Interview with Dominik of Elysia
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December 14, 2010

 Article by pan60 

So Dominik, tell me a bit about elysia as well as yourself.

elysia, that's basically Ruben (Tilgner) and me. We started this company five years ago because we were pretty much fed up with what we were doing at the time... I still remember it well: the two of us sitting outside of our famous small pub in the middle of summer and complaining about the job while drawing one great idea after the other on any beer mat available. I have kept quite a lot of these – you never know... Anyway, the combination of frustration and zest for action led to the inevitable. We resigned from our existing jobs and started our own company to make it better. But our 'history' goes back even further than this. Years before we started elysia we had played in a 5.1 surround jam band together with two friends for quite some time. So it was music which made us meet in the first place.

So what instruments do you guys play? Have you had any formal training?

Ruben plays keyboards and Rhodes, and he is an experienced front of house mixer as well. I play electric bass and a little bit of guitar. Sometimes I even sing, but I won't send you any samples of this ;-) Both of us have a lot of cool FX units – Ruben mainly builds them for himself, while I have a nice collection of rare and freaky stomp boxes and the like.

I remember the first time I saw one of your compressors. I thought – WOW! That looks so sweet. It has got to sound good: )~

Then you are one of the good guys, hehe... No kidding. When we initially posted the first pictures of the alpha compressor on the internet, a lot of people thought we wanted to hide a maybe not so good audio quality behind a well designed faceplate. The truth was just the other way around. We found the sound quality of the first prototype to be so convincing that we felt the need to also show the 'inner values' of our first product on the outside, too. A lot of time and effort went into designing the housing and the knobs (all custom parts), while the audio electronics was further enhanced by Ruben at the same time. In the end, these efforts gave the company its face, and we have kept this approach with every new product we have made so far. We want them to sound good, look good and feel good.

I love cool looking gear. It has a quality build and a great sound, as well. When the looks and sound all come together, then it is just sexy!

Your first compressor was the alpha compressor, a design for mastering applications. Since it  has been released, it has won a number of awards, not limited to, but including;
PAR Excellence Award and MIX Certified Hit Award in 2006. And the M-pressor has been nominated for a TEC Award in 2008. By the way, are you and Ruben the owners of the company? Are you also the designers, managers or everything above?

In a small company like ours, you're always a little bit of everyone and everything. But to be a little bit more specific, Ruben and I own 50 % of the company each. Right from the start it was very important for us not to be dependent on external people. Ruben is taking care of the technical part; he is responsible for R&D as well as production. He has been doing this for more than 15 years now, and he is a well known and respected engineer in his field, especially when it comes to discrete designs. Among many other things, he has developed the Transient Designer many years ago. My part is everything else (management, communications, sales, etc.). All things which have to be done here at elysia are basically done by just two people – you can imagine that we don't get bored so easily.

Bored, LOL.  Yep, it sounds like a hand full, or two: )~
That’s cool to know Ruben has been a part of the development of so many successful projects. Some include: the Transient Designer, the GainStation and the MixDream for SPL.

The xpressor 500 is all discrete class A stereo, why not just a linkable mono unit?

That's mainly because of the features we wanted to implement into this product. We needed all eight knobs and four switches to create the compressor we had in mind... without functions like the gain reduction limiter, integrated sidechain filter, mix controller, auto fast and warm mode the xpressor 500 wouldn't have been much more than a 'me too' product – at least in terms of features. But we really wanted to take the most wanted specials of our flagship products and offer them on a product which is much more affordable. As a two slot configuration gives you two ins and two outs, the only question remaining was: Do we make it stereo or should it be mono with an external sidechain? We think the design works really well as a bus compressor, so the answer more or less came by itself.

You two are into plugins as well. In 2009 you launched the mpressor plugin, tell us more about the plugins? Do you see more coming?

At the beginning, we were really skeptical about the whole thing. When you put so much effort in every little detail of your gear, you really keep wondering how all this could be translated into software. A good circumstance is that we had known the guys from Brainworx ever since we had started our own company, and when we finally decided to just give it a try, they could fully convince us with the quality of their work. Especially the emulation of the control behavior of the mpressor is absolutely stunning. Even if there are certain things in the analog realm that cannot be emulated by 100 % today, I still think that the software is absolutely worth while using. This becomes even more true if you are working exclusively in the box anyway or if your budget does not allow to go for the best converters and analog gear. And yes, at the very moment we are working on the next plugin to be released still this year.

class A -- why did you choose class A? I know people see class A and class AB all the time and I have no clue just what it is. I read, the other day, someone commenting about the class A being better then class B. Which is better, then, Class AB and C. LOL Do you care to touch on this topic?

So far, all of our hardware products are operating in permanent class A mode. From the technical point of view, this means that the transistors are always conductive, resulting in the absence of crossover distortion. But what is more important is the pristine sonic base this produces: The general sound character is always wide, open and transparent. It can really lift the curtain, and obviously we like this very much.

