Northern Spin Co. Helix
Reviewed by Chris Rhoads
March 6, 2011
I have always looked at the yo-yo industry in the same way that I look at the car industry. Cars have always been in my blood, going back to my paternal grandfather who worked with legendary car designer Harley Earl on the 1951 Buick LeSabre concept car among others. When looking at the yo-yo industry it is not hard to see the similarities. You have your Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler, in this case YoYoFactory, YoYoJam, and Duncan. Nothing wrong with them, they create affordable yo-yos that will handily perform all the tricks you need them to while being quite affordable. And lets not forget that they do have their higher end yo-yos that could be seen as their GT40 or their Corvette. Moving on to the higher end you have Your Porches, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis, you higher end and pricier boutique yo-yos that get a little more love during manufacturing because there isn’t as big of a run. I would consider General-Yo, CLYW, and Vs. Newton in those ranks. You even have your odd balls, the ones that give Audi R8 design and performance at a Honda Civic price, which would be One Drop. Now this is all well and good but you are probably wondering what the heck does this have to do with the yo-yo I am reviewing today? Well in the car industry there are companies that so elite that only the true gear heads know about them, companies like Pagani and Koenigsegg. These are your true super car companies with off the wall designs and extremely labor intensive, hand crafted manufacturing. In the yo-yo industry Northern Spin Co. is beginning to position themselves in this sort of role. Their yo-yos are either using exotic metals or handcrafted parts made from normal metals. They have even said that they refuse to sell B-Grades because it does not jive with the image they have of their company. The Aurora was a great first product from this company and started their journey up the super elite ladder, will the Helix help them climb another rung or have them step back to the garage for some more tinkering?
• Diameter: 52 mm
• Width: 40 mm
• Gap: 4.5 mm
• Weight: 65 grams
• Bearing: C-Sized ABEC-5 Ceramic Bearing
• Response: Flowable Silicone
Wrestling the Helix from its box I was greeted with the silver anodized version. There are two colors to choose from, silver or black. The silver is so light it might almost be considered white. The Helix does not come bead blasted but feels like it has taken a dip in an acid etch bath giving it a pseudo blasted feel on the aluminum parts. The rims are raw, 316 stainless steel and have been meticulously machined to fit on the sides of the aluminum frame. When I talked to the guys at NSC they told me that the rims are attached by hand using a high-grade epoxy. For all the machining geeks reading this, Mani at NSC let me know that most high-end metal yo-yos use a three-step process to complete the yo-yo while the Helix requires a ten-step process. This basically boils down to the fact that between the hand fitting and extra machining the guys at Northern Spin could make almost four yo-yos in the time it takes them to complete one Helix.
The Helix’ shape is very reminiscent of their first release, the Aurora. The catch zone is a rounded butterfly shape that flows into the low walled gap. The rims almost mimic the curve but there is a slight, deliberate step between the transition from steel to the aluminum. I don’t mind the step but I would have preferred a seamless transition between the metals. Now this is just me nitpicking, that sort of metal work would surely be next to impossible unless the walls were machined after the steel had been attached to the aluminum. The face of the yo-yo shows the steel curving over the lip of the rim stopping right before the IRG. The cup is deep with the raised plateau on the floor. There is a small spike hub in the center. Over all the design works quite well, it has a more reserved look than some of the more out there yo-yos on the market. There is something to be said for simple yet elegant designs.
This yo-yo comes in at a middleweight class of 65 grams. Most of that weight is in the denser steel rims. The distribution does give a very solid, fast, and slightly floaty feel on the string. While it can play like the faster undersized yo-yos on the market it does not need to and does have a full sized feel on the string.
Response and Bearing
One of the biggest gripes I had with the Aurora after playing it for a while was the size of the response area. It was a flowable silicone channel that had a width similar to a .555 pad. This would catch the string every so often and expectantly shoot the yo-yo back to the hand. On the Helix they slimmed down the width of the response channel to a much more manageable size making it play almost dead unresponsive out of the box. After about a half hour of play it lost all of the “new silicone” responsiveness.
The bearing on the Helix is a high-grade c-sized ceramic bearing. First of all I would like to commend them for jumping up to the more standard C-Sized bearing. I know I took some flack from the community for complaining about the metric bearing in the Aurora. I still stand by my opinion that the C-Sized bearing gives the end user more options. That being said the ceramic bearing in the Helix is quite nice. It gives great spin time and is quiet.
On the first throw I found that the Helix feels great on the string and is quite stable. There is an almost completely unnoticeable vibe on grinds but that should be expected anytime yo marry two metals by hand. On the string is it dead smooth. The stability on this yo-yo is what impressed me most. Brett recently showed me a new GT trick that he named the Miyagi Green Triangle. The trick is basically a ninja vanish from an almost double or nothing mount. During the trick you have to be pretty precise or you will hit the yo-yo with the strings looped around your fingers and send it off kilter. With the extra stability of the steel rims I found that I could knock the helix once or twice during attempts and still have it stable enough to hit the Ninja Vanish loop. Grinds are a slight mixed bag for this yo-yo. Finger grinds and thumb grinds work out quite well thanks to that acid etch on the aluminum. The raw steel rims palm and arm grind pretty much how you would expect raw metal to grind, which is to say not so well. This yo-yo was not made for the grind heavy player in mind. Last thing that needs to be mentioned are those spikes. They are very well suited for matador play. They are sharp enough that you can easily ripcord start the yo-yo using them and balance the yo-yo on you finger as well.
Ok, the final verdict. Does this yo-yo warrant the $200 price tag? Honestly that is up to the end user. It is like asking if a Bugatti Veyron is worth a million dollars. Personally, I don’t think Northern Spin Co. needs to justify the high price of this yo-yo. Yes it is made out of less exotic metals but it is also painstakingly but together by hand. It could cut corners by putting in a cheaper bearing, but people could say Corvette would be cheaper with a four-cylinder engine. At the end of the day, based on the play of the yo-yo, I would recommend it and say that if you can afford the price of admission you should go for it. I am not the only one with this opinion. At YoYoNation the Helix sold out in about two minutes. At the High Speed YoYo store it sold out in, you guessed it, about two minutes and almost crashed the servers. Currently if you want one you can only get it from the Northern Spin Co. store but I have a feeling by the time you read this they will be gone as well. Congrats to Northern Spin Co. for another fine release that is sure to cement your über boutique status. Now branch out and embrace the oddball market that I mentioned in the introduction, bring out that great performing but lower priced metal that you mentioned a while back.