John Dines by Mikko Malén

We pinned down Workshop Manager Mikko Malén and Product Demonstrator John Dines to answer some of your tech related questions. We received a whole bunch, and figured we’d do them in two parts so your eyes don’t turn square what reading. Here’s John’s answers:

Why does my TH30 make noise when effects loop is in use? Otherwise its fine.
John: The TH30’s FX Loop uses a series configuration and is always part of the circuit. Essentially, you’re always “hearing” the FX Loop even with nothing connected. This means the fault is elsewhere in your signal chain, not in the amp. Typical causes of noise in pedal signal chains are bad instrument leads/patch leads, incorrect pedal power supply specification or non-isolated grounding between power supply outlets, ground loops within the FX chain and other pedal faults. A good place to start is to check the pedals are receiving the correct power, then try connecting each one individually (do the same with your leads). Some power supply-related issues may only show up when using certain combinations of pedals, though. It’s a big rabbit hole to do down but, with some planning and structured troubleshooting, you can get to the bottom of it – and you’ll learn a lot in the process. Good luck!

Can we hear more about the process arriving at TremLord’s base tone? Been surprised at how nice the clean is yet impressed how distinct it is from other brands.
John: This is really a question for Orange Technical Director, Adrian Emsley but I’ll do my best to cover the basics. There’s actually quite a history of great clean sounds at Orange Amps. The Rockerverb, AD30 and Rocker 30 are all good examples. The Tremlord was always meant to be a bit different. Taking the bright and scooped character of the Rockerverb’s Clean channel and mixing it with an EL84 power amp and open-loop design makes for a unique non-master volume design that’s familiarly “vintage enough” for those seeking classic tones. A valve-driven reverb was a must, and a 2-spring tank was chosen (instead of the usual 3) to add to the splashy, retro vibe. As the name suggests, the real centrepiece of the amp is the all-valve bias modulation Tremolo. This kind of super-authentic circuit is usually reserved for very boutique amps so it helps to set it apart from other amps at the same price. And having two footswitchable speed controls is unheard of! Rather than make an all-out copy of a ‘50s amp (with all the problems too!), Emsley wanted to include vintage tone and features in an up-to-date amp, so footswitching for the Tremolo, Speed and Reverb was added, along with some useful output power switching options. Another modern addition is the valve-driven FX Loop. This meant taking the unusual decision to implement the Tremolo in the preamp (traditionally, Tremolo effects work in the power amp). This means that, depending how you connect your pedal chain, you can place a real, valve tremolo anywhere in your signal path. You can also drive stereo rigs with the Tremolo appearing in both channels. There you go. It was just meant to be a very Orange take on a ‘50s amp for the modern player.

I need my Engl to turn into an orange amp instead, any suggestions? 
John: This is really a two-stage process. The best method is to first turn your Engl into cash. It should then be possible to turn the cash into an Orange.

Can I use my Crush 12 for my bass? If so what’s the right settings for a good warmer tone?
John: While the use of a Bass guitar will not damage the amp, you must consider a few things. Firstly, Bass requires a lot more power than guitar to be heard at the same volume (there are some solid, scientific reasons for this but I won’t go into them here), so you will likely find the Crush 12 very underpowered, even for home use. Secondly, the speaker in the Crush 12 is designed for guitar and its frequency response will not extend as low as you would expect from a Bass speaker. Lastly, the gain structure and EQ controls are optimised for guitar so it will be difficult to dial in the perfect Bass tone. You will be able to “get by” at low volumes but this is the reason we make dedicated Bass practice amps. Even the entry-level Crush Bass 25 addresses a lot of these points: It’s twice as powerful, is voiced specifically for Bass Guitar with an EQ familiar to users of pro Bass gear, and has a dedicated Bass speaker in a ported cabinet. It’s best to have the right tools for the job.

100w transistor amp. How many watts is that equivalent to for a valve amp?
John:
I’ll start with the simple answer: 100W. It’s a common misconception that valve Watts and solid state Watts are different. It’s a universal measurement of power and does not discriminate. However, there are few factors that have contributed to this misconception. Firstly, valve power amps sound great when distorted whereas it’s generally considered to be the case that solid state power amps do not. Add to this that amps are rated at full clean power. An amp that is rated at 100W clean will produce 141W when the power amp is at full saturation. This will probably sound pretty good with a valve amp but not with a solid state amp. Thus, a valve amp can be thought of to have an extra 40% of “usable” power when compared to a solid state amp. Next, think about the decades over which this stereotype has formed. The older solid state amps in question were usually the “cheap option” and are more likely to have been rated somewhat generously. There is a possibility that some amps over the years, especially at the lower end of the market, have been given “downhill with the wind behind it” power ratings. Furthermore, solid state output power varies with cabinet impedance whilst valve output power doesn’t. Many of these assumptions about power could have been made when using a solid state amp that is rated at 100W @4 Ohms into a 16 Ohm cab. The amp would be producing somewhere between 30-50W in this case.

