The configuration of The Culture Vulture isn't too complicated, although there are still a nice amount of parameters here to work with. Each of the two channels has parameters for input level, bias, output level, and function (which is like mode). It also has a switch for a low pass filter and for choosing between normal, drive, or overdrive setting. In addition to these parameters each channel has a bypass switch and metering so you can track your level. After playing around with this for a little bit I was able to get a pretty good grasp on what everything does, so I don't believe that a manual is needed.
I've never really heard anything quite like Thermionic Culture's Culture Vulture. It is unique because you can get so many different types of distortion tones with this box. All of the tones are quite realistic sounding, although I do like some of the modes better than others. While I usually like to get my distortion tones at the source, as I don't like to go back and add it later ususally, when I have access to this box I don't mind doing it as much because I know I'll be able to get a good tone later on down the line. I've used this box on vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, and on electric piano and have found it to be suitable for all of these applications when I am looking to add some drive to a signal.
While I don't believe that Thermionic Culture's Culture Vulture is a necessity for any studio, it is definitely a luxury that I'm sure most engineers and studio owners would love to have. This is one of the best distortion boxes in the form of outboard gear that I have used, and is probably one of the most versatile. The price of this box isn't cheap, but is indeed designed for professionals so this does need to be taken into account. I don't know of any other units that are like this one really, so if you're looking for some valve distortion emulation in the form of a piece of outboard gear, The Culture Vulture is the way to go.