Premium Helm Audio earphones for $65 (regularly $129) and straight vs. S-shaped turntable tonearms

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 49, 2020

Q. You were right – the Helm Audio True Wireless 5.0 are the best earbuds ever! As an RN, I am still ordering them at 50% off with Helm’s special first responder discount. I have purchased 5 sets so far. My husband uses them in his job as a big rig driver. You get all night ears by just wearing one ear bud at a time, which is safe for his driving. The earbuds doesn’t dislodge much and they look cool compared to the white ones with tails the young people wear (so passé.) Why don’t you write about the first responders special again? I am sure other readers and first responders would appreciate it.

-K.G., Vallejo, CA

A. I double-checked my past reviews and I never exactly said the Helm earphones were the “best earbuds ever” but I certainly appreciate your palpable enthusiasm! Back in April I did say they are some of the best sounding earbuds you can buy for the price, and I still feel that way. Based on reader feedback they were one of the more popular product recommendations of the past year. The earphones are a stylish, uncomplicated, high quality product that just plain sounds good.

As you mentioned in your email, the Helm True Wireless 5.0 earphones are normally $129.99. Helm has a wonderful promotion where first responders, medical staff, veterans, teachers, and active military receive a 50% discount when you validate your career at the website. Visit to learn more about the earphones and discount redemption. At $65 per pair after the 50% discount, you can do no better than the Helm True Wireless 5.0.

True Wireless Earphones are certain to be some of the most popular gift items this year so I will use this opportunity to tell readers about some others that should be on their shopping list.

Hifiman TWS800, $299: These high-end audiophile earphones from an industry leader and are well regarded by audio buffs for their clear, natural and accurate sound.

Technics EAH-AZ70W, $249: One of my favorite earphones regardless of price, the Technics EAH-AZ70W delivers a premium experience from the packaging, the product, and the sound, which almost makes you feel like you are listening to speakers rather than something stuck in your ear. The sophisticated app allows you to control the amount of noise reduction and locate lost earphones.

Audio-Technica ATH-CK3TW, $99: These earphones are comfortable and pleasant to listen to, with no drawbacks I can think of. I keep a blue-colored pair of these in my gym bag so I can have good sound while I exercise, without risking the loss of something expensive.

Soundcore Life P2, $49: Another winner from Soundcore, the Life P2 gets you good sound and Soundcore quality for under $50.

Q. Some of the turntables I am considering have an S-shaped arm. I do not like the way they look and prefer a straight arm. Is there a quality difference between them?

-T.M., Minneapolis, MN

A. When designed and manufactured properly and with the cartridge mounted correctly, both S-shaped and straight tonearms perform well. It comes down to individual examples. A good S-shaped arm will be better than a mediocre straight arm, and vice-versa. Except for DJ turntables, a straight arm will have an angled headshell (cartridge mount) to align it with the grooves and an S-shaped arm will have a straight headshell. Two affordable, quality turntables with straight arms are the Audio-Technica AT-LPW30TWK ($249) and Music Hall Classic ($599.)