The Thermionic Culture Freebird is a 3 Channel valve EQ, company director Nick Terry explains, "We've introduced a new product that can be considered as part of a modular system, in our own unique style of course. The Freebird has 3 channels of broad but versatile valve EQ. The unit is a half rack design but can be put together in a 19 inch rack case with another unit to give 6 channels of EQ.
There will be other products in this format to follow, so plenty of opportunity to mix and match. We decided on 3 channels because we want this to be seen as an affordable, multichannel, quality valve EQ. It's got tons of character and can provide the kind of sound and features that fit extremely well in a DAW based system.
We feel that this is very much in line with what our users need. The format now being called a "hybrid" setup is making economic and ergonomic sense to more and more of us in this rapidly changing business.
The unit is 4 U high. This allows us to make the front panel very easy to read which, together with the large knobs and indented pots, makes recall of settings quick and easy. Why 3 channels? Well, ever sat there looking at a fully featured esoteric stereo EQ unit and wondering if it makes sense that it only ever gets used on the stereo mix bus to add a dB or two of top and bottom? With the Freebird you can relax, you've got 1 stereo and still 1 mono left over. It sounds great on a vocal too by the way. Or maybe 3 mono channels are more useful to you. Perhaps you could go for 2 units and then consider them as 6 channels of EQ for your summing mixer. Starting to feel like a valve console that's easy to recall isn't it?
At the heart of the EQ is a baxandall type circuit, effectively giving 2 shelving equalizers, one for low frequencies and one for high frequencies. The EQ point of these shelves can be switched between 2 positions for each shelf. There is also a unique circuit, originally designed by Vic in 1960, which controls the amount of presence in the signal. This is a uniquely shaped, active mid lift type EQ. We've included a fixed frequency mid cut similar to that found in the Rooster. We've also included a single position hi-pass filter to remove problem low frequency content. The gain control is there to help reduce unwanted distortion when using lots of additive EQ. You can level match the EQ'd signal to the original signal by using the gain control and bypass switch too, as the bypass completely removes all circuits from the signal path.
We feel these broad parameters are actually what is really needed from a multichannel EQ nowadays. The now universal use of DAWs does inherently mean that digital equalization has come an awfully long way. To the point where there are some excellent digital EQ's available and in general use. However, one thing they just can't replace is the convincing feel provided by outboard valve equalization. The Freebird is the kind of EQ you can turn to when you just need..... a bit more! Whether that's more gluey bottom end to your drums, more harmonically sweet top end to your vocal sound or mid-range shape to guitar tracks, all with the true valve sound you'd expect from a Thermionic Culture product".
The Freebird is inspired by a design that was developed many years ago by Vic Keary and has seen a lot of use on many different albums and hit records over the last 50 years. The unit is a single ended, unbalanced design, which we've kept in this format because we love the way it sounds.