Thermionic Culture

/Thermionic Culture

Makers of The Culture Vulture, The Phoenix, The Fat Bustard and The Rooster

Thermionic Culture Ltd. was formed in 1998 to manufacture, promote and sell Recording Engineer Vic Keary’s all valve studio equipment designs.

Our principal aim is to prove that THERMIONIC VALVES (vacuum tubes to U.S. readers) are far superior for audio applications to solid state alternatives.

They have less inherent distortion than transistors, etc., and very low noise, so sound very natural in well‐designed circuits, especially with excellent audio transformers (Sowter!), as needed.

When valves distort of course the sound is legendary and mostly quite attractive and musical (hear The Culture Vulture), but we really want to promote their “clean” qualities as well. Some of our circuits have unbalanced “single ended” outputs which give a very “open” sound.

All of our equipment is Made in England to the highest standards, much of it hand point‐to‐point wired in the traditional way.

Thermionic Culture website

  • Thermionic-Colture-The-Earlybird-2.2-A-Class-PerAmp-rear Thermionic-Colture-The-Earlybird-2.2-A-Class-PerAmp-front

    Thermionic Culture The Earlybird 2.2 A Class PerAmp contains 2 channels of very high quality valve pre -amplification. The circuit design utilises a 'push pull' 'class A' type of amplification in order to provide ultimately clean gain, giving the lowest noise and distortion figures possible in a mic pre-amplifier.


    The input and output transformers have been designed by working together with Sowter transformers to provide results that are optimised for this unit. This design work provides the Earlybird 2.2 with the lowest phase shift and highest headroom possible from a mic pre- amplifier.


    This version of the Earlybird pre-amp design also includes extra features such as 3 bands of active lift EQ with switchable mid range frequencies and high pass filters, and a function switch to help interface the unit in different usage scenarios.


    The essential mic-preamp settings such as gain, impedance, 48v power and phase are all catered for by the front panel controls.

  • Thermionic-Culture-Pullet-EQ-Mini-Passive-Stereo-EQ-rear Thermionic-Culture-Pullet-EQ-Mini-Passive-Stereo-EQ-Front

    The Pullet is a passive EQ which has a sharp focus on mid range frequencies.


    The Pullet will provide the EQ network to a signal but will reduce the signal level so that a preamplifier with a gain of up to 40dB is needed in order to lift the signal back up to unity gain when the Pullet EQ is set to ‘flat’ or bypass.


    The preamplifier is used at the output of the Pullet. The fact is that most people will already have a preamplifier that can be used, either a standalone outboard unit, or a mic-preamp built into a console, so the Pullet can make a lot more use from the preamps that would otherwise be sitting around unused during a mix.


    The Pullet provides a variation on the classic passive EQ designs that have proved so popular (eg. Pultec).

  • Thermionic-Colture-Fat-Bustard-2-Valve-Summing-Mixer-rear Thermionic-Colture-Fat-Bustard-2-Valve-Summing-Mixer-front

    The Fat Bustard mk II is an all valve passive input summing mixer. It has 14 inputs with 4 stereo inputs, 4 mono pan-able inputs and 2 'Aux' inputs with a pan switch. The Fat Bustard is unique in it's exceptional sound quality and also the extra degree of control and processing it offers over the stereo mix output. The mk II version is now the standard production model and it has been upgraded to include a monitor output with level control.


    Much of the attractive sound provided by the Fat Bustard is down to the choice of valves used. The summing is done by a pair of 5965 valves and the output stage uses a pair of 6SN7 valves. This combination provides a very large amount of headroom and a unique smooth sounding response. It's also worth noting that the unit has "semi-floating" inputs and unbalanced outputs. This was a decision made at the design stage purely because the unit sounded better this way and performed excellently when connected for use in all situations.


    The Fat Bustard employs our unique "varislope" curves for top and bass lift. As the control is turned up, the peak frequency of the curve becomes more extreme so as to add heavier bass/brilliant top – without the hardness found in solid state eqs. The bass and top cuts provide a variety of options to tailor the sound – too many to list here. They are of course independent of the lifts. All controls affect both stereo channels equally.

