Döhmann Helix Two Mk3 Turntable Page 2

The motor is in the same plane as the bearing, so there's no yawing effect where the pulley might otherwise be fighting against the suspension. It's a three-phase design synchronised at a very high 100kHz and runs at an approximate 10:1 ratio with the platter, so the drive spindle spins at ~333rpm when the platter is set for 33.3rpm. The partnering outboard PSU isolates the filtered DC output from the AC mains input within two separately screened enclosures. So that unusual appearance is not just a hi-fi fashion statement...

sqnote Ken Listens
It is, perhaps, a truism that the initial, immediate exposure to a new component or, indeed, a complete system is both the formative, and ultimately the lasting impression. So the validity of the debut audition of a new product can be optimised if you know that the component has been run in and set up beyond reproach. So it was with my first burst from the Döhmann Helix Two Mk3 in my own system, as it had been fully tested and described by PM before reaching me.

Obviously, my own amps and speakers were well-used and familiar, while I fitted the deck variously with two different DS Audio cartridges of which I had a few hundred hours' worth of familiarity. This preamble is necessary in order to impress upon you the impact that this turntable has had upon me. But I must also tell you that I am doing my utmost to resist hyperbole and declare it 'the best ever'. Before you read another word, however, I will state that this seemingly straightforward, uncluttered turntable is a game changer.


Subtle illumination reveals the 33.3 and 45rpm speed buttons [top left] and the suspension 'tuning' indicator [lower right]

Stealthy Stereo
How so? It is, to my ears and whether or not the measurements concur, one of the quietest performers I have ever used. This in itself bestows upon the ultimate playback such worthy attributes as a lower noise floor, greater dynamics, and a sense of ease which makes the Helix Two Mk3 one of those components that will have you listening until 3am. Moreover, it's so commanding and transparent that it caused me to reassess my own understanding of not just the DS Audio pick-ups but, of all things, my collection of diminutive LS3/5A speakers.

What caused this Damascene revelation was my definitive lowest octave challenge, the drumming of Levon Helm. In this case it was not any of my go-to tracks from The Band's eponymous second LP, but one from Music From Big Pink [Mobile Fidelity MFSL1-039]. What made me sit up and take notice was that I was hearing it through Falcon Acoustics and Audiomaster21 LS3/5As, and hearing both bass extension and scale, at a level, that I would have presumed unavailable from my favourite small monitors [see HFN Jun '23].

That experience alone was enough to render me enamoured of the Helix Two Mk3, which forced upon me the realisation that I always had been walking on eggs, so to speak, with LS3/5As, fearful of blowing a drive unit. Whatever this turntable was doing, it was delivering signals to those speakers which didn't simply challenge their boundaries, it expanded them. That's how the bass drum thwacks in 'The Weight' made me and a fellow listener sit up, smile and shake our heads in disbelief.


Front and rear of Döhmann's outboard PSU includes a combined 5-pin data and supply connection adjacent to a main power toggle switch. The rocker on the PSU fascia is retained for a 'future vacuum [hold down] system'

Naturally, I turned to two other front-ends to determine how much of this was the Döhmann deck's doing. To our delight, the speakers were capable of much more, precisely as the Helix Two had revealed. What changed, however, from turntable to turntable – and what is absolutely crucial to appreciate if you are fortunate enough to be considering a deck in this price category – is the way that overall presentation changed from deck to deck.

We are categorically not talking about 'right or wrong', 'correct or incorrect', 'accurate or inaccurate' but something far more subjective. What it begs is that the Döhmann Helix Two Mk3 cannot be auditioned in isolation. Ideally, it will face its rivals with the same arms and cartridges and, obviously, LPs because the trial is about the very hard-to-discern qualities which underscore the Law of Diminishing Returns.

Perfect Poise
So revealing is the Döhmann Helix Two Mk3, thanks to its quietness and cool tranquillity, and so poised and confident is its reproduction, that it exposed precisely the nuances which one expects to be served when moving up the high-end ladder. Where it differed from other decks with almost identical prices but sharing only belt-drive and massive platters as common design elements, was in presentation: soundstage, the sense of air, the continuity. And I repeat, this is not to suggest one was right and the other two wrong – it is something as amorphous as when you have an eye test and you're asked which dot in the circle is clearer.

Having accepted that the Helix Two Mk3 delivers bass as deep and powerful as any I have heard in my room, I dug out a 12in single from one of the most fragile-sounding (and underappreciated) ensembles in rock history: Wilson Phillips. This trio of sublime vocalists' 'Release Me' [SBK Records 12SBK11] oozed harmony to rival that of their parents, which hovered over the soundstage with an airiness that can only be described as 'gossamer-like'.

'Pseuds Corner' might be in my future for that, but I cannot deny the recording its staggering impact. After an a cappella intro, massive percussion kicks in, displaying precisely the opposite sonic qualities, not least transient attack that takes one's breath away. The Döhmann Helix Two Mk3 wasn't reining in the audible gifts it bestowed upon me, beyond its own inherent brilliance and the way it forced a reassessment of the aforementioned speakers and cartridges. It made me realise that Wilson Phillips should be mentioned in the same breath as The Everly Brothers and The Hollies.


Seen here in its matt black livery, the Helix Two's black-anodised top-plate may also be ordered in a special carbon-fibre finish

Rock-It Fuel
Ah, the DS Audio cartridges! These had already proven how much quieter they were than any which housed coils and magnets. But it took stygian silences of Döhmann's Helix Two Mk3 to let me hear just how quiet they are. If there is a downside, and this may only affect those who constantly change cartridges, it might be the lowering of one's regard for others which are still superb performers. It's like finding out your partner snores.

What threw everything into chaos was discovering that the designers are headbangers, Aussies who used LPs from the likes of AC/DC when voicing this deck. Out with the Ramones' eponymous debut [Sire 9103 253] and the portions of 'Blitzkrieg Bop' where it's just vocals and drums, contrasted with the needles-on-the-meters-are-barely-moving main sections, emphasised the deck's skills at handling both raucous wall-of-noise passages with segments that exploited all the space on offer. Yes, those double-tracked vocals were as easy to isolate as any unplugged LP you care to use as a counter to the thrash.


Rear view shows the double-belt drive system, 5-pin PSU connector and up/down buttons for the Helix Two's fine speed control. The void under the armboard [left] allows tonearm leads to be 'dressed' without compromising the suspension

I left Döhmann's turntable with the nastiest rocker ever: the mono version of 'You Really Got Me' from The Kinks' The Journey – Part 1 [BMG BMGCAT7400LP]. Nascent, primal fuzz guitar, snarling vocals – this was as far from Wilson Phillips as it gets. But the results were the same: the Döhmann Helix Two Mk3 really is an open window.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Despite turntables out there in excess of £250,000, for me, the £25,000-£50,000 sector seems the most hotly-contested for wealthy music lovers. Döhmann's Helix Two Mk3 joins a must-hear group of five or six like-priced rivals. And make no mistake: with roots in the fabled Continuum, it has pedigree to ensure greatness. This turntable redefines LP playback, at a 10th of the cost of the dearest. I am astounded.

Döhmann Audio Pty Ltd
Victoria, Australia
Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd
0208 971 3909