DIY Speaker Cables - The HELIX Speaker


They’re finally here !!!


Regular visitors to this web site are probably familiar with the Helix Mark V IC and the POWER Helix power cables and now I’ve finally had a chance to develop the Helix Speaker cable.

I’d been procrastinating about making a Helix geometry speaker cable for some time, mainly because I needed a 10 foot pair of cables.

  • Winding a helix neutral of the correct gauge for a 10 foot cable was, for me, a little daunting, until I found a twisted pair conductor that was perfect for the job.

helix 14


So what makes Helix cables work?

My hypothesis ...

To understand why the Helix geometry of these cables work so well - you have to look at what goes on inside the cable and the attached components.

First - you have to forget the notion that the two conductors inside a cable are performing a similar role.


They Are Not!


  • The signal conductor - as it’s name implies - carries the audio signal.

  • But the neutral conductor connects the neutral side of the circuits of the components that cable is connected to.
If you look at a circuit diagram of any component you will see that the neutral side is always denoted as being connected to a ground point. Which by definition implies that the “potential” (or voltage) at that point should be ZERO!

This is extremely important for the circuit to function correctly!


Now - audiophiles know that if you lay cables next to each other in parallel, they are prone to pickup noise by a process known as induction. So it stands to reason that
inside an audio cable, where the signal and neutral are as close together as you can get them, that the signal conductor is probably inducing noise into the neutral conductor.

Ah! (you say), but the neutral is connected to the ground!


Yes it is, however, electricity is a bit like water. if you spill water onto a surface it flows in all directions - not in one direction only.

So the noise permeates through the entire neutral side of the connected components causing those circuits to distort ever so slightly, and then those distortions get amplified until they become very noticeable.

So, how do these cables prevent that from happening?


ONE: the signal conductor is of a smaller gauge than the neutral conductor - this reduces the effectiveness of the induction process.

TWO: The neutral is constructed from a twisted pair of conductors - this also acts to reduce the effectiveness of the induction process even further.

THREE: The neutral conductor is wound around the signal conductor, so it is NEVER parallel to it.

VOILA! - all noise is eliminated !!!
(pretty much)


For more theory pertaining to this see
Electromagnetic Interference - Considerations in Structured Cabling Systems from Siemens

So there you have it - the Helix Geometry is perhaps the most noise free design you can get.

It should be applied to ALL cables in a system, resulting in a level of fidelity you probably thought could only be attained by having components costing considerably more.

What will you hear? - for me the most noticeable improvement were the venue acoustics, i.e. the echoes and reverberations that surround each artist and instrument.

At first, it can sound as though you have an echo problem in the room, but I have several tracks where there are no reverberations, so playing those confirmed my room acoustics were perfectly fine.

Other attributes that are clearly audible include clarity, neutrality, dynamic performance, bass depth and control.

But one effect that took a while for me to realize just how much it effects the sound is phasing. Phasing controls the placement of instruments and artists in two ways.

  1. Their location within the depth of the image
  2. Their location outside the width of the speakers

We all know if you connect the speakers out of phase the image becomes muddled and the bass performance drops off.


But varying the phase by small amounts can move the position of instruments and artists within the image. The noise impacts the phase of the signals of both channels differently, resulting in an inaccurate image.

Since the Helix Geometry eliminates most all of the noise created inside the actual cable - you will notice an incredibly precise placement of instrument and artist within the image AND an incredibly large image that melts the boundaries of the listening room.

PLEASE NOTE: Your system will probably not achieve its full potential by installing just one set of helix cables...


They ALL have to have the helix geometry !!!


So How Do I Make Them?


Here are the parts...


The neutral conductor should be twice as long as the signal conductor, although you can experiment with this ratio

The signal sleeve is 12-15” shorter than the signal conductor in order to leave some straight wire for the connectors, but you will require two lengths of sleeve for each cable.
  • Allow extra for the outer layer because when it expands it actually shortens
  • I allowed 6” for the outer sleeve

So for one
10 ft cable PAIR you need
  • 20 ft of signal conductor i/e/ 10 x 2
  • 37 ft of expandable sleeve,
  • 40 ft of neutral conductor.

You will also need around 2 feet of the 3/8 heat-shrink and 3 feet of the 3/16” heat-shrink

Construction...

