The Culture Vulture Super 15
Do not take this unit seriously. The Culture Vulture Super 15 is a
‘fun’ effects unit and has been designed for maximum pleasure!
However, for your personal safety, please read this operating
manual and this warning thoroughly before using the equipment.
This unit must be installed in such a manner that operator access
to the mains plug is maintained. Where the product is to be rack
mounted, this may be achieved by having access to the
disconnection device for the whole rack.
To reduce the risk of electric shock, it is essential that the unit is
disconnected from the mains supply before removing the cover.
Please also note that the power supply capacitors within this unit
can remain charged even after the mains supply has been
disconnected. It is essential that these capacitors are discharged
after the mains supply has been disconnected and the covers
have been removed.
In the event that this unit has been dropped or has suffered an
impact, an electrical safety test must be carried out before
reconnection to the mains supply.
This equipment is not intended for use in explosion hazard
environments. It must be used and stored in studio conditions,
such that the ambient relative humidity does not exceed 80%, nor
is the temperature to be allowed to drop to a level, which would
cause dew point to be reached.
The Culture Vulture Super 15, though valve/tube based, does not
run exceptionally hot. Other equipment can be mounted in the
rack directly above and below it, as long as the rack is well
ventilated and the ventilation slots are not obstructed.
©Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
Controls & Meters
Output Level
Bias (and meter use)
2.4 Function Switch
2.5 Presence Switch
2.6 Bypass
General Operational Hints
Inputs and Outputs
Servicing and Maintenance
Operating voltage / Fuse
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
The Super 15 version of the Culture Vulture is introduced in
2013, which happens to be our 15th Anniversary.
This edition retains the features found on our 11th Anniversary
edition and was introduced due to the continuing demand for
these features plus some enhancements. Special features are:
The input gain controls now go up to “15”- not just “11”
– yes- it does have a little more gain ;
All valves/tubes are NOS 1st grade military spec for low
noise high stability and long life ;
It has a 10 position ‘function’ switch which apart from
the usual “Triode”and “Pentode” settings has 5 mid lift
“eq” settings and 3 extreme distortion settings;
The switch next to the “drive” control has 3 positions,
“normal”, “+10dB” and “overdrive” instead of 2.
We have added a "Presence" switch which operates
only on the "+10dB" position of the "drive" switch.
The user now has even more control over the type and amount
of harmonics produced from a practically clean triode setting to
virtually 100% distortion.
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
Controls & Meters
2.1 Drive
This control is really in 2 parts, a switch and a rotary pot.
The switch gives a coarse control and the pot a fine control
of the signal input level. At the first position “Normal” (for
line level signals) the frequency response is flat. The mid
position increases the gain by 10dB and adds some top
end for extra bite. “Overdrive” is 28dB above “Normal” and
can be used for extreme distortion effects at line level, also
guitars and other low level sources.
The drive pot controls the amount of signal you are feeding
to the 2nd “distortion” valve, a 5725, so the higher it’s set
the more effect. It should be used in conjunction with the
output level control.
2.1 Output Level
This simply controls the signal going to the output valve. A
-10Db switch is provided for more accurate control when a
Vulture is driven hard, also for comparison – see 2.5.
2.3 Bias (and meter use)
This control varies the current through V2 by changing the
positive voltage on its cathode. The actual current is shown
on the milliammeter.
When the Vulture is starved of current the sound is thinner
and when over-fed it becomes warmer and fatter. The best
setting for low distortion is 0.25mA. When the Vulture is
being pushed into heavy distortion the meters will twitch.
N.B. The bias pot is naturally noisy in operation as all of
the valve’s current is flowing through it, but it should be
silent when set.
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
2.4 Function Switch
“T” and “P1” positions mean that V2 is configured as a
triode (all even harmonics) or a pentode (odd harmonics).
All “PK” positions use the pentode configuration.
“PK1” to “PK5” have a sharp filter across the bias control
enabling the user to add a unique form of mid lift at
frequencies specially selected for musical effect.
“SQ1” is a very distorted sort of “pentode” and “SQ2” is a
more extreme version of the same (equivalent to “P2” in
the standard Culture Vulture).
“SQ3” is an exciting new discovery. It will sound quite
clean until overload is close when lots of harmonics are
suddenly added, and at higher levels over-compression will
occur and dynamics are inverted.
2.5 Presence
This switch works only on the 10dB setting end and is out
when at centre position . Up it adds +3 dB and Down +6dB
to the mid range, peaking at 3kHz.
The +10 switch itself adds a little extra top so one can
achieve a brighter ‘crunchier’ sound using this facility.
Compare by using the -10 dB switch next to the O/P pot.
2.6 Bypass
This switch links the line input to the output directly, cutting
out the electronics of the Culture Vulture. This switch is
designed to compare the Vulturised sound to the original.
It is disabled when the DI input is used. The processed
signal will always come up on Output Lo.
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
General Operational Hints
When just “warming” the sound use “T” or “P1” setting with
output level control at 10 for line level output. Turn down the
control as you increase input level and/or with increased V2
current settings. Turn to max for most SQ1 & SQ2 applications.
The “cleanest” setting for the bias is 0.25mA and this should be
used to give sounds just a bit more “naturality”.
