Vic Keary - 11 October 1938 - 04 October 2022

It is with great sadness that we announce that Vic Keary, co-founder and chief designer of Thermionic Culture Ltd., has died, just a few days short of his 84th birthday. 

For the last few years his wish was that Thermionic Culture should build a team and product line that would ensure that his knowledge, designs and design philosophy would endure well beyond his own life. He believed that well designed valve audio devices sound superior to solid state devices and that the joy of using them should be available to future generations. We at Thermionic Culture of course agree with him and that is our aim going forwards, with new products already in development and with existing products, which we will continue to supply and support to the same high standards that Vic has set. 

Vic’s history has been a uniquely fascinating and colourful one.

Born to an RAF family in 1938, Vic moved to and spent his early years in India during the last days of the Raj. Moving to Edinburgh as a young child and then onto Sussex he saw many unusual and eventful times at a young age. 

Starting as a recording enthusiast in 1957, then backing his electronics skills up with study at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, contributing to rocket designs, Vic began his professional career at Lansdowne studios in 1960, ultimately taking over as maintenance engineer from Joe Meek. His knowledge and intuition about valve audio circuitry stood him in good stead.

After achieving success behind the console and engineering hit records at Lansdowne, Vic set up his own independent studios. He designed and built his own valve consoles and found much success with Chalk Farm studios, established in 1968, producing more hit records throughout following years. Not least of these achievements was his engineering and production input for the majority of Trojan records UK output until its demise. 

Another side to Vic during these years was his activity in other aspects of the music business in various roles such as :-

  • Manager to artists such as Screaming Lord Such, Tapper Zukie, Desmond Dekker, John Otway and others;

  • Owner of the Mushroom records label, with a roster including many folk/progressive artists and famously, Ravi Shankar;

  • Providing front of house sound for many of his artists concerts, winning awards for his innovation in this too;

  • Running live music venues such as Camden’s Dublin Castle;

  • Record sales and advice to up and coming industry figures such as a young Richard Branson; 

Chalk Farm eventually closed in 1982 but over the years Vic had become revered and respected in the UK and Jamaican recording studio community for his knowledge of valve equipment and microphones and his skills behind the console. 

After several years spent using his technical expertise to help with studio maintenance for artists such as Vangelis, it was suggested to Vic in the early 90s that he ought to resurrect the latest valve console he’d designed and built for Chalk Farm studios. 

This led on to the creation of Chiswick reach studios, whereby he managed to introduce a new generation of engineers, producers and musicians to the joy of recording with valve equipment. 

During this phase of Vic’s career he began to develop new valve designs and this in turn led to the creation of Thermionic Culture Ltd. in 1998.

This last phase of Vic’s career allowed him to fully explore his love of valve audio design, which he did whilst creating some now classic pieces of studio outboard equipment over the following 23 years. 

Vic’s conviction that valves had an important role to play in music production had stayed with him since the first beginnings in 1957 and remained there until his death. Thermionic Culture is proud to honour his wishes that his legacy should continue into the future, providing inspiration to anybody who wants to listen.