Elysi - Xpressor 500
by Hannes Bieger
Sound & Recording (Germany) – October 2010
It merely was a matter of time: Just recently, the German manufacturer elysia has presented their first trip into the fields of the 500 series standard. This news came as a blow, and we are expecting the xpressor 500 to become a studio standard – it is selling like hot cakes at the moment.
“Welcome to Compressor Wonderland”, this is how the manual starts, and this pretty much nails it. In spite of the small form factor elysia managed to pack a great lot of the praised features of their alpha compressor and mpressor into this module. The audio path is a discrete design running in class-A mode (balanced with electronic stages instead of transformers), so it follows the design the philosophy of its manufacturer consequently.
The only obvious simplification compared to the luxury bolides can be found in the control element. Instead of elysia's proprietary TCA element there is a VCA chip by THAT, which suits the 500 series much better in terms of price, heat emission, form factor and current draw. All controllers are potentiometers with 41 steps, joined by some buttons and nice, smooth LED gain reduction meter.
In terms of features, elysia has them all. And even the standard parameters like the time constants benefit from unusually wide ranges with 0.01–120ms for attack and 5–1.300ms for release. With ratio values reaching from 1.2:1 to ∞:1, the xpressor 500 offers everything from gentle compression to brickwall limiting. On top of this comes the possibility to also set negative ratios for achieving complex compression effects that can sound similar to a track played backwards.
In some cases, the xpressor needs to be tamed with its Gain Reduction Limiter, a feature also known from its bigger brothers. It limits the control voltage in the sidechain and determines the maximum amount of gain reduction the compressor is allowed to make. This is a great feature e.g. for vocals, where it makes sure to compress the verses adequately, while it still doesn't squash the chorus which is usually sung with more energy/volume.
The stereo module also comes with a sidechain high pass filter which is variable between 31Hz and 1kHz, and it also features a mix controller allowing parallel compression without the need to set up complex external routings. A further function borrowed from the big elysia machines is “Auto Fast”, a semi automation that shortens the attack setting on fast and loud impulses. This leads to more accurate compression, even when the user has chosen a longer basic attack time for musical reasons.
The release phase can be switched from linear to logarithmic progress, which results in very smooth compression. On top of this, the xpressor offers two basic sound characteristics. While it usually sounds very clear, punchy and transparent, the “Warm” mode adds something like a vintage flair. Reducing the slew rate of the output amplifiers raises harmonic distortion, softens the high frequencies and smoothens the transients.
The functional range is truly amazing (especially for such a small module!). As a result, there is almost no signal which could not benefit from such a Swiss dynamics knife. The xpressor not only convinces as a reliable and transparent dynamics control, but also as a truly unique effects processor for mangling drums.
Class-A circuitry, stereo processing, many special features, and then the incredible price: elysia has created a super hot candidate for the title “Compressor with the best value for money ratio in its class”.