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Art always had a huge place in my life. As a kid and teenager, I was an anxious and introverted person and my social life was quite inexistent. I will always remember this feeling of peace I would experience when I was closing the door of my room to go to my little desk and start drawing. I could spend hours creating stories and my own comic books. Everything was possible and this idea always triggered something special in me! When I discovered music, especially metal, with Metallica, Iron Maiden and Testament being the bands I was the most into, it has been a pure revelation for me! I was incredibly empowered while listening to what felt like a type of music crafted for people like me. It was the first time for me to feel so alive! Music had a way to put everything else into another perspective. Suddenly, all the school bullying and anxiety that came with it was gone, only the uplifting spirit of the music mattered for whatever brief of a moment it was.

The next step was for me to embody that empowering spirit by learning to play an instrument myself. In a way, my introduction to guitar probably had the same roots as so many others, but for me, it became the only reason I had to live. School didn’t change, bullies kept on bullying, my broken home kept on getting crazier, but music truly changed everything for me. To the eyes of others, I was still the nerdy guy looking like everybody’s bad joke (When your father says you look great with those glasses, one of those old accountant shirts and a pair of jeans which doesn’t even have a brand, well you’re not going in the good direction, trust me on that one!). Picture that “kid” holding a huge acoustic guitar plugged into a BOSS Metal Zone and a transistor Fender amp… Now you would say that I look trendy and cool… Well, there was a much more darker world before Mumford & Sons, Vampire Weekend, Mac DeMarco and Weezer! So let’s say I didn’t receive much invitations to join bands in high school. Nobody wanted to have Kenny Rogers (RIP) in a Metallica cover band.

I didn’t care that much, because I was suddenly free in a way.

You’re currently playing with Alex Henry Foster, how did that come about?
Sef: Before Alex Henry Foster started his solo project, I was involved with him in a rock band called ‘Your Favorite Enemies’ for about 10 years! YFE has been an incredible creative outlet for me. We toured all over the world, had radio top 10 hits and won all sorts of awards but Alex, who was the band’s driving force, wasn’t really happy… and when his father passed away, he left for Tangier, Morocco to take some time to meditate and write, for 2 years. After a while, he invited us to North Africa for us to spend some time together. That reconnection opened the door for the other members of YFE and myself to be part of his new personal music ventures. It was great news for everyone, but we all had to unlearn the way we used to play our instruments and to let go of all our deeply rooted conceptions of how to write, perform and especially improvise.

Alex’s only rule was this: “Forget everything you ever learned with YFE; from the way you played your instruments to what you ever decided music was about. If you can do that, you’re in. If you can’t, it’s better to not even try to.” So it was really simple, right? Well, if you’re ready to unlearn and redefine yourself, it’s easy. To Alex’s credit, his vision of art has always been freedom. No wonder why he is the one who introduced me, many years ago, to Sonic Youth, Branca, Nick Cave and so many other artists I felt so remote from as a metalhead. Post-rock, what? Shoegaze, noise rock, avant-garde, experimental… it was all nonsense for me. No guitar solos, no sweep picking… what??? For me, Sonic Youth was a total aberration, especially after all the years I had spent emulating Yngwie Malmsteen’s style! But once Alex’s idea started to sink in, I became obsessed with guitar effects and noise experimentations. It was pretty much the same sensation as when I started to play guitar… freedom and emancipation… a new creative language in a way. And that new realm of possibilities had no boundaries! Sorry Thurston and Lee… I may have been a little judgmental at times. Are we still friends?!?

Have you got any other ongoing musical projects?
I have my own instrumental thing going on as well. I released an album called Deconstruction a little more than a year ago. I got into Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ music a while back and wanted to sonically explore away from a collaborative environment… and since Your Favorite Enemies have an absolutely amazing recording studio, I started to experiment with synth, loops and odd guitar tunings in order to create a different way to craft sounds and landscapes. It was the personal extension of the musical exploration Alex had invited me to dwell into. That experience generated a new emancipating dimension. 

