Okay, I'm BBg'd up. (I'm going to call it that.) Actually been messing about with it for a couple of weeks now. Been busy though so didn't want to tease before I could report properly.
Cut to the chase: Any good?
No, 'any good' doesn't really apply. It is - as promised 'seriously
bonkers'. As Ade himself said 'unhinged'. Also (IMO) insanely brilliant. Of course at the price it would have to be better than just 'good' - but yeah Andy likes...
Packaging open the pedal comes in an Orange labelled real denim bag. (You bunch of old hippies Orange, nice one!) A 9V battery and even instructions
) are included. Big, solid, and yes it has the same sort of notched controls as the RV. Mk.3. Handily if you count 24 hour 'clock style' they are at every half hour from 07:00 to 17:00 (= 7am - 5pm if you can only count to 12), so noting and recalling settings should be a doddle.
Quick look inside. Neat. Two nice wee PCBs, lots of components neatly top and bottom soldered, solid. The flimsiest thing in there is - no surprise - the standard 9V battery connection.
Plugging in and those two huge LEDs are OTT glare monsters. Fortunately the lenses make tight beams and from off axis they aren't so bad. Could be dazzling on a dark stage but at least if you don't stand directly above the thing on a dark stage you probably
won't be bathed zombie style in blue and green. At least they'll give you something to aim for in the dark.
Yep, it has gain...
I was a bit worried that it might not say clean at all with my higher output basses but no problem. Like my OR120 Overdrive things start to dirty up from about 09:30 - 10:00, but below that it is clean.
Something I don't
like: The lowest (07:00) clicks on the gain and volume controls are silent, but unfortunately the next click up (07:30) also does nothing. Pity that as at higher gain levels the output is HUGE and I really do miss being able to take the volume down that one step further. (Have to turn the amp down instead to get back to anything like the bypass level!) Hmmm what's up with that...
Above that each click certainly
does something. So around 09:30 - 10:00 things start to crunch. Heading up towards 12:00 things click up in reasonably progressive but obvious gain steps. The crunch to early drive sounds are definitely very dynamic and pretty uncompressed. Maybe not quite so much as my Rocker 30 - but that amp is extreme. They are also very convincingly 'Orange' in texture, the lighter distortion definitely has that prickly Orange character as it decays - excellent. Just don't expect any AD30 like spongy compression here - just ain't
going to happen at those lower gain levels. What you do get is pretty tight and touch sensitive in terms of going from softer cleans to louder drive depending on your picking attack, exactly the way I personally like it. It does clean up well from your guitar so if you use the guitar controls (what they are there for!) you'll have no problem finding the exact level you want. Good good good.
Moving up the gain range from around 13:00 you'll notice things start to accelerate away in much the same way as happens with the Rocker. You very quickly hit really high gain and it just keeps on going. It does indeed get mad, there really are pretty insane
levels of gain available here. Apparently more than on any current Orange amps, so - a lot! And as I said the output levels can get very high too, even with the output volume down to minimum (08:00
) so it can also really push a valve input stage hard too if you want. Huge fun of course, and I could get near endless sustain with fretted notes including on bass
, even at lowish room volumes. The only other thing I have with anything like this amount of gain is my trusty Award Session JD10 preamp, another brilliant box I have enjoyed for years. (Wonder if Ade was in any way inspired by it?) My wee Mesa Subway Rocket Reverb combo has a fair old bit of gain available but definitely not this much. I don't normally use really high gain myself but the BBg is a whole lot of fun up there so that may well change. Of course it does compress more up there so you need to roll your guitar volume way back to actually notice much change at all. Anyway, more than enough gain to satisfy the needy.
Yep, has that too...
Right, the 'Bax' bit means you have a Baxandall EQ. Big
fan of those. The vintage ORs had two band (bass and treble) Baxandalls (plus the famous FAC switch for more starting points). Many older Ampegs also had 2 band Bax EQs (plus a separate mids control) - as does my Genz Benz Streamliner bass head. They were also used in many better hi-fi audio amps because they are both very effective and also very sweet and natural sounding. You'll hear many say it is hard to get bad sounds with a Baxandall EQ, lot of truth in that IMO. Instead I find you can use them to get lots of very different very good sounds.
