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1 Watt amps. Remember that craze? Yeah, so do I. I thought they were a bit disappointing too. The thing is, it seems like such a good idea: you love the sound of your big amp running full-tilt at a gig, but it’s just too loud to be practical in the studio, or sociable at home. Enter the 1W amp – often a simplified version of the front end of a big amp, strapped to a push-pull power amp design made from a dual triode preamp valve. You can see the thinking here but, having spoken to Orange Technical Director and all-round amp genius, Adrian Emsley, I get why this concept misses the point.

Adrian is a man who knows a thing or two about shrinking amps in the search for great tone – he completely turned the guitar amplifier industry on its head (no pun intended) with his now legendary Tiny Terror. This pocket-sized 15W powerhouse wiped the floor with its 100W contemporaries and changed the market forever. The reason? You could crank the Tiny Terror up into power amp overdrive (the holy grail of guitar tone) whilst all the big-rig owners had to get their distortion from the preamp – or get thrown out of the venue for making a racket!

And this is the main problem with the 1 Watt amp fad. Sure, you can turn up the volume until the power amp starts clipping, but you’re still clipping a preamp valve and it still sounds like preamp distortion. You’ll have heard the valve-related terms ‘Pentode’ and ‘Triode’ before and, while they’re a bit nerdy to really go into here, they’ll make some great background reading for those who are interested in this very important difference.

The other big downfall of the 1 Watt amp is, while you’re able to crank it up just like your big amp, it’s not your big amp!! Not only are these often-budget offerings lacking the features or character that we love about our gigging rigs, they also mean you have to buy another amp.

This is where Adrian Emsley stepped in with the aptly-named ‘Headroom/Bedroom’ switch, featured on Orange’s acclaimed Rocker 15 head and combo and the none-more-retro-and-cool Tremlord 30. The Bedroom mode drops the Rocker 15’s output all the way to 0.5 Watts (1 Watt on the Tremlord) by manipulating the signal headroom in the phase inverter part of the circuit. This simple control lets you dial in your favourite gigging sounds so quietly you could hear the neighbours banging on the walls…but they aren’t.

Flip to Headroom and it’s back to all-out, stage-filling, trouser-flapping tone. The best part is you’re always making use of those inimitable pentode output valves and still enjoying every feature of your go-to amp, without compromise. In typical fashion, Emsley has managed to tackle quite a complicated question and come up with an answer that just works. You don’t need room for two amps, you just need Headroom and Bedroom.

My name is Mary Spender, I play the Orange Rocker 32 and most recently, the Rocker 15 head with a 212 vertical cab. I started playing guitar when I was 12 because I saw some boys at school with a Squire and I was very envious because I was doing classical music! Although i was enjoying it – being in orchestras, playing the viola and singing, playing violin – I found it restrictive in some ways because I wanted to write songs. I was listening to pop music (if I can be honest) as my mum introduced me into things like Jodie Mitchell and I just wanted to sing and accompany myself so I played guitar. I started on electric and bought a Yamaha Pacifica 112 and it’s kinda just gone from there.

I chose the Rocker 32 because of the stereo features but I’m totally guilty of not having stereo pedals right now! I also chose it because of the 3-band EQ on the dirty channel. Aside from the set-clean tone, it’s useful to change between the two channels for my style of playing. Orange was a strange choice for my style of music but then it’s very complimentary in the same way… it’s just cool having my Rocker 32 on stage. It was on stage for my UK tour most recently and everyone just said how good the tone sounded so I’ll take that as a compliment!

My Vigier GV Rock in revolution green is my favourite guitar. It’s short-scale, I love it, it has a very slim neck and it’s just beautiful. I’m a singer/songwriter and I’d describe my musical style as intricate, slow guitar playing with a little chicken-picking… but not quite… there’s a mixture of influences such as Mark Knopfler… so that sort of style… but sort of failing at it… so I just came up with my own thing!

The Rocker 15 Terror was released in January,  so seeing the Rocker as a head (rather than a combo) was great… and to be honest, It’s all down to the bedroom/headroom switch. Being at home, you don’t want to annoy the neighbours… too much! Although I love the Rocker 32, especially those 2 stereo speakers, I just loved the idea of having a vertical cabinet and a head!

I first saw the PPC212V at NAMM and Charlie (from Orange) actually told me it was lightweight. I tested it, and obviously carrying amps is bad for your back if they are too heavy. That’s why I chose the Rocker 32 rather than a cab and head before hand… but picking up the 15mm ply-wood vertical cab was better… it was so light. Now I just need to buy a bigger car!

I recently wrote an article entitled “A Choice, Not a Compromise: The Case for the Rocker 15.” In that article I cited the reasons why someone might prefer the Rocker 15 Combo over the larger Rocker 32 Combo. It’s more portable, it’s being used mainly for practice or recording, and it doesn’t have a stereo FX loop (which adds to the cost and probably isn’t necessary for most players).

Now I need you to forget what I said and consider the reasons why the Rocker 32 the perfect combo for your needs.

Reason #1 – You Want A Combo With A Stereo FX Loop

There aren’t many amps on the market that feature stereo FX loops. So, in the true spirit of Orange’s “make what we want” attitude, Lead Designer Ade Emsley added one to the Rocker 32. It’s valve-buffered and 100% true stereo, which makes it the perfect combo for exploring the possibilities of your pedalboard. You’ll never want to use a delay pedal in mono again once you’ve heard the soundscape you can create in stereo.

Or, try it the “old school” way by patching your pedals in wet/dry mode. One speaker has the effects while the other speaker has the clean tone from the amp. You’ll be amazed at the separation and clarity. While the stereo FX loop has a ton of live applications, just imagine what you can do with it in the studio! (Warning: Do not play with the stereo FX loop while drunk…it’s so much fun you may never want to sober up)

Reason #2 – You Need More Power

While the Rocker 15 has some unique power-switching options (15, 7, 1, and .5 watts) that make it awesome for both the bedroom and the studio, the Rocker 32 kicks up the power to 30 watts so you can get the volume you need for full-band scenarios. Also, with that extra 15 watts of power you’ll get the benefits of added clean headroom and extra saturation when you’re using lots of gain on the dirty channel. Don’t need the full 30 watts? Cut the power in half with the “full/half power” switch and you’ll be sitting at a neighbor-friendly 15 watts.

Reason #3 – Tonal Versatility

In many ways the Rocker 32 is Orange’s answer to more “American-sounding” combos. It’s a direct competitor to the Fender Twin Reverb (of course the Rocker 32 doesn’t have reverb, but that’s not the point). At the same time it’s a combo that can stand up to British amps like the Vox AC30. What we’ve created is an amp that sits perfectly in-between British and American tones. If the Twin Reverb is shimmering and metallic sounding, then the Rocker 32 is shimmering but smooth.

The Rocker 32 is currently on stage or in the studio with bands as diverse as The Weeknd, Guided By Voices, Primus, Gene Evaro Jr, and Rival Sons. It’s picking up steam with jazz, gospel, and even country acts as well. If you’re looking for an amp that encompasses a “little bit of everything Orange,” look no further than the Orange Rocker 32 Combo.