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Customer Reviews 79 Reviews

4.34 out of 5 stars

by R. Cox (10/12/2016):

Im not sure how this compares to the hardware but I absolutely love this on the master… Read more

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Thermionic Culture Vulture Plug-In
The original boutique, all-valve, studio distortion
tool — exclusively for UAD-2 and Apollo.

A singular, enigmatic piece of all-valve boutique hardware, the Thermionic Culture Vulture is a distortion hedonist's malleable plaything. For more than 15 years, this British-made, studio-grade, high-gain valve unit has provided a palette of vivid distortion colors — from sublime thickening textures to demonic growls of perverted mayhem — on countless genre-spanning recordings.

Now — thanks to an intense multi-year engineering effort from Universal Audio — you can track and mix with the only authentic circuit emulation of this one-of-a-kind valve distortion tool with the Thermionic Culture Vulture plug-in for UAD-2 hardware and Apollo interfaces.

Now You Can:
  • Get a full palette of high-gain, studio-grade, dual-stage valve distortion
  • Dial-in rich harmonic content with three diverse valve topologies — including UA’s first ever pentode tube emulation
  • Record through the Culture Vulture in real time with Apollo Twin, Apollo DUO, Apollo QUAD, or Apollo 16
  • Subtly color or utterly destroy existing tracks, buses, or a full mix with the Culture Vulture using any UAD-2 hardware
  • Get the same sound and controls as the legendary analog hardware with added features like parallel Dry/Wet processing
  • Mix with artist presets from Tony Maserati, Eric "ET" Thorngren, Rik Simpson, Chris Coady, and more

Dominate your Sources with Three Valve Topologies

The Culture Vulture plug-in for UAD-2 and Apollo interfaces faithfully emulates all of the original hardware’s sonic proclivities and diabolical details, including its three distinct all-valve circuit topologies.

Use Triode mode for gentle warming on any source, from a mix bus to a DI bass or synth signal tracking real time through an Apollo interface. Or add more odd-order harmonic edginess to a vocal or rhythm guitar with Pentode 1.

Not enough pain? Tap into the nearly-impossible-to model Pentode 2 mode — a unique, mad-genius circuit that inspires creativity and invites experimentation with its opulent range of demented distortions.

Authentic, All-Valve Circuit
The Vulture Culture for UAD -2 and Apollo interfaces captures the natural, “in-between-the transients” dynamic bias response inherent in the Culture Vulture’s valve-driven circuit — as well as its powerful stereo control set.

Use the Drive knobs and Overdrive switches to control the amount of input signal hitting the 6AS6 valves — with up to 20 dB of gain on tap! The Bias controls adjust the incoming voltage, providing dramatic differences in response, from clean to distorted, voltage-starved chatter, and gating effects. Use the Filter controls (9 kHz and 6 kHz) to fine-tune your distortion flavors even further.
Expanded Feature Set for Valve-Soaked Mixes
The Culture Vulture plug-in offers two key features not found on the original hardware. Use the Mix control for parallel processing on any bus, adding gentle valve presence, punch, and grit to drums, vocals, or an entire mix. And with the Link function, you’re afforded a perfectly matched stereo image to save time and preserve balances.

While the Thermionic Culture Vulture is not a compressor per se, it can act as sonic “glue” on a bus or an entire mix, deftly teasing out tantalizing sizzle and detail with authentic valve heat.



Thermionic Culture Vulture
Basics and FAQ.
What is the Thermionic Culture Vulture? 

For those who want subtle warming effects to utterly destroyed valve mayhem without going outside the box, the Thermionic Culture Vulture for UAD-2 and Apollo provides a studio-grade, high-gain tube distortion palette of vivid color. Unlike competing distortion tools, our physical model provides the only exact and authenticated circuit model of Thermionic Culture's best-selling Culture Vulture.

What behaviors of the Culture Vulture hardware are represented in the plug-in?

The entire circuit is represented from signature analog fundamentals, to all-important circuit dependencies to idiosyncratic behavioral subtleties. This includes the dual stage input pentode valve amplifiers (gain and current amplifiers, respectively), and the triode buffer output stage with both clipped and non-clipped nonlinear distortion from all three stages. The second pentode amplifier's operational load on the first stage is captured, plus the low pass filter's gain dependent load on the second stage. Each of the three modes hooks up the pentode in dramatically different ways, particularly the nearly impossible-to-model P2 mode with its floated suppressor, that provides the "no holds barred" distortion which can even create an upper octave effect. The circuit model also includes the accurate representation of the system's transitional memory to transient-heavy signals (the disturbance and recovery of the bias voltages). The continuously variable bias and feedback dependent filter behaviors are represented along with the circuit's 30K Ohm input impedance.

