How does Caliburn by Continuum Audio Laboratories project into the future and what is the connection between Mark Döhmann, Frank Schroeder, Thrax Audio and Audio Union?
A new exciting project is on the run. Helix 1: for many the most admired turntable at the Munich High End Show is now launched.
At Thrax our goal is to achieve exceptional performance by using cutting edge technology and innovative design strategies. All of our components are explicitly conceived and manufactured to meet or exceed this goal. To preserve our heritage and ensure this performance is conveyed throughout the signal chain, we decided to invest into the development of a complete Thrax reproduction chain and to further widen the existing product portfolio.
When facing challenges beyond our expertise we repeatedly applied old wisdom – which is to ask those who know. In the process questions flowed back and forth and this led to an exchange of ideas, spawning true collaboration.
This exchange prompted the concept of an audio union – a joining of like minds. The synectic process which led to the creation of Audio Union brings forth products that are fruits of real collaboration with leaders in their respective fields. This is no OEM – rebadging and marketing ploy. Here we use knowledge from the best minds and technologies they developed as a stepping-stone to new ground-breaking designs. Applying out-of-the-box thinking and wisdom gained in multiple fields aids in producing a proprietary Thrax solution setting new levels of performance.
The second group of products to be launched under the Audio Union initiative relates to the analog replay chain.
As usual we started with a bit of history and a lot of research. Operating principles of cartridges, tonearm and turntables were studied in detail. Emblematic designs and technological achievements were taken as references. Inspiration was drawn from Micro Seiki, EMT, numerous Japanese direct drive statement designs and the usual current trend setters.
Having a Caliburn by Continuum Audio Laboratories at hand showed where each of the other designs have been compromised. So the question was how to do better and where to go from here.
Trying to get hold of Mark Döhmann of Continuum Audio Labs proved a difficult task as he had left the turntable design world in early 2010 to pursue some software development projects in bionic engineering.
Theoretical concepts and ideas kept accumulating until critical mass was reached in 2013r and the technology needed to realise it became available.
A statement turntable project was born and it required that all aspects of the design to be at the current state of the art. This involved know how in a lot of different fields of science and no single person has all that knowledge. A “moon shot” sort of problem. The more you know, the more you realise what you don’t know. So we challenged the best minds to come up with new and better ways to make the journey to “nirvana” possible:
Welcome the Döhmann Helix 1 turntable with the Schröder CB/CF tonearm. These form part of an Audio Union project by Thrax.
THE DÖHMANN – HELIX 1 TURNTABLE
Mark Döhmann – Chief Designer
Mark is recognised for continuously developing analog systems having been a staunch advocate of the core technology since the early 1980’s. He has a well-respected track record in innovation and design of advanced turntables and tonearms of the highest calibre since 1982. He generates original ideas and understands the influence these innovations have on the sonic result.
By way of background from 1982-1993 Mark designed turntables under the CONTINUUM by Döhmann & Gusew brand at a company called Audio Synectics. These tables were the product of synectic thinking and processes – effective team work and collaboration learned during a 13 year tenure in aeronautical engineering with a major airline in Australia. Access to advanced fabrication technology allowed him to advance the state of the art as it was back then.
Between 2005 and early 2010 Mark was engaged by Continuum Audio Laboratories Pty Ltd in Australia as Chief Designer and Director of Engineering and Research. His role was supported by many specialist engineers Mark worked with in the aeronautical engineering and IT field.
Mark finished his tenure with Continuum Audio Laboratories in early 2010 to concentrate on new software development opportunities.
In 2013 Mark, Rumen Artarski and Frank Schröder were enjoying some fine European fare post a trade show and after some very fine wines had been consumed discussed the opportunities to build on some new ideas they had. As good friends they realised that by sharing ideas and skills they could achieve more than by solo efforts. Several further collaborative meetings were held in Europe, USA and Australia by this new collaboration which led to some serious R&D effort engaging with specialist universities to commercialise ground-breaking research.
In 2013 Mark had finished the Micro Signal Architecture design concept for the table and waited eagerly for Frank Schröder to establish his new benchmarks for a new arm.
The Helix 1 team members include:
Rich O’Neil – Director Engineering Operations.
Lee Gray – Industrial Designer. Lee is one of the creative design forces behind the award winning www.kyronaudio.com.au speaker technology. The look of the table is a testament to his abilities.
Dr David Platus – Founder of www.MinusK.com. David is one of the most respected designers in the field of vibration isolation and holds numerous patents in the field. A close association with David led to the design of a new custom low frequency isolation system for the table. This technology is a world first for a turntable project.
Thomas Kleinbeck – Mechanical Engineering – Tom hails from Kansas City MO and is a senior mechanical engineer and fabrication specialist. He holds numerous patents for engineering innovations and aeronautical technology.
David Kleinbeck – RF and EMI Engineering – David is one of the world’s leading RF/EMI engineering consultants. He holds a BSECE, Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering from University of Missouri-Columbia
Allen Perkins – Spiral Groove Audio Designer. Allen designed the ultra low noise SG1 bearing. He has provided the bearing components as an OEM supplier to the Helix project. These core components are used to create a new bearing solution with the addition of advanced friction reduction coatings and modifications for vacuum feed through.
THE SCHRÖDER CB TONEARM BY THRAX AUDIO
As a turntable is just one part of a whole system, to appreciate the advances in sonics it offers,an equally good tonearm is needed. Modelling Mark’s radical new ideas and prototyping the armwands led to the study of various super low friction bearings designs. Some being emblematic legacy designs and some being modern bearing-less works of art made by Frank Schroeder.
A craftsmen of some of the finest and most innovative tonearms ever made, Frank Schroeder enjoys being at the forefront and always pushing the boundary of what is possible. Frank liked the synectic approach of Audio Union and decided to join the team, generously offering one of his earlier designs as the base of a new tonearm.
Frank generated an entirely new and radical way to decrease friction in captured bearings to generate numbers lower than the best prior designs had ever achieved. This was complemented with a new multilayer carbon fibre wand to create a new tonearm design.
So what is so special about this new arm design:
Magnetically centered and pre-loaded ceramic hybrid bearings: no bearing chatter, lateral movement damped by eddy currents, extremely low bearing stiction/friction
Symmetrical mass distribution: external exitation does not cause any cantilever deflection ; no change in VTF when altering VTA
Bearing for vertical movement on or near the same plane as record: no warp wow
Wiring harness with super low capacitance(30pf without, 50pf with shield), symmetrical layout(shield is kept separate from the conductors
Multi-layer armwand (CF, Phenolic, PTFE), combining extreme torsional and bending stiffness with very high internal damping: No discernible sonic fingerprint, maximum resolution of detail and dynamic shading