And that fully parametric mid control? Well I'm a big fan of parametrics too. While if you aren't careful multi band parametrics can get a bit tricksy...
(http://forum.orangeamps.com/viewtopic.p ... ic#p585414
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...having just the one for mids is a great idea and dead easy to use.
So the three controls let you tweak not only the level
of the mids (cut or boost), but also both the centre frequency
, (variable from 140Hz to 7.6kHz according to the manual), and the bandwidth
('Q') meaning the spread of frequencies being affected. You can tweak from a very narrow band right through to a very broad range of frequencies. Ade says that this mid is also a Baxandall which may well be so - they are normally just two band EQs but apparently don't have
to be. At any rate having all this give you way more control than normal over those all important midrange frequencies. Want even stronger low mids - easy. More upper mids punch or rasp, just dial it in. Scooped? Scoop to taste. Just use your ears and experiment, you can get many many different great results very easily indeed.
Ade on it HERE
alexauxier wrote:The Bax sounds AMAZING on a bass. I may even like it better on bass.
Thanks for that Alex! That helped persuade me and you're not wrong. Pretty freaking fine for guitar too though!
Typical Orange, this thing is very simple to use, very powerful, sounds and even FEELS fantastic. With the big multi position knobs on a big heavy box it does have a feel all of it's own - almost more like an old fashioned heavy duty switching network than a guitar pedal, though not quite so clunky. Character is certainly not lacking. (Though I'm wondering just how many of the white on white will sell, black or even orange knobs would have been much better IMO with the white box.)
Is it a full Orange amp in a box? Not quite, it still misses that very important special something which the best valve amps all have. (No, IMO that is called an output transformer! I don't actually believe for one minute that valves themselves are quite as important as the OT is!) But anyway that's okay, it is a preamp, not pretending to be anything else. However...
While I haven't done any direct recording using either the straight output through another amp or directly with the G12H /4x12 speaker sim. output, I think it'll work fine for both, definitely for bass, probably no problem either for guitar. The cab sim. output makes exactly the sort of difference I'd expect, focussing things a bit more on the mids which is what electric guitar is almost all about. The cab sim. output is also certainly usable through another amp; running that way you just get another whole series of tonal options, some of which may even become favourites. For bass it gets you closer to the vintage effect of playing bass through a guitar cab. Early days yet, so much to try, but that is what I love about simple effective boxes like this.
Does it 'citrify' a non Orange amp? Well, pretty much. Just how well it'll work is totally going to depend on what you put it through and how that
colours the sound. The first things I put it through (my 'acid tests' if you like) were my tiny Markbass Micromark 601 combo (useable both for guitar and bass) and my Hiwatt head through guitar and bass 1x12 cabs.
Through the MB combo I immediately had BIG GRIN sounds both with both a Jazz bass and a Tele. The BBg just fits on top of it while leaving the two amp controls at the back free to tweak. This is going to be a seriously fun combo, and exactly the sort of thing you could use at a jam session or small gig for guest guitarists if you can't be bothered bringing another full sized amp along. Also for bass I'm working on some stuff right now needing those mildly overdriven but punchy and defined '70s prog. rock sounds. Nailed 'em!
Through the Hiwatt (the real acid test for 'most any
pedal I guess) I was initially a bit disappointed on bass. Until I thought it through and realised what was going on. It may not have a Baxandall EQ but this is another amp with sweet sounding yet very powerful EQ, one which can also get a huge variety of very different but very good sounds. (Again, hard to get truly bad sounds out of a Hiwatt!)
The way I have been setting it up lately is to sound great with straight clean bass and also when kicking in my recent (EHX) 'Bass Soul Food' overdrive for a bit of crunch and punch. The BSF works great - very neutral sounding tonally so just adds drive to the sounds you already have to simply turning great cleans into great crunch / drive sounds.
