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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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."
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