The Dist Tube Culture is Arturia’s take on Thermionic’s Culture Vulture. What they have added within the plugin is useful and creative, to say the least.
Thermionic originally designed the Culture Vulture to simulate the distortion of tube amps, as a way to color digital recordings. Yes, that’s right—people have been trying to make digital sound like analog ever since digital recording became a thing. So here we have an emulation of a device that was meant to simulate something else!
Arturia has gone beyond the hardware unit and added some very useful features, mainly in the “advanced” tab. Here you can adjust the low pass and high pass for the input signal, and the output signal after adding the distortion effects. The input also has a simple gate/compressor that opens up even more potential. All of these together makes the Arturia Dist Tube Culture incredibly adept at shaping your sound. (The tilt control alone is quite fantastic.)
There are a lot of options, without leaving the basic simplicity of a Culture Vulture. (Compared to FabFilter Saturn, for instance, with its multitude of controls.) But this ease of settings is what gives the Dist Tube Culture (and the original hardware) its power.
Each of the “Functions” (tube emulations, including the P3 as in the newish Ultra Vulture) has a distinct compression curve which you can take a look at below. You can really model tape or preamp saturation with these, although it doesn’t appear to attenuate the high end as it compresses. You have to feed it a healthy level in order for this to happen. This is completely independent of the compression knob in the Advanced tab. Working them together gives you a lot of possibilities.
Compare it to the UAD Thermionic Culture Vulture. They definitely test out differently. I think generally the UAD has a bit more generated noise and a slightly brighter sound at the default settings. But the additional filters available on the Arturia version are oh so special.
- The meter shows the amount of bias being applied. It doesn’t show levels, input or otherwise. A setting between .2 and .3 will probably sound the “best”—as in most subtle.
- Really play with the input compression controls. This has a noticeable effect on the frequency response, and it brings a whole new level of control to the distortion characteristics.
- Also, use the input compression knob in tandem with a loud signal to drive the compression in the various Function settings.
- If being able to control the low pass/high pass pre and post isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.
- Use setting “P2” and really slam the signal. Then use the Mix knob to bring it down to 1 or 2. Just barely add in some distortion and parallel compression.
- Using a trim control before and after this will give you a lot of control. You can blast a signal in, do the magic, and then lower it back down.
- On a vocal you can adjust the high pass filters to take out most of the low end, and then with the Mix control bring in a little bit of this air to the voice. Adjust the distortion as desired!
[Notes on testing: The drive was left at the default (15.7db) and the bias was adjusted for each setting to read .3 on the meter. The Presence/Air switch was set to Off. All the advanced settings are at their defaults.]