The skulpter 500, just like all our products, is designed, engineered and handcrafted in Germany.
elysia skulpter 500 is the ultimate recording front end. Its audiophile preamp is based on single resistors controlling a fully discrete Class-A amplifier capable of complementing any microphone with a remarkably true and natural sound.
If additional mojo is needed, two variable saturation/filter stages and an intelligent onboard compressor make voices and instruments sound like a finished record right from the start.
Way more than just a preamp, the elysia skulpter 500 is a complete recording solution – everything you’ll ever need in front of your DAW.
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elysia skulpter 500 is all about details.
Every single of its many aspects like sound, features, circuitry, components, design, materials and manufacturing has been thought over and over until there was just nothing left to improve. Basically, every single part of our fine products is custom, and most of these are made according to our own designs and specs.
Only the best components the market has to offer are good enough for the elysia skulpter 500, and it shows. Each of our product is manually built to order and tested by ourselves, here at our headquarters in Germany.
Our product benefits sum up in an audio quality that is beyond all doubt. Even when extreme settings are used, the sound always stays clean and powerful.
The elysia skulpter 500 does not use a potentiometer for changing its gain, but a much more audiophile topology instead: Fixed resistors switched by a cascade of relays and electronic switches. This setup is controlled by an encoder with 20 steps per rotation, providing a total of 40 gain values in 1.5/2 dB steps (total gain range: 3 – 65 dB).
The following amplifier is a fully discrete class-A design. Similar to many tube amps, it operates in feed forward mode, which means it works without high amounts of negative feedback. The result is an extremely natural and beautiful sounding preamp.
The elysia skulpter 500 provides an ample amount of gain, starting at unusually low values and going up to what you’ll need to properly amplify ribbons with high gain requirements. A huge benefit of this is that an additional pad becomes completely unnecessary, resulting in a better signal-to-noise ratio.
The actual mic preamp and the direct input have a separate gain value each. If you change from Mic to DI or vice versa, the gain will automatically change accordingly. This comes in really handy as in most of the cases microphones require a considerably higher amount of gain, which would be way too much for a synth or similar sources plugged into the DI.
Using single resistors arranged in a cascade guarantees exact gain values. As a result, multiple preamps do not require factory matching or consecutive serial numbers when forming stereo pairs or multichannel configurations.
When an elysia skulpter 500 is powered off its current gain setting is saved automatically, so the preamp will start with exactly the same amount of gain on the next session.
The very open and natural sound character of the elysia skulpter 500 can be shaped by two independent combinations of saturation and specially tweaked filter curves:
Shape One: Instruments
The first ingredient to achieve that big, fat sound is adding harmonics (THD). The intensity of this saturation is determined by the input level and the amount of preamp gain. At the same time, a pre-tailored EQ curve with a high frequency cut starting around 4 kHz is applied to the signal. The resulting sound is huge, with a massive body but no harsh peaks at all.
Shape Two: Vocals
Vocals benefit from the same saturation enhancement; and, like a tube-like characteristic curve, this results rather in musical soft clip limiting than in actual distortion. The preset EQ curve is of course a different one for vox, with up to 10 dB of high mid boost around 4.5 kHz.
The corresponding potentiometer is actually a mix controller, so that any desired amount of this effect can be blended to the original signal, while in the fully left position the original remains completely unaffected.
The sound shaping potentials of the elysia skulpter 500 can help to produce a “finished” sound already while recording – especially in combination with the onboard dynamics section.
An essential standard tool for any preamp is a low cut for reducing low frequency rumble. Instead of just a single or maybe two fixed frequencies, the elysia skulpter 500 offers a variable low cut filter with a wide frequency range from 10 Hz to 375 Hz.
The slope of the filter is 12 dB/octave, and its amplifier is a discrete class-A design optimized for especially transparent performance.
The elysia skulpter 500 features an integrated compressor operated by just a single knob. Its potentiometer sets the threshold based on a fixed 3:1 ratio and a soft knee characteristic, while the attack and release parameters were selected for their universal usefulness.
The all discrete class-A circuitry provides a premium quality audio path, and the RMS detector has been optimized to react noticeably well on vocals and instruments. This alone makes for a very musical and unobtrusive dynamics section on a par with the best compressors the market has to offer.
But wait – there’s more!
The compressor’s easy and effective one-knob-operation is supported by elysia’s signature Auto Fast function, which will automatically reduce the attack to its shortest value when strong impulses and transients require it.
Technically, the discrete VCA responsible for reducing the gain is placed in negative feedback with its following op amp. The beauty of this is that the dynamics section is only part of the signal chain when it is actually working. If there is no compression going on, the corresponding circuitry will be completely bypassed.
In order to have a visual support of what is going on inside the compressor section, a single LED that changes brightness indicates the intensity of the gain reduction process.
The elysia skulpter 500 can handle way more than “just” your complete microphone locker. An integrated front panel JFET DI makes it perfect for amplifying and shaping many kinds of different signals coming from guitars, basses, synths, effects…
The high input impedance of one megohm allows users to directly plug even instruments with passive pickups into the preamp without the danger of a mismatch causing dull and lifeless sounds. On the other hand, the input can handle high levels of up to +19 dBu!
The high amount of headroom and the fact that you can feed both balanced and unbalanced signals into this DI make it the perfect terminal for line signals – which will obviously benefit big time from the purity of the preamp with its amazing sound shaping and dynamics features.
The fifteen LEDs of the elysia skulpter 500’s meter provide four pieces of vital information:
A single LED located at the top of the meter will light up if clipping is detected at the input of the preamp. If the input does not clip, it means that the rest of the signal path is good as well. The LED increases in brightness to reflect the intensity of the overload.
