It sounds like the set-up for a crap joke: what's Orange, stands in the corner of the rehearsal room and snarls?
But this latest rig from Orange, endorsed by recent BGM cover star Glenn Hughes, is no laughing matter. In fact, it's testament to the credibility of the brand that such a garishly-coloured stack should not only be taken deadly seriously among the hordes of evil heavy metallers out there, where black is invariably king, but also be a very desirable statement of intent for any bassist in need of some proper firepower. Just check the artist roster on the Orange website for proof: everyone who's anyone reliant upon a massive bottom end for their sound is rocking an Orange.
From the moment you try to lift this enclosure out of its box, you know it's built to last. Put it like this, you wouldn't want to be lugging this bad boy up the fire escape of the Duck and Pheasant too many times a week. At the risk of getting too technical, it's very, very big, and with a formidable presence that just screams 'Earplugs!' at you.
Sure, there are smaller, more compact cabinets out there, possibly with a more precise response than this, but do they have the same kind of hulking aesthetic? I think not. The 13-ply high-density 18mm birch plywood this cabinet is hewn from inspires nothing but complete faith in its robustness, and thankfully it comes equipped with very chunky, durable castors and a heavyweight push handle to give you half a chance to manoeuvre it where you want it. If you need to handball it up and down stairs – God forbid – there are substantial hand-holds located low enough to lift it with assistance. And when you get where you're going, the high-impact anti-skid feet bring it slamming to a halt and keep it rooted there until you've finished rocking out. It's a back breaker, for sure, but well worth the effort, because having this beast behind you will definitely put a smile on your face.
The head is of a similar sturdy construct, with corners you could park a dump-truck on, and front-mounted with two meaty metal handles for hoisting up onto the cab. Again, you might want to get a lift off someone though, because amps this heavy and cabs this tall are a recipe for physiotherapy if you're less than six feet tall and not built like the proverbial outhouse. Excessive weight aside, both amp and cab are wonderfully constructed and professionally finished and appear nigh-on indestructible – right down to the humongous control knobs, some of the biggest you'll ever see on an amp. Of course, any tube head is only as sturdy as its weakest link, the valves, and there are four 6550s powering this blast furnace, with a warmth of tone that blows transistors out of the water.
The amp is incredibly simple to use, probably as simple as any head out there, which is both reassuring and refreshing. With essentially only a master volume and gain, and three tone controls, it takes but seconds to dial up something super low and heavy.
No, it's not the most versatile of amplifiers, but easily one of the most powerful, and pound for pound this would give anything on the market a run for its money in the bottom end stakes. Played with fingers and heavy on the bass frequencies, reggae grooves are imbued with a studio-quaking rumble, while pushing the gain and the mid- to high-end using a pick produces a truly monstrous, dirty rock growl. And best of all, running a SansAmp pedal through it and easing back on the mid summons an incredibly percussive, attacking tone that cuts through any mix with incredible clarity and warmth.
It's quite a tightrope to walk to pinpoint that abrasive bite without losing the organic guts of the sound – that satisfying clank with a thick gurgling depth behind it – but this Orange rig nails it, and then some. I'd go so far as to say that it's the punchiest sound I've ever extracted from a bass amp, and it's hard to imagine ever having to crank it much higher than six. Which isn't very rock 'n' roll, I know, but it's great to have an amp that can push the required volume without the soundwaves disintegrating to mush around you.
Bizarrely, the control configuration has the treble on the left and the bass on the right, which purists might find confusing for all of 30 seconds, but you soon adjust to this arse-backward lay-out, and it's rather nice not having to pore over rows of EQ sliders in search of your sound. You know, the one you had down just right until the support band got onstage and messed with your settings? Fret not, fellow bass warriors, because you can't go wrong with this head – no matter how addled your brain may be from standing in the firing line of this baby for hours on end. Quite literally, plug in and kick ass. There are passive and active inputs depending on your instrument, the active with a -15 db pad so she doesn't burn too hot, and there's a slave output too, but you won't be needing that.
The towering cabinet, with its eight 10" Eminence Legend ceramic speakers, can handle anything and everything this head can throw at it, and would probably chew up and spit out a whole lot more. There's not a hint of rattle, no matter how much you crank the bass, and the higher notes lash out with a spiteful vengeance – this enclosure really moves some air. Whether you're required to lay down a crunching back beat, tightly syncopated to the drummer, or a throbbing groove that ebbs and flows with the song's dynamic, or prefer to cut loose with swathes of chords or embellish the rhythm section with tricky little runs, this tower of strength gives more than enough power to your elbow to do so – with plenty in reserve.
It's probably too much like overkill for a pub's back room, but there's nothing like a little overkill now and again, is there? As long as the hassle of moving it doesn't outweigh the joy of making such sonic statement every time you plug in. And of course it will hold its own on any larger stage too, both visually and sonically. It's a devastating weapon for your arsenal – and you don't want to take a knife to a gunfight, do you?