Then there’s the issue of speaker sensitivity. Again, considering that many solid state amps are designed as more affordable alternatives, a lower-spec speaker could also skew players’ perceptions. If you’re used to hearing your 100W amp through a 100dB* speaker, a 97dB speaker would suddenly make your favourite amp only sound like a 50 Watter. Higher sensitivity speakers tend to need bigger magnets. Bigger magnets cost more money (both in terms of materials and in shipping the extra weight). You see where I’m going with this. As this is an Orange blog, it’s worth noting that even Orange’s more affordable Crush Pro solid state amps use a 100dB speaker, just like the flagship valve gear. So, all things being equal (both amps running a fully clean signal into 100dB speaker of the correct impedance and rated honestly), a solid state amp will be just as loud as a valve one. Ask a bassist or PA engineer!

*speaker sensitivity is measured in dB @1 Watt @ 1 Metre

Have you ever used 6L6 tubes in a certain model amp?
John: They’ve been tried in some Orange prototypes but EL34s or EL84s tend to suit that amps better (at least in the opinion of Technical Director, Adrian Emsley – The Gentleman Genius). 

What amp settings go best with an air guitar?
John: This could turn out to be quite a long-winded reply so I’ll try and breeze through it. In fact, it’s best to start with Eric Gales’s settings and use those as a barometer. It should be easy to dial in something in that vane that’ll really blow you away. No pressure!

Is an attenuator the solution for getting the best out of the Dual Terror at a reasonable volume? As the Dual Terror doesn’t have an effects loop or line out, I was wondering why do some guitar effects particularly reverb pedals do very badly with the amp, especially on the Tiny Chanel when it is in high gain output. Is it possible that I need to change the preamp tubes, or is the Dual Terror just not the right amp to put guitar effects up front?
John:
The Dual Terror and the Tiny Terror on which it is based were designed with a large focus on achieving great power amp overdrive at the kind of volumes that are allowed on modern stages. This is why there are multiple output power settings – to allow the user to reach the “sweet spot” of the amp at more than one volume. However, knowing that players would need great tone at even lower volumes, these amps employ an unusual design that places the Master Volume and the Tone control after the Phase Inverter. This means you can dial in a low-volume sound that’s a lot closer to power amp saturation than you could expect from a more conventional master volume amp. What this does mean, though, is that all of the tone and mojo of the amp is created at a later point in the circuit than where you could place an effects loop. Even if one were fitted, you’d still have all the same problems as when running your time-based pedals up front – big Reverb into big Distortion just doesn’t work (and making it work would completely change and ruin the amp). Luckily, you’re on the right track with the attenuator.

A good attenuator (a reactive load is recommended and the correct impedance is essential) will allow you to solve both of your problems. Firstly, connecting an attenuator between your Dual Terror’s Speaker Output and your cab will allow you to dial in the perfect power amp overdrive tone and then turn down the volume to a more sociable level. Secondly, an attenuator that also features a Line Out will allow you to run your time-based effects cleanly in a Wet/Dry configuration (but you’ll need another amp and cab). Connect the Attenuator’s line output to the input of your Reverb and set the Reverb’s Mix control to 100% (or select Kill Dry if your pedal has this option). Connect the output to your second amp (something like the Terror Stamp’s FX Return input would be perfect). You’ll now get your dry signal through your main cab and the Reverb signal through whatever cab you connect the second amp to. This is a really professional way to run effects and will sound even better than an amp with a good FX Loop. Added bonus: in recording or live sound situations, the blend between Dry and Wet (Reverb) can be adjusted.

Can I put Pasta tubes in my amp? My old tubes broke. I heard when they begin to break in a bit it makes it sound extra crunchy.
John: It’s not recommended. Even if you wanted to, in the current global situation, it’s probably easier to find a matched quad of NOS Yellow Label Mullards.

Will putting loud stompboxes, like a fuzz, fuck up my preamp tubes in my sovtek mig60 even if I’m running it at low volumes? What if I run it hot?
John: Preamp valves have such an enormous amount of headroom when compared to the output of even the loudest pedals that you really have nothing to worry about. This is yet another reason why valve amps are great.