Another single LED located at the bottom of the meter shows the amount of compression applied to a signal if the dynamics section of the elysia skulpter 500 is active. This LED also changes in brightness to visually represent the amount of compression applied.
Thirteen LEDs in the middle of the meter show the output level of the preamp. For smooth transitions between different values instead of erratic flickering, these change in brightness, too. Level related effects of the compressor and sound shaper sections can be monitored on this meter as well.
If the Gain encoder is pushed, the level meter will turn into a gain indicator. In this case, the scale printed on the right side of the LEDs will apply, and the meter will show the amount of gain the preamp currently generates.
The Phase Reverse function has been designed to eliminate the need for an additional inverting amp. This means that reversing the phase will not add any additional circuitry to the signal path, so the sound will remain the same in both positions of the switch.
Switching the phase from normal to reverse (or vice versa) will automatically trigger a signal mute for a few milliseconds to avoid cracking and popping noises.
Pressing the mute switch instantly reduces the output level to zero. While in this state, instruments can easily be changed on the DI, cables can be swapped, mics can be replaced by others – without blowing ears or speakers.
In addition, the mute function comes in really handy for canceling source signals from the recording room when silence is needed for listening to playbacks.
Apart from the dedicated switch, the elysia skulpter 500 automatically soft starts with the mute function enabled for a short moment, which avoids nasty surprises when powering up.
The DC coupled input means that a microphone can be directly coupled to the input stage of the preamp without any coupling capacitors getting in the way between these two. Even the tiniest details in your sound (which sometimes get a little bit lost inside these caps) will travel to the actual preamp stages without being degraded.
This works even when 48V phantom power is supplied to the microphone. A welcome side effect is that this topology makes a pretty rugged input stage which is less vulnerable to noises from hot plugging and phantom power switching artifacts than many other designs.
The elysia skulpter 500 generates its own 48V phantom power on board, so this critical supply voltage is completely independent from the quality of the specific rack frame being used.
Whenever phantom power is switched on or off, the elysia skulpter 500 shortly mutes its output to avoid cracking and other unwanted noises in the signal chain.
Note: In order to avoid accidentally activating or deactivating the phantom power supply, the corresponding button must be pushed for a period of 2 seconds to toggle its function.
The elysia skulpter 500 features stepped potentiometers for its sound shaper, low cut filter and onboard compressor functions. Forty-one steps make a precise recall very easy, and they provide a useful range of possible settings at the same time.
The gain is controlled by a rotary encoder with twenty steps per round, providing a total of 40 gain values in 1.5/2 dB steps. Pushing this encoder switches the meter from displaying the output level (default) to the actual gain value of the amplifier.
The PCB of the elysia skulpter 500 has a total of no less than six layers. While the first five are used for separately routing audio and power supply, the sixth one is a dedicated ground shield layer… but why?
Because as the additional ground layer is placed extremely close beneath the traces which carry audio, it is very efficient as a shield against unwanted noise interferences caused by electric fields.
To explain the advantages of discrete circuitry we’d like to present a comparison. That might seem a little odd at first: Audio technology vs. cooking! If one uses instant meals exclusively, one will have to accept whatever comes out of the box. A creative cook, however, focuses on his own special recipes and ingredients.
In this respect, integrated circuits (ICs) are pretty similar to packet soups: They are cheap, mainstream and they simply do not match haute cuisine; so if you want to design an analog audio device 100% according to your own demands and ideas without any compromise, there is no way around using a discrete design.
The elysia skulpter 500 follows this philosophy. Every single part of it is based on 100% discrete audio technology: The mic preamp, the JFET DI input, the two sound shaping paths, the variable low cut filter, the onboard compressor, and – finally – the input and output stages. A truly unique recipe!
In addition, our sound shaping preamp operates in constant Class-A mode. This means that the transistors are always conductive, resulting in the absence of crossover distortion and providing a pristine sonic base: The general sound character is always wide, open and punchy.
Total gain range
3 – 65 dB in 1.5/2 dB steps
@ 3 dB gain: 10 Hz – 170 kHz (-3 dB)
@ 29 dB gain: 10 Hz – 170 kHz (-3 dB)
@ +6 dBu out level, 3 dB gain, 20 Hz – 22k Hz: 0.007%
@ +6 dBu out level, 29 dB gain, 20 Hz – 22 kHz: 0.007%
@ 3 dB gain, 20 Hz – 20 kHz (A-weighted): -97 dBu
@ 29 dB gain, 20 Hz – 20 kHz (A-weighted): -93 dBu
Common Mode Rejection Ratio
@ +6 dBu out level, 29 dBu gain, 1 kHz: 87 dB
@ +6 dBu out level, 29 dBu gain, 10 kHz: 69 dB
Mic Input: 19 dBu
DI Input: 19 dBu
Output: 21 dBu
Mic Input: 13.6 kohm
DI Input: 1 megohm
Output: 62 ohm
Total: 116 mA
“The elysia skulpter starts with a Class-A transformerless mic preamp with a repeatable, stepped-gain attenuator control using a continuous rotary encoder – not a conventional potentiometer … As I turned the Gain control, ‘under the hood’ I could hear various relays toggling in/out cascades of precision resistors.
elysia has a winner with this unique sound-shaping microphone/DI channel. I found it a worthy contender to lead in a new class of modern audio processors. Highly recommended!”
“Adding some Shape is akin to the warmth and character of a classic valve preamp. This is an extremely well designed and engineered device that covers many bases, effortlessly flowing from clean and detailed to rich and warm or bright … Very, very good!”
“You get a very good mic preamp, an excellent DI, a universal compressor that shines especially on electric string instruments and voices, plus a sound shaper going from subtle to extreme. There is not a single bad thing about it, besides the fact that you will want more than a single one.”