Helix Sound Upgrade

helix-msrp2I had been pleased with Volkswagen’s MIB II base stereo. It’s no powerhouse, but it has cool features and adequate sound output. To add deeper bass, I would have been satisfied with simply tapping into the rear speaker wires to feed an amplifier and a subwoofer. But Volkswagen decided to discontinue an older version of its Helix subwoofer accessory, VW P/N: 000-051-419, meaning they slashed its price by over 50% to quietly clear their inventory. What was once an “is it really worth $660?” item was suddenly a very affordable $300. I managed to get the kit shipped to my door for $235 after some discount shopping and a manufacturer’s rebate. The wiring harness and digital signal processor alone are worth more than that!  

helix_croppedHelix is a German high-fidelity audio system maker that based the Volkswagen accessory on their existing PP62DSP (new VW P/N: 000-051-419B). The outgoing system I bought during the clearance was based on the discontinued PP50DSP. Both systems feature 50 watts per channel (35W/channel on four-speaker systems without separate tweeters), plus 160 watts for the subwoofer, and can be programmed with sound contouring specific to each Volkswagen model with a trip to a Volkswagen dealer (details below). Calls to three Volkswagen dealerships for installation quotes, as well as internet discussions, compelled me to tackle the installation myself: One dealer quoted a very confident $312, another did a round of back and forth phone calls over a few days and then never really gave me a great feeling about their plan, and a third dealership wouldn’t touch the installation at all (but would gladly sell me the part for $660). “No, thanks!”

helixspecsThe installation took me a few hours, but that’s only because I did some cleaning and photography along the way. The directions were cumbersome, but someone at VWVortex said all they needed was this YouTube video (profanity warning). I took a leap of faith and just followed along with the video, pausing as needed for certain steps. Everything went smoothly, especially when making a few exceptions that I think the video producer would agree with:

1) Kill the power! He said it; he illustrated why it is prudent. The instructions say to disconnect the battery for a reason. Just do it. It took just a few seconds to disconnect my battery’s negative terminal. I did not lose any settings. Also, open the hatchback before you disconnect the battery; the hatchback requires power to open.

removal-key2) I used these keys to remove the stereo chassis. He said not to shove them in until they click because they sometimes get stuck and can break. I could not pull my radio out without the keys slipping out. So I shoved them in a little farther… they clicked. “DOH!” Clicked into place, they held the radio and enabled me to slide it straight out. But the keys were indeed locked-in and stuck. No worries! With the radio in-hand, all I had to do was press inward on the retaining tabs (depicted by the arrow in this photo) and the key immediately released without need to fight with or risk breaking anything. This may be exactly how they’re supposed to work!

helix-connectors3) I used this pin removal tool from IDParts. The tool pair is a little more expensive than other tools, but they’re robust and reach deeper into bulky connectors. The larger tool worked perfectly for this job! IDParts’ web page has a link to a video that shows how to use the tool. Here’s a photo of it in my hand. I had slid the stereo unit out of the glove box and gently hung it by the cables that were still connected. I had to swap out one of the wiring blocks and re-pin two of the wires. It was straightforward with the video assisting me, but definitely not “plug-n-play,” as suggested by some of the vendors who sell the Helix upgrade.

4) There’s a tiny potentiometer near the end of the amp (red arrow). Some swear they got better sound after adjusting it. I’m not 100% certain of this pot’s role, but I know that it does not behave linearly. In other words, turning one direction doesn’t turn sound “up” while the other direction turns sound “down.” Instead, there appears to be a sweet spot in the adjustment range. I suspect this is an impedance-matching adjustment that’s set at the factory for various subwoofers that Helix specifies for different systems. My advice is to leave it alone. The only reason I know anything about the pot’s behavior is because I met someone whose sub stopped working after he adjusted it. We adjusted the pot and found a sweet spot. Also, the “screw head” is tiny, made of plastic, and very fragile. Again, LEAVE IT ALONE!

helix-testfit5) I did the electrical connections at the front of the car and then did a test of the stereo before committing to routing the cable under the trim panels to the trunk. I could hear the difference right away… much brighter. Of course, it sounded even better once I routed the cable and closed the doors. The Helix five-channel amp removes lower bass from the doors and dedicates it to the subwoofer, allowing me to increase the bass setting without over-driving the door speakers. The subwoofer sounds surprisingly good, especially when considering that it has only 6-inch drivers. It sounds like a “larger” system.