  • Thermionic-Culture-Vulture-Stereo-Valve-Enhancer-rear Thermionic-Culture-Vulture-Stereo-Valve-Enhancer-front

    This is the original and still the only studio unit dedicated to just adding valve produced harmonic distortion to sounds, with no solid state components in the way. This unique unit has changed little since its introduction in 1998.


    There are 3 basic settings for the type of distortion:




    1. T gives the typically "musical" effect found with triode valves and is good for just "warming up" a sound.

    2. P1 means that the "distortion" valve is switched to Pentode mode to add odd harmonic which make the sound more aggressive, but retaining that valve character.

    3. P2 is the "No Holds Barred" setting and is very unusual way of configuring an unusual valve, even giving an extra octave at higher bias settings.

  • Thermionic-Culture-Rooster-2-Mic-Tube-PreAmp-with-EQ-rear Thermionic-Culture-Rooster-2-Mic-Tube-PreAmp-with-EQ-front

    Thermionic Culture Rooster 2 Mic Tube PreAmp with EQ


    The Rooster is a 2 channel all valve preamp with EQ and distortion controls. It is designed for a wide range of applications and can produce a large range of tones, harmonic distortion and subtle dynamic control.

  • Thermionic-Culture-Phoenix-SB-Valve-Compressor-rear Thermionic-Culture-Phoenix-SB-Valve-Compressor-front

    The Phoenix SB is now the standard production version of the Phoenix compressor. Alongside the now classic circuit design of the original Phoenix, it incorporates the side chain filter controls from the previous standard Phoenix SC model with the new addition of an HT standby switch.


    The additional HT Standby switch allows the user to put the Phoenix into a low power standby mode that is designed to increase the life of the unit's valves and capacitors. When first switching on, or if the unit's not in use for a while, have the Standby on. Switch off Standby and it will instantly come back to full life.


    We have also placed the meter zero controls on the front panel for much easier access. Both meters should read "0" when the Phoenix is off standby and not compressing. They can be adjusted easily by any user without harm to the unit.


    The side chain filters can be used to cut the Phoenix's compression response to bass frequencies. The filter operates below either 150Hz or 300Hz on each channel and when stereo link is engaged the filters operate at the average of the two sides. This enables the user to choose from 5 filter frequencies when in stereo operation.


    The Phoenix is well known for its smooth "soft knee" compression characteristic and excellent specifications. This means that it can be used as a compressor that will not harm your signal quality, whilst subtly controlling dynamic range. It is also possible to drive the unit harder to produce harmonic distortion and higher ratio compression if desired. Many users have found these features bring life to mixes or individual instruments, and control vocals, with a natural "warm" quality.


    Contrary to the above, users have found that if the unit is operated in standby mode (it still passes audio) a "symmetrical" distortion occurs, not unlike that produced by overloading analogue tape. Perhaps this fact alongside an exaggerated compression curve lends to the Phoenix in standby mode another dimension.


     
  • Thernionic-Colture-The-Phoenix-Mastering-Plus rear Thernionic-Colture-The-Phoenix-Mastering-Plus-front
    Thermionic Culture The Phoenix Mastering Plus the evolution of the classic Phoenix compressor, first introduced in 1998. After requests from mastering engineers the Master Phoenix was introduced in October 2006. This was more recall-able with indented pots and slightly different power supply and metering circuit, in which trimming the meter alters the current through the compression valve so compensating for valve ageing.
  • Thermionic-Culture-THE-EARLYBIRD-4-_-4--Channel-mic.-PreAmp-rear Thermionic-Culture-THE-EARLYBIRD-4-_-4--Channel-mic.-PreAmp

    The Earlybird 4 contains 4 channels of extremely high quality valve pre-amplification. Originally made in black in 1999, this is a special “revival” limited edition in red (limited to 49 only). The black edition is still available with the updated circuitry..


    As the individual channel circuitry in this version of the Earlybird has been simplified in order to provide 4 channels in one 19” unit, so the individual channel specifications have risen. Thus making this the most natural sounding, high quality version of the Earlybird preamp to date.


    Effectively giving the user the cleanest possible valve gain with a range from 3dB to 62dB and a switchable input impedance to help in matching the unit with different microphones.


    This is one of Thermionic Culture’s all handwired products with point to point wiring throughout.