Döhmann Helix One Mk.2 turntable

Designing and building a turntable isn't all that difficult. All that matters is in plain sight: Start with a base of wood, MDF, or acrylic; add some isolation "feet" for it to rest upon, and a spindle bearing such as any competent machine shop can fabricate, topped by a platter of acrylic or aluminum or suchlike. The motor can be an off-the-shelf AC synchronous type, fed directly by the electricity from a wall socket. Machining a correctly sized pulley and driving the platter with a belt requires minimal math skills to achieve the correct speeds. Build the motor into the base, or put it in an outboard pod—either way, you're in business. Now, just bolt an arm to the base at the correct distance, set up a cartridge, and enjoy!

Of course, designing a good-sounding, high-performance turntable is considerably more difficult. Ditto-squared for a tonearm. Anyone who's been lucky enough to audition dozens if not hundreds of turntables and arms, as I have, knows that despite the simplicity of the concept, they all sound different from each other for reasons not grounded in magic—though sometimes, as with loudspeakers, a just-right combination of ideas and compromises can produce magic.

There are authoritative low-mass designs, like the recently reviewed Rega Planar 10, and many great-sounding high-mass ones. Yet there are "drummy," awful-sounding low-mass concoctions and overdamped, high-mass sludgefest ones, too. And of course there are dozens if not hundreds of fanciful designs—gleaming masses of metal-plated jewelry, acrylic towers, and the like that serve more as eye candy than ear candy and have little to do with playing records properly—which, as expressed by Rega Research, is to be a "vibration measuring machine": one that's properly tuned to be neither underdamped nor overdamped and that spins consistently at the correct speed (although that, too, can be a trap if overexecuted).

Designing and building an accurate vibration measuring machine is difficult, but even when that's been accomplished, building a second one and a third one and many more after that—all capable of performing identically and reliably—is at least as difficult as building the first one. (As an aside, in terms of consistency and high build quality, SME has long set the standard.)

This is the second time I've covered a Döhmann Helix One turntable, the first appearing in the March 2017 Stereophile. It's also my third time reviewing a turntable for which designer Mark Döhmann was responsible, the first being the Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn ($150,000), which I reviewed in 2006, and which has been my reference ever since. Döhmann and Continuum parted company some time ago. What's more, the company ceased supporting the original, which I feel was a bad-faith move that put consumers in the crossfire of what should have been an internal dispute. And that goes to show that when you buy an expensive turntable, along with the quality of the product and its design efficacy, you should consider the company's financial viability, its longevity, and its commitment to its customers—although sometimes stuff just happens anyway.

Döhmann Audio
In 2013, after two years of research, Döhmann founded Döhmann Audio in Melbourne, Australia. The original Helix One, launched in 2015, was produced and distributed under the aegis of Audio Union, an international consortium that included Sofia, Bulgaria–based Thrax, where that turntable's parts were manufactured and assembled under the direction of Rumen Artarski, who holds an Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Denmark.

320helix.2

I gave the original Döhmann Helix One ($40,000) a well-deserved rave because of its unique, innovative design, its high build quality, and of course its superlative sound. My conclusion: "How good is the Helix 1? Had it been installed in my system in 2005, I'd have written what I did 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—I don't care what 'table you use or have heard." Please keep the quote's context in mind because many great turntables have come through here since 2005.

In 2017, Döhmann introduced the less-costly Helix Two. A year later, the company was restructured, with two new owner/directors joining the operation: George Moraitis and Jim Angelopoulos, both of whom now handle the company's business and finances, freeing Mr. Döhmann to do what he does best, which is not that. The new owners also bring to Döhmann Audio a sophisticated test-and-measurement business, which will help in the development of new products and the improvement of existing ones.

While Thrax still manufactures some parts, Döhmann Audio in Melbourne manufactures most of the components and does final assembly and testing. The Helix One's Minus K "negative stiffness" isolation mechanism is sourced from the US. Döhmann now also handles worldwide distribution.

