followed with a proper weight of each sound that gives it the momentum I was talking about.

I mentioned the upper part of the band - if was to try to determine the tone of sound that we get from the tested system (turntable + arm + cartridge), I would have to say that it is neither bright nor dark; it does not resemble in this regard either TechDAS Air Force Two nor Kronos Sparta. The closest in terms of colour balance and saturation in my (a bit risky) opinion is TechDAS Air Force One. In a blind test I would probably say that it presented maybe a bit scaled down version of top TechDAS deck. Which considering such fundamental design differences poses questions about the real impact of techniques and technologies on the sound and how we interpret them while listening.

On one hand Helix 1 is characterised by a sonic signature that comes from soft suspension, which would make it closer to other such designs (though, let me add, rather to SME than Kronos and Avid). It offers a beautifully colourful sound, great vividness and lack of harshness; the latter by the owners of the mass-loaders may even be considered as a sign of warmed up sound. But it is not a warm sounding turntable, far from it. It delivers a lively and dynamic sound, rich in detail, with a strong, well controlled bass, which in turn sends us back to the non-suspended turntables. And finally, it is not something in between - let's say (to stay in the same price range) - TechDAS Air Force Two and Kronos Audio Sparta. "Between" always means some compromise and often, unfortunately, lack the advantages of both solution and instead their combined drawbacks. The Mark Döhmann's design offers the best qualities of both competitors, but is not a golden mean but rather a separate, top quality party.

One that remembers the sound of other top turntables could of course point out their particular advantages. Sparta, for example, has a richer lower midrange and in results renders more tangible phantom images, this is how a turntable, understood as the type of a source, sounds like. In my opinion Avid Reference represents very similar type of sound. Air Force One is even better in shaping the leading edge, that is naturally soft, but extremely fast. On the other hand model Two of the same company, as well as once Kuzma Reference, and recently another Reference by Mr. Sikora, have even more accurately portrayed the attack of the sound, they are even better in detail retrieval. Helix 1 sound more like them in this respect than any other, above mentioned, suspended decks. None of them, except perhaps Air Force One, does not render such a fantastic soundstage depth or such momentum as the herewith reviewed turntable.

SUMMARY

This is the first known to me turntable built around MinusK system. It is not placed on top of it, it doesn't use it as a decoupling system but actually is integrated with it. Such a radical exploitation of any technology does not happen to often and I'm incredibly curious about results it could yield used for a CD Player.

Combined with the engineering skills of Audio Union it resulted in an incredibly fast sound with great momentum. Differentiation provided by Helix 1 is amazing and the sound reminded me a bit an analog master-tape, ie. there was no warming up of the sound that is characteristic for vinyl records. It comes at a cost of this slight stiffening of the upper bass attack and not really "sweet" treble. Maybe some music lovers will prefer designs that offer richer midrange. However, if you seek the truth, but one that generates interest in material you're listening to, be sure to give it a try, because it's a great example proving how to show abundance of detail and not kill listener with it, how to tell about how the album was recorded, but not spend all time just talking about it.

DESIGN

The turntable is quite large, but its its actual is much larger than actual area between its feet. The manufacturer recommends that the shelf one intends to place this device on should be at least 620 mm wide and 500 mm deep. It should also have a load capacity of over 70 kg. The basis turntable is made from precision machined aluminium - it has a height of 120 mm. Vibration damping element is made of a polymer, same as the mat. Along with the MinusK system and the platter it adds to the total weight of 50 kg. Front of the base was cut out so that one could see the MinusK system. Weighing 15 kg platter, composed of several layers of different materials, features a lowered centre of gravity. The upper parts has a damping layer in its rim - the solution is called EDR - Edge Damping Ring. One can screw a clamp on the threaded the axis of the platter

The main bearing has been developed specifically for this turntable by Stanislava Stoyanova and is made of so called "maraging steel". Steels of this type are generally characterised by high nickel content, very low carbon content and the use of substitutional elements or precipitates to produce age-hardening. Steel pin rests on ceramic ball. The material used for the lubrication of bearing was sourced from the aviation industry.

The motor has been positioned very close to the main bearings. It is a type of belt drive - two belts of circular cross-section transmit torque to the lower plate. This is a solution with a powerful motor called HTAD - High Torque Adjustable Drive. It is controlled by a digital converter associated with the 16-bit monitoring system allowing to track the platter at 120 000 points per revolution. The controller features many different work modes, that can be accessed via port, which connects to the computer.

