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Amphion's Anssi Hyvönen explained the gestation of the €900/pr Helium 510 as follows: "I strongly believe good sound can be a great source of enjoyment for all people and not just the hobbyist. I have for a long time wanted to come up with a speaker that one can connect to anything and still convey the musical message.

"I strongly believe that timing is very closely related to how the sound affects the human sensory system. Therefore we at Amphion follow the same basic principles regarding timing properties with our most economical product as we do with our most expensive.

"In order to show how well-managed sound can enrich a regular person's life, I have for a long time wanted to offer a speaker which can be used in a broader context than just hifi and home theater.

"I think the fact that flat-screen television sound is pretty annoying even to non-hobbyists, the time has come to persuade regular people to invest in a small DVD player/2-channel amp like this and a pair of good quality speakers for a package price of no more than $1500 - 2000. Because there are a surprising number of listenable cheap electronics available, this kind of speakers must fulfill the following criteria."

Anssi now submitted a list of six key points which he believes the new Helium 510 squares off to make it the perfect solution for the intended applications.

• Pricing must be realistic - €900/pr
• It must work relatively close to the wall - controlled dispersion + adaptable bass output
• It must create a true 3D sound field from just two speakers -  low crossover of 1600Hz and new waveguide offering even dispersion to create a surprisingly accurate 3D image with especially unheard of depth at this price point
• Speakers must be aesthetically pleasing enough to integrate with living environments - the Helium 510 has classic timeless proportions and invites the customer to place it in the prime real estate of the living room, not modify their decor to insure it matches the speaker
• It must be pleasing and effortless to listen to even at moderate or very low levels  to persuade a normal person to spend close to a thousand
euros on a pair of speakers. They must feel they will get lots of useful hours from their investment. Listening to music or watching movies intensely is not sufficient. Watching TV or listening to the radio in the background must be included. Due to very advanced acoustic design, the Helium 510 drivers integrate perfectly even at very low listening levels. The controlled dispersion creates an audible sound flow all over the apartment.
• The speaker must work with all kinds of electronics. This has been one of the hardest parts to get a handle on when constructing speakers like we do. I would compare our way of building a speaker to Japanese cooking where one chooses the ingredients perfectly and then balances them harmoniously. Any small staleness in the signal chain easily spoils the harmony. I think we have managed to find a nice balance between openness and warmth in the Helium 510 and it seems to work well even within the most modest of signal chains without getting fatiguing."


To verify whether the Helium 510 makes good on its creator's intentions naturally requires the kind of ancillaries most reviewers don't stock because they've—cough— outgrown (more like abandoned) the entry-level price ranges which renders them mostly irrelevant to most real-world readers.

For that reason, I attempt to keep on hand a spread-spectrum assortment of gear. For the Helium 510, I had the Dayens Ampino transistor integrated from Serbia. To keep digital real, I'd go line-out iPod with uncompressed music files, then upgrade with Wadia's iDock to bypass the iPod's digital processing and analog output stage in favor of April Music's Stello DA100 Signature DAC.

A truly ideal mate would be from TEAC's new Reference Series 2010, either the $499 AG-H380 40wpc stereo receiver with iPod digital-direct input or the equivalent $799 CR-H500NT CD receiver with AKM's 4385M 24/192 converters shown below. Alas, I didn't have one of those so my stand-ins would try to mock them up.


One of those mockups would be ALO Audio's excellent Rx headphone amplifier. At $345, it bypasses the iPod's line-out and instead feeds from the 30-pin output. I'd run this 'iPod with preamp' source into the Ampino, the latter's volume control bypassed. I'd also do a lot of listening on my desk top where the Finns would compete against the Era Design Sat 5 monitors which usually perch there on my Ikea glass planters which are filled with cat litter just to look stylishly white.