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June 2017 Giveaway

REVIEW: Orange Amplifiers

Sweetwater recently began carrying Orange amplifiers and cabinets, which meant just one thing: I had to get my hands on them for review, in my own studio! These amplifiers have a heritage that stretches back literally decades, to 1968, when Cliff Cooper began making the amps in his London West End music shop.

I tested the amplifiers through a 1 x 12″ Orange PPC112 cabinet loaded with a Celestion Vintage 30 speaker. This cabinet punches out surprisingly big sound, easily able to keep up with a big amp and producing plenty of volume and low end.

Tiny Terror
While I didn’t “formally” review the Tiny Terror amp head for this article, I’ve already covered it in a video. Check it out at our YouTube page.

In addition, note that everything that is said about the Tiny Terror channel in the Dual Terror section below will apply to the Tiny Terror amp as well, except that the Tiny Terror is switchable from 15 watts to 7 watts and uses two EL84 power tubes.

Dual Terror
The Dual Terror is a compact “lunchbox” two-channel all-tube amplifier that has a unique power-switching scheme. Using the tube selector switch on the back and a Full/Half switch on the front, you can choose among:

  • Full/four EL84 power tubes – 30 watts
  • Full/two EL84 power tubes – 15 watts
  • Half/four EL84 power tubes – 15 watts
  • Half/two EL84 power tubes – 7 watts

All of these options sound great, and they let you custom-tailor the output power to what you’re doing: practice, rehearsal, or gigging. There are subtle differences in the tone, primarily when you switch tubes in and out. I get my favorite sound by using the “Full” front-panel setting, then choosing a 30- or 15-watt output by using either four or two tubes. The difference when switching to the “Half” setting is, as mentioned, subtle. But I did notice that “Full” was fuller, punchier, and rounder, and seemed to have a bit more headroom.

Fortunately, my long-suffering wife was away for the day, so I was able to run the amp at what are commonly known as “stoopid” levels – in other words, full out. But even at full volume at 30 watts, the Dual Terror isn’t painfully loud, though it offers plenty of volume for stage use!

On the back panel, you’ll find three speaker outputs: two outputs for one or two 8-ohm speakers, and one for a 16-ohm speaker. There’s also a footswitch jack for changing channels. Around front, you’ll find the mains power switch, the Full/Standby/Half switch, and a switch for changing channels. The amp offers two channels, which are voiced differently. The Tiny Terror channel offers gain, tone, and volume controls. This channel provides clean to medium-high gain sounds with tight bottom end, good presence, and that EL84 chime and grind. It is virtually identical to the Tiny Terror amplifier circuit – simple and toneful.

The second channel, the Fat channel, offers gain, tone, and volume controls. It provides similar clean to medium-high gain to the Tiny Terror channel, but is voiced to crank out chunkier, thicker bass and fuller low mids.

With either channel, the amp was thick and crunchy with both a PRS Modern Eagle II and a Gibson Les Paul. But the real winner among my guitars was my mongrel FrankenTele. The Dual Terror sounded fabulous with the crunched up Tele – the amp was set for about 50% gain, with the volume wound up, so the power tubes were working hard. With this combination, the rig provided a nice, bright, raw, unrefined rock ‘n’ roll tone that played easily, with tons of dynamics and a lot of control via playing techniques and the guitar’s controls. You can pump up the gain and reduce the volume for a saturated rhythm or lead tone, or turn down the gain and crank the volume for a chiming cleanish tone with nice power-tube distortion.

If I had to sum up the Dual Terror, I’d say, “Totally in your face.” For portable, grab-it-and-go rocking tones at reasonable volume levels, it’s hard to beat – it even comes in a padded gig bag with a shoulder strap for easy carrying.

Thunderverb 50
The Orange Amps Thunderverb 50 is a very different amplifier head from the Dual Terror. On the obvious front, it’s much larger and heavier than the Dual Terror. On the inside, it’s powered by two EL34 tubes for 50 watts of power versus the DT’s quartet of EL84s. This results in a big difference in tone; where the DT chimes, the Thunderverb chunks. It’s a big, beefy-sounding amp with a lovely mix of girth and openness.
On the back panel, you’ll find the mains power switch plus three speaker outs – two for 8-ohm cabinets and one for a 16-ohm cabinet. There are also a send/return effects loop and three footswitch jacks for controlling different features.

Up front you’ll find a standby switch, and a switch for toggling between the two channels. You’ll also find a cadre of controls. Channel A has gain, bass, mid, treble, and volume controls, and offers clean to medium-high gain. Channel B has gain, “shape,” and volume controls, also with clean to medium-high gain. With the different EQ controls per channel, you have a lot of flexibility for dialing in two contrasting or complementary tones. On Channel A, the tone controls are well placed for shaping sound in a fairly traditional, familiar manner. On Channel B, the shape control spans from powerful, present mids to nu-metalesque scooped mids.

Rounding out the front panel is a master reverb control (applies to both channels) and a master attenuator knob. Yes, there’s a built-in attenuator that allows you to crank the gain and channel volume for power amp distortion while keeping the overall volume output manageable. The attenuator works great. It reduces the volume level while maintaining the tone, “feel,” and dynamics of the amp. Better yet, the attenuator is footswitchable, so you can set the attenuator for your rhythm volume level then switch it off to let the volume rip for leads. A cool – and highly practical – idea.

Of all my guitars, I loved my ’79 Les Paul Standard through the Thunderverb the most. The tone was simply huge, with great punch and presence. But whether I was playing a guitar loaded with single-coils, P90s, or humbuckers, the Thunderverb 50 delivered. It’s tonally flexible but always has an “in your face” quality with rich, “thwacking” presence.

Like the Dual Terror, the Thunderverb wants nothing more than to rock. But it’s flexible enough to cover just about any style you might request of it. Between the traditional 3-band EQ on Channel A and the shape control on Channel B, you can dial in exactly the sound you want from any guitar.

Citrusy Goodness
With the Tiny Terror, the Dual Terror, and the Thunderverb 50 (among other amps from Orange), you’ve got a great selection of British-flavored monsters that can cover a wide range of tones and styles. These are amps with a 40-year pedigree for producing powerful guitar sounds. For simple, straight-ahead crunch and chime at reasonable levels, the Tiny Terror rules. For the flexibility of two channels with twice the power, go for the Dual Terror. For maximum chunk as well as loads of tonal possibilities for everything from a whisper to stage volume, the Thunderverb 50 has the goods. Whichever you choose, you win, because these are all top-notch pro amps ready for whatever you want to throw at them.

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