Helix One vs Helix One Mk2
According to the company, the new Helix One is a "virtually new turntable with most of its technologies having been improved or upgraded." In part, because of its integrated, internally mounted, passive Minus K negative stiffness isolation base, which isolates down to 0.5Hz vertically and 1.5Hz horizontally (footnote 2), the Helix One looks different from and behaves differently than other turntables.

However, the Helix One is far more than a massive platter spinning atop a Minus K isolation platform. My Continuum Caliburn set the 'table on top of a Minus K platform, producing many benefits, including in particular effective vibration isolation—but it also resulted in a bit of mass instability, an issue addressed in the Helix One design by integrating it within, not below, the turntable. This arrangement allows the 'table's mass to be distributed around and below the platform to produce better stability when the platter spins.


Footnote 1: Click here for a Thrax factory tour, and to see a Helix One turntable partially assembled.
COMPANY INFO
Döhmann Audio Pty Ltd
Distribution coordinated by Döhmann
Unit 2, 11 Friars Road, Moorabbin
Victoria 3189 Melbourne, Australia
+61 409 514 914
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
CG's picture

Cool! No listening tests or conclusions. The ultimate objectivist review for a turntable.

Or a simple glitch in the web presentation... :8^)

Archimago's picture

You must have missed the subjective comments on page 3. I guess the Caliburn is still the superior sounding 'table.

The only objective part in the whole review was the graph of speed stability. To that, most "objectivists" would say: "That's some jittery hardware!" :-)

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be that hardware needs one or two jitter repelling, 'JitterBugs' :-) ........

jeffhenning's picture

...this is the turntable for you!

So this is better than a $500 computer hooked up to a Benchmark DAC3 exactly how?

Sorry, that was a dick question, but I do hope that you realize that this turntable is absurd.

This is akin to our glorious leader pushing incandescent light bulbs.

The only thing I can say is, "Enjoy the obsolescence."

Stay Corona free, baby!

CG's picture

For some reason, most of the content on page 3 was missing at first - probably not entirely uploaded at that point. All that had been presented in the first two pages was some measurements and a factual description of the product. Almost no opinion, informed or otherwise. Hence, only objective material.

That was the joke, as I suggested in my second paragraph. The actual content for page 3 is now there.

As for objectivists, I will leave my opinion off these pages.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Your admiring opinions about the objectivists is welcome in these pages :-) ........

Ortofan's picture

... of this $50K turntable meet - let alone surpass - that of a $500 Onkyo?

https://www.analogplanet.com/content/onkyos-cp-1050-direct-drive-turntable-offers-extraordinary-speed-stability-attractive-retro

JHL's picture

...would anyone ask?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Enquiring minds want to know :-) ........

Awsmone0's picture

with a surprise upper-register, single- chord attack followed by a flourish of gentle note-tickling. (There's probably a musical term for that that I don't know.) It all rang timbrally, texturally, and dynamically true

Oh really ;)

davip's picture

This TT (and the Helix 2 before it in AnalogPlanet) continue to get rave, technologically-rapt reviews, yet I would contend that Dohmann & Co. are not using the MinusK platform in the manner in which it was designed for. Both in this review and Mikey's Munich 2015 video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRGLXOFQKb4) it is stated -- extraordinarily -- that despite the amazing Minus K tech incorporated in this TT Dohmann puts the motor ON the subchassis. Listen to the video at 4'.05'', where the Dohmann rep describes the motor being on the same plane and "...moving with the suspension". He describes the Helix as being effectively immune-to and isolated-from "...ground-based vibration", but this is irrelevant as, while the Minus K's usage in SEM and EFM microscopy attests to the utility of this anti-vibration tech, the principal source of vibration in a turntable is not 'ground-based' but WITHIN the turntable, i.e., the motor, and thus this groundbreaking tech is bypassed to a greater or lesser degree.

