*HELIX IMAGE APPROACH

"The HELIX IMAGE" - With a little help from my friends

This Page is an overview of the very latest developments and updates to the Helix Cable Geometry
Last Update: December 2020.
Please see each cable type below for details


This latest development incorporates Neotech Solid UP-OCC Copper wire with Teflon Insulation into all of the Helix Cables
  • 12 gauge wire for the Live conductor of the Helix Power Cable
  • 14 or 12 gauge wire for the signal conductor of the Helix Speaker Cable
  • Two strands of 18 gauge wire for the signal conductor of the Helix Interconnect

The fabrication details and the Neutral wire remains unchanged, which is Silver Plated stranded Copper Mil-Spec wire

I first upgraded the live conductor of a couple of power cables connecting my amp to the mains wall outlet.
The improvements I heard at that time were mainly in the area of improved dynamic performance and more spacious image.
Next was an upgrade to my speaker cables. Based on past versions I decided to use the 14 gauge. in place of the previous 2 x 18 gauge VH Audio wire. Some might prefer the 12 gauge, but I thought this to be too stiff and based on past experiments I had noticed little difference between 12, 14, 16 and 16 gauge wires, with respect to dynamics and bass depth.
Upgrading the Interconnects using the 2 x 18 gauge "Double Shotgun" approach I had employed with the 2 x 18 gauge CH Audio version of the interconnect cables, completed this "trifecta" and highlighted just how good this wire is.

There were improvements to every single metric we use to assess performance -
  • Dynamics, Clarity, Details, image size, image focus, space around performers, bass depth and texture
  • But there was also a warmth and more body to these cables
  • the high frequencies were smoother, cymbals had more texture and vocal sibilance was more "human"
  • the mid frequencies had more body and sounded more natural
  • the depth of the bass was a little more noticeable and textured.
  • But please remember, a single set of cables cannot produce these amazing results.
  • in my system ALL of my cables adopt the Helix Geometry and use the Neotech wire!

But were they that much better than the VH Audio or Mundorf wire?
With wires and cables of this caliber you can discern the tinniest improvements or changes.
I now list three wires on this site - Mundorf, VH Audio and Neotech, all of which are capable of achieving extremely good performance on any system.
They are quite different when it comes to the
"extremely fine details" and will convey a slightly different sonic presentation.
Also, it could well be that it comes down to personal preference and component synergies.
My preference is for the Neotech wire in all of my cables, but individual preferences on other systems may required that a combination of these wires be used.

So from that perspective I am unable to recommend a specific wire, but in general, for the Interconnect Cables…
  • Mundorf 18 gauge Solid Silver with1% Gold is very detailed with a smooth clarity
  • VHAudio 18 gauge solid UP-OCC copper with AirLok insulation is perhaps a little warmer, with a little more presence
  • Neotech 18 gauge solid UP-OCC copper with Teflon insulation improved performance (slightly) across the board
Again I stress that the improvements are very small and one specific wire may not be suitable for all systems or all listeners.

Burn-in of these cables is critical. Up to the 250 hour mark they can vary in their sound, sometimes harsh and bright and they sometimes presented an unbalanced nature to their image, in that some instruments sounded a little louder and more "forward" than they should i.e. they were not really an integral part of the overall image.

These anomalies are not uncommon during the burn-in process, but you do have to be patient and allow the process to proceed without interruption

See the links below for fabrication details

The previous adaptions to the Helix Interconnect Cables are courtesy of a long time contributor on the Audiogon Forum Member Name: Grannyring (i.e. Bill)

Bill has considerable experience with DIY cables and made me aware of the Schroeder Double Shotgun approach and then went on to build several variations of his Schroeder adaption of the Helix Interconnect that has two wires for the signal wire and two wires for the Neutral Helix coil and reported very favourable results.

Needless to say, I had to try this for myself.


In addition to this, I had also been auditioning in great detail the use of an 18 gauge Solid Copper wire from VH Audio for the Signal conductor, which I now "generally" recommend in place of the Mundorf solid silver + gold wire I had previously favoured.

