Döhmann Helix One Mk.2 turntable Page 3

The Minus K suspension meant I could pretty much pound on both the HRS platform and the Helix One Mk2's base and hear nothing through the speakers. It's a really effective isolation device! A stethoscope placed anywhere on the 'table revealed zero motor and/or bearing noise.

Explosive, visceral sonics
Not surprisingly, the Döhmann Helix One Mk2's sound was more similar to the Continuum Caliburn's than it was to the TechDAS Air Force One Premium's; the TechDAS sounded smoother and, you might say, more elegant, refined, and relaxed—probably something to do with the air-bearing platter, though of course that's just speculation.

That's not to say that the Air Force One was overly smooth, or that it softened transients—or that the Helix One Mk2 2 or the Continuum produce harsh transients or overly etched edge definition, or that the latter two were anything but top-to-bottom well-refined, suave, and unflappable sounding. I love how much some people hate far-flung metaphors, so here's one: The Air Force One Premium's sound is an immersion blender soup. The Caliburn's and Helix One Mk2's is more food-processor finely chopped. One is smoother and more velvety while the other is more chunky and textured. Both taste great!

In the original Helix One review, I compared a track from the double-45rpm edition of The Ray Brown Trio's album Soular Energy, originally issued in 1985 by Concord Records (Analogue Productions APJ 268-45). So I did it again this time.

With the SAT armboard on the Helix One Mk2, I was able to easily switch the arm between the Mk2 and the Caliburn, making the turntable the only variable in the chain. I digitized at 24/96 resolution the track "Teach Me Tonight," in which the group plays the melody with an insistent, hard-hitting, heavily percussive style.

320helix.4

While the two recordings sounded more similar than different, especially timbrally, Gene Harris's piano sustain was somewhat more generous through the Continuum, while the Helix One Mk2's attack was a bit faster and tighter. The same was true of Brown's bass, which via the Continuum had slightly more sustain and "float" following a somewhat softer, suppler attack.

The $150,000 turntable produced somewhat more bass extension and power at the very bottom, as well as slightly more metallic shimmer and sustain on the cymbals. The Helix One Mk2's cymbal attack was a bit tighter and crisper, followed by weaker sustain. Both turntables produced satisfying decay into blackness—one area where I think these designs beat the air-bearing ones.

Both files produced dynamic slam and control to spare, and both snapped back to black between notes to produce almost alarmingly present, three-dimensional, intensely layered images floating in space. In comparison to these two 'tables, the Air Force One's refined nature produced a somewhat more polite, slightly laid back, though still extremely well-organized spatial picture.

Setting aside comparisons, the Helix One Mk2's presentation of Mobile Fidelity's double 45rpm Ultradisc One-Step pressing of Thelonious Monk's Monk's Dream (UD1S 2-011) startled throughout, but especially as he wrapped up the solo tune "Body and Soul" 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, without extraneous artifacts.

This turntable exudes complete authority and control, and never leaves you feeling that there's more to be extracted from the grooves (especially with the SAT onboard!) or that anything is being withheld dynamically, spatially, or in terms of detail resolution. It put Monk's piano right in the room.

Unfortunately, the opening tune on my sample of this record, which turned out to be wavy/warped, proved unplayable on the Döhmann 'table, but playable on the vacuum hold-down Air Force One and Caliburn. In fact, I didn't even know the LP was warped until I tried playing it on the Helix One Mk2. I hope Döhmann fulfills the vacuum hold-down promise sooner rather than later. It's a feature I refuse to be without.

For a sample of what this turntable can do in terms of deciphering complex passages where a lot's packed into a narrow frequency range, try Angel Olsen's string-and-reverb– drenched All Mirrors (Jagjaguwar JAG344). She's not the first artist to drown her sorrows in strings buried in reverb (Beck did it well on Sea Changes), but on this album, Olsen, her producers, and engineers nail the genre and create pleasing misery you can happily wallow in. The double-LP set, cut at Nashville's Sterling Sound by Joe Nino-Hernes—one of crop of up-and-coming lacquer-cutting engineers—produces musical and emotional sensations that the harder-edged, less-atmospheric, flattened FLAC 24/44.1 streamed file only hints at.

320helix.5

Why does vinyl produce that from a digital recording? I don't know. I'm just listening to the strings floating across the stage on a cushion of reverb-drenched air, her voice portrayed boldly and three-dimensionally out front, center stage, in fine, convincing focus, supported by a well-defined bottom end foundation. In the digital stream, this all turns to cardboardy flatness. Added distortion? Like I care!

Conclusion
As with the Caliburn concept, Döhmann's newer design attempts to isolate the outside world while draining away internal vibrations that can interfere at the stylus/vinyl interface. Consequently, it gets those vibration measurements right.

The Caliburn's $150,000 heroics include (among other features) an 80lb-plus "nested" cast–magnesium-alloy platter and cast-magnesium chassis (said to have been chosen because magnesium has natural damping properties), plus an American-made cogless motor and sophisticated computer-driven motion-controller system. The entire assemblage originally sat on a crazy magnetic repulsion stand—that is, until the designer discovered Minus K, which produced better results in a much more user- and designer-friendly, compact, and self-contained "off the shelf" package.

The sonic result of all of this was something very special. It produced liberated, explosive, out-of-the-box, nonmechanical sound that was neither overdamped nor out of control.

When I first auditioned it, the Caliburn was startlingly better than any turntable I'd ever heard, and it's still up there with the best. It's not leaving the premises.

Mr. Döhmann's goals for the new 'table were the same as for the old, though he wanted something more practical and less difficult and costly to manufacture.

With the Helix One Mk2, Döhmann did for an entire turntable design what the above-mentioned Minus K enhancement did for the Caliburn, replacing a massive, difficult-to-cast, carefully configured chassis with an easier-to-construct, lighter-weight "plate" system built within a massive frame, which accomplished the same vibration dissipation without overdamping.

The Mk2 iteration of the Döhmann Helix One turntable produced only one surprise: slightly worse speed measurements; otherwise, the new PowerBase is a useful ergonomic upgrade, while the carbon fiber top looks better. The armboard is improved. User-friendly pushbutton speed control is a big plus, as is the easier setup produced by whatever was done to eliminate the original 'table's need for brass balancing weights.

The other major story here is the business side of things—something to which reviews of costly audio gear should pay more attention: Like the 'table itself, Döhmann Audio has been reorganized around a central core, with single-point assembly, testing, and distribution. Hopefully, stability and good vibrations will follow.

If $50k is your price point, there are a few really great 'tables out there. The Döhmann Helix One Mk2 is up there with the best.

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.

X