How can the Culture Vulture be used while recording? 

Use the Culture Vulture in either the mono or stereo version to add valve color, distortion, or outright clipping to your sources as you record them, with the Apollo using Realtime UAD Processing. Whether using the Culture Vulture to enhance vocals, drums, keys or any other source, Apollo enables you to commit the Culture Vulture's sound to disk as it is heard, or may also be used for monitoring only using Apollo Console's Insert Effects switch. Start with the default setting for minimal color, then experiment with the vast range of distortion available from the Culture Vulture via the simple control set. Mode selects among three distortion types, while Drive and the Overdrive switch sets Input Gain. Bias allows adjustment of the valve model's incoming voltage, providing dramatic differences in response, from clean to distorted or to voltage-starved chatter and gating effects. Use the Filter to reduce high frequencies at 9 kHz or 6 kHz. Finally, use the Output stage as another means to coloring your sources or to gain-match the dry signal in conjunction with the Bypass switch.

How can the Culture Vulture be used while mixing? 

The two channel Culture Vulture was designed to work as stereo processor adding subtle warmth to audibly clipped effects to instrument or vocal buses, or even on the master bus. Take advantage of the UAD Thermionic Culture Vulture's channel parameter linking and perfectly matched stereo image to save time and preserve balances. Or, unlink and go "off-roading" between the left and right channels, for distortion-based stereo effects. 

What are the differences between the Distortion Types and how are they used in conjunction with Overdrive and the Output amplifier?

The T (triode) setting on the Vulture will give a subjectively smooth, rich kind of a sound. A change to the P1 setting provides a harder, more edgy sound. It is natural for this mode to be louder than Triode. The P2 setting can produce some of the most unusual and over-the-top effects such as doubling, gating and stuttering. It is natural for this mode to be quieter than Triode or P1. The Drive control and Overdrive switch give the user ample control over the amount the input signal before it hits the modeled 6AS6 valve. Use caution when enabling the Overdrive control, as a large jump in gain can occur. The Output Level controls the amount of signal going to the output valve, which has its own tube coloration. Unlike the hardware, the plugin provides an additional 9 dB of clean, uncolored gain after the Output amplifier when Overdrive is off. This minimizes gain jumps, but also provides for a more useable range of clean settings. 

How does the Bias control work?

The Bias control varies the current through the “distortion” valve (6AS6 type) and this current is shown on the milliameter. At low current the Vulture is “starved” and the sound is inclined to be thinner and “break up” easily. At the lowest settings, only signal peaks are passed through the valve, resulting in a gating effect. High current and the Vulture is over-fed and becomes quite fat and bloated. At medium current it distorts the least, and this is the best setting for just “warming up” a sound. When the Vulture is over-driven, the meter may “twitch” and this gives a good indication of how drastic the distortion is.

Why does the Culture Vulture use so much DSP? 

The Culture Vulture's unorthodox pentode circuit design required an incredibly complex and wide-ranging model of this unique distortion circuit, thus necessitating a large DSP footprint. Rather than cutting corners, Universal Audio's no-compromise modeling techniques ensures that the Thermionic Culture Vulture for UAD-2 captures the three types of valve distortion provided by the Culture Vulture hardware. With a calculation set that would tax even the latest host processors, the UAD Thermionic Culture Vulture runs on the UAD-2, which specializes in supporting these intense DSP calculations, while preserving your host for other tasks like virtual instruments.

Are there any advantages of the Culture Vulture plug-in over the hardware?

Because the noise of the system is so much lower in the plug-in than that of the hardware, the plug-in is able to be used freely in parameter ranges that the hardware could be objectionably noisy. The plug-in also boasts a dry/wet parallel processing control that the hardware does not have. In addition, multiple instance availability, perfect stereo matching and linking, and automation of parameters are also advantages of the plug-in.

Why are the Culture Vulture switch controls backwards?

Some of the details like switch orientation and control ranges that "go to eleven" are put there by the original hardware designers to amuse and entertain, but also to encourage the user to explore the sound rather than taking the unit too analytically. As the original hardware manual says. "Warning, do not take this unit seriously." Have fun with it!

