This version of the Helix review contains predominantly technical information related to the design and operation of the Helix Speaker system. In the PHILOSOPHICAL VERSION, I discuss the topic of Origins. Readers wishing to enjoy that additional commentary are welcome to read that version. It contains all the technical information in this article. For those wishing to avoid discussion of philosophy or Origins, the critical information in discussion of the Helix Speaker System is contained in this article.
I am thoroughly aware of how unusual this “dual format” is. I do not intend on replicating it, as it has been arduous and moves beyond the norm in reviewing. However, I wish to try new things in reviewing as opposed to merely rehashing tired formats. I appreciate the latitude our editor has afforded me to experiment as a reviewer.
This is the fir
st installment of a “Super-review”, meaning that it is an assemblage of reviews about a system specifically put together for ultimate performance. Rather than starting with one component and seeing how well it can work with what is on hand, Super-review components are selected as they are deemed highly suitable for each other. The result is a cadre of reviews which complement each other and lead the reader to understand not just the experience of an individual component, but its potential to be placed in a system in which it, and all the other attending pieces, can perform optimally together. It is a system-based approach in reviewing.
This particular article of the Super-review is long, but not nearly as long and intense as the PHILOSOPHICAL VERSION! If its expansiveness is onerous, feel free to select portions (as at a buffet) to digest.
Suggestion on reading this review:
This portion of the Helix speaker system review is distinct in format. In celebration of the theme of the Helix, I have adopted a more artistic format, one which physically applauds the
wonder of the ubiquitous entwined strands of the DNA. You will find woven here two strands of thought. In normal type will be the main body of the review, containing the informational elements of my work.
The bold italicized type inserted between paragraphs of the text contains my emotional reactions to the Helix. I recommend that you read through the work, skipping the italicized insertions. Then, return to the beginning and follow the flow of the emotive content.
It takes painstaking design, along with the laws of nature in order to make a natural sounding speaker. One can see the excitement on his face when Bill Dudleston, owner and chief designer at Legacy Audio enthuses on the beauty and delicacy of the acoustic laws. How much effort has Bill put into understanding these acoustic laws? One draws a clue from the names of Legacy Audio speakers… Focus, Whisper, Helix. These names all hearken to an otherworldly complexity and precision underlying even the most “simple” experience of hearing. Bill has dedicated himself to creating devices which allow others to hear the impact of those acoustic laws.
“Turn it down! Turn it Down,” my mind screamed! During set up, Bill
The Helix speaker is only half the story of Legacy Audio’s technological prowess. I will be exploring the implementation of Legacy technology in the high-end audio marketplace. The other half is found in the world of professional audio via the “Double Helix”, a speaker system which has been made by Bill for the largest recording company in the world, Universal Music Group. It is a larger expression of the Helix. Bill Dudleston makes speakers which bowl people over, whether for home or studio use. The years he has spent in product development, putting in thousands of hours on driver optimization, diaphragm material studies, acoustic studies and DSP applications are evident in his designs. I will let the reader explore the Legacy website for more about the Double Helix, a mega-speaker system:
A Word About the Super-Review Format
The Super-review concept was conceived in the wake of the invitation to review the Helix. I wanted top tier equipment for the review, and I knew that the selection of each component would be critical to the desired result. As each piece contributed to the beauty of the system, I felt it proper to conduct a thorough review of it with a description of how it contributed to the system.
Dudleston took the speaker to hideous levels – it was painful! But
When considering matching components for the Helix I went with companies I was familiar with; I wanted experience and quality on my side when approaching these speakers. Bolstered by familiarity of their products, I approached Ayon Audio, Jeff Rowland Design Group, and Wire World Cables to contribute top designs for the project.
there was no distortion! …The bass sent vibrations through my cement
Here is what I sought from each of them:
Ayon Audio – Having worked with the enticing CD-1, I wanted a Redbook source with both richness and depth. The signal needed to extend seemingly indefinitely. The sound could not be harsh or etched from improper signal treatment. The CD-3 has been superb at sending a signal that walks the line between an overly detailed/processed signal and one which is too murky or muddled from the influence of tubes.
floor, and the speakers didn’t even seem taxed!
Jeff Rowland Design Group – I specifically designed this Super-review so that in discussing amplification the MC-606 multi-channel amp would be reviewed while I was pursuing multiple preamps. Part of this was due to pragmatism. I knew the project would be huge, and I had to limit it in some manner, lest it become unmanageable. The Super-review will not carry a focus on one preamp, but mention these three: Jeff Rowland Capri, Valve Amplification Company (VAC) Signature Preamplifier MkII, and Cambridge Audio Azur 840E.
(Listening to John Barry’s score “Out of Africa”)The incessant sound of
I spent considerable time with the JRDG 501 Mono Block amps, and I have been impressed by the gravitas of these IcePower wonders. While they were a touch “white” sounding, I knew that the addition of the Power Factor Correction devices in the MC-606 Multi-Channel Amp would likely add richness – an expectation which was met. I also knew that the selection of preamp would have a pervasive influence on the Helix. The JRDG Capri Preamp brought the MC-606 closer to tube-like sound.
the drum, the slap of a palm on a rude tribal drum’s skin, returned me
I will be forthright; the JRDG Capri was not the perfect fit for the MC-606 and the Helix system. I have had exceptional results with the Capri in other rigs, including pairings with the Legacy Audio Focus HD. If I had an extended period and additional amplifiers, cables and sources I have no doubt that I could utilize the Capri in every bit as stunning a system behind the Helix speakers. However, with the review system I assembled, I sought additional preamps as I was not completely satisfied with the end result.
to my childhood. It was the same sound I had made with the ethnic
The economical Cambridge Audio Azur 840E was a pleasant surprise. It brought a clear, succinct signal to the MC-606 amp. Just as the Azur 840C player has an openness to its delivery, so did the preamp exhibit a wide open spatiality. The pairing of these two was suitable and I used them together a fair bit.
drums my father brought home for me from his world travels.
Valve Amplification Company (VAC) – I knew I needed an “Extreme End” preamplifier. I contacted Kevin Hays of the Valve Amplification Company (VAC) and discussed use of his Renaissance Signature Preamplifier MkII with the Super-review system. Though pressed with a six-week delay to fulfill outstanding orders, he was able to release a unit for my use.
The Signature Preamplifier ran away with the honors. If a comparison could be made to a foot race, others were just getting out of the blocks at the starting gun while the VAC was halfway to the finish line. Out of the box it had stunning performance, a nearly faultless fabric, a sonic tapestry like a rich oriental rug. Once it was placed in the rig it never left its position of honor, right in front, controlling the show. It was one of those, “…over my dead body,” components.
Wireworld Cables – I can garnish a wealth of information about any component when using Wireworld designs. The range of cables in their product line allows me to tune a rig to perfection, and I was extremely pleased with their performance. This particular pair of Helix speakers was wired with Wireworld internal cabling, which was a bonus for the review. I especially appreciate the fact that due to Wireworld’s design, no power conditioning is necessary. The result is a super clean signal path and a marvelously unrestricted sound. I was completely satisfied with the performance.
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