6) It very tempting to make sure all parts in the package are used. This includes a small jumper that fits in only one place. “There, all done,” one might think. Not so fast! This jumper is for use on right-hand drive (RHD) cars to force the DSP into accounting for the driver being on the “wrong side” of the car. 😉  It is not used in cars where the driver sits on the left side. Feel free to misplace this part if the system will never serve in a RHD car. I have no idea where mine went.

7) Disconnecting the battery causes the computer to lose track of certain position sensors. As a result, faults associated with the TPMS, traction control, steering angle, and maybe even something else will probably appear. DON’T PANIC! Simply start the car and drive it a few hundred feet. The errors will disappear on their own once the computer detects steering inputs and wheel rotation. The one-touch window opening/closing also needs resetting. To do that, switch on the ignition, close all windows and doors, pull each window-up switch and hold it for at least two seconds, release, then pull up and hold again. Driving the windows into their stops retrains the module, which allows the auto up/down feature to work again.

Dongle-578) Don’t believe VW’s claim that the system is “pre-programmed” for the Golf/GTI. If it is, then it may be pre-programmed for the two-door, file 56, which is no longer available in the U.S. To program the unit, either visit a dealer, rent a dongle, or I’d be happy to flash it for you if you’re willing to meet in Yorktown, VA. Renting the dongle makes programming the system at home very easy (it takes ~30 seconds). In my case, flashing with the dongle seemed to make only a subtle difference. But others have reported dramatic changes. Later, I discovered that the distortion I had at higher volumes was gone after programming. In fact, the volume can go all the way to maximum without distorting. Of course, I never listen at high volumes, but it’s good to know the system can do it.

faderSince the system is marketed as a “Subwoofer/Soundbox,” it’s easy to forget that the Helix upgrade features a 5-channel amplifier with DSP. The programming adjusts the mid and high frequencies and focuses the experience on the driver. At “only” 102-dBA, it’s not going to win any sound-offs, but the quality of sound is very good for the price-point. Of course, there’s still room to tailor the tone of the music to suit individual tastes. But the point of Helix is to present an improvement to the stock system, as well as an ideal starting point for upgrades. Overall, I’m very pleased and could even be pretty happy with the system as installed if not for the fact that I had already planned and purchased parts for a subwoofer upgrade. Read more about my upgrade HERE.    See more photos below.

My impressions of the Helix were renewed when I got my hands on a dealer demo switch that allows me to switch between “Original” and “Helix” sound. Of course, the switch is always in the “Helix” position. But I thought the novelty of hearing the difference from time to time would be cool, even if only briefly. I shared the difference with a coworker. I started with it in the “Original” position. “That actually sounds okay,” he said. Then I switched it to “Helix.” “Oh, WOW! That’s a big difference,” he immediately exclaimed. He became more and more impressed as the song continued and we switched back and forth between the modes. As we exited the car, he finished by saying “I feel like something’s been missing from my life.” 😀 That was funny!

NOTE: Some have squeezed their Helix subwoofer in with the donut spare tire by removing the subwoofer’s rubber “feet” and using a longer spare tire retention “bolt,” VW P/N: 1T0-803-899-B. More details HERE.

Loving the Beat!

Scott

About Scott

I grew up near Houston, TX and served in the U. S. Coast Guard for over 30 years. I have an electronics background and continue to work in the electronics engineering field. I taught myself the basics about automotive systems as well as how to perform some of my own maintenance (cars and bicycles). I became involved with Amateur Radio and computers in 1995. The explosion of technology has made my job and several of my hobbies quite interesting. My hobbies include Volkswagens, bicycling, photography, electronics, amateur radio, web management, and reptiles. Visit my websites to learn more.
This entry was posted in Mods & Projects, Product Review. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Helix Sound Upgrade

  1. Jeff says:

    Good write up!! Pretty much sums up this pretty well.
    Can definetelly agree this fits into a Jetta mk6 with the spare tire as well, and ties down nicely with the longer spare tire nut fastener part. An awesome upgrade if you dont have Fender or a Dynaudio system installed factory.

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Thanks for the note, Jeff! Time will tell if my next car gets a custom subwoofer or if the Helix will suffice. I’m getting to the point where intricate work on the car interests me less than simply driving. The Helix upgrade is almost good enough for me to forego the subwoofer upgrades… almost. We’ll see. 😉

      Like

  2. Mathil8 says:

    Nice write up. Thanks for sharing this. Having the option of keeping the spare makes this install much more palatable for me. Let me know if you end up wanting to sell the helix, looks like I lost out on the price decrease :(.

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Thanks for the note! Unfortunately, I won’t ever remove my Helix. I wouldn’t want to deal with the wire loom again (and repinning the harness back to stock). When I sell the car (IF I do before it’s worthless), I’ll remove my electronics panel and then return the Helix enclosure to spare tire well for the next owner.