The turntable may accommodate one or two 9 "to 12" tonearms. The platforms where the tonearms are installed are not rigidly fixed to the board but decoupled with magnets.

The power supply is fitted into a very solid, well-made aluminium housing. On its front panel there are two switches – with one we can turn off the PSU and deck's logos illumination, and the second turns on the system of pumps that suck the record to the platter. This solution known, eg. from the Air Force One turntable, is optional - the switch in the reviewed unit was inactive. The power supply connects to the turntable with two cables.

The Helix Two has been engineered to deliver unparalleled performance in analog playback. It raises the benchmarks for noise reduction and preservation due to its unique Micro Signal Architecture (MSA) design.
Marc Rushton

Last year’s show was almost dominated by the world’s craziest and uber-expensive models from manufacturers the world over. And like a motor show, we all love looking at things we’ll never be able to afford.

Thankfully this year, some of the ‘crazy’ has trickled down into more realistic offerings, albeit still high-end. After all, is it the High End show.

The name Mark Dohmann will need no introduction to enthusiasts who have been around the traps. Over a decade ago he was Chief Designer for arguably one of the world’s best turntables with the Continuum Caliburn, along with the Cobra tonearm, which both still fetch ridiculous prices on the used market today.

More recently, Dohmann is a key member (Systems Architect is his actual title) of a team of experts from around the world, collectively known as Audio Union.

Together, they created the Helix One turntable which debuted in 2015 and exclusively featured in Australia at the 2016 International HiFI Show in Melbourne (July 1st – 3rd). Many show attendees regarded the Telos Audio room hosted by Dohmann as the best sound of the show.

As their flagship product, many of us wondered where Audio Union could go from there. Had they peaked too soon? When whispers started about an upcoming release, Helix Two, it started to make more sense.

Showcased for the first time at the 2017 High End show in Munich, Germany, Helix Two is the smaller brother to the One. And while it may be a slimmed and scaled down version, it’s become a more affordable version while still offering the very best in analogue playback.

We caught up with Dohmann in Munich who took us through a few of the Two's features. Ultimately though, you just need to hear it for yourself.

The Helix Two has been engineered to deliver unparalleled performance in analog playback. It raises the benchmarks for noise reduction and preservation due to its unique Micro Signal Architecture (MSA) design.

Intensive research has been undertaken by the Audio Union team, and the plinth, chassis and supporting structure of turntables has been found to be a key component to sonic bliss when it comes to vinyl.

The complex chassis design of the Helix Two incorporates all Audio Union have learned from developing the One, and the technology is said to eliminate cloudiness and time signature smear inherent in a turntable’s basic design premise.

While how they achieve certain outcomes remains a trade secret, new innovations by Audio Union also include active transmigration of vibrations away from the bearing and platter. They’ve also employed technology developed by Minus-K and in conjunction with Audio Union, implemented additional isolation of low frequency floor vibrations.

According to Audio Union, with such focus on isolation, the Helix Two can be placed on just about any furniture rated to support 70kgs, negating the necessity of ultra-expensive and specialised racks and stands.

The understated styling of Helix Two leaves just two push buttons on the table surface for factory calibrated speed selection (33/45/78 RPM) and on/off.

The Helix Two uses full integrated high-torque motor and a dual belt platter drive designed to reduce static electricity and vibrations.

Weighing in at 60kgs and just 480mm W x 400mm D, the Helix Two is provided in a custom road case that should see it safely arrive anywhere in the world.

Audio Union have also created an authorised specialist dealer network around the world who can provide set-up assistance and ensure the Helix Two is performing to its absolute best.

We suspect we haven’t heard the last from Audio Union yet. With the decades of experience behind each of the team’s members, there’s no telling what might be next.

Audio Union’s Helix Two Turntable is available to order now, and will sell for around (EUR) $26,000 with Schroder CB 9" arm, NZ pricing @ RRP NZ$44,995 incl GST with one becoming available for demo at Audio Reference's botique showoom during Feb 2018, call for an personal audition.