As a guitarist, who would you say are your biggest influences?
That’s a very difficult question to answer because I might hurt some of my friends’ feelings if I don’t mention their names or if they ever believed they were an inspiration for me. But, I think that if there was only one name to mention it would be Nels Cline, and for so many different reasons. First, he’s singular and unique, he doesn’t brag, he doesn’t try to be someone else… he is who he is… and I’ve learned to know how incredible of a thing it is. Secondly, his free musical approach towards creation. He’s playing jazz, experimental noise, punk rock, alternative, shoegaze, psychedelic and whatever moves him! I discovered him when I went to see Wilco with Alex during the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot period thinking: “Ah, yes, Alternative Americana… boring.” But how wrong was I again as I not only discovered a brilliant creative universe but couldn’t believe how into it Nels was… intense, always on the edge… and just how insane and intriguing it was to see him giving life to all sorts of sounds with his pedals. And most importantly, all of that was to serve the emotions of the songs. Brilliant and real. 

What are you currently listening to?
Sef:
The album Ummagumma by Pink Floyd, which is odd because I don’t consider myself a fan of Pink Floyd in the first place. It’s Jeff (Alex Henry Foster’s bassist and former YFE guitar player) who introduced me to that album. I was a bit skeptical at first. I’ve never been a fan of the song “MONNNNNEYYYYYYY” that kept on playing 25 times every night when I was working in a factory. So when I first listened to it, it was again the perfect and pure expression of what artistic freedom is about, with many bewitching musical landscapes in which you easily lose yourself!

What’s your history and experience with Orange, and what’s your current set up?
Sef: It started back in 2012 during the writing process of Your Favorite Enemies’ album “Between Illness and Migration”. I was looking for a richer tone, something with personality but that wouldn’t take over the different guitar singularity I had. It took me a while to find it actually. I tried every possible brands available, from the usual ones up to the underground boutique ones. I bought some of them but still wasn’t totally satisfied. I tried different alternatives… pedals, amps modelling and other kinds of things, until a friend working at my favorite music store in Montreal told me, kept on telling me and bugging me “You want an Orange amp” up to, “Dude, you NEED an Orange amp!”
So one afternoon, I finally decided to give it a try, but with my rig. You should have seen me going in the store with all my stuff, it was laughable. Some people are probably still talking about it! It was indeed insane, but I did try different Orange amps. And when I heard the sound of it, nothing else existed around me. When I cranked the preamp, the overdriven sound was tight, rich, powerful, focused and reproducing faithfully the different harmonics of my guitar. I stayed there 3 hours passed the store’s closing hours. No joke. 


My choice, beside the fact that I wanted them all, stopped at the Thunderverb 200 with the cab PPC412HP8 (with four 100 watts Celestion G12K-100 speakers). It immediately became my faithful “partner” in the studio and was the corner stone of my live gear set up with Your Favorite Enemies, especially since the Channel B was a perfect place for me to plug all my different pedals. I was also using the 4 method cables to connect some of my effects, like delays and reverbs, after the preamp section of the amp (Yes, even if there are no laws regarding that, a reverb before distortion can sound a bit messy!). So I was able to get the best of my time-based effects with the big distortion from my Thunderverb 200! A game changer in every possible way for me! As for now, since Alex asked us to change our whole rig for his project, I’m using the same cab (don’t tell him!) but I mostly use the Custom Shop 50! The clean sound is outstanding and it’s the perfect template for my big spaceship (the name my bandmates gave to my pedalboard). Oh, funny enough, it’s Alex who’s now using the Thunderverb 200 for all his guitar noises and textural sounds. But since he doesn’t use guitars the way they were created for, it’s clearly far from YFE’s sound, trust me! And since Jeff is now playing bass in Alex’s project, he is using the AD200B MK3 Orange bass head. We do have a crazy lot more of different brands and all sorts of equipments available at the YFE studio, but we always end up going back to Orange to express ourselves.

Best quarantine activity?
Sef: I got back from a tour across Europe on March 12 with the rest of the band and was ordered to stay in quarantine until further notice. Even Alex, who now lives in the US, wasn’t able to go back home. So now that we’re all living together, in our studio (which is a massive Catholic church we converted into a recording and rehearsal space), we are doing live stream performances to introduce Alex’s new album “Windows in the Sky” to be released on May 1, 2020. 

Here’s our latest performance of a 30-minute version of the song “The Hunter (By the Seaside Window)” off Alex Henry Foster’s solo project, live from our church-studio. The performance starts at 43:30.

