HELIX Q & A

Are Helix Cables compatible with all components ?

Interconnects: to my knowledge ALL Helix Interconnects are compatible with all components

Speaker Cables: Helix Speaker Cables should NOT be used with amplifiers employ a Symmetrical, Complimentary, or Balanced outputs.
i.e. Both terminals effectively carry the same signal, just 180 degrees out of phase, similar to a balanced Interconnect

Amps known to employ this architecture:
  • Accuphase E-303
  • Anthem - Some Models
  • Atma-Sphere - all models
  • Audio Research - Some Models
  • Ayre - all models
  • Balanced Audio Technology
  • BAT VK-255SE
  • Boulder 500AE
  • D’Agostino - Some Models
  • Musical Fidelity - High End Models
  • Pass Labs
  • PS Audio BHK Signature 300
  • Vitus
  • Yamaha some models


Power Cables: Helix power cables should NOT be used in conjunction with a power conditioner that provides a "balanced output",
i.e. where both Live and Neutral carry the same voltage - just 180 degrees out of phase.

e.g. Equitech Corporation pioneered power conditioning of this nature.

How can you tell if YOUR power conditioner uses this approach?
  • simply measure the voltage between the Ground and the Neutral and then the Ground and the Live
  • if they show the same voltage then the power output is balanced.

NOTE: connecting a helix speaker cable or power cable to one of the incompatible components listed above WILL NOT cause harm.
  • But the sound will not be optimal

Other Issues: A problem of HUM was reported using a Helix Power Cable with a Canary Grand Reference amp, but the cause is yet to be determined

Please note this is NOT an exhaustive list and I will endeavour to keep it updated as I find out about other anomalies



Why a Helix Geometry?
  • I had believed for sometime that with a conventional geometry, where the conductors were positioned side by side, there could be noise generate within the cable due to the process of induction between the wires.
  • There is also proximity effect and skin effect which can degrade signal transmission
  • In order to minimize these effects you need to eliminate side-by-side conductors
  • With the Helix Geometry - the neutral wire crosses the signal wire at almost 90 degrees
  • No more induction, skin effect or proximity effect - but you now have a much longer neutral wire
  • To offset the effect of additional resistance in the neutral wire - use a wire of a larger diameter
  • But that can sometime make a cable too thick - in which case I use a double run of wire for the neutral

What does it mean in audible terms? - with less noise being generated within the cable itself, the Helix cables sound more open, with faster dynamics, more details and improved clarity, together with an outstanding image. You also reduce the "filtering effect" resulting in a more neutral sound

How important are Materials?

THE WIRE:
  • When building cables most DIYer's focus on the quality of the conductor (or wire)
  • e.g. they will opt for OFC Copper, OCC Copper, Silver Coated Copper, or Silver
  • So what's the difference? - They each conduct electricity at differing rates
  • the International Annealed Copper Standard (IACS) was established to standardize the quality of copper used for electrical purposes
  • annealed copper is the benchmark standard - rated at 100%
  • The best Silver, by comparison, has an IACS rating of 107%
  • the rest are somewhere in between

What does it mean in audible terms? - the sound of cables made using a better quality wire will improve dynamics and details.

THE INSULATION:
  • Even though the metallurgy of a cable will contribute significantly to the performance of the end product, recent collaborations with other DIYers focussed on the type of Insulation used on the wire.
  • Each insulation type has a different Dielectric Constant or D.C. - Teflon has a D.C. of 2.1 and PVC has a D.C. of 3.18
  • For interconnect cables and speaker cables, cotton has proven to be an exceptional insulation with a D.C. around 1.3
  • For power cables the insulation has to withstand much higher voltages, therefore cotton is not a good choice.
  • You should select wire with a mains rated insulation that can withstand voltage up to 600 volts
  • Duelund has mains rated wire with their proprietary Polymer insulation, which is better than Teflon
  • The best insulation for power cables I have found to date is an insulation called AirLok which has a D.C. just less than 1.45
  • VH Audio is one vendor that sells wire with AirLok insulation that is specifically rated for mains use i.e. 600 volts.
  • BUT be aware that not all wires with AirLok Insulation is rated for mains use - so look for the 600 volts rating

What does this mean in audible terms? - lowering the D.C. of the insulation used will improve clarity and detail and with that, a more precise and expansive image.