Watch the appropriately-named video 'Famous Minus K Wine Glass Demo Described' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evAx-1rv4lQ), and marvel at how how this extraordinary device isolates a filled wine-glass placed upon it from the stated earthquake-level vibration beneath it. Then wonder how this amazing device would work if the vibration source were placed UPON the Minus K along with that wine glass, as in the Dohmann Helix.

Show me a Minus K video with both the undisturbed wine glass AND the vibration source on the Minus K and I'll buy it, but this Dohmann TT is not, per the Company rep's description and Mikey's description herein, implementing the Minus K in the way that it was designed to be. I know that Mikey has a bee in his bonnet in regard to his 'porch-glider effect' (i.e., the notional -- but yet to be demonstrated -- belt-communicated speed variations that result from a motor not mounted on the subchassis), but I would contend that this effect, whether audible or measurable, is as nothing compared to the piggybacking of spurious 50/60 Hz motor noise on the audio signal that results from mounting the motor on the same surface as the transducer. The $3.5K Rega Planar 10 betrays itself in this regard through the application of a stethoscope, and while the Helix 1 is undoubtedly much better than even Rega's best singing-along-to-itself TT this tech deserves to be better implemented.

As I said in a comment on the Rega TT review (and Herb chimed in in-support of), it's time to test TTs with an accelerometer applied to the arm base to see just how isolating or not these various mechanical devices are. A stethoscope is a great idea and a good-start, but it's time to get systematic about this -- particularly when sums of $50k are being asked for.

A motor plonked on the subchassis that bears both the platter and arm = the Rega model of isolation. Jog-on Mr D...

tonykaz's picture

Egads, with 200 lbs of mass these guys could significantly minimize the affects/effects of tiny stray environmental forces on the platter/stylus workings.

It's basic physics : add mass to lower resonance.

Anyone can do this.

Tony in Venice

jgossman's picture
Quote:

Egads, with 200 lbs of mass these guys could significantly minimize the affects/effects of tiny stray environmental forces on the platter/stylus workings.

This is not true, and has been proven demonstrably by Mr. Gandy. Mass is a piss poor excuse for good engineering, and only stores low frequency energy - the harmonics of which destroy HF clarity. If the mass is part of OTHER engineering goals - the point of which in this case seems to be creating a "massless" plinth system, then it is, in fact, trying to serve in a rather unique way, Mr. Gandy's theory about plinth design. If you house a low pressure air bladder support in a concrete container - if for looks alone OR if you are convinced that's the perfect version of constrained layer damping, you're STILL resting your plinth/bearing on AIR. You see what I'm saying and why your statement is silly? I'm not trying to start a pissing match at all - just trying to show a flaw in your logic. The fact that so many people are chasing Mr. Gandy's key ideas by way of so many different designs should tell you all you really need to know about the flaws of high mass designs.

tonykaz's picture

Are you a Physics Understudy of Mr.Gandy?

You seem to be presenting Mass's physical properties using Mr.Gandy's "key ideas", can any of these be correlated to any Laws of Physics ?

I'm rather puzzled by your presumption of large Mass storing energy expressed by damaging harmonics.

You seem to be addressing these relationships in the manner of a layman.

Demonstrating something is not proving! Others repeating the experiment may result in proof or may not.

These folks are simply trying to sell pricy record players, they allege that they have a technical edge to high performance. Maybe they can justify their price, I doubt it.

This products death is from shipping weight and handling, compounded by being made on the other side of the world from most potential buyers.

Something smells >>)))))'> about this one.

Tony in Venice

Ortofan's picture

... series of articles on turntable (and tonearm) design written by a certain Joseph F. Grado and published in Audio magazine during 1977.
Copies of the magazines can be downloaded here:
https://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-All-Audio/Audio-Magazine.htm

wade's picture

Hey Mikey:
The Dohmann website used to refer to a future vacuum hold-down for the Helix One Mk2 in its product description . That phrase has recently been deleted. Has Mr. D abandoned that prospect? Inquiring minds would like to know.

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