Thermionic Culture FREEBIRD
3 Channel Valve Equalizer


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The Freebird is a 3 Channel valve EQ, Thermionic Culture company director Nick Terry explains, "We've introduced a new product that can be considered as a part of a modular system. 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" rack case with another unit to give 6 channels of EQ, or add another unit such as The Nightengale.

There will be more products in this format to follow, so plenty of opportunity to mix and match. Thermionic Culture decided on 3 channels because they want this to be seen as an affordable, multi-channel, 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.

The unit is 4RU high. This allowed Thermionic Culture to make the front panel very easy to read which, together with the large knobs and indented pots, makes reall of setting quick and easy. Why 3 channels? Have you ever sat there looking at a fully featured esoteric stereo EQ unit and wondered if it makes sense that it only ever gets used on the stereo mix bus to 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 vocals, too. Or maybe 3 mono summing channels are more useful to you. Perhaps you could go for 2 units and then consider htem as 6 channels of EQ for your summing mixer.

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. Thermionic Culture have included a fixed frequency mid cut similar to that found in the Rooster. Theyv'e also included a two 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.

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 midrange shape to your 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 has transformer balanced "floating" inputs which accept balanced or unbalanced sources equally well, and unbalanced outputs, which simply sound more open and better in this kind of circuit.


  • Top: +14/-16 dB @ 9 & 15 kHz
  • Bass: +/- 11 dB @ 50 & 100 Hz
  • Mid Cut: - 20 dB (max) @  700 Hz
  • Presence: L        +3 dB @ 1 kHz
    M       +4 dB @ 1.4 kHz
    H       +3 dB @ 3 kHz & above
    H+     +5 dB @ 3 kHz & above
    H++   +8 dB @ 3 kHz & above
  • HPF: 12 dB/octave filter, 8 dB down at 25 & 65 Hz
  • MOL: Max O/P level + 19.5 dBu @ 1 kHZ (for 1% distortion)
  • Noise: 99 dB below MOL
  • Frequency Response:  +/- 0.5 dB from 26 Hz to 60 kHz
  • Distortion (THD): 0.02% @ 1 kHz, +4 dBu
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