The simple answer is it's one of the best value's in a top end cartridge. Excellent all around. A little finicky on setup. I love mine....
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The sound chararacteristic is on the light side, sort of the other end of the spectrum, compared to, lets say a Koetsu, very dynamic, a good bottom end and pristine highs. I run one side by side with an Insider at about 6times its price and it holds its own very well indeed. As Jfrech rightly points out, it is one of the best values in a top end cartridge, I have it on a highly modified Souther tagential tone arm and found its setup uncomplicated and easy. I like it best loaded at 47k and run it through an Aesthetics IO. The resolving power of this combination is outstanding, however I find the Insider, Goldmund, Jadis combination, especially for complex classical music, a tad closer to the real thing.
I agree with both Jfrch and Detlof....great bargain! Clean, non fatiguing and very fast cartridge. It sometimes reminds me of the original Decca Gold 5?
I did have a bit of a problem with my original Helikon...I lost the cantilever (probably my fault) but the new one was a breeze to set up! And it is working quite well with my VPI 10,5 arm, which I am told, is not the optimum match. If I had one negative a would say, like Detof, a little on the light side (??). Well worth the money!
I am using a Lyra Helikon on an Oracle Delphi MKV SE. Properly loaded, the sound is rich and "full" and certainly not on the "light" side. Most people who characterize the Helikon as "thin" invariably use the standard 47K loading. Try loading from 100-1000 ohms (depending on phono preamp) and the sound will definitely not be "thin". In my system, there is no loss of air and extension with 100 ohm loading.
Here is what I wrote to a few of the friends/augiogon inmates asked me regarding Lyra Helikon/Shelter 901/Koetsu Rosewood Sig. cartridges which I have owned.(I had all three until a few months ago). All the comments are based on extended listening in my system with my flavor of music(mostly Jazz/Classical).
> Koetsu has the most romantic sound, work very well for
> vocal and small scale music like jazz. It probably
> has the best midrange sound compared to any cartridge.
> But it's weakness is high's are little rolled off and
> not too good of bass control(little muddy compared to
> the other two). Also big dynamic swings are not a
> strong aspect of this cartridge. Koetsu definitely
> has its own sonic signature one can easily distingush.
> Koetsu may not work on already warm system(too
> much of warmth)
> Lyra Helikon is more detailed than Koetsu. It almost
> sound like you are closer to music compared to the
> other two cartridges(it may not be a good thing if you
> have a bright system). It has better highs(more
> detailed) and bass control than Koetsu. Does not have
> as much warmth as Koetsu. It's warmth in midrange is
> not as good as Koetsu nor Shelter. Dynamic swings in
> music is controlled pretty well, very close to Shelter
> which sounds the best on big dynamic swings. Very
> good 3D imaging.
> Shelter 901 is probably the most well rounded
> cartridge, it has somewhat of mixture of the Koetsu's
> midrange and highs/bass of Helikon. Midrange is not
> as warm as Koetsu but you get a hint of Koetsu warmth
> which is not a bad thing. Highs are as good or
> equal(maybe better in some music) than Helikon in
> details. Bass control is probably the best compared
> to the other two. Also it handles the big dynamic
> swings in classical music with ease, I would say it is
> the best of the group. Very good imaging and the sound
> Between Shelter and Helikon, they share more similar
> characteristics than different in bass and highs.
> Shelter and Koetsu have similar midrange
> characteristics(Koetsu being much more warm). Helikon
> gives feeling of that you are in 1st or 2nd row in the
> concert hall(somewhat of in your face presentation)
> where Shelter gives you are in the middle of the hall
> kind of feeling(wider sound stage). Koetsu sometimes
> gives the feeling of that you are actually in the
> music(very laid back, warm, romantic).
> Another interesting thing is that Helikon has
> Shelter in 0.5mv, and Koetsu in 0.6mv output rating
> but Shelter has loudest volume in same volume setting
> in my preamp(I don't know whether it is coming from
> difference of the output measuring methods or due to
> overall presentation in sound).
> All three are excellent cartridges and all three have
> different sounds which I can't say one is better than
> the other.
I would definitely say if you have system which is toward bright side(especially solid state system), Koetsu would be a good choice. If you have system which is warm/laid back side(SET tube), Helikon would be a good choice. In a bright system, Helikon may sound little harsh. Where as on a warm/laid back system, Koetsu will sound little dull.