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1969 was a big year for Orange Amplifiers. It was when we found our mojo, what we call the Voice of the World.

50 years on we take a look at the world of Orange and how together we’ve shaped the Voice of the World.

Fleetwood Mac Sweden November 1968 with the very first Orange backline & PA.

Having started by making super clean lead amplifiers Orange soon began to look for ways to increase the ‘perceived’ volume at the request of our customers. Our equipment gave out a true 120 watts RMS but lower-powered models from other manufacturers sounded louder.

The solution came to Orange Amplifiers CEO Cliff Cooper after a meeting with a leading ear specialist in London’s Harley Street.

The brain can register distortion as pain in order to protect the mechanism of the ears. The jagged harmonics produced by the distortion work the ear’s conducting bones harder, and this is perceived by the audio nerves as an increase in sound level. The original Orange amps were especially clean sounding with very little distortion. In order to correct the situation, we gave the amp a lot more gain and modified our circuitry. These changes gave birth to the ‘Orange sound’ – best described as ‘fat’ and ‘warm’ – more musical and richer in harmonics, with a unique saturation in the mids.

Cliff Cooper

Success soon followed with a boom throughout the 1970s, but changes in circumstances meant that by the end of the decade production had almost stopped. Yet Orange Amplifiers remained at large and were gathering an unseen legion of fans.

The Voice of the World was resuscitated in 1997 when Britpop pioneer Noel Galligher visited Cliff Cooper and now Technical Director Adrian Emsley in Denmark Street where Cliff ran a shop. Noel wanted to add more crunch to his vintage OR120, eventually leading to the development of a new amplifier, the OTR. This heralded the second coming of Orange. This was closely followed by the AD series in 1998.

Noel Gallagher’s Orange Custom Shop 140

In a world far, far away from Britpop, stoner rockers were also adopting vintage Orange within their wall of sound. The embers of Orange Amplifiers, smouldering in the limelight of yesteryear, went from a flicker to a roaring flame when an Orange OR120 was featured on the album insert of Sleep’s 1998 release ‘Dopesmoker’.

“I’ve been using Orange for kinda a long time actually. I was watching Black Sabbath on MTV when I was a kid and I was like Orange, Orange, Orange. After that, we started buying Oranges up when we first, kind of, started the band. That’s kind of I was going for – you know, in the beginner like a classic, rock, overdrive. Now I’m just using massive mountains of Orange” – Matt Pike of Sleep

Since the 90s, Orange Amplifiers and the Voice of the World has become synonymous with music from every genre: Country to Metal, World to Jazz. Even from our humble beginnings, Orange has always been a David and Goliath-like story, we’re not just a business full of execs in suits, with Orange it’s personal. We’ve done all the jobs possible: roadie, performer, rigger, producer, repair engineer; in other words, we understand your voice, it sounds a lot like ours.

Shaping the Voice of the World

1.     Built to last, our speaker cabinet design went beyond the designs at the time. 18mm birch-faced marine ply, a central baffle post and tough Orange vinyl was the standard we set. It still remains to this day.

2.     Wooden skids replaced plastic casters. No more broken wheels and the skids act as a coupler, enhancing the bass response.

3.     Orange Amplifiers own our factories, unlike other OEMs who use contractors we’re able to manage every step of the production process in house, irrespective of the country of manufacture.

4.     By over-specifying on the transformers, we reduce the amount of heat building up inside your amplifier, meaning longer operational life. 

5.     Those very transformers prevent the amplifier from throttling the output signal, which means passing the whole frequency spectrum without losses to the top and bottom of the range. 

6.     Almost all our amplifiers (bar the Terror Bass) feature a tube buffered FX loop ensuring the signal chain isn’t compromised at any stage. 

7.     Analogue is the standard, that means no digital modelling. Only the highest quality components and that all-analogue design is what brings Orange Amplifiers tone to life

8.     We created the first-ever digital amplifier with the OMEC Digital back in 1974.

9.     While we launched don’t mess with what’s inside the amp we’ve brought the same commonsense Orange thinking to the digital era with the OMEC Teleport, a latency-free AD/DA converter, marrying up old and new technology and super simple to use.

10.  We justify our all analogue circuitry through what makes Orange ‘Orange’. Just switch the amp on and you’ll get what we mean, no tone hunting required. Simply plug and play.

11.  Built for international touring artists as well as home use, wattage switching options are designed into many of our amplifiers. Also this feature is ideal for pushing your amp to the edge.

12.  Experimentation is our bag, take for instance the Rocker 32 which features a two 10” Voice of the World speakers which can run in mono, stereo or even patched one side wet and the other side dry.

13.  Speaking of those Voice of the World speakers. What makes them unique is a very fast and tight bottom end that speeds up with more overdrive, alongside a vintage sounding top end.