How does tubes produce tone?
John: Ah the age-old question. The RCA Radio Designer’s Handbook is a good place to start. Also The Valve Wizard is a very handy website for getting an understanding of this dark art.

Which od/dist/fuzz pedals stack well with Orange gain?
John: Which Drive/Fuzz pedals work best with certain amps is mainly a matter of personal taste so there is no quick answer, unfortunately. However, there are some general considerations that may help. When using an amp set clean, pretty much any distortion pedal will “work”, but it might not sound great. Typically, pedals that mimic the preamp of an amp, or create their own “sound” will be better. Some other drives and fuzzes (particularly older ones) sound strange, thin or horrible on their own but suddenly make sense when used with an already overdriven amp. Think about it: the old-school way was to distort an amp as much as possible and use a pedal to make up the extra gain, sometimes adding some character in the process. From your question, it sounds like you’re into the older approach. These days, and especially with Orange gear, there’s no shortage of gain available (read: more than anyone who doesn’t own a straightjacket could ever need), so it’s more about the tone. Typically, hard-clipping distortion pedals tend not to work as well into driven amps, especially if the pedal’s gain is set high. This combination can often “cancel out”, actually losing overall volume and pretty much removing any definition. Soft-clipping overdrive pedals work better, especially with the gain set low. These are the pedals I mentioned earlier – the ones that sound weird on their own. This type of pedal (there’s a famous green one and yellow one too) works well because they tend to roll off some bottom end – this stops the amp tone getting “flabby” or “mushy”, staying nice and “tight” instead. Used mostly as a clean boost, these pedals will push the amp further into saturation whilst the small amount of overdrive they provide, in combination with the tonal differences, will add some character and maintain some clarity, especially on low notes. Further to this, some drive pedals retain some of the clean signal too, which can help even more (there’s a gold one that does this – it’s expensive). Fuzz tends to be a bit easier to mix with driven amp sounds and will not suffer as much from the “cancelling out” effect that can happen with distortion. With fuzz, it’s really a case of picking the kind of character that works for you and balancing the gain of the pedal and amp so that it doesn’t become a wall of howling death (unless you’re into that). As far as Orange amps go, there’s a lot of gain and a very full, natural midrange. This means that clean boosts and mild overdrives can work very well, especially ones which don’t colour the tone too much (unless you want even more mids, which is also fine). The pedals Orange have developed are designed to sound good with pretty much anything, obviously including our amps. The Fur Coat Fuzz, Getaway Driver Overdrive (also works well as an “amp in a box” preamp) and the Two Stroke Boost EQ can cover pretty much all the territory I’ve mentioned but, as I’ve said, the real deciding factor is your ears. Check out the product pages and, most importantly, have fun!

What kind of tubes do I need for a tiny terror ? Brand, model, etc…
John: Orange Amps are currently finding JJ Valves to be the best option for preamp and EL84 types so that covers your amp. For other valve types (for the benefit of other readers), it may be that another brand is recommended and fairly regular testing is done to make sure that the best is always being used. It’s best to email in and check at the time you are replacing your valves in case anything has changed.

Best way to get rid of ground loop him when using Rocker 15 Terror or Jim root terror & having a pedalboard hooked with pedals in the effects loop & in front?
John: Ground loops occur in audio equipment when you are connecting together more than one piece of equipment which is referenced to ground. In the case of an amp and pedal board, the amp should be referenced to ground and also, the pedal power supply might be (although the outputs to the pedals should be isolated, removing the possibility of a ground loop). If you are experiencing problems with hum when using your amp with external effects, there are a few possible causes. The first possible cause is that you are using a pedal power supply that is both grounded and non-isolated. This will cause a ground loop when used with your amp. If this is the case, you will need to invest in a professional quality power supply with isolated outputs to the pedals. It may also be that one or more of your pedals is not being supplied with the correct power, causing unusually noisy operation. This would also require a properly-specified power supply. You would also experience a ground loop if you were using a mains-powered effects processor (such as a 19” rack unit) in conjunction with your amp. If this is the case and the processor has a ground lift switch, use it. Note: One piece of equipment in your rig MUST be grounded in order to be safe – in this case, it’s your amp. If there is no ground lift switch, you’ll need a ground isolator. If the processor is being used in front of the amp, you’ll just need one at the output. If it’s in the FX Loop, you’ll need them at the input and output. It is also possible that you have a different fault in your pedal board that is causing hum and being mistaken for a ground loop. This could be a bad instrument lead or patch lead, a pedal that is susceptible to noise (such as a wah or fuzz) being placed too close to a power supply or another fault with a particular pedal. Lastly, I might have misinterpreted your question and you are, in fact, using both amps at once. This will definitely cause a ground loop and require some isolation. If you’ve got them hooked up the simple way (FX Send from one amp → Stereo effects → FX Returns of both amps), then you will just need a ground isolator on the second amp. If you’re using both amps’ preamps and switching between them somehow, then routing to stereo effects and back into both power amps in stereo, you will need ground isolation at every connection to the second amp.