Which Helix cable should I make first?
  • I normally recommend making the speaker cables first, because they are the easiest to fabricate and they provide the most noticeable improvement in sound quality
  • Next I would recommend the Interconnect cable, because it eliminates noise on the neutral side of the attached components, which improves clarity and imaging
  • Power cables should be the last to be built, because without the Interconnect or Speaker cables the full impact of the Helix geometry power cable cannot be completely observed

With Respect to Power Cables:

What gauge wire should I use for the various components ?
  • I have found that for Amplifiers a 12 gauge Live conductor with dual 12 gauge neutral and ground conductors works the best
  • For source components I have found that an 18 gauge solid silver conductor provides significant benefit, with dual 14 gauge neutral wires
Do I have to solder the spades to the wires?
  • I have found that crimping + soldering provides the best results,
  • Crimping Only, works almost as well, so omitting the solder will not cause a significant impact to sound quality
  • Bare wires do not perform as well as spades and it is highly probable that the clamping device in the plug/connector will work loose over time.
  • Not only are spades an important safety consideration, they do actually improve performance

With Respect to Interconnect cables:

Can a Helix Interconnect Cable be used as a SPDIF (digital) interconnect?
  • Absolutely - they are excellent for digital transfers and the KLE Innovations RCA’s ensure they are completely compatible with 50, 75 and 100 ohm digital interfaces
  • Internal reflections, a common problem in other SPDIF cables are mitigated by using the KLE Innovations RCA plugs
  • Based on my own observations, the KLE Innovations Silver Harmony provides adequate capabilities to handle all digital transfers up to 24 bit 192kHz
  • If you require larger/faster transfer rates I would recommend upgrading the RCA to the Pure Harmony or Absolute Harmony model
  • You can also use cables shorter than 1.5 meters for digital transfers - I have used Helix cables as short as 45 cm without any noticeable degradation in signal transfers.
  • A minimum length of 1.5 meters is often cited as providing the best performance for other cable geometries.



All Cables:

Do I need to ad a wire “mesh” screen to interconnects? e.g. similar to COAX cables
  • No - the helix neutral & ground conductors act as a very effective screen
  • It also acts as a Faraday Cage and protects the signal/live wire from external RFI/EMI

Do I have to use the components (plugs, wire etc..) listed on the site ?
  • Absolutely not, you are free to use whichever materials you feel are best suited to your budget.
  • However, all materials listed on the site are those I have found to provide exceptional sound quality.
  • Unfortunately I cannot provide an opinion as to the performance or materials you may wish to select, my apologies.

How does the Helix geometry compare to other “cable geometries”, such as the ribbon style geometry
  • The helix geometry is superior to other geometries in that they prevent noise form entering all connected components via the conductors
  • The Helix geometry can be used to build Speaker, Interconnect and Power Cables. Other geometries may not “scale” so well to power cables in particular
  • The helix windings serve as a very effective screen to deter noise pollution from external RFI/EMI sources entering your system

Can I use Helix cables on any audio/video equipment ?
  • To my knowledge helix cables offer significant improvements to sound quality on both Tube and Solid State equipment
  • Power cables tend to offer a more noticeable improvement on those components the have a less robust power supply
  • When used on large mono block amplifiers the improvements in sound quality tend to be more subtle in nature, but still noticeable.
  • WARNING: HELIX Speaker cables WILL NOT work with amps of a fully balanced "Symmetrical" design, such as the the Vitus and some fully balanced designs from Musical Fidelity

They look very complicated to build - are they?
  • Perhaps the first cable you build will present some challenges during construction.
  • But once you get the hang of winding the helix coil with the aid of a rod and drill then subsequent sets of cables will be much easier to fabricate
  • I recommend winding a “test coil”, using a piece of household wire to start with.

Will using multiple conductors for the live (or signal) conductors make a difference?
  • It will change the capacitance and inductance of the cable somewhat, but without trying it it is hard to “guesstimate” the impact
  • This may not be too much of an issue for the components you are using, but you should be aware these changes do exist.

Does the direction of the winding of the helix coil make any difference?
  • IT DOES - PLEASE READ : Inside The Helix Geometry.
  • It will not harm your components if the Helix Coil is wound in the other direction
  • it just sounds better when the helix coil is wound in the correct direction.


AND - IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS - JUST ASK

The HELIX USB Cable

This post details how to fabricate a USB cable using the Helix cable geometry and is provided by courtesy of Audiogon Member : Grannyring.

