© 2012 Pan60
elysia By PAN60 The elysia mpressor 500 with pan60 and Dominik Date; 12 - 22 - 2016 PAN60: It’s been a while since our last chat, so let’s catch up and see what has happened in the meantime. I know you have moved to a new location, and you have just released your fifth 500 format unit. Congrats! elysia: A lot of great things have happened in the meantime indeed. You are right, we finally moved out of the basement (which had been the home of the company for many years) into a very nice building, which gave the company a great new perspective. Even though we’re still a small company, we’re more than just two people now, and working in a slightly larger team is very cool. We have also celebrated our 10th company anniversary recently, and we have released some interesting new products as well – including the mpressor 500 you have just mentioned. PAN60: You have this golden lettered headline all across the PCB of the mpressor 500 – THE COMPRESSOR FROM THE FUTURE. Is this just a nice slogan or if there is anything else to it? Do tell! elysia: The credit for this title actually goes to Joel Hamilton, a well known and respected producer who has his home base in Studio G/Brooklyn. We had the pleasure of meeting Joel quite early in our career, when he literally got into a race with Michael Brauer at the AES show in 2007. Both of them were working towards getting the first mpressor ever into the US. I actually can’t remember who won in the end, but both of them have been happy mpressor users ever since. Joel has become a good friend and an important supporter of our brand and products. He owns several elysia units, and when specifically asked about the mpressor during a video interview, his attempt in summing up the benefits resulted in this very cool description: The compressor from the future. We feel this is so "spot on" that we just had to put it on the PCB of the mpressor’s modular sibling. By the way, if you’re interested in watching this video, it is still available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVmhCfFhGek&t=3s PAN60: Your four other 500 series modules feature two channels which can be run in stereo. The mpressor 500 is actually your first single channel module... elysia: We have been offering 500 series modules for quite a while now, and we have received a lot of customer requests for single channel modules, in the meantime. This makes sense, as stereo is not always needed and slot space tends to be limited. For example, if you need eight channels of compression, the mpressor 500 will definitely suit you better than the xpressor 500, and those users who want to build individual mono channel strips with their own choice of modules will certainly appreciate it, too. We’re always considering several options when it comes to future developments, but I’d say it is pretty likely the mpressor 500 has not been the last single slot module by elysia -- ever. PAN60:  Also, on the card, I see a stomp box? Did I miss something or is it just in the pipe line?  elysia: Oh, that thing! It is actually a prototype of a battery driven discrete class-A compressor placed inside a fire alarm box. It actually works, but it was intentionally meant as a fun present. We called it the emergency compressor because it came in handy in quite a lot of situations, and it was so compact that you could easily take and use it everywhere. After the prototype had been given to a couple of people (I remember Steve Vai’s engineer Neil Citron as an example), there was (all of a sudden) quite a bit of interest in this little box and we were urged to get a serial production started. But, at the end of the day, buying and preparing this special housing proved to be so expensive that the project would have resulted in a retail price with the potential of raising a couple of eyebrows. So, we finally decided against it and kept the pictures as a nice memory. PAN60: The mpressor 500 has its name for a reason – it is basically a sibling of a rack processor you have released a couple of years earlier, correct? Tell us all about it! elysia: Exactly. In a nutshell, the mpressor 500 is the 500 series version of the 2U discrete class-A stereo compressor we released in 2007. It’s a modern approach to compression with tons of punch and attitude, which has found a lot of friends. We’ve already mentioned Michael Brauer and Joel Hamilton, then there is also Tom Rowlands and Alan Moulder who also adopted the mpressor’s style of compression very early, and the list goes on. However, it is not a secret that the original mpressor is not among the most affordable compressors on the planet. This is why we started to figure out a way of making its enormous capabilities and usefulness available to a much larger group of users, and so the idea of translating the topology into the 500 series format was born. Not an easy task, I can assure you, but we’re more than happy with the result. PAN60: What are the features from the big brother that did not make it into the 500 series module? elysia: The external sidechain could not be implemented because a single slot 500 series module simply does not provide you with the additional connectors needed for making it happen. And even though I feel we did a great job in bringing all other original functions into such a small footprint, there was just not enough space for the Niveau Filter. But if you look at the heart of it – the compressor itself – every single feature is there, and with the THD Boost we were able to even add an exclusive new function which is not present on the original rack version. PAN60: Looking at the feature set, we all know Threshold, Attack, Release, Ratio, and Makeup-Gain, but I also see Gain Reduction Limiter, Auto Fast, Anti Log and THD Boost. Very cool, I can see the Gain Reduction Limiter, Auto Fast, but what else is going on here? Are we still talking about compression?  