Helius Designs Viridia Turntable and Phaedra Tonearm Review
September 14, 2021 § Leave a comment
From the first launch of sound, I felt the Helius Phaedra and Viridian combo create a robust presence with rhythmic precision and an ability to cast convincing sonic images within an expansive soundstage, especially with acoustically recorded music. But that sound was never in your face. The perspective was more 12th row rather than front—set reasonably back in the orchestra section, but still catching the waves of sound before hall reflections might smooth things out. The images and instrumental timbres were clear with no sonic confusions or smears. There was a weightiness to the music but also a light touch when called for. Through almost everything I played, the Helius combo presented intimacy as well as scale and boldness.
For instance, one of the first LPs I spun on it was Venice, an Analogue Productions reissue of an RCA Living Stereo release (RCA LSC-2313) that was a compilation of orchestral pieces performed by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducted by Georg Solti. On its first track, the “Preludio” to Act I of Verdi’s opera La Traviata, I heard delicately pianissimo violins that then swelled gorgeously, the double basses bouncing away like a circus organ, and violas and cellos noticeably fattening the sound as they joined in. Together they created a sweeping, skating feeling to the music and a deep, complex sonic field that extended horizontally before the plane of my speakers. I could separate different string sections from each other, pick out various parts as they played, and felt stirred by the French horns adding color and depth. When the festive music wound down into sweeping, feathery notes, I discerned a mordant delicacy that presaged the tragic plot of the opera. The Helius ’table and arm made this previously average-sounding record into something very special, like replacing a cheap red wine with a great Barolo.