I’d like to know why my reverb in my Rockerverb MKIII stopped working.
Mikko: This could be caused by a number of things but the first and most obvious thing to check would be the reverb valve (12AT7). If this doesn’t solve the issue then it will most probably be a bad contact with the reverb cables, a faulty reverb tank or reverb transformer. In any case I recommend getting in touch with your local Orange Dealer or taking it to a local repair shop to get it looked at.

I think the HT fuse went in my OR15? Power amp tubes are very fresh. Any other reason why this could happen?
Mikko: Have you confirmed that it is the HT fuse that has gone or is this simply an assumption because you’re not getting any sound from the amp? If you’ve tested the HT fuse with a multimeter but it looks fine to the eye it could just be a bad fuse. You could try replacing the fuse with the correct type. If the fuse looks charred it has definitely blown due to a more serious fault in the amp. You say your output valves are new but unfortunately that doesn’t mean they haven’t failed yet. You could try bypassing the preamp entirely by plugging your guitar into the FX return to see if you’re getting any sound. This can help you narrow down the fault – if you’re getting sound from the FX Return you have a fault in the preamp (eg. a bad valve).

Why are your tubes connected straight on to the board…? Pretty much going to burn out the board due to this. Why wouldn’t you house them in a chassis then wired them to the board? For $2500 you would hope to have an amp that didn’t have short cuts/ cost cuts.
Mikko: With proper PCB design, a good layout, appropriate creepage clearances, correct voltages and the use of high quality materials and components this is really not a problem. The chassis’ on our amplifier heads are also mounted on the bottom of the sleeve meaning that all the heat will rise out of the chassis rather than into it. We have also made and still make hand wired amps such as the ‘Custom Shop 50’ where all the valve sockets are chassis mount and hand wired.. Of course this is always the preferred method but not everyone can afford a hand wired amp.

I’ve got a 1977 OR80 Overdrive Head (not the combo). It warms up and plays but is on the quiet side. If it turn the volume up to 50% I can talk louder than it….  I put in new matched tubes 1 week before this started happening. Any ideas?
Mikko: The OR80 is a very loud amp so it definitely sounds like you’re experiencing some faults here! Considering the age of the amplifier the first things to know before spunking any more money on tubes: has it been to a tech for an inspection and has it had the electrolytic capacitors replaced? From what you’re describing it does sound like a valve related issue to me. Even though your output valves are new it doesn’t mean they haven’t gone already. There could be an underlying issue in the poweramp or could be that you just received a duff pair of valves. When were the preamp valves replaced? One of these could have failed or worn out. The vintage Orange Amps are notorious for chewing through power valves quicker as they’ve got very high plate and screen voltages and no standby switch to protect the amp from huge inrush currents. I would definitely recommend taking it to a reputable technician who can inspect it, do the required repairs, replace the filter caps (if not done already) and get it biased properly. I would also recommend getting a standby switch installed. It can be installed on the SLAVE OUT on the back so there’s no need to drill new holes to the chassis.

I have a 90’s Overdrive 120 half-stack. (Also an OR15 that I love!) How close to the originals are the 90’s amps? I know some of the chassis, etc are original but is there any way to tell specifics?
Mikko:
For the most part they look pretty close to the originals. The preamp design looks very similar and even the PCB layout is nearly the same as on the 70’s models. Some of the component values are different, for example the capacitor values in the tonestack of the reissues were taken from the Overdrive Series Two circuit. The transformers on the reissues are of course from a different manufacturer. Those 90’s (pre ‘97) reissues were built in the U.K by Matamp and sold by Gibson as they had licensed the Orange name. I have never seen one of these amps or any circuit diagrams for them so I’m afraid I can’t be much more specific than that.

If someone can answer my questions it is probably you: Which Solid State amps can I use without a load? I have an OB1, can I use it without speakers? I was also thinking of getting a Little Bass Thing or a Terror Bass reissue, and that would be a decisive factor. There’s always contradictory information from people on the internet and even from the sales people at Orange. Thanks for your time!
Mikko: You’re fine to use any of those solid state amps without a load. With modern solid state amplifiers this is rarely an issue. This definitely comes in handy for silent recording at home!