MICHAEL FREMER'S EXCELENT REVIEW WHERE HE PLACES THE HELIX ONE RIGHT UP THERE AT THE TOP OF HIGH END TURNTABLES
Michael Fremer

PLASE CLICK ON THE LINK TO READ MICHAEL FREMER'S EXCELLENT REVIEW WHERE HE PLACES THE HELIX ONE RIGHT UP THERE AT THE TOP OF HIGH END TURNTABLES

READ REVIEW:

file:///Users/terry/Google%20Drive/_AR_Photos/Dohmann%20Helix%20TT/Stereophile_Michael_Fremer.pdf

A true musical device and although it’s possible (but not provable) the best deck i’ve ever heard, it is most certainly, hand on heart, the very best turntable I have ever set up, sold, or had in my home.

In a way the Helix delivers a performance that belies it’s makeup. There is another review out there which touches upon this and I have to say that I fully concur. 

Here is a deck that has the  dynamics, speed and imaging of a direct drive but then the tunefulness, liquidity and beauty of a belt drive. ... the Helix strives to nail absolutely everything in a mature balanced fashion. Neither laid back nor aggressive, neither clinical nor indulgent, it is the final whole sound that is uppermost, the way it so cohesively and convincingly delivers music in such a pleasing and believable manner. It’s not an audiophile’s deck but rather a true musical device and although it’s possible (but not provable) that it’s the best deck i’ve ever heard, it is most certainly, hand on heart, the very best turntable I have ever set up, sold, or had in my home.

As a dealer you work with good equipment day in day out. It’s actually easy to become a bit blasé about good sounding products and even many things we trial but reject from selling are still great performers with impressive characteristics, sonically or otherwise. Once in a while though, something comes along that makes even a seasoned highend dealer stop and scratch his head in amazement. The Dohmann Helix 2 is such a product and it’s got me so excited that I wanted to get pen to paper the instant I took delivery of our demo unit earlier this year.

There’s a lot of good information out there on the internet about the Helix already, particularly on Youtube. The well known US Turntable aficionado Michael Fremer from Stereophile has championed the deck quite extensively with a very comprehensive review (and comparison to his own personal Continuum Caliburn) and a visit to the factory in Bulgaria. I will link all this information below but to give you a brief overview, the Helix was the result of a coming together of various industry experts spearheaded by Rumen Artarski who make the very fine range of Thrax Amplifiers. Mark Dohmann (previously of Continuum Labs and designer of the then state of the art Caliburn turntable and Cobra arm) was chosen to be the chief designer of the Helix 1 & 2. Amongst others, Allen Perkins of Spiral Groove was chosen to look after the deck’s bearing, Frank Schroder to create a new Tonearm design and Dr David Platus from MinusK to implement his technology as the core foundation of the design.

The Minus K

If you’ve never heard of a MinusK negative stiffness isolation platform then this 20 second youtube clip will very rapidly give you the gist. They were never intended to be used in Audio systems but in the more obsessive corners of highend hifi, end users have actually been very successfully using these devices under turntables and electronics for some time now. Only with the Helix though do we have the first ever turntable to implement a specially developed MinusK device into the core design and product. When I first set up my deck and touched the platter and watched it (and the tonearm) pistonically move down and up I was completely aghast at the quality, smoothness and overall sensation of it all. “Now THAT is how you engineer Turntable isolation” I thought to myself. I guess it’s a bit like the weighty volume knob on a Tidal preamplifier, something you have to experience in the flesh to fully appreciate.

So the principal technology behind the Helix 2 and a big reason for its lofty performance is that it’s inner chassis is affixed into a bespoke low frequency MinusK device specifically created for the turntable. This sophisticated type of isolation from the outside world (along with the platter shield) is key in preserving the accuracy and fidelity of the style/groove interface. Like all the world’s “super decks” we find that they will always have additional technologies above just a well designed bearing, chassis and motor/power supply. You need something extra to elevate the performance to the uppermost echelons, air suspension stands, vacuum hold downs, air bearings, magnetic induction drive, the list goes on. I must stress though that the Negative Stiffness mechanism from MinusK is not the only impressive technology behind the Helix; there are a multitude of other properties and designs which help make it the high performing turntable that it is and although I have listed these in full down below for you in the further reading section, we can mention some more in passing as we go over the decks’ setup for you.