14.  Our flagship Rockerverb MkIII is built on three generations of development based on user feedback, featuring a four-stage ‘dirty’ channel that gives mid-range crunch the more you crank it.

15.  We’ve also led the revolution of lunchbox proportions with our now discontinued Tiny Terror heralded as “the most important guitar product in the last 30 years” – Guitarist Magazine. Although you can’t buy the original anymore, we now do a 30-watt version, doubling the power!

16.  Innovation is something we’re proud of, and we’re keen to support innovators too such as Kelby Ray of The Cadillac Three. His lap steel rig brings out both the highs and the lows taking the grit of the AD200-MK3, and the crunch and full-bodied mid-range of the AD30HTC and OR15H.

17.  It’s not just Kelby who’s at it with innovation. Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick’s monster rig features both Orange bass and guitar amps pushed to their limit, Petersson’s sound comes from when the amp is “about ready to blow up”, but they don’t blow up…

18.  See number 5.

19.  Orange Amplifiers, valve or solid-state, are made to bring out the expression in your playing, offering a dynamic low-end with a focused mid-range and harmonics that are present across the full frequency spectrum.

20.  Most amps are black. We can do black, we prefer Orange though.

21.  Our solid-state amplifiers are based on achieving that classic British Orange valve tone, only much lighter.

22.  We might over-engineer our equipment, but that’s why we’re on the rig list for most major equipment hire companies.

23.  One example of why is that we lay extra-thick PCB traces (Rock and Roll, I know!) to prevent impedance from building up unwanted heat.

24.  Alongside the lunchbox design, we also recognised that people are using pedals more and more. So we created the Pedal Baby 100 which gives you all that Orange clean tone in a portable unit, leaving you to add whatever you need on top. 

25.  It’s as much the genius that creates our technology as it is people we learn from that makes Orange Amplifiers the Voice of the World.

Last year we celebrated our 50 year anniversary, that’s half a century of Orange Amps! What’s even more impressive, is the fact that the company is still family run, with the CEO and top-cat being none other than founder Cliff Cooper himself, running the show decades down the line. Working closely with him, is son and Marketing Director Charlie Cooper – gotta love a family business, eyh?

When founded in 1968 as ‘Orange Music’, Orange was originally a retail store selling secondhand music equipment, doubling as a recording studio in the basement. However, it didn’t take long before Orange took on the task of making their own amps. Cliff had studied electronics at college and was ready for another challenge, and amplification named after his favourite colour seemed like the logical next step. Once Orange Amps became a reality, Cliff started searching for a company to help manufacture the amps, and eventually went with Mat Mathias of Radio Craft. At this point, Mat was working on his own 30w Matamp Series 2000 at the back of his tobacconist shop in Huddersfield.

When developing the Orange sound, Cliff worked closely with guitarists to find out what they wanted, and with artists such as Eric Clapton, Marc Bolan and Paul Kossoff all being frequent faces at the Orange shop he had pretty must the best customer feedback any man could hope for in those days. The original Orange amps had a very clean sound, so clean that despite blasting them at full blow they didn’t have the same effect as some distorted lower watt amps. The reason for this, is because the harmonics created by distortion works the ear’s conducting bones harder than a cleaner, less distorted sound, which is then perceived by our audio nerves as an increased sound level, and it wasn’t until the circuits were modified and a whole lotta gain was added that the Orange tone we all love and adore was born.

In October 1968, Fleetwood Mac’s former tour manager Dinky Dawson and guitarist Peter Green stopped by the Orange store and placed an order for the first ever Orange PA, which a mere four weeks later was a reality when the band got six 100w amps and sixteen cabs which they took for a spin around the UK, before flying them over to the states for a three month tour.

Creating these amps, Cliff and Mat Mathias worked together with Cliff supervising the 2000 Series being upgraded from 30w to 100w on Fleetwood Mac’s request, while the picture-frame amp sleeves and speaker enclosures were built on site in the Orange shop. Being on such a tight schedule, the brand new and iconic psychedelic Orange logo was sent up to Huddersfield to get engraved using a company Mat had used in the past – out of courtesy, Cliff also agreed to add the Matamp logo beneath it, which is when the whole ‘Orange Matamp’ confusion started. To set things straight, ‘Orange Matamp’ was never actually a company, however, it was a product, a very successful one, I might add, with some artists even using theirs this day to day (Wishbone Ash’s Andy Powell being one of them.) It didn’t take long before Orange was the talk of the town, and the company pretty much jet launching into oblivion with even the likes of BB King giving Orange a thumbs up!

Eric Clapton

Business was booming, and Cliff was keen to move production to larger premises to get on top of back-orders, as well as having this idea of ‘Cooper Mathias’ becoming a sub-contractor for other amplification manufacturers. Unfortunately, Mat Mathias had a different vision, and the two went their separate ways, while remaining friends until the passing of Mathias in 1989. As for Orange, the rest is, as they say, history. Filling you in on 50 years worth of history is quite the challenge, but if you wan’t to dig a little deeper we’ve got a whole series of ‘Building the Brand‘ on our blog – who said history couldn’t be fun?