Both of these adaptions are now detailed on the Helix IMAGE Interconnect link below

And let's not forget the previous contributions courtesy of Ernst of Austria and Yordan & Evgeny of Bulgaria

Yordan and Evgeny have contributed with...

  • the performance aspects of various wire types and metallurgy,
  • discovered that the direction the helix coil was wound is critical - see Inside The Helix Geometry.

Ernst embraced the Helix design some time ago and has been experimenting with some different materials in order to improve on the performance of the Helix design with astounding success.

His first development was to eliminate the use of as many man-made insulation products (e.g. teflon tubing, expandable Nylon sleeve) used in the original designs.
His second development was to use balsa wood as the spacers every few centimetres in order to hold the signal wire in his speaker cables in the centre of the Helix coil.

The reward for Ernst’s endeavours was a significant improvement is sound quality with respect to improved details, clarity, dynamics, bass control and depth and a significantly wider and deeper image.

His approach considered the Dielectric Constant (D.C.) of various materials.
  • Dielectric constant, property of electrical insulating material (a dielectric) equal to the ratio of the capacitance of a capacitor filled with the given material to the capacitance of an identical capacitor in a vacuum without the dielectric material.

Ernst found that using materials having a lower D.C. than that of the insulation, expandable Nylon and heat shrink originally used to centre the signal wire in the Helix, significantly improves on the performance of the cable.
  • Since air has a D.C. = 1.1, placing the spacers at intervals on the signal wire improved signal transfer even further.
After giving his findings lots of consideration and thought, and after significant experimentation of my own, I now use insulation materials that have a significantly lower D.C. than the Teflon insulation I had used on earlier versions of the cables, which has improved the clarity, details and imaging capabilities of the Helix Cables to levels I had nor observed to this point.

My “adaptions” of the cables built by Bill, Yordan, Evgeny and Ernst, can be found in the following construction details...

The latest design of the Interconnect Cable...
The new USB Cable...
The latest design of the Speaker Cable...
The latest design of the Power Cable...

I am currently using cables that have been modified as in the links above and can report that the modifications have resulted in significant and easily discernible audible improvements over the older design. Improved clarity, sense of space, dynamic performance and improved details are the benefits observed by the changes in insulation.

I have listed a few options of wires that can be used for the signal and neutral wires, but the digram below shows which wires I use and for which components

System Cables


The original helix design concept was to eliminate the parallel conductors commonly used in conventional cable architectures in order to minimizes the noise, proximity effect and Skin effect to imperceivable levels, improving clarity and dynamic performance of the interconnect.

Since those early days, developments include the selection of advanced wire metallurgy, gauge of wire best suited to the task at hand and types of insulation in order to reduce noise to a minimum, which brings us to this moment in time.

The instructions on this web site demonstrates how these cables can be fabricated in the easiest and most cost effective manner in order to achieve extremely high levels of resolution that competes with the very best commercially available products for a fraction of the cost.

Will there be any further updates - probably, because there is always someone, like Bill, Ernst, Jordan and Evgeny that is looking to improve on the capabilities of “The Helix” cable geometry.

“The HELIX IMAGE” - these cables now convey the most realistic and compelling image I have ever observed in any system

The level of detail and clarity, together with precise location of performers and an image that envelopes the listener is stunning

I would like to thank and congratulate Bill, Ernst, Yordan and Evgeny on these exciting new developments.

The stunning performance of Helix Cables of today are due to all that have contributed. including earlier contributors such as Todd (US) for developing the first bi-wire version of the Helix speaker cables, Ghislain (Canada), John (USA) and many others.

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 will not harm the amp, they just sound bad

If you have any further questions on these upgrades just drop me a line.

Regards - Steve

Its More Than Just Numbers - Isn't It?

This post addresses the electrical measurements of the three Helix Cables - Interconnect, Speaker and Power cables.

Having said that, the table below is simply a “guide”, since the values depicted are specific to the cables measured.

