Harlow, UK (October 7, 2022)—Vic Keary, founder and chief designer for UK-based pro audio company Thermionic Culture, has died. His passing was announced on the company’s Facebook page; no cause of death was given.
Keary had been a working engineer for 40 years by the time he founded Thermionic Culture in 1998. After starting his first recording studio in 1957 above a cowshed, he moved on to London’s Lansdowne Studios three years later to work as a maintenance engineer, expanding that role to engineering and occasionally producing soul acts like The Carols and psychedelic rock groups like Andromeda.
The entrepreneurial bug bit again in 1968, when he co-founded London’s Chalk Farm Studios, which went on to become a go-to facility for reggae artists of the era like Desmond Decker, as well as punk acts such as The 101ers; Keary mixed part of that band’s lone album before the group evolved into The Clash.
Throughout his time in the London studio scene—he also ran Maximum Sound and Chiswick Reach studios over the years—Keary continued to design and build his own equipment, including the homemade desk that was the center point of Maximum Sound’s control room. Eventually, Keary left Chiswick Reach in the late 90s and opted to found Thermionic Culture— just as the recording industry was starting its shift into digital audio production.
The company flourished, however. In an era where outboard gear became increasingly digitally emulated and modeled to facilitate ITB recording and mixing, Thermionic Culture continued to champion the creation and use of studio equipment based around vacuum tubes (or as they’re called in the UK, Thermionic Valves, thus the company’s name). To this day, the company’s products are produced in-house, much of it still wired by hand.