Does the original Rocker 30 share a preamp stage with any of the modern heads? I heard the R32 has a different schematic. And is that because of the fx loop? Thanks! Love my Rocker.
Mikko: The Rocker 30 and the Rocker 32 share a very similar preamp stage, they’re nearly identical apart for a couple of components. A little bit of brightness was added to the Rocker 32 clean channel as people thought the Rocker 30 clean channel sounded a bit too warm. There were other design concepts implemented that made these amps very different. Such as: The ‘Rocker 30’ runs the preamp heaters at 5vAC rather than the typical 6.3vAC. The mains transformer used had a spare 5v winding for a rectifier valve (not used in the R30) and this tap was used for the preamp valves.. Very cool stuff! Also the cathode biased EL34 output stage sounds and feels very different.

My JR terror is extremely noisy at high gain… even with a quality noise gate… what could be the issue? P.S… I love your products!
Mikko: The Jim Root Terror is a 4 gain stage amplifier, so it will always have some noise to it at extremely high gain settings. But if you’re experiencing an offensive amount of noise it is very possible that you have a bad/noisy valve in your amp. I would try swapping out the first and second preamp valve one at a time to see if that does the trick. Also make sure you’re using your noise gate in the FX Loop! If you’re using a lot of gain there will always be some noise coming from the preamp so putting your noise gate in front of the amp isn’t going to do very much.

I have a 70’s OR80R combo. Turning up the reverb also adds high frequencies.
Mikko: ‘It will just do that’ is the short answer to this question. Some of the older Orange Amps, especially the rarer models with add-ons such as reverb, master volume, slave outs etc. can be a bit weird with some design quirks to say the least. The OR80R is a very rare amp and there weren’t many made in the first place so it wouldn’t surprise me if the reverb was implemented in some strange way. That said, I have never seen one of these amps in person and there aren’t even any original schematic diagrams left as far as I’m aware. A regular chassis with some rudimentary modifications was used to build these amps so even that shows it was more of a limited and experimental model. It looks like a separate PCB was used for the reverb components and no reverb transformer was used.

Reverb is out on my Rockerverb MKII 100 How do I know if it’s the fuse or spring?
Mikko: If your amp is working but your reverb isn’t, it won’t be a fuse. It will most likely be a dead reverb valve. The Rockerverb MKII uses two 12AT7 (ECC81) valves for the Reverb (positions V6 & V11) and if one of these is dead you won’t get any reverb. If that doesn’t solve the problem then we could be looking at faulty reverb leads, tank or even a faulty reverb transformer. I would recommend taking this to a reputable technician and it should be a fairly quick and inexpensive fault to fix.

My OR15 will turn on but won’t produce any sound. Worked fine the day before this happened. Have checked all fuses and tubes. Took to local shop, but they aren’t a certified Orange dealer, so they couldn’t really do much investigation. Any suggestions? Or do I need to have it sent in?
Mikko: When you checked the fuses did you do it by visual inspection only or did you test them with a multimeter as well? If it was only a visual inspection there is a possibility that your HT Fuse is just faulty (the filament could’ve come loose). You should plug your guitar directly into the FX Return of your OR15, this will bypass the preamp entirely and put your signal straight into the power amp. If this works it could tell there is a fault in the preamp (eg. a bad valve). You could also have a bad contact in your FX Loop jack sockets on the back of your amp. If one of these contacts has dirt or corrosion and something is not making contact it will cut your signal entirely. The FX Loop is a fully valve buffered loop running in a series configuration meaning the signal still goes through the valve and the switching jacks when unplugged. You should definitely try cleaning the FX Loop jack sockets, a simple way is to apply some contact cleaner (if you’ve got some) on a jack plug and inserting it into both sockets a dozen times. This should clear out any dirt and you’ll quickly find out if it was that! If any of the above doesn’t work or help you should definitely take it to a local amp technician/repair shop. They should all be capable of repairing the amp with or without being Orange Certified. Alternatively if you live in the U.K you’re more than welcome to send the amp in for us for a repair. If this is something you’d consider you can email us on workshop@orangeamps.com.