Before we go any further allow me to point out that we could easily be talking about the Helix 1 here. The “1” was the initial design and then Mark Dohmann and his team went on to create the “2” at a lower cost and in a more compact chassis. The truth is though that given Dohmann’s current introductory offer on the Helix 2 (you basically get the NZ$7,999 with 9” (12” also available) Schroder CB tonearm bundled in free of charge), for NZ$35,000 less, the performance of the Helix 2 is scarily close to the 1 and the saving could easily be spent on a better tonearm or phonostage, making your Helix 2 setup actually higher performing for the same outlay. You just have to ensure that you don’t want to run more than one tonearm.

Setting Up

Setting up the Helix 2 is a doddle. Everything arrives in an extremely heavy flight case and intially you just want to remove the entire chassis and unscrew it’s two tonearm assembly transit screws from underneath and then set it down on your chosen rack/platform and then remove it’s 4 upper transit screws located just inside the raised platter shield to release the MinusK. The 2 part bearing is machined from carbon free ‘maraging steel’, hardened in an inductive oven and ground to a tolerance of 5 microns. The bearing spindle of the platter sits on top of a ceramic ball so installation is just a matter of setting the platter down into the chassis mounted thrust pad. The best way to do this is to simply hold and lower the platter using the supplied Helix record clamp screwed into the spindle.

The 15kg platter system is triple or even quadruple layer, with the lower aluminium part housing the two belts mechanically isolated from the middle section. The upper layer is a fibrous rubber surface for the record interface, mated to a thermoplastic layer and then the middle alloy section is filled with lead shot. Once installed, the two belts of two differing materials (two different levels of hardness to counteract cogging) can be pulled through a rear facing hole in the platter shield and fitted around the chassis mounted motor spindle. The supplied armboard is affixed onto the inner chassis with 5 hex headed screws and then at this point, with the tonearm roughly installed, you can get the deck perfectly level by simply rotating each of the 4 feet.

With your tonearm installed and setup (the bundled Schroder Captive Bearing tonearm is also very easy in this respect) final levelling of the armboard can be performed. On the chassis surface there are 4 screws which can be adjusted in small quarter turns to help level all 4 corners of the armboard. This sounds more complicated than it looks but it’s merely a matter or ensuring that the armboard in its cut out is proud of the chassis by the same small distance all the way around. If the deck is perfectly flat then you can also use a small spirit level on the armboard as well to achieve the same result.

The very last thing to do on the Helix is to correctly level the MinusK. This must be done with a record and the record clamp fitted and of course your cartridge. The large surface mounted wheel at the back of the chassis can be turned to ‘centre’ or level the platter/tonearm height to the middle of its range of travel. You want it’s rest pose to be halfway between the upper and lower extents of the MinusK’s movement so that at rest, it is neither bottoming out nor hitting it’s upper bump stops as it were. In other words, it is free to move vertically either up or down. This is a very simple process and there is a neat green LED and gauge on the front panel to help you. Easier still for me was to just observe the MinusK innards through the front fascia window and adjust until the two main lower plates that you see are nicely horizontal.

Now your probably know that the preservation of the stylus/groove relationship, and it’s isolation from all extraneous influences is key in turntable design. Structural and airborne vibration, vibration from the bearing, noise from the motor either through the chassis or through the belt, platter wobble and even resonances from the stylus/groove interface itself. What of course is also paramount is speed stability, turning the platter around at exactly the same speed and whilst this sounds simple enough many factors will conspire against you: the inherent pulsating nature of electrical motor rotation, motor vibration, the cogging of a belt, stylus drag and bearing friction to name but a few.

So before we get onto listening we should probably just say a quick word on the Helix’s motor and power supply. The motor control system is a digital closed loop servo with greater than 16bit resolution. The motor actually spins several hundred times to achieve one revolution of the platter so over the course of 1 second, a huge amount of checks are made (>120,000) on the platter speed and these are fed back into a very fast micro processor in the servo control unit. As for motor cogging, the Helix coil design smooths the motor to negligible levels of vibration resulting in super low motor noise.

Once setup and ready for action, the Helix 2 exudes quality and looks like it really means business. What I love about this deck is that it’s an engineers piece with not one ounce of jewellery or bullshit to it. The construction and fit and finish is first rate and the heft and clean cut of the smart anodised metalwork goes a long way in foreshadowing exactly what kind of performance you are going to get from this beast. I like the illuminated Dohmann logo and the glowing speed selector switches work well too. My only criticism is that the fascia window could have been a little bigger as it’s very nice to see the beautiful complex workings and leaf springs of the internal MinusK. Perhaps some subtle illumination inside would have worked well ? That said, if you pay the full amount for the original Helix 1 then you do indeed get a much bigger view of the innards.