If not, why add it on to a compressor? elysia: We rather believe in creating truly versatile audio processors which are still easy to use a opposed to coming up with one trick ponies. Many of today’s typical users can’t or even don’t want to handle racks full of different processors of the same kind, and that is why you will always find broad parameter ranges without the odd sweet spot, combined with some really useful special features. And yes, most of those specials on the mpressor are about compression indeed: Auto Fast which helps a big deal in setting the “right” attack time, Anti Log which turns the compressor into a pumping and breathing machine, and the Gain Reduction Limiter which allows high amounts of compression without squashing all dynamics down to death. The THD boost is a different story. This one does not belong into the field of dynamics, but it is all about shaping your sound instead. By just pushing a single switch, the mpressor 500 can generate additional harmonic distortion, which in combination with the amount of gain set, provides a much grittier flavor. PAN60: Coming back to an aspect of your gear, which we have touched in an earlier discussion, I am actually wondering about the quite noticeable size of some of your components both in your THT and SMD based products. Does size matter? elysia: Yes and no. Transistors don’t care much about the size of their housings. When it comes to resistors and certain capacitors, our ears have told us a different story. For this reason, you’ll notice that many of the resistors we place in the audio path have the ‘standard’ THT size even though they are SMD mounted, and only those parts of the circuitry that do not run any audio (e.g. the sidechain) are okay with the tiny birdseed components, because here -- function is all that matters. When it comes to the mpressor 500 in specific, I am sure you’re referring to that single big fat Mundorf capacitor that sits in a prominent place right in the middle of the PCB. To answer the obvious question beforehand: No, this one has not been placed for visual reasons. We actually rely on exactly the same type of cap in the rack mpressor and museq a lot... When we had the second prototype of the mpressor ready, we were super happy with how close it actually was to its big brother. However, there was still something missing, and that was the ultimate amount of punch the big machine is known and loved for. Bringing the Mundorf into play at just the right spot in the circuitry solved this issue for good. PAN60: Stepped potentiometers (pots), they are everywhere in elysia gear or at least in all the 500 format gear I have. What drives your obvious preference for these, and why not just use more standard potentiometer (pots)? As well, why not just move to multistep switches? elysia: We like stepped pots a lot, and so do our users. The steps can really help to recall earlier settings or to match the settings of several channels if needed. Actually, we use them almost everywhere, only in places where we felt the steps prevent you from setting useful intermediate values have we decided against them. But, this is really in just a few places. Switches can be great, too, as in combination with low variation resistors. They are superior when matching the settings of several channels as the ultimate goal. However, there is a very good reason that you’ll usually find multistep switches only in really big and expensive devices. They usually take more space than a pot, and they have an enormous influence on the bill of materials. Apart from this, you can’t sweep parameters well with switches, as there are usually mutes when switching from one setting to the next one, instead of a smooth sweep. For these reasons, we prefer conductive plastic pots in our more expensive units. Everywhere else, we rely on our own discrete VCAs, whenever we can, instead of running audio through the regular pots. In many situations, our pots don’t run audio at all, but just control some excellent amps. PAN60: Based on the gear elysia has brought to market so far, I would say there is an obvious passion for dynamics. So, are dynamics one of your passions in gear development? elysia: Yes, absolutely. Dynamics play such an important part in music, that if you decide to process it for this or that reason, it better be done damn well! Ruben has an extremely deep knowledge in the field of dynamics, and he always finds new ways to give it an adequate treatment. He invented the technological concept behind basically every transient shaping tool we’re using these days, and I guess some of his compressor designs could be called modern legends, too. When it comes to circuit design, dynamics are a very nice challenge. Obviously we keep coming back to it time and again... PAN60: With all the quality gear in your current line up, what is next? Also, let’s chat about some variation in your line now that you have released a number of cool and different looking faceplates for your modules from time to time. Do tell! elysia: A good question indeed... As we have, by now, released a lot of products which all belong to the realm of audio processing, we’re in the process of evaluating other audio related projects which we’d like to work on at the very moment. So, the honest answer to the question – at least for now – is that we don’t know exactly. There are several very interesting options, and some of them are already being worked on while we speak, but nothing has been decided yet. Exciting times! And the different looking faceplates are actually the result of experimenting with alternative materials like wood and even vinyl records. This finally resulted in the release of limited versions with really stunning panels made with these surfaces. As most of the work has to be done by hand, we can only offer a very limited number of these modules from time to time. But it’s a completely different kind of work, and therefore, a welcome alternative to what we usually do. PAN60: So, can you give us an updated answer to a question I had already asked in an earlier session? How do you feel about the 500 series format today? Are you done, or will we be seeing more to come? elysia: The 500 series modules are a solid and important part of our business. Since we spoke for the very first time, the demand has definitively been rising, especially over here in Europe where the trend had not been as strong as it is now. Today the user can choose from a vast palette of offerings from different companies. While I mainly see positive aspects in the amount of variety, the downside is that it’s getting harder to keep an overview and decide what might be the right tools for oneself, as new modules are hitting the market every month. In any event, I think the success story of the 500 series format will continue because of all its positive aspects... variety, quality, portability, compactness, affordability. And, like Tim Farrant from Buzz Audio said to me some years ago: “People love the 500 series format. It’s just like trading baseball cards”. elysia has released about half a dozen modules which cover a lot of ground when it comes to analog audio processing... So are we done yet? I guess the most likely answer would be: Not quite.


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