Would my OR15 ever need a “tune up”? Also, how often do the tubes need changing? Thanks!!
Mikko:
Yes your OR15 will eventually need a tune up! Lucky for you these amps are very low maintenance and easy to keep running for years by yourself if you’re comfortable with the occasional valve change. I personally don’t really change my valves unless there is an issue or the amp is starting to sound dull but it is good practice to at least change the output valves every now and then. This really depends on how often you play: If you’re playing everyday and gigging every week you probably want to change them at least once a year. If you play at home once a week and play the occasional gig they’ll last you a lot longer. The OR15 uses 2x EL84 valves in a cathode biased configuration meaning you won’t need to get the bias adjusted when you replace them. You just need to purchase a matched pair of EL84’s (they must be matched) and install them in your amp. I recommend JJ’s as they seem to make one of the most reliable and good sounding EL84’s at the moment, they are widely available and won’t cost you a fortune.

Since this morning I have no more sound on my Orange Rocker 15, but yesterday I had sound. Have my tubes gotten out of service?
Mikko: Assuming the amp still powers on yes it is very likely that one of your valves has gone bad. But first I would check the HT Fuse, this might seem fine on a visual inspection but if tested with a multimeter it could just be a bad fuse with a loose filament. I would also try plugging the guitar straight into the FX Return on the back of the amp. This bypasses the preamp entirely and let’s you plug straight into the power amp so if you’re getting sound the fault must be in the preamp (eg. a bad valve). You should also try and clean the FX Loop jack sockets. The signal still passes through the switching jacks when disconnected so any issues here could cause it to cut out. Apply some contact cleaner (if you’ve got any) on a jack plug and plug it into both sockets a dozen times. This should clear out any dirt or corrosion and fix the problem. If none of the above works it is definitely time to take it to your local Orange Dealer or an amp repair technician.

Which valves should I put in my OTR120? Thanks!
Mikko: For this amp I would try to pick output valves that can handle the higher plate & screen voltages. If I wanted to stick with EL34’s I’d probably go with Svetlana Winged C’s. The KT77 would be an interesting option, they’re a direct drop in replacement but can take the higher screen voltages and I’ve heard them sound great in other amps. Valve choices largely depend on taste and budget but I would ask the dealer about EL34’s that can handle higher plate and screen voltages. For preamp valves I’d personally go with some nice NOS valves like Mullards for example. There aren’t many preamp valves in it (1 preamp valve and 1 phase inverter) so it won’t cost you much, and they’ll last you a lot longer so you won’t be swearing everytime you blow an output valve.

So my OR100 just seems like it loses its balls about 30 minutes into playing. Worn out tubes?
Mikko: This will most probably be old and worn out tubes. If you’ve had these in your amp for a while it’s probably time for a visit to the tech for an inspection, a revalve and a bias!

My RV50MK3 is making an angry kinda grumble/buzz, I’ve taken the back off and tapped all the tubes with a pencil but that didn’t make any noise, where do I go from here? Love your amps.
Mikko: Is this only affecting one of the channels or both of your channels? Is this affected at all by the controls and tone controls of your amp including the reverb? The input jack is on a switching jack so when you unplug it it mutes the preamp. Does it shut up when you unplug your instrument lead from the amp? If the answer is yes to all or some of those questions the fault is most probably in the preamp. If it’s on both channels and none of the controls do anything to it then it’s most probably a power amp issue. It does sound like a valve related problem to me so it might be time to contact your local Orange Dealer or an amp repair technician about a service, new output valves and a proper bias adjustment. If your amp is still under warranty then take it back to your dealer and they will take care of this for you.

What do you use to clean pots that make scratchy noise from dust???
Mikko: Contact cleaner lubricant. They come from many brands but it must be the lubricated type. And don’t use too much! If the pot is still scratchy and didn’t improve at all after the first application the pot might be worn out or you might have a bad preamp valve that is putting DC on the pot.

