Orange Amps and Marcus King have teamed up for a signature tube amp head, making history for British amp titan with the the Marcus King MK Ultra being the first of its guitar amps to be designed and built in the USA. And it looks pretty special indeed..
All tube, all hand-wired, the 30-watt MK Ultra is a guitar amplifier that prizes simplicity and tone, with a stripped down control panel featuring dials for Volume, Deep (bass), and Sing (treble) the three-knob control panel simplicity is obvious. Orange boldly promises that the custom-voiced EQ makes it “impossible to dial in a bad sound”, with the MK Ultra offering a superb platform for your pedalboard.
The MK Ultra has a pair of 12AX7 preamp valves, with a pair of cathode-biased 6L6GC tubes in the power amp, and features a US-made custom Heyboer transformers. The rear of the MK Ultra features 4, 8 and 16-ohm speaker outputs.
As you might imagine of an amplifier bearing King’s name, the MK Ultra is all about touch-sensitivity and dynamics. Whether with his solo band or The Marcus King Band, King’s playing can reference the blues, soul, RnB and rock. In 2021, King told MusicRadar that when he first picked up the electric guitar he was trying to emulate the female voice.
“When I actually started out playing guitar my intention was to try to emulate the female vocal cords with my guitar through my amplifier,” he said. “If you get a Marshall stack to sing just the right way you can almost emulate a Tina Turner or Janis Joplin. But it doesn’t quite get there.”
Maybe the MK Ultra will get that little bit closer. Although it only has three controls, they are interactive, with the amplifier’s response changing as you turn up the volume, getting more spongy as the power tubes are pushed. This is when the magic tends to happen, and if it gets a little too rowdy sounding you can always roll back your guitar’s volume control and it should clean up nicely.
As for the EQ, it approaches guitar tone from a different perspective, with the Sing treble control described as a “variation input bright control” that can be used to fine-tune the amp to your guitar, while the Deep bass control adds “an overall thickening” – Orange advices setting the Sing control and volume first, before dialling in desired level of Deep.
The Orange Markus King MK Ultra is available now, priced £2,499. See Orange Amplification for more details. The launch of the MK Ultra comes almost a year to the day since Gibson released a replica of King's Big Red, a 1962 ES-345 that was passed down from his grandfather.
King's signature guitar comes straight out of the Custom Shop featuring a sideways vibrola, Custombuckers, the customary Varitone switch and a Sixties Cherry VOS finish that gave it its nickname.