Cut the signal sleeve to length and insert one piece into a second piece (see below)
Once inserted place a piece of heat shrink at then end to prevent fraying

helix 1


Insert the signal conductor into the sleeve and allow around 6”-8” extra - cut to length
Then remove the conductor - it will be inserted later

helix 2

Next, cut two equal lengths of the neutral conductor - this should be twice the length of the signal conductor

Put a very tight 90 degree bend in the conductor and tape to the fibreglass rod

Place the end of the fibreglass rod into the chuck of a variable speed drill


helix 3

Slowly wind the conductor onto the rod

helix 4

Once the other end of the conductor is reached (leave 6”-8” of straight conductor) tape the conductor to the rod and remove it from the drill

Heat the conductor with a hair dryer to make it more malleable




helix 5

With the palm of your hand, roll the cable assembly on a hard surface to tighten the coil

Leaving the conductor on the rod for a couple of hours will prevent some unraveling.



helix 6

Remove the coil from the rod and insert the signal conductor sleeve



helix 7

Hot glue the neutral conductor to one end of the signal sleeve


helix 8

Place a small piece of heat shrink over the glue - this helps maintain the joint

helix 9


Starting at the end that has been glued, space the windings and tighten them as you proceed down the length of the cable.

Space the windings evenly (within reason) until the coil end of the neutral reaches the end of the signal sleeve

NOTE: Wearing a pair of gloves will prevent blisters Happy


helix 10

Once the neutral is aligned over the signal sleeve, glue the end to the sleeve and apply the heat shrink as before. This completes this sub assembly


helix 11

Insert the signal conductor into the sleeve and hot clue into place

Place a piece of the red 3/16” heat shrink over the signal conductor


If you do not like the orange/black look you can use some 3/4/ expandable sleeve to cover them.

helix 12



Attach the connectors of your choice - Voila!

UPDATE: I now highly recommend the KLEI™Classic Harmony Banana Connector/Adaptors because as you will read, they are exceptionally good and elevates the performance of these cables to a whole new level

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These cables provide an extremely high resolution listening experience on all systems - i.e. once burned in

They have extremely low levels of capacitance and inductance, so they are perfect for most systems, especially high current solid state designs.

Please allow 100 hours burn in before making any judgement as to their abilities.

Please note: you are free to try whatever conductors you think might work - but the conductors identified above provide exceptional performance and value.

If you are thinking that 16 gauge is too thin to produce an excellent bass performance, I would suggest you try them first.

You will find their characteristics change during burn-in
  • they will sound very good at first
  • after around 12 hours their performance will degrade - bass will fall off and some distortion will occur
  • after 30 hours they really start to shine
  • by 100 hours they are exceptional and will continue to get better

They provide exceptionally detailed and a well controlled deep bass performance

The clarity of these cables is superb, as is the dynamics and imaging

Total cost for a 10 ft pair is around $120 US.

I have compared them to cables costing upwards of a couple of thousand dollars and they are superior across the board.

Hard to believe? Well, if I hadn’t heard it for myself I wouldn’t believe it either!

When I built these cables I was actually not expecting much in the way of improvement over my existing cables, which are excellent performers

I thought they might come close to their level of performance - BUT...

I was
Blown Away!!!

AND REMEMBER: Your system will probably not achieve its full potential by installing just one set of helix cables...

They ALL have to have the helix geometry !!!

These cables are truly exceptional, from a fidelity perspective and from a cost perspective they are excellent VALUE!.

I give them my
“Best Bang For The Buck” award.

My Review System:


page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 Give them a try - and - Enjoy The Music! Happy


ADDENDUM:

The development of these cables was something of a collaborative effort. it all started when I responded to a post on the Audiogon Cable Forum by Audiogon member Toddverrone (Todd)

Todd was already familiar with the Helix design since had had already made a couple of my Helix power cables.

We discussed possible approaches, but since I had not actually made a set of Speaker Cables I figured I’d better “Walk the Walk”

And so, the Helix Speaker cables (of the above design) were “born”.

However, since Todd’s speakers were configured for a bi-wire/bi-amp approach he wondered if there was a viable Helix Bi-wire solution in a single cable.

