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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.

I have been asked to write a article about an album that has been a part of Orange’s history and ever since then I have been wracking my brains about the band to choose. Then I had an idea! Why don’t I write about one of the bands that propelled Orange into the 21st century with a bang! The band that came straight to mind was Oasis.

Oasis were formed in Manchester in 1991,consisting of two brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher. The band broke into the mainstream in the mid 90’s, with at the time the fastest-selling debut album ‘Definitely Maybe.’

The band followed this success by choosing Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales to record their second album in March of 1995. Critics struggled with the bands change to more ballads and huge chorus based songs, this quote from Melody Maker shows some of the issues reviewers had:

“Laboured and lazy. On this evidence, Oasis are a limited band. They sound knackered.”

Melody Maker

Time would show these reviews to be unfair, with first week sales of 347,000 copies and the album selling over 22 million copies at most recent count. The album cemented the band as one of the biggest British bands ever.

Recording the album

To say the recording of the album was a bed of roses would be a lie, but sessions did start off at breakneck pace, with the band averaging recording a song a day. Infighting between Noel and Liam eventually ground the recording to a standstill, but more about that later.

Control room in Rockfield Studios

The band enlisted Owen Morris to produce and engineer the album, Noel Gallagher the bands songwriter was also on production duties. Morris had previously recorded and produced The Stranglers and Johnny Marr before working with Oasis on their debut. He was largely credited with giving the first two albums the “huge” sound that shaped the bands early records.

Rockfield Studios

‘Some Might Say’ was the first song recorded for the album, it was tracked in March 1995, the reason Rockfield was chosen, was the size of the studios and its accommodation suited the band better.

The studios were split into two, with the Quadrangle and the Coach house which was a smaller room. When Oasis recorded the album they were using a Neve VR console with flying faders. The live room was on the left of the control room, with drum area directly in front and the main studio on the other side. Two vocal and guitar booths were located at the far end.

The guitar amps were all mic’d the same way with an SM57 and a Neumann U87, Bonehead was using a Marshall amplifier while Noel had a Vox AC30, Marshall Combo, a WEM combo and his trusty Orange Vintage Overdrive OR120 Head (see below).

1990’s Orange OR120 Head and matching PPC412 Cabinet from Noel’s collection.

Noel was using Les Pauls and his Epiphone Casinos, while Bonehead just used an Epiphone Casino. The bass amp was recorded using a mixture of an RE20 and DI to the desk.

Into the recording

After the “Some Might Say” recording session came ‘Roll With It,’ this track was recorded live together as the band were familiar with the song. The band played half a dozen takes of the track but in the end the first take was used for the record.

After this the band reverted to using a vocal and acoustic guitar guide to click before the band then overdubbed their parts, this was a method used by Marc Bolan and T-Rex and helped the band to record the songs they were unfamiliar with.

A Visit to the Pub…

Things were going smoothly with the recording session until a visit to the pub stopped recording in its tracks. The band were starting to track ‘Champagne Supernova’ and Liam was bored as he had recorded his guide vocal. So he decided to go down the pub. After a few hours he came back with about 20 locals from the pub and brought them back to the accomodation at the studio. This lead to an argument between Noel and Liam, which led to Liam battering down Noels door to his bedroom. The response from Noel was to hit Liam with a nearby cricket bat. After 10 days of cool down, the band met back up to finish the record and the whole incident was water under the bridge.

The Final Push

All that was left to do was to record the overdubs for ‘Champagne Supernova’, Noel spent most of the time systematically recording his parts without listening back to them in the control room. This lead to them being recorded very quickly. Then the band enlisted Paul Weller to come in and play the lead part on the song. Paul turned up to the Orinoco Studios in South London with his White Gibson SG and an old Vox AC30 amp and laid down the guitar.

He recorded 4 versions of the guitar and then Noel picked his favourite, the Vox was mic’s up with a 57 and there were no pedals used.

What Next

The album became a classic for the band and British music and still is widely regarded as one of the best albums recorded. The band went on to play two huge gigs at Knebworth to a crowd of 250,000 people in total, 2.5 million people applied for tickets.

Noel and Orange

Noel used Orange amps throughout the late 90’s and until the early 2000’s. As well as the OR120 Head and PPC412 cabinet, Noel suggested changes to the Overdrive. He was using the amp with everything up to 10, Orange’s Technical Director Ade Emsley spoke to him about ways to approve his sound. Oasis were on tour in 1997 with U2 and Noel had been using an Orange combo and he wanted more crunch from them. Ade made some changes to the overdrive circuit, which includded modifications to the phase inverter and preamp. These changes gave the amp more sparkle and also formed the basis for the new OTR amplifier.

Noel continued to use Orange amps until the early 2000’s, Orange even built him a Custom Shop Combo 140 amplifier, with 3 12” Celestion speakers. This amp was sold recently on auction site Reverb and fetched £6,800.

Orange Custom Shop NG140 built for Noel Gallagher