For my first ever listening I ran the Helix with a Transfiguration Phoenix S moving coil followed by a Proteus. We have a Lyra Etna inbound as well which should be interesting when it arrives. The system was a Tidal Preos/Impulse with internal phono stage running into a set of Tidal Contriva. So an extremely open neutral system and one I know very well, perfect then for quickly understanding the nature of this new super deck.

Listening

The first thing that struck me about the Helix, from the first few notes, was the immediacy and purity with which the music leaps out of the grooves and is seemingly three dimensionally cast into the space in your listening room. Some of the very best decks seem to have this highly pleasurable ability, a sense of no delay or even actual process at play in terms of extracting the music off the walls and instantaneously projecting it into the room and from the get go it was clear that the this is one of them. Key to this impression was also the physicality and certainty of the music. Notes had shape and form and seemed to occupy real space with a believability that they actually exist.

If the first track I played was something spacious and acoustic with great sound-staging, my next selections endeavoured to sample the deck’s dynamic ability. I found that the Helix is a very dynamic performer with great speed and attack. The ultra low noise design means backgrounds are very black as you would expect but then bandwidth on offer is prodigiously high. As the demand for separate volumes and intensities within the overall mix increase, individual performers or instruments feel like they each have their very own amplifier. In this way the Helix never seems to reach a dynamic brick wall and playing some complex and difficult tracks from Midlake, for the first time ever I heard them decongested and still replete with space and air, every single strand still well delineated and uncompressed.

The Helix then is an exciting deck with great power. It has clean and precise dynamics of the very first order and delivers a sense of energy and presence to the room which transcends the listening experience way beyond the nagging notion that a piece of plastic is spinning around in the corner of your house. This is an adept illusion, totally unveiled or corrupted by any blur, softening of edges or noise, a strong sense that the real thing is taking place right there in front of you.

Part of this illusion of realism is image stability, a key property of a good turntable experience and also a very relaible indicator of a deck’s speed stability. The sense of focus, the tautness of the image lock, the feeling of the dimensionality of various notes, instruments and performers being completely riveted in space is first rate. Whilst belt drive decks will often be on the back heel when it comes to this ability I would say that the image stability of the Helix is as good as the best direct drive turntables I have heard and that is a tall achievement indeed. The size and spacing of the soundstaging I found first rate as well. The Helix gave an absolutely enormous rendition of some of my favourite records both left to right and front to back. Between and around various components of music I am sure that I heard degrees of space and depth that I have simply never heard before. The sheer scale and vitality on offer here is something I believe, that is comfortably ahead of what the very best digital sources can provide.

Three or four years ago at Lotus we imported and sold a deck named the Beat, manufactured by a company called Kodo over in the USA. This was a direct drive table with a bearing and motor developed by Teres Audio and chassis design by Frank Schroder and Stillpoints. Sadly, for reasons mostly unrelated to its performance we had to remove it from our roster but this deck was a very good performer and also a giant killer at the asking price. The immediacy and image stability of the direct drive Beat was deeply impressive but I would say that the Helix is at least as good in this respect which is quite something for a belt drive unit. This is of little wonder though because when creating the belt drive Continuum Caliburn, Mark Dohmann worked out how to achieve arguably a new level of speed stability with that design.

The other really important contrast here though vis a vis the Kodo Beat, is that despite the fantastic dynamics, the absence of softness and the sheer speed of the deck, the Helix never once sounds aggressive or over-egged. Like the Caliburn it is beautifully natural and unforced in presentation and for this reason I am certain that it would accomodate the whole gamut of tonearms extremely well from air bearing to unipivot and gimbal. Notes are never hard or too sharp but just begin and decay in the most natural and faithful manner. One suspects that Dohmann’s Union’s extensive work with the motor control software has played it’s part here, being voiced painstakingly by ear to nail down just the right degree of torque from the motor.

Now to tonality. As you might expect, I found the deck very even from top to bottom with no recessive or expanded frequencies. Bass performance was first rate and hugely impressive for a suspended design and the midrange was beautifully open and expressive and very accurately textured. This is a very neutral deck with no added warmth but could not be described as cool and clinical as some performers are.