Taking the design above, I modified it in the following manner to incorporate two sets of conductors (LF and HF) into a single cable as follows:

  • the two positive conductors would be wound around the fibreglass rod and then straightened out by hand, but leaving the kinks in the conductors in place.
  • Each conductor is wound in opposite directions in order to stop them from being able to touch continuously to prevent EMI contamination.
  • the two signal conductors would be placed inside two (LF and HF) helix neutral windings, but each neutral would also be wound in opposite directions - again to minimize EMI contamination.
  • The net result is what Todd referred to as - one “bad-ass” design
  • Perhaps I should name it the - Bad-Ass Helix Bi-Wire ?

As part of the process, Todd had first built a prototype along the lines of the original design above, in order to gauge what the single wired cable would sound like.
  • This level if fidelity could then be used as a benchmark for comparison to the Bi-wired version.


Todd also used a high grade silver plated copper conductor for the bi-wire version

Final conductor details:

Signal Conductor
  • One LF 12 awg conductor and One HF 14 awg conductor with a “kinky helix” wind in opposite directions,
  • both are silver plated copper in ptfe from take five audio.
Neutral
  • Dual LF 12 awg silver plated copper conductors in ptfe for the inner helix
  • Dual HF 14 awg silver plated copper conductors in ptfe for the outer helix
  • The 14 gauge was the outer Helix because it is easier to wind


See pictures below...

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And The Verdict?

Todd’s Feedback...

  • So far, they are superb!
  • The same black background as the single helix with cat 5, but more clarity from top to bottom.
  • There's not more bass, it's just a bit tighter and cleaner.
  • The mids and highs have greater clarity and come further out from the background, with better separation of sounds.

So there you have it! - Seems like Todd is pretty happy with his creation.

Whether single wire or bi-wire these cables provide extremely good fidelity, dynamics and bass performance. But please remember to allow them to burn-in for around 200 hours before serious listening.

A special thanks to Todd for taking on this difficult task - winding those helix neutrals can be quite tiring on the hands Happy

I give them my
“DOUBLE Best Bang For The Buck” award.

page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 Give them a try - and - Enjoy The Music! Happy

Gershman Acoustic Sonogram Loudspeaker

So there I was, driving past the hi-fi store, so I "popped" in just to see what they had. Here, take a listen to this pair of Gershman's...
Wouldn't you know it! - just 10 seconds later and there was my amp sitting on the stand playing music (OK - so I had to go home to get it, but that was one fast driveHappy - yes they actually sounded THAT GOOD!!! - errr - honey guess what I heard today?

The
Gershman Acoustics Sonogram Speaker has a sensitivity 89 dB @ 1w/1m, an Impedance of 6 ohms, frequency response 28Hz-20kHz, with recommended Power 40-250 watts. But they are pretty easy to drive.

They are a full range tower speaker unlike any other in the Gershman line-up, in that they are "normal" to look at
i.e. they are a simple box-tower design - not the usual "pyramid style" Gershman is known for.

This is their "entry level" (by that, I only mean it's the first one in their stereo speaker line-up), but this does not reflect on their absolutely superb audio performance and qualities.

They are one of the most "invisible" speakers, certainly at this level, that I have ever listened to. They are also very easy to set-up and eliminating those pesky low frequency standing waves is just a matter of adjusting the amount of toe-in (i.e. in MY listening room)

I have the walnut finish and they have a very "antique-y" hand finished appearance, with slightly rounded corners - unlike most speakers today that have very sharp corners. Removing the baffles reveals a 2" domed midrange - it looks a little strange, but it sounds amazing. I have auditioned the next model up, but I can honestly say I prefer the Sonograms. It isn't until you get to the Gap 828 model that I found an improvement in sound. Although at $15k, was it really that much better?

But their best feature by far is just how easy it is to position them in my room. I am not going to get into the science, but suffice to say they do not take a degree in acoustics to achieve a truly superb sound.

Once they are playing, you simply sit back and let them envelope you in glorious music! They have an amazing depth to the soundstage, reaching far back beyond the wall behind them and the detailed reproduction of the acoustics of the concert hall makes you believe you are right there - in the concert, or the jazz club or wherever else!

And
that's what a good speaker should be all about!

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