A good setting to simulate analogue tape distortion is “T”,
normal drive, meter set to 0.3-0.4mA. The most popular setting,
generally, appears to be “P1” 0.4mA.
The “PK” settings were designed with guitars in mind but they
can be used equally well with keyboards and other instruments.
We have found that because the frequency peak operates
around the bias section of the circuit the EQ effect is quite
unique in its results. There is a subtle “expansion” effect
happening along with the peaking effect that gives a far more
interesting and interactive result to the distortion than simply
EQ’ing the signal into or out of the unit would ever achieve. This
adds a very interesting dimension to the way an electric guitar
player responds to the unit and vice versa.
So select your setting bearing in mind the musical key. The
treated instrument will really stand out in the mix. Remember,
reducing the V2 current will increase the lift, whereas no bias, or
max current, will nullify the effect.
On the “squash” (“SQ”) settings only, it’s a characteristic of the
type of valve used that a frequency doubling effect can occur
when distortion sets in. This can be quite interesting and is
most likely to occur with high bias (around 0.1mA current).
Use the “+10” setting of the “drive” switch if you want a little
more “bite”.. There may be sufficient gain to use this setting for
some electric guitars when DI’d, if a low bias (high current thru
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
V2) is used. Otherwise, use the “overdrive” setting when DI-ing
Use the “filter” switch to reduce unpleasant upper harmonics,
especially useful when using “SQ” effects.
If using the unit across a stereo mix or group, then ensure that
you set it up with both meters reading the same.
NB. There is little chance of retaining an accurate stereo picture
when using “SQ” settings.
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
Inputs & Outputs
There are 2 input jack sockets per channel, one on the rear and
one on the front panel. The latter is designed for use when DIing instruments, and when a jack plug is inserted it cuts out any
signal coming from the rear socket.
There are 2 output jack sockets per channel, on the rear,
labelled “Hi” & “Lo”. “Lo” is around 20dB below line level
(+4dBu) and can be used for re-amping, etc.
The inputs at the rear are transformer balanced with the tip and
ring isolated from earth.
All other jacks are unbalanced with ring shorted to earth
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
Servicing & Maintenance
5.1 Valves
The unit comes with a 12 month warranty covering all
parts, including valves (referred to as tubes in some
countries), and it is essential that it is returned to our
factory or to the dealer from which it was purchased for
repairs to be carried out otherwise the warranty is
invalidated. There is, however, one important exception to
this rule:
Valves are quite delicate items and the most common
cause of failure, despite our choice of high quality military
grade ones. If a fault occurs on one channel, a valve is
quite likely to be the cause, so if you feel confident and
willing to do the following, here’s the procedure:
Unplug the power and remove the top by undoing screws
which attach it. Note: 1 screw is shiny and must be
replaced in the same place. The unit can be powered up
safely without the top on, provided that the screening plate
above the circuit board is not removed and reasonable
care is taken not to touch exposed connections, but don’t
change valves with the power on! Change over the 2 input
valves. These are the ones with metal screening cans
nearest the left & right sides. If you press down a little and
twist the can anti-clockwise it will come off, then gently pull
out the valve. Be careful when replacing that the pins line
up. Do not bend them! Plug back in and see if the fault has
changed sides, if not, try changing the next pair in (the
“distortion” valve). Be sure not to mix up the valves as they
are different types and have different pin connections!
The valve in the centre is the output valve and is a double
triode common to both channels. This is very robust – we
have had to replace less than 11 in 11 years, so it’s
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
unlikely to be a problem in the 1st 12 months. If you want
to be sure, you can replace it with the common ECC82
(12AU7) with very slightly degraded results. Spares can be
obtained from Thermionic Culture Ltd.
Input valves can be replaced individually but “distortion”
valves should be replaced in matched pairs. Your test
report will show the type number of the valve fitted at the
factory. To save recalibration, order the same type number
from Thermionic Culture Ltd.
Valve complement (equivalents in brackets, nearest 1st):
2 x 5654 (M8100, 5591, EF95)
2 x 5725 (M8196, 6AS6)
1 x 5963 (ECC82, 12AU7)
5.2 Operating voltage / Fuse
The Culture Vulture Super 15 Edition is switch selectable to
operate from either 230V or 115V 50/60Hz AC mains
NOTE: Mains fuses may be replaced in accordance with
the following table:
Operating Voltage
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
Fuse Rating
T500mA 20mm type
T250mA 20mm type
A) Figures obtained with 1kHz signal, 0.25mA bias current,
Function at T, feeding a 10kΩ load.
Distortion (THD) at 4dB: 0.2%
Frequency response:
Normal drive:
40Hz to 18kHz , ±1.5dB
50Hz to 11kHz, ±1.5dB
Max Output Level (MOL): +17dBu, 2% distortion
85dB below MOL
B) Maximum Figures:
Distortion (THD):
Gain (DI input):
+25dBu, 20% distortion.
C) Impedances:
Line Input:
DI Input:
Line Output:
Lo Output:
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013
Culture Vulture Super 15 Frequency Response
Gain (dBr)
Pres Mid
Pres Hi
f (kHz)
Thermionic Culture Ltd., Harlow, Essex, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1279 414770 email: [email protected]
© Thermionic Culture Ltd, 2013. Printed in UK.
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