Thermionic Culture | Swift EQ
When Thermionic Culture discontinued their Freebird EQ I felt it was a shame as it was their only dedicated EQ unit, and having 3 channels of it was quite a bonus. However, the format of it was in a half rack width and about 5u high, so not always to everybody's taste or space, but it did sound good.
There are elements of EQ within their Rooster, Pullet and Earlybird, but a full on dedicated EQ was missing from their lineup...until now.
Enter the Thermionic Culture Swift 2-channel EQ.
At first glance, it’s a lovely designed layout and front panel, in a full-width 3u Rack this time with the customary ventilation gaps in the metalwork for those all important valves. The layout takes about 2 minutes to understand, and within 5 minutes I was making music - and making music sound better with it!
A Classic EQ for a Modern World
Vic Keary has gone and done it again! He’s come up with a ‘classic EQ for a modern world’. Sticking to his tried and tested Valve designs but with a nod to the past and a focus on the future makes the Swift EQ a very tasty unit. Let me explain more…
The manual states that the EQ is based on an early 1950’s EMI REDD desk EQ. The valve EQ design itself is similar to a Baxandell type EQ (think Treble and Bass boost if you're not familiar with Bax-type EQ’s) but obviously with Thermionic Culture's subtle sonic footprint.
Vic told me about his original desk he designed back in the 1960’s when I interviewed him (Vic Keary Interview : HERE) and how there was a presence EQ on it, and this is what he's used on the Swift for the first time. It creates some extra push and 'presence' at three fixed frequencies which are 0.9kHZ, 2kHZ and 4kHZ.
Not content to stop here, Vic has added a Mid Lift section, which is based upon the classic passive Pultec MEQ, and has topped off the design with an ‘Air’ dial and a High Pass Filter, which are both Passive as well. True bypass switches next to the output gain pots finish the layout neatly.
All the pots are continuously variable as opposed to indented, this allows ‘in-between’ settings. There are two valves per channel, and these add weight and ‘solidness’ to the signal path providing pleasing harmonic distortion which I think is subtle and musical enough to call this EQ ‘clean’.
Solid weight and depth of sound
When I plugged this in across a mix it just made me grin. It was so easy to make the mix sound larger with very little effort.
Now, some may say having an EQ across your mix bus is a crutch for getting your mixes to work better, but I disagree. For many years Pultecs and GML8200’s and even earlier versions of the MAAG Eq were prominent across many SSL, NEVE and API consoles, and we just mixed through them. I think the Swift is one of these types of EQ’s, but it can also deal with that modern approach of say taking stems, or a summed mix and adding something that is impossible to do In The Box this quickly and smoothly. It adds vibe and soul to your music.
Those who know me, know I have a thing for Pultec’s, but the Swift has really floored me as it has some great Pultec elements but in a different approach. Being matched up with the Presence control just works BRILLIANTLY, and the AIR does it's magic, starting to lift at 7kHZ and peaking at 30kHZ.
Are there any Negatives to the Swift?
Well, perhaps some will complain about not having indented pots for recall, but I found it hard to come up with anything really, as it just sounded and worked so well. Of course for finer detailed work you’re going to need a more precise day-to-day EQ to perhaps 'dig in' and notch out, but there are plenty of those available in software and Hardware from the likes of SSL, GML, Sonnox, McDSP etc. As with a lot of Thermionic kit the inputs are balanced and the outputs un-balanced, but a balanced transformer output stage is available as an option should you want it.
Gear That Makes You Smile
The fact the Freebird is no more I used to think was a shame, but the Swift is here, and it means business.
I plugged it in.
It made the mix sound better.
That to me is what it’s all about. Gear that makes you smile and makes you want to use it again and again.
If you’re after a creative, vibey, sonically enhancing and enjoyable musical EQ that just oozes quality and sonic 'poshness to the max' - then the Thermionic Swift should be on your list to evaluate. It really does sound Swift.