      With that said, I think the Helix system is worth retail price if you can install it yourself. A brief search for “Volkswagen Helix Sound System” shows places where it can be had for $480. I think it yields $480 of improvement. You can get another 10% off by signing up for VW’s ongoing rebates at https://www.vwserviceandparts.com/vw-accessory-rebate/. 🙂 Good Luck! -Scott

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      • Mathil8 says:

        Thanks for the link! I’ll wait it out a bit and see if I can grab one cheaper somehow. I’ll likely end up caving and buying retail. Did you end up using any tools to remove the trim, or just bare hands? Thanks for the responses :).

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    • Scott says:

      The trim panels came off without tools.

      Like

      • Mathil8 says:

        Thanks for the information. By the way, I did find someone willing to sell me the wire loom for $50, so if you’re willing to sell the helix without the wire loom, please let me know!

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      • Scott says:

        Good score on the wiring loom! I will still keep mine because the Helix amp is installed elsewhere in my car. BUT, with the wiring loom, you have great options for adding a standalone amplifier with a path back to your factory speakers. Check out the pinout photo above. A 20-pin ATX extension should plug into the end that goes to the trunk. From there, you could either patch straight into an amp or build adapters to suit your needs. I bought my connectors from eBay. Here’s one that should work: https://www.ebay.com/itm/2-ATX-20-Pin-Male-to-20-Pin-Female-Adapter-Power-Supply-Cable-Connector-6-Long-/192072637410

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      • Mathil8 says:

        Interesting, I’ll have to do some research as I’m not overly knowledgeable on car audio. The helix just seems like such a solid and simple upgrade, I might just have to bite the bullet and buy it at current retail price. I really wish I was looking into this a few months ago!

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  3. Karl Rossing says:

    I was speaking to the VW parts manager at our dealership. He said they received the programer with their first order of the sub.

    He holds onto the programer and loans it out to the service department.

    Service charges $200CDN to install the amp.

    Like

  4. adi says:

    Hello sir.. can i ask u some question?

    1. From the pin out diagram (subwoofer pin out), it show that the DSP supply 4 speaker of subwoofer (- 4, + 4)…is it true? What i know is PP7E sub box, it’s using two subwoofer wright?

    2, Do u have Manual setting using the helix program?

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Adi – Yes, the amplifier is outputting four speaker pairs for the sub. There are two subwoofers in the Helix subwoofer enclosure, but they are each dual-voicecoil woofers, which means each subwoofer has two sets of inputs.

      I did not use any “manual” settings for my programming; I simply went with whatever the dongle flashed for a four-door Golf/GTI.

      I hope this helps. Thanks for visiting! -Scott

      Like

  5. Thanks for the write up. I noticed that there are “New 2.0” Helix file settings now in the setup file. I wonder if those are for the newer “B” version of the Helix? I have a 2018 GTI, so I’ll probably try 57 and 97 to see what the difference is. http://www.volkswagen-accessories.com/en/product-ranges/infotainment/soundsystem.html

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  6. Charles Summers says:

    Great write up and thanks for all of your hard work. I myself enjoy the addition of the soundbox, but I’m still wanting more. I am planning on using the atx adapter you referenced to wire in a new processor and amps, and I was wondering if the pin out diagram is the same for the PP50DSP and PP62DSP processor? Also, do you know what Masse translates to? Are those ground wires or just pins that are not used? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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    • Scott says:

      Charles – I have no reason to believe the two wiring harnesses are not interchangeable. Of course, there’s always room for experimentation. I’ve made a logical assumption that “Masse” is “ground” or “common” although I cannot find any real info to prove it. You could measure resistance between that wire and the case or vehicle ground to double-check. I haven’t bothered. Thanks for visiting! -Scott

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  7. Harrison Davis says:

    My local dealership has one of these for quite a good deal, any idea if it would work on a 2012 GTI with Dynaudio? The factory sound is damn good but is missing some of that bass, would love to add a nice hidden sub!

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Harrison – Unfortunately, the Helix system is not designed for Dynaudio or Fender. Those systems already have external amplifiers. You’re probably a good candidate for a separate subwoofer system. Thanks for visiting. -Scott

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      • Harrison Davis says:

        Darn, I have tried and tried to figure out external subwoofer but none of the wiring makes sense to me, everyone insists you can have a decent one for cheap and yet every time I see a guide on how to do it they are spending over $1,000

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      • Scott says:

        Cost and effectiveness are relative. I was very happy with a 125W system in my Mk3 Jetta. But it was mostly a low-volume system that ran out of punch around 50% volume.

