Let me start by saying that I think what Elysia is doing with their #elysiaontour Instagram campaign is awesome. For those who don't know, Elysia Audio loaded up a beautiful Neve R-10 chassis full of their 500 series units and sent it all over the United States to various studios and let us engineers dig in and enjoy their gear. Talk about incredible marketing and an even more incredible tease of their gear. With that said, I thought it only fair that run some audio through it all, listen for myself and share my thoughts along the way.
I have a whole folder of RAW and processed audio tracks using the gear. It is mainly just drum tracks, but should be plenty for you to get an idea of what this gear is doing. The word document in the folder outlines exactly what settings were used as well.
Download all that right here.
So, let’s get into it!
I’m not sure about you guys, but when I read a gear review, I love scrolling all the way to bottom and reading the “cons” or negative points first…so guess what? That is what I am going to start my review with…sorry Elysia! The good news is…there are really not a whole lot of cons with these units. My biggest “con”, if you can even call it that, is that some of these boxes are bit complicated. In order to really get the full understanding and available functions of these boxes, reading the manual is a must. Some buttons have a dual purpose, only function when something else is engaged, labeled weird, ect. So read the manuals! Ok, lets get on to the specifics now!
Xpressor - The Xpressor is a great stereo compressor, it can’t be unlinked though so that makes this the perfect box for living on your drum bus or mixbus. In Elysia’s defense, if you care about the compressor being unlinked or dual mono…just buy two mpressors..same boxes, just mono units. The warm mode button allows the flexibility to go from incredibly clean and transparent to a subtle low mid bump that fills things out nicely and makes the source audio just feel thicker without even touching any compression. The ratio on this guy does goes from 0-100 pretty quickly (quite literally…the space between 5:1 and 100:1 is only a few notches apart) and even has negative ratios which allow for very fun and unique compression. While the ratio can get a bit drastic, the gain reduction limiter and blend knob are the perfect ways to counterbalance that and dial things back to a moderate compression amount that makes me feel more than comfortable letting this guy live subtly on my mixbus. It shouldn't be overlooked though that this guy can mangle sound in a pretty fun way if needed as well, that is just not something I do.
Xfliter - The Xfilter is a no frills EQ that does a beautiful job at doing exactly what you want it to do…EQ things. This is a stereo unit and isn't un-linkable, so while you can use it on mono sources, you are wasting resources. I would likely reserve it more for a mixbus or drum bus setup. Extremely clean and transparent, the XFILTER does a beautiful job at opening up top end. Engage the passive massage button and it gently rolls off things above 18k which, while it might seem counterproductive…lets the high end open up nicely while getting rid of that digital top end artifact sound. The narrow Q buttons allow flexibility on the mid range bands of EQ and are great for pulling a vocal forward in the mix or notching out some boxiness on a drum bus. I wouldn't call this EQ “surgical” by any means, but it’s a clean, analog EQ that I could easily find a home for on my mixbus simply for the top end alone.
Nvelope - Buy this. I’m not joking, just go buy it. That’s my review…Ok, but seriously, the story goes like this, Ruben, who is the founder and owner of Elysia, is the original designer of the SPL transient designer. You know, that incredible plugin/hardware unit we all use to make drums sound punchy and huge? Yeah, that one. Well, after leaving SPL he went on to create this incredible unit. Basically the Nvelope is a transient designer on steroids. This box is not only a dual mono or stereo unit, but it also allows you to choose the frequency of the attack and sustain parameters. If that’s not enough, it also has an eq mode that turns half the unit into a shelving eq. I told you, go buy it. Throw this thing on a kick drum, decrease the sustain around 300hz, find the fundamental and turn up the attack and yeah…you get the point, it’s a must for drums. If you're making hip-hop music and don't have one of these, you're absolutely missing out.
Karakter - The Karakter is a great stereo saturation box that is extremely flexible. It is class A which means it gets pretty gritty fairly quickly. The FET shred button counteracts that very nicely though by introducing 2nd order harmonics into the signal path giving you a bit more of a warm tube like distortion and breakup. The color and mix knobs give you full control and let you go from mild warm saturation to “I think I broke something” distortion so you can really dial in just about any sort of sound you could want. Personally, what really shines on this unit is the mid side functions. The ability to use 2nd order harmonics on the center of your mix to warm up your vocal and kick and use some crunchier 3rd order harmonics on the sides to dirty things up and create a wider stereo image is awesome.
Skulpter - These Preamps are a bit of a new thing for Elysia and honestly wasn't something I was excited about. I am a mixer and rarely record anything. But I thought hey, they're here, why not give them a try. I was incredibly surprised at how awesome these preamps were. The shape knob, which is basically a one knob EQ, is awesome. Mode 1 is a thickening “warm” style EQ that pushes the low mids and cuts some top end. Great for warming things up and just overall thickening up a thin cheap Chinese microphone. Mode 2 is made for vocals and basically a shelf at 4k. I used it on a ribbon microphone in front of my guitar amp though and it does such a great job at opening the top end up in a clean an transparent way. As if that wasn't enough features for a sub $1k microphone preamp, the one knob compressor reacts exactly how you would want a one knob compressor to react. It may sound silly, but it’s true. It’s not overly grabby and does a really good job at releasing in a natural and organic way. My favorite feature about this preamp though, hands down, is the signal mute button. For all the people reading this who have one room studio set ups, you will know exactly what I mean. You've got a live mic in the control room, laid down a solid take and now you want to take the headphones off and hear it back on your monitors, right? How do you mute the live mic in the room? Turn your gain knob down and lose your setting? Un-patch it and make a huge loud pop? ELYSIA fixed that with the signal mute and I would literally buy this preamp for that feature alone.
So, that about sums it all up. Take a listen and decide for yourself, but I think that Elysia’s gear is incredible and I can’t wait get a few pieces to call my own.