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Helix hifi upgrade review

I bought a second hand Golf R last year to find that it came with a Helix soundbox upgrade, six months on I thought I'd review it as I had some issues....

 

After initially opening the boot floor to see this huge shiny round sub where the spare wheel should be I though woah that looks powerful! However I found the sound overly bassy, boomy and the treble sounded harsh and boosted. I also noticed when turning up the volume (above 50%) that there was noticeable distortion in the tweeters.

 

first thing I did was replace the tweeters with some decent Focal ones that I knew were good as I'd used them in my old Fiesta ST. Sadly, they sounded incredibly over driven, despite the bass/treble controls being flat on the HU. I had to set the treble to about -6 to compensate. The bass was also way too boomy especially at low volumes. After a few weeks the tweeters blew. 

 

This is prompted me to do some research into what was going on with this system. Turns out the built in amp is actually tiny and only needs a single 20amp fuse which speaks volumes about its power. Supposedly it has 35w per channel RMS which is not a lot but it feels like in reality it's less than that. Furthermore it has built in DSP which hugely oversdrives the tweeters (presumably to compensate for how shoddy the standard ones are). You aren't able to control the level of the sub as it's all pre-set. So little power going to your speakers means you end up straying into massive amount of harmonic distortion quite early into your volume dial and are effective sending square waves to your speakers - ruining them.

 

The sub speaker box itself is well made, heavy and of a good size. I has 2 fairly meaty looking 6" bass drivers which feel like they go pretty low. But it was certainly not at its best being driven by this pathetic little amp. 

 

To sort this all out I decided to buy a small 5 channel Kenwood amp https://www.caraudiocentre.co.uk/product_m-kenwood-x801-5_p-33144.htm and another set of tweeters. The amp is fully class D so it's small and power efficicient. It sends 50w to 4 speakers and an additional 300w to the sub - much better! It's triplet of 30 amp fuses said a lot about it power output. Also no pesky DSP thinking it knows best, just straight forward amplification with separate controls for sub level and bandpass filters. The amp was small enough to fit under the floor beside the sub so it's a completely stealthy install with no boot space taken up. The amp takes speaker level inputs too so I simply spliced into the cable that was already sitting in the boot feeding the helix amp. All I did was wire up a nice fat power cable to the battery.

 

The difference is utterly unbelievable! Underlining for me that speakers only sound as good as the amp driving them.  The sound sparkles now and with everything set flat, sounds incredible. The whole system is orders of magnitude louder, cleaner and more effortless, with deeper, tighter bass and no distortion. 

 

If any of you out there are at all feeling a bit dissatisfied with your helix system or have found that your tweeters distort or that you have to make sweeping changes to your eq to compensate for the overly aggressive DSP then I highly recommend simply buying a proper amp like this one, keeping all the speakers (well maybe swapping out the front tweeters as it's pretty cheap and they're the weakest part quality wise!) It's a night and day difference with no sacrificed space or hugely difficult wiring. The sub itself is pretty damn good once your feeding it a healthy amount of power :-) 

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2 hours ago, Chunbaouk said:

Underlining for me that speakers only sound as good as the amp driving them.

 

Nice review :afro:, I have no doubt that will benefit someone, especially as the overlaying theme is portable (the bit I quoted is almost holy scripture in car audio :)).

 

For me, I usually focus on HU (source) > Amp (if required*) > speakers as a basic formula when approaching older cars for a progressive build, everything else is enhancement after the fact and should be used to compliment your core delivery items. I say older cars as newer ones are usually supplied with decent enough and/or fixed/difficult to change HU's so your focus changes to DSP at HU stage. Especially as a lot of them don't come with outputs needed i.e. sub etc. so a decent DSP can flatten your source signal and provide standard outputs.

 

*Always for me, but some are happy with just HU level volumes and run a tight budget.

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Thanks, yeah I wasn't going for anything expensive / fancy, just good sound on a budget in a way that keeps the car looking stock and to be honest I was a bit blown away by just how much better it was! Especially for an amp so tiny. I remember back in the day Amos were huge in order to get decent power, guess all that has changed with this new generation of class D. I've attached a pic of the little guy squeezing in next to the original helix sub unit. 

 

Totally agree regarding DSP, to me it's simply a clever tool that can be used to enhance or ruin sound depending on how it's implemented. Sadly it's too often the case that manufacturers use DSP to mask weaknesses or to make cheap components appear better than they are, like ramming up the treble signal going to some crappy tweeters or upping the bass at low volumes so it sounds impressive, only to roll it off as soon as you turn it up. I'd rather they stopped using it like some sort of audio photoshop!

 

 

IMG_5553.JPG

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Thanks, yeah I wasn't going for anything expensive / fancy, just good sound on a budget in a way that keeps the car looking stock and to be honest I was a bit blown away by just how much better it was! Especially for an amp so tiny. I remember back in the day Amos were huge in order to get decent power, guess all that has changed with this new generation of class D. I've attached a pic of the little guy squeezing in next to the original helix sub unit. 
 

 
 
IMG_5553.thumb.JPG.8733f42478456eb7009b7faaa5f68b9a.JPG


Back in the day amps were bloody massive, I remember some of the set ups me and my friends had!

I haven't really looked seriously at car audio for years, how times have changed.

This is the first time I've heard about DSPs, they seem like great pieces of kit for modern car HUs.

Sent from my F8331 using Tapatalk

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26 minutes ago, Chunbaouk said:

Thanks, yeah I wasn't going for anything expensive / fancy, just good sound on a budget in a way that keeps the car looking stock and to be honest I was a bit blown away by just how much better it was! Especially for an amp so tiny. I remember back in the day Amos were huge in order to get decent power, guess all that has changed with this new generation of class D. I've attached a pic of the little guy squeezing in next to the original helix sub unit. 

 

Totally agree regarding DSP, to me it's simply a clever tool that can be used to enhance or ruin sound depending on how it's implemented. Sadly it's too often the case that manufacturers use DSP to mask weaknesses or to make cheap components appear better than they are, like ramming up the treble signal going to some crappy tweeters or upping the bass at low volumes so it sounds impressive, only to roll it off as soon as you turn it up. I'd rather they stopped using it like some sort of audio photoshop!

 

 

IMG_5553.JPG

 

 

Hi, do you carry foam in a can now instead of a spare wheel?

 

I know some cars don't actually come with a spare wheel nowadays. 

 

Cheers.

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Yeah that's right, on the other side of the subwoofer is a little foam kit. Hopefully I won't need to use it! Having an actual spare wheel does seem to be getting rarer these days!

 

Yeah amps have really moved on tech wise since I last dabbled in this, cheaper, more powerful, smaller and with more features! Brilliant 😊

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Hi Chunbaouk

 

Sorry to revive this old thread but I am looking to do exactly the same as you and I would really appreciate some help ...

 

I am going to buy the same Amp as you, I am just trying to figure out how to wire it in to my car, would you mind giving me an explanation including any additional cables I need to purchase? I do not know much about amps or installation unfortunately, however I would like to think I should manage to do it myself seeing as I installed the Helix Myself.

 

Also should this amp REPLACE the amp on the subwoofer so should I be removing the small black amp on the bottom of the helix, or should it be working in combination with the Kenwood amp?

 

Will I need to wire speaker cables etc back through the car or is it just the power cable I need?

 

Thanks!

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