        Crutchfield recommends that subwoofer systems be ~10-times the main channel. In my case, my main speaker channels are rated at 50 watts, so a 500W subwoofer system would be a good balance. That seemed like a bit much on paper, but the 500-watt sub system seems to balance the Helix setup really well… and has the potential to overdo it. Remember – Double the power does not equate to double the sound output. -Scott

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  8. Chuck Prill says:

    Hey Scott. Do you know of anyone who can repair the DSP unit, or where I can purchase another one? It’s the AMP.051.419.B. I purchased the Sub knowing it didn’t work with everything new in the box. Apparently some broke the potentiometer and replaced it with new one that has the screw on top. I’ve hooked everything up without running the wire harness, fuse is good, status light is on and all my speakers work but no sound from the sub. I’ve measured resistance on both legs of the pot and the values change when I adjust the trim. Btw the legs of the pot go to the large heat sync transistors on each side. Any ideas?
    Thanks
    Chuck

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    • Scott says:

      Chuck – I’m sorry to say that I have no ideas. You might try contacting Helix (Germany) to see if they’ll accept it for repair. But I get the feeling the shipping and repair would be cost-prohibitive. Good Luck! -Scott

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      • Chuck Prill says:

        Thanks Scott
        I do have an email into Helix but haven’t heard back. I may play with it some more and if I can’t get it to work I may try to use the sub and harness with a new amp and crossover. If you have any input I’d be grateful.
        Chuck

        Liked by 1 person

      • Scott says:

        Chuck – If you got a good price on the package, you may find it worthwhile to abandon the amp and switch to something else. The Helix wiring harness alone really improves the options for expansion and feeding all signals right back into the factory speaker wiring. Good Luck!

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  9. Chrisrian says:

    Scott,
    Just installed the Helix sub today in my 2017 GTI Sport. I want to thank you and all the other guys in the links you provided! I couldn’t have done the install myself without all the great videos, lessons learned and helpful suggestions. The system went in without a hitch. One dealer wanted to charge $1000 labor for the install (because they admittedly had never installed one). When I decided to tackle it myself, that same dealer would not sell me the programming dongle, but would happily charge me $162 to do the 30 second programming for me. I found another VW dealership who sold the sub and dongle for $539 and $144 (10% off the list prices of $599 and $160 respectively). I’m getting another 15% back through a VW rebate. So, it wasn’t the best deal, but I’m very pleased with the end result. I too used the “57” setting on the dongle, and I agree that the difference after programming was subtle. I didn’t really check high volumes before I did the programming, but there is no distortion like you mentioned. I think it’s a nice upgrade to the stock stereo for the money.
    Thanks again!
    Christian

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Thanks for the feedback. Buying the dongle can be a waste, but not if the dealer is charging that much to flash the module. HAHA! Nice move! I have a dongle, too, and probably will never use it again. We’ll see. Thanks for visiting! -Scott

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  10. anton says:

    Just completed this upgrade today! Found a used dongle on eBay for $75 shipped, so used that to code my Sportwagen to program #60. The sound upgrade is solid. Not the tightest bass, but decent. The DSP does a good job of cutting bass from the speakers, so the stock woofers can function like true mid-bass drivers and can go much louder with more accuracy and less power and without fear of over extending. The mids and highs get slightly shrill at really high volumes, while the bass remains composed. Not sure if this is a limitation of the amp or the car’s stock speakers. The staging is decent. Again, not the best, but there seems to be a virtual stage somewhere above the shifter, at about ear height. I’d prefer it farther forward, above the dash, but all in all for the $475 the system cost me including the dongle (and before a $60 rebate which I’m waiting for), it’s worth it. The first thing I noticed, an old familiar sight, was that my rear view mirror shook on bass notes. Hadn’t observed that since my last amped and subwoofer-ed car in 1991.

    Thanks for the very nice writeup. It’s always nice to have photos to supplement the official instructions, which I found to be unusable.

    A note on the Helix wiring harness– it’s a really nice, almost plug-and-play harness, but I was concerned by some other comments made elsewhere on the internet about all the extra wires and terminal blocks behind the head unit getting pinched and preventing the head unit from inserting back into place properly. The Helix harness does add a lot of bulk behind the head unit, with all the adapter terminal blocks. To minimize this bulk, I un-taped the first two feet of harness behind the mass of terminal blocks, and separated the wires into their three segments– the headunit speaker out set, the amp speaker out set, and the 12V power set. Then I re-taped them separately with Tessa tape. The speaker out set from the amp is the bulkiest of the three. Since this set connects into the car’s speaker wire harness, and not the head unit, it does not need to fit behind the head unit. I was able to reroute that terminal adapter block completely behind the dash, outside of the head unit cavity. This left plenty of space behind the head unit, so it slid right back into position without fuss. Also, I wrapped the Helix harness terminal blocks in Tessa tape to prevent any rattles behind the dash.

