One of the world's most highly engineered turntables is coming to the UK, courtesy of Absolute Sounds. The high-end hi-fi distributor has made the latest Döhmann Audio Helix record player the sixth member of its esteemed Ten collection.
The Ten series launched in 2020 as a curation of high-end creations from around the world, handpicked by Absolute Sounds founder and MD Ricardo Franassovici. The first entry was a pair of speakers by Brooklyn-based DeVore Fidelity, which has since been followed by amplifiers by Robert Koda (Japan) and Trafomatic Audio (Serbia), phono stages by HSE (Switzerland) and reel-to-reel tape machines by Metaxas & Sins (Netherlands). In the concept's third year, there is now a Döhmann Audio turntable from Down Under.
Our Australian publication recently spoke with Mark Döhmann himself about his new Helix design, which can be considered one of today's most accurate audio playback devices and has been recently adopted by Stanford University as its audio reference to analyse vintage recordings from the Smithsonian archive. Quite the advertisement, to say the least.
There are actually two Helix turntables – the aptly named One and Two, which are both now in their third generations. The original Helix One followed the original model in 2015, which itself followed the release of the Döhmann Continuum Caliburn turntable a decade prior. The Continuum Caliburn was another legendary deck – a six-figure one, no less – and the Obsidian model that replaced it remains in Absolute Sounds' catalogue. The Helix Two is the more affordable and smaller ‘domestic’ model and has one armboard compared to the flagship One's two.
Döhmann's experience as an aerospace engineer has led him to think outside the box, as it were, introducing new techniques and technologies into turntable design that have been inspired by works in the fields of aerospace, spectrometry, medical imaging and electron microscopy. One example can be found in the Helix's employment of Minus K vibration isolators, which are used by the European Space Agency and NASA for applications that include – would you believe – the James Webb Space Telescope.
Indeed, most of Döhmann Audio's efforts over the years have, and continue to, focus on removing resonances. The Helix Mk3's mechanical crossover network has been designed to dissipate upper-frequency vibrations, while its aforementioned ‘floating’ armboards are made from a composite sandwich featuring two more materials over the Mk2 version – including a ballistics-grade polymer developed for bullet-proof vests! Meanwhile, a new technology it calls 'RSA (Resonance Suppression Architecture)' sees the insertion of two materials into hollow chambers at critical locations within the turntable. These materials were specifically chosen for their ability to target particular frequency spectrums.
The new platter, while the same size as the one found in the Mk2 model, now has a higher and more evenly distributed mass, achievable through using a heavier mix of elements and employing the finite element loading technique. For a smoother and more accurate drive, the drive system has been completely redesigned – new software, new firmware, new pulley, new controller... the lot. And a new power supply benefits from a circuit capable of improved noise suppression.
Following their launch in Australia at the end of last year, the Mk3 versions of the Helix One and Helix Two are now available in the UK, either in a black anodised-aluminium finish or a nickel and titanium plated finish applied by a company that plates parts for military jets. You'll no doubt have readied yourself for pricing whilst reading this. The Helix One Mk3 is priced at £64,998 (black) or £78,998 (titanium), while the Helix Two Mk3's costs are very slightly easier to swallow – £46,000 (black) and £51,500 (titanium).
The story behind Helix, the most accurate audio playback device today?