Minor differences can be expected due to variations in winding the helix, cable length, wire used and sleeving used.
e.g, one person has measured the capacitance of a 0.75 meter interconnect to be around 34 pF

The cables YOU build may not have identical numbers, but they will be fairly close, provided you use similar techniques, parts and wires.

Also - the numbers below are for cables of a specific length. So you will have to estimate the numbers for your cables if their length differs from those below.

Interconnect Cables - 3 ft long - using the 1mm dia Mundorf Solid Silver/Gold wire with the cotton sleeve insulation

  • Capacitance = 38 pF
  • Inductance = 1.3 uH

Speaker Cables - 10 ft long - using the Duelund 16 gauge tinned copper with cotton/oil insulation

  • Capacitance = 95 pF
  • Inductance = 3.8 uH

Power Cables - 4 ft long - using the Duelund 12 gauge tinned copper with the Polymer Insulation

  • Capacitance = 145 pF
  • Inductance = 1.0 uH


So if you cables are different length you could estimate their related values as follows...

e.g. if YOUR speakers cables are 7 ft long then the numbers can be
“estimated” as follows...

Capacitance: 95 / 10 x 7 = 66.5 pf
Inductance: 3.2 / 10 x 7 = 2.24 uH

Notes:
Loop Inductance -
was measured across the cable at one end, while shorting cable at the other end,
Capacitance was measured across the two conductors with the other end of the cable left “open”
Measurements were taken using an L C meter.

If you really want to get into the science take a look at this link...
http://www.epanorama.net/documents/wiring/cable_impedance.html


So - what do all those numbers (metrics) actually mean?

Rather than delve into complex formulas, I thought that comparing the Helix numbers to other well known commercial brands of cables might be easier for readers to understand, e.g...
  • The 95 pF capacitance (roughly 30 pF/Meter) of the Helix Speaker Cable is significantly lower than some cables from Kimber Kable and TOTL Cardas cables which often exceed 300pF/Meter. This is important if connecting to a high current solid state design amplifier.
  • The 3.8 uH inductance (roughly 1.3 uH/Meter) of the Helix Speaker Cable is higher than some other brands, but NAIM NAC A5 cable is rated at 1.0 uH/meter (highly recommended by NAIM). I have owned a NAIM amp and the Helix cables worked very well with it and also with some other brands that adopt a high current design philosophy
  • One of the few companies that seem to have been able to keep both Capacitance and Inductance to very low levels is Nordost - however, a fellow DIYer’s that tried the Helix promptly sold off their Nordost cables in favour of the Helix - go figure Happy

I consider the Capacitance and Inductance values above to be in the low to medium range when compared to many cables I have looked at from some well established brands

Based on feedback from others who have tried them, they appear be a very good match to a lot of audio components. (see “IMPORTANT:” below) and will minimize many of the issues that conventional cable geometries suffer from.

The Loop Inductance of the Helix Speaker Cable,
may be higher than other cables out there, and some people may believe this to be an issue in the upper end of the “generally accepted audio spectrum” of 20Hz and 20kHz.

However, I believe that this does not present any problems, when you consider the frequency range of a person’s “normal” hearing abilities lies between
20Hz and 12kHz over the age of 50.

Of course - if you are a teenager with excellent hearing you may be able to hear as high as 17kHz, (and perhaps a little higher) at which point you may observe a very small decrease in volume in the
15kHz-20Khz range

If you are an engineer in one of the many companies out there that promotes frequency response of their components to be 0Hz to 100kHz - then you may not consider these cables a viable option.


I have posted the Helix numbers above - because I have been asked for them many times, however...

Cable metrics should be used ONLY as a guide!

They ARE NOT a substitute for actually - LISTENING!


IMPORTANT:- electrostatic speakers is an area I have NO experience of, so I would strongly recommend anyone looking at using the Helix Speaker Cables with electrostatic speakers to look at the statistics above and assessing their possible impact before building or connecting Helix Speaker Cables


HELIX Q & A

Over the years I have often been asked these few questions below.

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%
  • 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