Paul McCartney congratulates Orange CEO Cliff Cooper

Orange Amplification Founder and CEO, Cliff Cooper has been made an Honoured Friend of the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). He was presented with the award by Sir Paul McCartney at a ceremony held on the 26th July 2019 at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

When making the award, Mark Featherstone-Witty of LIPA said, ‘Cliff is our Honoured Friend. This rather special award is given to people who have been generous …….without a hint of expecting anything in return. So Cliff for this award you are an exemplar!…….Putting something back is part of your psyche…….You are a hero and it is good to know there are people like you in the world and even better, associated with us!

Founded in 1968, Orange Amplification was born from Cliff’s love of music and skill as an electronics designer. The company is famous for its British made AD and Rockerverb series and the introduction of the groundbreaking Terror, Crush and Crush Pro series. Many of the world’s greatest guitarists and bassists love and use Orange’s iconic amps including Jimmy Page, Stevie Wonder, Foals, Oasis, Mastodon, Madonna, Jim Root, Billy Gibbons, Geddy Lee, Glenn Hughes, Orianthi and Marcus King to name but a few.

LIPA was co-founded by Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty in 1996. Today, LIPA is a university-level provider of world class teaching for performers of all genres. Earlier this year, five LIPA graduates made it into Stage’s list of the 100 Most Influential People Working in UK Theatre.

Cliff and Orange started working with LIPA more than fifteen years ago when he purchased the Beatles Museum from Wembley PLC. When he sold the museum to Liverpool Council it had more than doubled in size. ‘I am extremely proud to receive this award, especially as it came as a complete surprise and from such a distinguished Institution’ said Cliff commenting on his award.

Cliff joins a list of people honoured by LIPA that includes The Late Sir George Martin, Sir Ian McKellen, Ozzy & Sharon Osborne, Bill Nighy, Ben Elton, Dawn French, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson, The Late Amy Winehouse and many, many more.

To find out more about LIPA, please go to lipasixthformcollege.org

All You Ever Wanted To Know About Your Favourite Amp Manufacturer And More

The Orange Beach Buggy c1970

Everything you ever wanted to know about Orange Amplification which started in September 1968 and its unique heritage is now available on the newly launched https://orangeamps.com/history page.

Explore the company’s rich and colourful fifty year history with an interactive timeline that takes readers through Oranges successes, achievements and milestone events. The vibrant, candid and engaging articles combine with archive images to bring the whole company history to life.

Did you know that in the beginning Orange started a successful record label, opened a shop, built Orange  recording studios, Orange publishing, Orange Hire and Orange Booking Agency? They even made Beach Buggies, one of which they kept and used for promotional purposes. Fascinating facts about all these activities and more are detailed in the Orange History alongside vintage pictures which really give a feel of the exciting times in which Orange was born.

For sound aficionados the Orange History offers loads of interesting information about how the distinctive Orange sound was shaped and developed in 1969, including how a Harley Street hearing specialist solved a mystery!

During the early years many famous musicians would visit and hang out in the Orange Shop, and many used Orange amps and speakers. The Orange History is packed with charming snippets and rarely seen images of the who’s who of rock and roll including rare pictures of Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Zapper, Paul Kosoff and loads more.

Over the decades the brand has seen the launch of many new, innovative and revolutionary products and has grown exponentially into a global amplification company, receiving many awards and accolades, including a record three Queens Awards for Export and Innovation. The company’s many achievements are listed chronologically on the Orange History page giving an insight into its continuing success.

The new page makes for intriguing reading, not least because it clearly illustrates the company’s forward looking perspective and the use of ‘future’ technology. CEO and Founder, Cliff Cooper’s favorite mantra has always been  ‘what’s new and what’s next?’. The Orange brand will always be about the sound of the sound, high quality products with durability and its successes continuing to point the way ahead.

Pages

Building the Brand & Book of Orange

A digital version of our now sold-out book

Since I founded Orange back in 1968, I have always believed that no other company could have cared more than us about innovation in guitar valve amplifier design and sound technology. Our latest amplifier designs still reflect this approach, and I am especially pleased with recent innovations made by Orange in the field of transformer design. To reach these achievements, we spent years studying, experimenting and testing in order to improve on the best. However, it’s not just about transformers, valves and circuit design. It’s about how the sound is perceived – something that I have always thought of as ‘the sound of the sound‘… it’s about the physical pleasure that the sound of an amp gives a guitarist as he plays. That is what really matters. The ‘Orange Sound‘ didn’t just happen, it has taken many years to perfect and fine tune. In the same way that guitarists – no matter how good they may be – can always learn new skills and improve, we will also continue with our search for perfection.