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Anton – Thanks for writing your comprehensive entry! I was very conscious of where I routed my cable, making sure it did not pass through or near metal structures or sharp edges behind dash. I don’t recall the specifics, but I did manage to route my cable in a way that gives me enough room to pull out the unit while still allowing the wire to tuck away.

      Oddly enough, the Helix system sounds decent without the subwoofer, too. My setup (external amp and sub) shuts off any time the engine is not running. Even then, the bass is adequate. One of my goals with the subwoofer is to overcome any bass that might be being canceled by the running engine or road noise. I think I have a winner. Sure, it won’t win a sound-off, but it’s a great improvement over stock that doesn’t violate any of the factory wiring. 🙂 Thanks for visiting! -Scott

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  11. boiler97 says:

    After reading this and especially after watching your youtube video, I installed the Helix system in my brand new GTI today. I wasn’t interested until I heard you explain how it was a system upgrade, not just subwoofers. Everything sounds better and I’m waiting to rent a dongle to get it reprogrammed.
    Matt

    Like

  12. shane says:

    hello
    does this work with a MIB II head unit in a Sirocco R

    Thanks shane

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Shane – Thanks visiting. Unfortunately, I cannot answer your question because that car is not available in the US. The VWoA sites do not list that car as compatible, but only because it’s not here. Sorry! -Scott

      Like

  13. Eli says:

    Hello
    I just purchased aftermarket radio for my 15 Golf Sportwagen, I conect it, everything is working except sound, than I figure out, that my plug doesn’t have wires or plug for speakers, how can I find which wires is for speakers?

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Eli – Thanks for visiting! I’ve added a couple photos to the album on this page. It should have the pinouts you need for your project. Refresh the page if the new photos do not appear in the album. Take Care! -Scott

      Like

  14. Gary Charles Adler says:

    Scott-

    I appreciate your web page. It’s very helpful.
    We just purchased a 2018 Tiguan SE. The Helix system looks like a great option.
    If we can find the “original” Helix kit, would it work on our car, or do we need the newer “B” version?
    I may consider a different sub, but still use the Helix amp. How would I determine which pair / pairs of W1-W8 to use?
    I appreciate your help. Thanks.

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Gary – I would be apprehensive about buying a used Helix system (the original). The odds of you finding a new one are exceedingly slim. I think you should just go for the “B”. As for the subwoofer pairs, I don’t know that it matters. Just make sure that you use the correct pairs, positive and negative instead of positive and positive, and you should be okay. I chose the inner pairs with the goal of simply keeping my wires straighter. Thanks for visiting! -Scott

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  15. Pierre says:

    Hello Scott,

    I’m looking for the harness cable of helix subwoofer.
    I want to buy a used helix subwoofer from a guy who left his harness at the end of his renting car.
    What is the model number and where can buy it in Canada or US for golf mk7.5 2018 ?
    Thanks,

    Pete

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Pete – Sorry to say that I cannot help you. I, too, was initially interested in finding only the cable. But I had no luck in my search. Thanks for writing! -Scott

      Like

  16. McLain says:

    Do you happen to have the dimensions of the subwoofer? I have an e-Golf which didn’t come with the spare because VW used that space for a bigger battery, so their catalog says it won’t fit. But, the fact that you’re able to fit the spare in and close the top cover makes me think it should still fit. Thanks.

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Hello – So sorry to let this slip by me. I don’t have the Helix subwoofer on hand. I have a recollection that it is ~4″ deep without the foot pegs. Does your eGolf have space beneath the trunk floor? Thanks for visiting! -Scott

      Like

      • McLain says:

        No worries. The e-Golf still has a false floor in the back, but VW got rid of the space where the spare tire is in order to fit more battery. There’s still about 5-6″ of storage space in the rear. I found an unboxing video of the sub and they measured it and it will fit in the e-Golf. I’m sure though, that because there’s no spare tire tie down that is why VW doesn’t list the Helix as fitting the in the e-Golf, but I’m not worried about it at all.

        Like

      • Scott says:

        Yes. Once you get some padding along the sides to keep the box from sliding around, everything should stay put so long as you keep the car upright. Good Luck! -Scott

        Like

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