So I don’t currently own an Orange but I figured you guys could help me out… I recently got a 1969 Marshall Super Lead (my first amp ever) it was serviced right after I bought it, got a new set of power tubes (matched quad) and got it biased. Just yesterday I bought a cab for it (a 1960BV model from 2003), I also bought a THD Hot Plate 16ohm Attenuator so I can use it at home. The problem is my amp gets WAYYY TOO HOOOOT!! After using it for a little over an hour my whole house smelled like a mix of burnt wood, metal and wires, and that smell didn’t go away for like 5 hours after I turned off the amp. I use my attenuator close to the right knob on the front and I was using my amp with the volume all the way up on both channels. I was looking up some information online and apparently people have issues with their Super Leads when they attenuate it too much? Have you guys ever experienced anything like this? Could over attenuation be the cause of the heat and the smell?
Mikko: You are playing your 100W amp at full tilt, things are going to get hot! The amp doesn’t know it’s got an attenuator after it which is kinda the entire point of the attenuator. It lets the amp work at maximum power, cooking the valves and pulling loads of current through the mains transformer and power supply. The transformers are going to get hot, the valves are going to get shit hot and don’t forget about the attenuator which is there to dissipate the excess power into heat before reaching your speakers. Of course things can get a bit too mental and you might blow some valves or worse one of your transformers.. I’ve seen this before.

Traynor YBA1 late 60s. What mods would you do? 
Mikko: First I would make sure the death cap has been removed and a proper 3 prong cord has been installed. If I had to mod it I’d probably mod one of the channels into a plexi style thing as we’re not a million miles off.

Do you guys pack an electrical print with the Amps?
Mikko: If you’re talking about a schematic diagram no we don’t send these out with our amps. We do supply these to service technicians around the world upon request.

What’s a good way to get into amp building?
Mikko: ‘I love the smell of solder in the morning’. Let’s start with the obvious – you need to be very interested in AMPS.. if not obsessed! If schematics, wires, old dusty valves and capacitors remind you of some kind of robotic pornography you might have what it takes! I knew for years that I wanted to build valve amps and work with vintage audio equipment but I just had no idea how to get into it. It was very frustrating because I was completely alone and I didn’t know anyone else who was interested in it so I didn’t have anyone to discuss the topic with. So the hardest thing is to find the information and resources to get started learning and initially you’ll have to do this all by yourself. Be prepared to spend many lonely nights in front of the computer with a cheap bottle of wine building amps in your imagination. The next most important thing is to get out there and meet other people who are into this stuff. That’s easier said than done as most techs are reclusive mad bastards but once you’ve made some friends who work in the industry you’ll be amazed at what you’ll start learning!

Your first project: Are you going to repair, restore/rebuild or scratch build an amp? I know you want to build amps but is this really the most sensible first project? Building amps from scratch costs a lot of money. It’s your first amp so you’re going to make some mistakes, buy some wrong parts etc. and there are no guarantees it will even work. So a more sensible first project could be a restoration. Yes vintage amps cost money too but if you choose wisely and do the work right you’ll at least make your money back or even turn a profit when you resell.. or end up with something really cool?! You will learn a lot more this way and after some success you will have the confidence to build your first amp. There are plenty of amazing books and resources out there, to name a few: The Tube Amp Book by Aspen Pitman, RCA Radio Designer’s Handbook by Langford Smith, Valve Wizard…

Did the overdrive 120‘s used different transformers thru the mid to end 70‘s?
Mikko: Yes Orange used a variety of different transformer manufacturers throughout the 70’s. I’ve seen Partridge in the very early ones, Parmeko towards the mid 70’s and the latest example from 1978 had Ladbroke transformers in it. 

Outside of broken input jacks, what is the most common failure for the amps you see?
Mikko: ‘User has been a twat’ or crap fuses seem to be the most common. You’d be surprised how many people put a pint in their amp!

Where is a good place to get replacement fuses for my Orange amp?
Mikko: If you’re in the U.K you should look on RS Components! They do free next day delivery so I get them from there. If you’re abroad you should try any other electronics/component supplier. The fuse size you’re looking for is 5x20mm and they’re really cheap.

Does the bell bottoms make the amp sounds better?
Mikko: They make everything better! Unless the flare’s too big and I can’t tell which pedal I’m treading on.

Where can I find bell bottoms as dope as these?
Mikko: The ladies section at ‘Council Thrift Shops’ in the corner of North Fairfax Avenue & Oakwood Avenue in Los Angeles, CA. Also there’s no changing room so you’ve got to strip on the shop floor. $8

What kind of oranges do you guys use to get those amps to sound so badass?
Mikko: The Orange Sunshine kind!

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.