Recording Magazin 02/2014
Chris Lausmann: "In a market dominated by a few high end passive EQs by Manley and Pultec there are only very few good EQs with a reasonable price tag, and this is exactly what the xfilter stands for, making it a a truly reasonable acquisition for any professional studio."
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SafeAndSound 02/2014
Barry Gardner: "I am very happy to have this new equaliser in the rack, it is very capable, very flexible and is firmly a unit living in the high end category. It adds further tonal options and complements my existing custom equaliser and the Manley Massive Passive."
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Ask Audio 01/2014
Mo Volans: "If you are considering getting an analog EQ for this purpose you really couldn't go wrong with the xfilter. It’s cost effective as far as analog EQs go and it will do just about everything you’ll need it to and a touch more. This really is an awesome bit of kit…”
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Audio Slap 12/2013
Francis Kimberly: "I had a great time with the xfilter. elysia are proud of the care and attention to detail that goes into the component selection and construction and this really comes through in the unit: A highly flexible, top quality, modern EQ with a very attractive price. Highly recommended."
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Whom the gods eq...

by Marcus Schröder
Amazona (Germany) – December 2013

With the xfilter, elysia now present the rack version of their stereo class-A equalizer originally released in the 500 series format. It's the newest product by the Nettetal based company which has given itself the objective to produce high class analog equipment to meet the daily demands in modern professional studios. Obviously this kind of quality has its price, too.

The beginnings...

… make me come back to Torsten Walter, our editor who had the pleasure of testing elysia's mpressor in 2007 – a true one-o-a-kind compressor with abilities that most other hardware and software compressors can only dream of. Just by the way, there is a plugin version of this special compressor available by Plugin Alliance, and together with the UBK-1 by KuSh Audio, this is the only plug I have spent money on in 2012.

I am writing all this not for the cause of shameless product endorsement, but because of two actual reasons. The first one is the fact that elysia ads a full license of the mpressor plugin with the first 100 xfilters sold, and the second is that we are reviewing the brand new museq plugin at the very moment, too. But now let's get back to our original topic.

Chocolate truffle hardware

Using this hardware makes you somehow melt indeed. The xfilter comes in a 1U rack housing that – at least for me – has more flair than the equivalent 500 series module. But of course, there is nothing bad about a nicely filled Lunchbox!

With just 2kg of weight, the xfilter is much lighter than it actually looks like, so it is really easy to handle. The power switch is on the back panel of the unit and cannot be reached that easy, however. Next to it sits the 115/230 voltage selector and the fuse holder. In terms of I/O, the xfilter has XLR and jack connectors for both its inputs and outputs.

There are also two additional send connectors for the output signal. The xfilter is a stereo EQ, but of course it can also be used mono as well, and it does not matter which input and output pair is chosen for in this case. Theoretically, you could even use the machine in dual mono mode, but as this could only be done with the same settings for both channels, there would not be too many cases in which this would prove useful.

The 4mm thick front panel is night blue, and in its middle shines the elysia logo. The 8 potentiometer knobs have been milled from solid aluminum, and none of the pots dares to scratch or wobble the tiniest bit. All controllers are stepped with a total of 41 detents. The buttons are on par in terms of quality – there is no cracking when changing the settings at all. The space in between the pots is not narrow, but it would have been great if it still had been a tad wider as you still might touch one of the neighboring controllers from time to time. But as the layout of the controllers is 1:1 the same as on the 500 series modules, we know the reason for the actual arrangement – if you would deprive the xfilter of its power supply and housing and then fold those two remaining PCBs, you'd have transmuted it into the 500 series module.

Smooth Operation

The xfilter has a total of four widely overlapping frequency bands:  Low, Low Mid, High Mid and High. Each band has two individual modes of operation. Let's start with those six push buttons in the middle. The bypass is a true one and switches the xfilter out of the signal chain completely and noiselessly. The bypassed and the active signals are 99,95% identical ;-) With all gain controllers in their middle position, the white noise showed just the slightest raise of 0.05 to 0.1 dB in the high frequency area. But as all electronic components have certain tolerances, a real “100% Zero“ basically impossible to achieve anyway – a natural phenomenon, even in this price class. This is also the reason why elysia runs an extremely critical selection process for their components.

The next four buttons are responsible for changing the behavior of the individual bands. The low and high shelf bands can be switched into low and high cut filters with a selectable resonance peak. The mid bands can be run at a wider bandwidth (smaller Q) or a more narrow curve (higher Q) instead. The last button activates a passive EQ circuitry which adds some silver lining or air on top of the signal.

Frequency bands

Let's have a look at the EQ bands now. The lowest band is a low shelf filter ranging from 20 to 900Hz. Its gain can be cut or boosted by massive 16dB. Once this band is switched into cut mode, the frequency controller selects the cutoff frequency while the gain controller determines the intensity of the resonance peak.

This is followed by the low mid band. This is a parametric EQ which can be set from 45Hz to 2,2kHz. It operates with a wide bandwidth per default, which can be switched to a more narrow curve if needed. The gain can be boosted or cut by 13dB.

Next in line is the parametric high mid band which can be set from 300Hz to 16kHz with a gain range of 13dB also. The Qs behave exactly the same as on the low mid band.

The last band is responsible for the treble in form of a high shelf EQ. Frequencies from 700Hz to 18kHz can be changed by up to 16dB, and this band can be switched into a cut mode as well, which behaves just like the low cut band (only the other way round, so to say).

If there is anything we found worth criticizing at all, it would be the rather small printing on the front panel. Sometimes you really need to take a closer look, or have some better light. Maybe elysia wants to tell us that listening is better than looking?

Passive Massage

The sixth switch activates an EQ circuitry with the very promising name “Passive Massage“, which is a fixed filter without any controllers of its own. Its center frequency has a slight boost at 12kHz and gently starts to roll off at 17kHz. Like mentioned, this can help to get some silver light and airiness on top of your sound in a very subtle and decent manner which is so typical of passive EQs.

Sound

First of all, the xfilter is everything but shy. But this does not mean it is uncontrollable – the contrary is true. The stepped potentiometers are a great help to recall your previous settings, and the manual and the web offer the corresponding recall sheets. Even though a total of 40 steps is quite a lot, we could work well with this setup. The xfilter can make such drastic changes that it can be used for 'much more than mastering only'. This EQ is really great for sound design, and if it colors signals at all, it's only happening in the most subtle and pleasant ways.

Result

So, who of you should have a closer look at the xfilter? Basically everyone who can afford it. If you love analog and do a lot of recording and production, you get a versatile, very musical, but always controllable and transparent equalizer for everyday use. The rare stereo ability of the xfilter is great for processing sum material fast and precisely. The stereo image and consistency between the channels is exemplary and so much better than two mono channels – and I have not started talking about the pains of matching these yet.

The widely overlapping frequency bands allow really strong changes of the original signal if needed. Obviously, API and Neve vintage sounds are not on the agenda here, but if you're looking for tightness, punch and a very sweet sound, the xfilter is spot on. The xfilter handles these things its own way, and it seems that elysia has managed to extend a sweet spot over the complete range of possible settings, without losing any clarity at the same time. No matter how strong you process your signals, it never sounds as if they are being EQd, but being given natural sounding accents instead. Looking at the given quality of manufacturing and sound, the xfilter's price is absolutely justified.

Plus
+ Sound
+ Ease of use
+ Quality of manufacturing
+ Flexibility
+ Passive Massage

Minus
- Power switch on the rear panel
- Controls could have a tad more space in between