Please Note: this cable does not include the conductor that carry USB supplied power.
  • adding a separate cable for this purpose is detailed below

The fabrication of this cable follows the same approach used in the construction of the analogue interconnects and has…
  • A twisted pair that carries the D+ and D- digital signals
  • NOTE: using the D+ and D- is a differential signalling technique as used in XLR "Balanced" cables.
  • A Helix Neutral conductor that is connected to the neutral side of the circuit

Unfortunately, the TYPE A and TYPE B connectors used are really designed for 24/28 gauge wires and definitely NOT designed for use with the Helix Coil, i.e. without a simple modification

Simply remove the Cable clamps as in the diagrams below



TYPE A USB CONNECTOR

BEFORE AFTER


USB Housing NormalUSB Housing Modified

TYPE B USB CONNECTOR

BEFORE AFTER


USB Type BUSB Type B Mod

NOTE: When attaching the wires please ensure you observe the correct pin connections


USB Pinout


Next, construct the D+ and D- Twisted Pair using a "short twist" as in the image below
  • i.e. 3 twists per inch (or per 25mm)

Signal wire twist

You can use the same 18 gauge wire as used with the Analogue Interconnect, but since there is very little space in the USB connectors the problem of wires shorting out requires extremely precise soldering

The recommended wires for this cable is:
  • 18 gauge UP-OCC Solid Silver with AirLok insulation from VH Audio for the signal wire, or
  • 18 gauge UP-OCC Solid Copper with AirLok insulation from VH Audio
  • 16 gauge Silver Plated Mil-spec for the Helix Neutral (i.e. as used on the Analogue Interconnects)

Please note that either of the signal wires above will perform to a very high level, but for the very best performance, the solid silver wire is preferred

Insert the twisted pair into a piece of cotton tubing with heat-shrink (with adhesive) at each end to hold it in place

Insert that assembly into the Helix Coil and attach the connectors…


Connect one end to the Type A connector.

Wire at Computer end


Stretch the Helix coil to the length of the signal wires

Connect the other end to the Type B connector.

Here is a view of the wires connected to the top of the Type B connector

Wire at source end

And a view of the wires connected to the Bottom of the Type B connector

Wire at source end II


Once the wires are soldered in place, Fix the metal housing in place using a hot glue gun.

Be sure to cover the solder joints with hot glue, so as to insulate them from the metal housing

Hot glue the metal cap into place, again covering any solder joints with the glue.

NOTE: Add a little more hot glue to secure the cable assembly to the connector, for strain relief

Do this for both Type A and Type B Connectors

Computer end Hot Glue II


Place two pieces of Heat-shrink (with adhesive) over each connector assembly and the Helix coil to provide additional "strain relief"

NOTE: ensure the Heat Shrink extends onto the Helix Coil by approximately 1.5 inches.
- This prevents the cable from bending and breaking the the delicate solder joints.



Fnished Cable

And VOILA ! - you have a high performance USB cable

Finished Cable 2

PLEASE NOTE: Before connecting any cable to a component be sure to test the continuity of the pins of each connector



How do I add the Power Supply Wires?

If you would like to add the wire that will provide USB power to the connected device as follows…
  • Once the USB connectors have been soldered to the D+ and D- twisted pair BUT before the hot glue has been applied to the connectors
  • Cut a length of 18 gauge wire slightly longer than the length of the USB cable
  • insert the wire into a piece of braided screen tube (approximately 1" shorter than the piece of wire)
  • Then insert the wire and the braided shield into a piece of expandable nylon sleeve (for insulation) and secure with a piece of heat shrink at both ends
  • PLEASE NOTE: - the screen is NOT connected to either of the USB connectors
  • connect one end of the power wire to the +ve power pin of one connector
  • "loosely twist" the power wire assembly around the Helix coil ( i.e. about 4 times around for a 3 ft cable) - this keeps the +ve wire close to the cable
  • solder the other end of the +ve wire to the other USB connector
  • hot glue the metal casings onto the USB onnectors as detailed above
  • Add the two pieces of heat-shrink (with adhesive) over the connector, helix coil and the +ve wire with screen (as shown above)

Audiogon member Grannyring has reported that the Solid Silver conductor from VH Audio provided the highest quality he has ever heard from his USB DAC.