Which Culture Vulture hardware unit is the basis for the UAD plug-in?

The Thermionic Culture Vulture plug-in is based on Thermionic Culture's most popular unit; The black, two-channel version sometimes referred to as the "Standard Issue."




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  • Nick Terry

    (Thermionic Culture)

    "The [UAD] Culture Vulture Plug-in really captures the tone of what the hardware does to sounds. That was the most important thing to get right in my opinion. There is no compression or EQ curve to copy, just the tone."

    Tony Maserati

    (Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Jason Mraz)

    “I use the Thermionic Vulture hardware on almost every mix, so having a [UAD] software version was a dream come true. I never thought anyone would be able to mimic the variations in sonic tones the hardware allowed me to create. I'm obsessed.”

    Rik Simpson

    (Coldplay, Portishead, Jay Z)

    I’m a big fan of Thermionic Culture and own many pieces of theirs to help remove the generic digital DAW sound. I’ll now be using the UAD Culture Vulture plug-in to perform the same function. In short, I love it.

    Jamie Lidell

    “This [UAD Culture Vulture] plug-in really is naughty. I put an LFO on the drive in Ableton and wished the hardware could do that too. Quality.”

    Jeff Balding

    (LeAnn Rimes, Faith Hill)

    “Totally love the [UAD] Culture Vulture on drums, bass, vocals, guitars…just about everything. I also found the presets very useful in hearing the versatility and tones this plug-in is capable of.”

  • Neal Avron

    (Linkin Park, Sara Bareilles, Fall Out Boy)

    “The [UAD] Culture Vulture plug-in is a great tool to add dimension and saturation to any sound lacking depth. Just used it on drums and synths for a mix. Wow!”

    Peter Katis

    (The National, Interpol, Jónsi)

    “The [UAD] Culture Vulture Plug-in, like the hardware, can do all the crazy, blown out sh*t. In fact, it is even better at the subtle gaining-and-beefing-up-thing without getting too shredded. It is a new/old favorite."

    Chris Coady

    (Grizzly Bear, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio)

    "The mighty Culture Vulture is as great for bringing out life and detail in dull sounds as it is one of the best sonic destroyers of all time. With this new [UAD] plug-in I can now have several instances per song.”

    Eric "E.T." Thorngren

    (Bob Marley, Cindy Lauper, Talking Heads)

    The Culture Vulture is a truly unique device that can be used for subtle distortion all the way to my-God-you’ve-ripped-your-speakers. Now with the UAD plug-in you can have the two sides track together for stereo imaging."

    Ivan Barias

    (Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott, Estelle)

    The UAD Culture Vulture just became my new secret go-to weapon. The first time I used it to beef up the kick and snare on a Hip Hop track, I knew there was no going back.

User Ratings

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Average Rating (79 Reviews)
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    by R. Cox(Wednesday 12 October, 2016)

    Im not sure how this compares to the hardware but I absolutely love this on the master buss. I gels everything together and just makes everything sound so analog with that beautiful grit. This is one of those plugins that you don't realize you love until you take it back off of the 2 buss… Read More

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    Fripps me out
    by M. Neville(Saturday 24 September, 2016)

    This plus the Bermuda Triangle plug on my SC guitar vsti and I am Fripp, just a little is a lot with this, will take me a while to suss out it's potential. Read More

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    My go-to warmifier plugin.
    by G. Link(Friday 23 September, 2016)

    Creates a warmth, grit and depth to tracks that just make them pop. I tested this with a lot of other warmifier/distortion plugins (UAD and native) and this is my favorite. Use it subtly and it can make a flat, washed-out track really stand out and be clear and full. Use it a bit more and it… Read More

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    by R. Blum(Thursday 22 September, 2016)

    I am a great fan of UA plugins. I own about 50% of all their available plugins and can't wait to purchase more. As with all other UA plugins, the Thermionic Culture Vulture is a great tool and brings the advantage of being able to use several instances at the same time - as opposed to a… Read More

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    Amazing Saturation
    by . (Tuesday 6 September, 2016)

    Massive fan of this plug-in!! I've been using it extensively to get everything from really crunchy drums and extreme vocal effects used in parallel to subtle saturation effects on clean guitar and bass tracks. It's pretty DSP hungry but I tend to do a lot of printing with it so it's not a big deal. Read More