How do I clean my pots on a combo? Got a Rocker 15 with crackly pots on both channels. Awesome amp though – the dirty channel is everything I want in an amp. Make a 50W head with just that channel please.
John: There could be a few causes of scratchy pots. It could either be that they are dirty (and could be cleaned) or that they are worn out (and would need to be replaced). To be honest, either of those is quite unlikely in a new amp. It could also be that the preamp valves are worn. As valves wear, they can become susceptible to a phenomenon called Grid Conduction, which can cause a whooshing or scratching sound when adjusting the amp’s controls – especially the Gain and Volume. The fact that this is present on both channels makes me suspect that this is the problem. The only shared valve in the first ECC83, which handles the first stage of both channels. The other problems I’ve mentioned would likely be confined to one channel. There could also be a problem with grounding or a faulty capacitor, but this is also unlikely in such a new and well-designed amp. In any case, you should refer the repair to a good repair technician or, if your amp is still in warranty, contact your dealer. As for the 50W suggestion, I’ll pass that on to Orange’s Technical Director, Adrian Emsley but I think the Custom Shop 50 will suit your needs very well and I expect him to say the same.

Can I run the Terror Stamp on 18v or will it explode?
John:
You cannot run the Terror Stamp from an 18V supply. It requires a 15VDC 2.1mm centre positive power supply and is supplied with one. The product page will soon be updated with a figure for current draw so that users can specify their own power supply for use on pedal boards.

TH30 paired with a Jim Root PPC212, what results can you expect from those?
John: This will be a very good combination. The closed back Jim Root PPC212 will be tighter sounding and a little more resonant than the usual PPC212 Open Back. I suspect this difference will particularly suit the TH30’s Dirty channel when used for heavier styles.

A couple of months ago I went Orange and got a PPC212 AND a Dual Terror, I’m thrilled and happy, but at some point in the future I’d like to change the Dual Terror but not my cabinet. Which amp head do you recommend to go along my PPC 212 which is more powerfull than my 30 watts Dual?
John: There are a few options from the Orange range that would be a good upgrade from the Dual Terror (not that there’s anything wrong with that amp). If you really like the old-school Orange tone of the Dual Terror but could live with only one channel, the Custom Shop 50 absolutely nails the vintage Orange sound. The Class AB/Class A switch and Point-to-Point construction are also really cool features. If you like having two of the same channel but need a more powerful amp, the Dual Dark is the one for you. The channels are higher-gain than the Dual Terror but will both clean right up if you want them too. Obviously there’s the Rockerverb. It’s the choice for anyone who wants versatility and high power. And Reverb too! Any of these will pair nicely with the PPC212.

Can I run the terror stamp into a combo amp and get a “clean” tone ?
John: This is best answered in two parts:
1. The Terror Stamp can be used for clean sounds all the way up to heavy-enough-for-most-styles.
2. The Terror Stamp can be used as a pedal/preamp in front of a normal amp. Just connect the FX Send of the Stamp to the input of your amp. This will allow you to use all the sounds available from the Terror Stamp – including the clean ones.

I’ve got an Orange Crush 20L and it’s stopped working, plug it in and the light doesn’t come on and no sound. Would it be something to do with the fuse or do I have to have a deeper look?
John: This highlights a common misconception: the fuse is not the cause of the fault – it’s the indicator of it. It sounds like the fuse has blown but this will have happened because of a more serious fault in the amp (it blows to protect the amp from further damage). Your Crush 20L will need to be referred to a good repair technician to be fixed.

2 replies
  1. Stefan Wickenden
    Stefan Wickenden says:

    Hi
    Can I ask if the Rockverb 50 is built like the 1980’s OR80r master volume? My old OR80r master volume 2 x 12 combo was a beast.

    Reply
  2. Gerald_california
    Gerald_california says:

    I have a sunn beta lead it sounds great. But i have a problem. It does not delivers the full power 100 watts RMS. I cn used a master volume at my room an its like I a using a 50 watts RMS o even less. I thake to my tech and he told me that the problem its when the signal enters to the eq section and not in the power amp. Do you have any idea of what could be the problem ?

    Reply

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