Standout Feature

Although the Helix’s dynamic ability, resolving power, quietness and imaging prowess is absolutely top draw, it’s important for me to convey to you that none of these abilities stick out like a trump card. No, the helix is way more mature and accomplished than that. In point of fact, the property of the deck which perhaps impresses even more than anything we have so far mentioned is this fabulous sense of flow and momentum that it exudes. Music is never laid back but then it’s never too forward or forceful. Rhythm and structure seem perfectly coherent and simple, and your favourite beats and tunes flow along so smoothly and melodiously. Although all the audiophile badges of honour are more than fully present here perhaps the over-riding feature of this turntable is just how beautifully balanced and well judged it is, and how incredibly pleasurable it is to listen to. This is a table that has enormous dynamic ability yet simultaneously feels so calm and at ease. Tracks, albums, whole listening sessions, days, weeks … they will surely melt into one and you will most definitely be buying heaps of new Vinyl and going through Moving Coils faster than you ever did before.

In Conclusion

In a way the Helix delivers a performance that belies it’s makeup. There is another review out there which touches upon this and I have to say that I fully concur. As a suspended design you almost expect a small degree of softness and a slight deficit to speed, transient attack and focus. As a belt drive you expect imaging to be a notch behind the very best and a sound with perhaps a smidge of warmth and some sweetness and flavouring in the midrange. The Helix has you wrong though at every juncture. Here is a deck that has the  dynamics, speed and imaging of a direct drive but then the tunefulness, liquidity and beauty of a belt drive. I suspect there are some mega decks out there that may just edge it in one domain or another (the hewn from granite sensation of a Rockport Sirius’s stability and precision will probably never leave me) but the Helix does not do “Aces”, instead it strives to nail absolutely everything in a mature balanced fashion. Neither laid back nor aggressive, neither clinical nor indulgent, it is the final whole sound that is uppermost, the way it so cohesively and convincingly delivers music in such a pleasing and believable manner. It’s not an audiophile’s deck but rather a true musical device and although it’s possible (but not provable) that it’s the best deck i’ve ever heard, it is most certainly, hand on heart, the very best turntable I have ever set up, sold, or had in my home.

I also genuinely believe that the current pricing is a bit of a giveaway (in relative terms). I have heard decks that were over three times the price yet not nearly as compelling and at NZ$44,995 with the Schroder tonearm it is just a small amount more or still quite a bit cheaper than many ‘mid-fi’ turntables which you honestly could not even place in the same sonic category. I would say that of course, I am selling the damm things ! But as ever the proof is in the pudding and any customer is welcome any time to come over for a listen to verify all these things and more for themselves. I don’t doubt that you will be as spellbound as I was/am but then if it just so happens that the Helix is not quite your cup of tea, with the Brinkmann Balance in session as well, we will be sure to have something which fits you like a glove.

Awards

STEREOPHILE Recommended Components: 2017 Edition TURNTABLES - Audio Union Dohmann Helix 1: US$40,000

Designed by Mark Döhmann, who headed the design team at Continuum Audio and now works under the auspices of Bulgaria-based Audio Union, the belt-drive Döhmann Helix 1 was intended to achieve the same goals as the well-regarded Continuum Caliburn turntable, but at a far lower cost.

Incorporating a CNC-machined aluminum-alloy plinth that itself weighs 100 lbs, the Helix 1 also makes use of a Negative Stiffness isolation platform, a high-torque motor with a software-based control system, a 30-lb metal-and-thermoplastic platter with a permanently installed damping mat, and a screw-on record clamp (a retrofittable vacuum hold-down system is in the works). Paired with the Helix 1 is the Captive Bearing (CB) tonearm from Frank Schröder, also a member of the Audio Union design team.

The CB features a carbon-fiber armtube and ultralow-friction hybrid ceramic bearings that include internal magnetic damping of horizontal motion. MF praised the Schröder CB as a "strong performer for $4000, or even more," and also evaluated the Helix 1 turntable with his reference SAT tonearm—an experience that led him to declare that "the Helix lets the music erupt (as I wrote about the Caliburn 11 years ago)."

Mikey concluded:
"Had I installed the Helix 1 in the same 2005 system that provided the context for the Continuum, I'd have written about it what I felt about the Caliburn: 'no turntable in my experience comes close to its sonic performance and you are guaranteed to hear your favorite demo LPs, indeed all of your LPs, as you've never before heard them.'" (Vol.40 No.3)