  • Brendan "Eskmo" Angelides

    Writing and producing under the name "Eskmo," Los Angeles-based Brendan Angelides has releases on labels Ninja Tune, Warp, Ancestor and Apollo labels. Read More


Features & Specs
Thermionic Culture Vulture
Features & Specs.
Key Features
  • Exclusively licensed by Thermionic Culture Ltd., modeled by Universal Audio
  • Studio-grade, high-gain valve distortion from a subtle warmth to utterly destroyed
  • Models entire Class A circuit, including the Pentode-driven input amplifier with bias control, plus valve output amplifier 
  • Three modes of operation including Triode and Pentode modes 1 and 2
  • Overdrive, Output filtering, plus plugin-only Dry/Wet parallel Mix and Controls linking
  • Requires a UAD DSP Accelerator Card or Apollo Interface available from authorized dealers worldwide

See the UAD Instance Chart here

  • Channel 1 Overdrive: Two position switch, Normal (0), Overdrive (+20 dB)
  • Channel 1 Drive: Continuous Input Gain, 1 to 11
  • Channel 1 Bias: Continuously varies current, adjusting voltage to the cathode, and is displayed on the milliameter, 1 to 11
  • Channel 1 Distortion Type: T (Triode, strong 2nd), P1 (Pentode, strong 3rd), P2 (more drastic distortion at high bias)
  • Channel 1 Filter: Three position switch; Off, 6 kHz, 9 kHz (12 dB per octave)
  • Channel 1 Output: Continuous Output Level, 1 to 11
  • Channel 1 Bypass: Two position switch, hard bypass of all distortion processing
  • Channel 2 Overdrive: Two position switch, Normal (0), Overdrive (+20 dB)
  • Channel 2 Drive: Continuous Input Gain, 1 to 11
  • Channel 2 Bias: Continuously varies current, adjusting voltage to the cathode, and is displayed on the milliameter, 1 to 11
  • Channel 2 Distortion Type: T (Triode, strong 2nd), P1 (Pentode, strong 3rd), P2 (more drastic distortion at high bias)
  • Channel 2 Filter: Three position switch; Off, 6 kHz, 9 kHz (12 dB per octave)
  • Channel 2 Output: Continuous Output Level, 1 to 11
  • Channel 2 Bypass: Two position switch, hard bypass of all distortion processing
  • Link: Two position switch, Unlink/Link of all Left/Right parameters
  • Mix: Continuous phase-accurate blend between fully dry, unprocessed and fully wet processed signal, 0 to 100%
  • Power: Two position switch, Off/On (bypasses all DSP processing)

Nick Terry
(Thermionic Culture)
  • Delay Driver - Crunchy Tape-like
  • Delay Driver - Tape-like
  • Driven Pentode
  • Driven Triode
  • Drum Chopper
  • Drum Cut Off Chopper
  • Drums EMT Plate Driver
  • Octave Up
  • Pentode Harmonics
  • Roobarb and Custard
  • Smooth EMT Plate Driver
  • Squelch
  • Tough Plate Driver
  • Triode Harmonics
  • Triode Softener
  • Warm Pentode
Peter Katis
(The National, Interpol, Tokyo Police Club)
  • Beefy Vocal
  • Crunchy Frog Drum Bus
  • I Hate My Parents
Rik Simpson
  • Bass - Fuzzy Warm
  • Bass - Thicken
  • Drum - Parallel Crunking
  • Drum & Bass - Parallel Glue
  • Keyboards - Darken
  • Pumping Overdrive
  • Something Broken
  • Vocal - Vintage Vibes
  • Warming Valve
Eric Thorngren
(Bob Marley, Cindy Lauper, Talking Heads)
  • AllYourBassAreBelongToUs
  • Even Harmonics
  • Fatter-1
  • Fatter-2
  • Odd Harmonics
Tony Maserati
(Beyonce, Jason Mraz)
  • BG Vocals Excitement
  • Funky Bass
  • Parallel Pop Vocal
  • Saturated Love
  • Wurly Crunch
Chris Coady
(Grizzly Bear, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio)
  • Better Bass
  • Bridge Texture
  • Chorus Organ
  • Clearer 808
  • Edgy Solina
  • Field Recording Focused
  • Kick and Snare Parallel
  • Late Night Drums
  • Magic Pad
  • Textural Arpeggio
  • Vocal Forward


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