I always ask everyone to reassure me about using surface mount stuff. I never had a issue with it, but that stuff is just so freakin small! Sometimes I’ll get a unit in and I have to find my glass just to just to make sure there is really something on the darn board: )~

Let's have a look at two different things: The devices themselves and the fact that they are surface mounted.
The latter is a no-brainer, if you ask me. The components are placed and soldered by machines, which is more precise and faster at the same time. It gives you a more reliable product which can be sold cheaper because you can save money in production. The components are a different thing, though. It's true, if you use the wrong stuff in the wrong place, you'll notice a degradation of the audio quality. When we designed the xpressor 500, we wanted to avoid this by all means. One example is the resistors we have used: we do not take these super-tiny ones in the audio path, but only the larger, so-called MELF types which differ from standard components only by the lack of through-hole pins. Also, conventional caps have been placed where we found SMD types not to be appropriate. Finally, those thermally coupled transistor pairs are a true blessing for discrete designs, helping to keep the parameters stable. The bottom line is: SMD is not a problem, but as with every other audio design you have to know what you're doing to get the right results.

So, how long has the xpressor 500 been in the works?

I have just checked this: my first sketch is dated April 2009. The active work on this project must have been something like twelve month, but this does not only include the design and production of the product itself, but also providing a manual, website info, sound samples and demo video. And of course this has not been one complete year of continuous work – the other products and many other things require their time, too. The development of this product went very smoothly, as we could benefit from our earlier developments quite a lot.

You guys pulled this off nicely and in a very timely manner.
What made elysia want to get into the 500 format?

We really like the idea that people can arrange their individual mixture of specific modules from specific manufacturers they like best. Ok, this could also be done with 19“ equipment, but here another pro of the 500 series comes into play: The cost. Not having to pay for a power supply and a housing every time you want to add something to your studio is a cool thing, and the different form factors of available 500 compatible racks adds to the flexibility of the format. For us, the xpressor 500 has been the first chance to offer a flexible discrete class A product in a completely different price range. Of course we'd like to see many people working with and benefiting from our products, but this is simply not possible with our top of the line. Our first module has just been released a week ago, so we're very curious to see how things will develop from now on. I am saying this because we have 2-3 concepts for really interesting follow-ups in the drawer. But hey, no chance – it's too early to reveal what this is all about yet...

I know this is covered in the manual, but let’s chat about some of the very cool features on the xpressor here. I was very glad to see some of the features. Many of these are unique features off your flagship compressors:

-    The auto fast attack mode.
-    Switchable release characteristic.
-    The warm mode switch for instant coloration of the signal.
-    An integrated side-chain filter.
-    elysia's special gain reduction limiter.
-    Mix controller for onboard parallel compression.

Generally speaking, we like the idea that if someone is willing to spend serious cash on analog hardware these days, he should get a flexible tool that can convince in many different applications instead of a one trick pony which is only good for one certain task. Of course the challenge here lies in providing enhanced functionality without creating a nightmare in terms of usability. I feel that with the xpressor 500 we found a good way to provide all the important functions everybody wants from a compressor plus some additional useful goodies. In short, these are:

Auto Fast
Inspired by its big brothers: the switchable semi automation for a perfect attack on the basis of the value set by the user.

Log Release
This alternative characteristic of the release curve follows a logarithmic course instead of the standard linear progress and results in a very gentle kind of compression.

Warm Mode
The xpressor 500 offers a second switchable sound flavor by altering its frequency spectrum, harmonics and transient response.

Sidechain Filter
A tunable low cut filter in the sidechain of the xpressor 500 avoids overcompression and pumping when there is a lot of low end energy in the mix.

Gain Reduction Limiter
This novel limiter is not placed in the audio path as usually, but restricts the control voltage of the compressor instead.

Parallel Compression
Available directly on the unit: the direct and the compressed signal can be blended in any desired relation by simply turning the mix controller.

To wrap up, here are my opinions:

One, do I like these guys and the company? YES! These guys have been amazing to work with, and for me that is a must!

Two, quality and service? I had no issues with elysia. This is a great company that truly cares about their product and reputation!

Three, how does this bad boy sound?  Well, here are my thoughts on the elysia xpressor 500.

elysia has been a voice to be reckoned with since their debut when it comes to compression.

The xpressor is no exception. A combination of modern assemble technology, and high quality component in the audio path as now delivered by elysia, as well as making the 500 format just that much more appealing!

This is not what I would call a MOJO compressor by any means, but that was not the target. The warm mode adds just the little bit to appease those wanting a bit of moxy. It is not too heavy handed. I would say it is just right.

The xpressor is what I would label as a clean compressor, it has very little color. It has a clear and open sound with a good deal of punch.

Aside from a sweet lay-out and being easy to use, this is a great sounding and performing compressor with some wicked features. The elysia xpressor drives it home with those modern stunning looks!

This is not just a compressor for twisting dynamics. The xpressor is begging to be strapped on a two buss. Thumbs up from the Pan man!

I'll be watching for more products from these guys!

You will want to get your hands on one!

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