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Free is the magic number

Thermionic Culture release three-channel valve EQ

Valve aficionados Thermionic Culture have just released the Freebird, a three-channel equaliser. The choice of providing three channels, rather than the usual multiples of two, is an unusual one, but it comes with a simple explanation. “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?” Nick Terry, the company’s director, is quoted as saying. “With the Freebird, you can relax: you’ve got one stereo and still one mono left over. It sounds great on a vocal too, by the way. Or maybe three mono channels are more useful to you.”<strong>Thermionic Culture Freebird</strong>

Though 4U tall, the Freebird is just half a rack space wide, and two can be mounted side by side (using an optional chassis) should you require six channels of Freebird processing. Indeed, Thermionic Culture are working on a range of similarly proportioned devices, allowing users to build up modular systems of boutique valve processing in three-channel blocks.

Each of the three channels in the Freebird is identical, and the controls are configured as follows. At the top is an input gain knob, with a range from -12dB to +5dB. Beneath this are the high-frequency controls, and these comprise a two-way toggle switch for selecting either 9kHz or 15khz, and a ±5dB gain control.

Moving further down we come to the slightly less intuitive mid-range controls. There’s a Mid Cut knob, which can cut by up to 20dB at 700Hz. Adjacent to this is a control labelled Presence, which has five positions, each with a differing amount of boost at different frequencies. The position marked ‘L’ boosts by 3dB at 1kHz, while the ‘M’ position adds 4dB of gain at 1.4kHz. The ‘H’ setting adds 3dB above 3kHz, the ‘H+’ position boosts frequencies above 3kHz by 5dB, and the ‘H++’ setting adds 8dB, again at frequencies above 3kHz (these last three settings are all shelving-type filters, with the first two being peaking types).

Like the high-frequency section, the Bass control has a ±5dB range, with gain applicable at either 50Hz or 100Hz, depending on the position of the toggle switch. A high-pass filter can be engaged, turning over at either 25Hz or 65Hz, and finally, there’s a Bypass switch, which takes the entire channel (including its input transformer) out of circuit.

Available now, the Thermionic Culture Freebird carries a retail price of £2395, including VAT.

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