Trouble was that with those same amp settings I couldn't get the BBg to sound anything other than thin and middy. Even with extreme BBg EQ settings I was losing the body and sweetness of the direct amp sound. Bah!
Step back, rethink...
Okay, dead simple really. While the Hiwatt regularly gets me the very best straight to amp clean bass sounds I have ever had, (/ heard!), the settings I typically use are nothing like 'flat'. I needed to try for flat EQ or thereabouts first. Quick search and yep, 'flat' (or close to) on the Hiwatt is something like:
Bass 12:00, Mids 07:00 (= @ minimum), Treble 10:00. (On Fenders and many others it'd typically be bass and treble at minimum, mids at full - a not so slight difference!
Dialled that in and bingo, things were immediately very usable. Sure, punching in the BBg wasn't immediately giving me nicer richer sweeter cleans then the Hiwatt alone does. But get real, IMO probably nothing out there ever will. What it was
giving me was very much Orange flavoured clean and drive sounds and another great platform to experiment on, with the potential for some massive 'damage' - of the good kind.
For guitar the results were similarly exciting. Brilliant in fact.
Have since checked it out with my Tecamp and Genz Benz bass heads. The Tecamp does classic 'flat clean' with 12:00 EQ settings and works a treat. The GB specialises in giving more rounded 'big vintage valve amp' like sounds, big solid warm and effortlessly punchy. Both worked really well in different ways. Also tried guitar through my (one tone, one volume) Fender Pro Junior. Not pure 'Orange' of course, but really great sounds, and lots and lots of them from warm cleans to scooped or searing ultra gain madness. This thing is just so much fun to play with and I don't just mean by constantly twiddling the knobs. Many settings sound so good that you just don't want to change them ever again. You could package them as separate stomp boxes and they'd sell well.
Okay, one big question remained: how would it work with the Rocker 30? Well Great Googly freakin' Moogly people, we have lift-off. Put it this way, this is definitely one overdrive pedal which does
work with Orange amps! You'd maybe think it'd be too much, Orange on Orange, but in fact I could dial it through the Natural (ultra low gain, clean) channel to sound very close to various different dirty channel settings. Was it just as nice and organic that way as the straight dirty channel? Not quite, but pretty damn close, and with lots of character and (even) more versatility. Definitely totally useable for more switchable options. Did I have fun? Oh H3LL yeah!!!
(/ Health warning!
This thing is nuts and I love it! It can get totally bonkers but puts out some very serious sounds. Ade must have been rubbing his hands with glee - like a mad professor with brand new invention - when he presented this baby at Orange HQ.
Dangerous too. Well for starters it is going to shave your wallet some. I reckon if you like the Orange sound and you try it you'll really want to own it, real 'need' being irrelevant here. It is a really great sounding preamp with plenty of huge sounds and huge character.
Be warned though, it is seriously powerful, ('unhinged' seems fair, maybe even a bit modest from Ade), and could easily blow gear / ears. As with using big powerful valve amps to avoid any very nasty 'Back To The Future' type moments you do need to check where the BBg volume / gain controls are set before
you let rip. (That roll bar prevents accidentally nudging the gain control - a very good thing. A good policy too would be to roll your guitar / bass volume up gently too just to be safe!) The maximum output levels from this box are very high and at fairly high gain levels each click makes a large difference to the output so you do need to watch out. I'm used to that with the JD10 pedal, but most normal drive / boost pedals just don't have this sort of output headroom.
With most valve amps (especially used in an FX loop situation where it will drive the power amp pretty directly!) that means things could suddenly get very loud indeed - even at fairly low amp output volume settings. (An amp's main volume control sets the amount of amplification, but even when that is set lower large input signals can mean high amp volumes and the BBG can put out very high signal levels!)
With solid state amps (which it'll work very well with!) you'll need to be careful not to blow speakers. Again that could easily
happen at even moderate amp settings. If you just crank up the BBg gain more than a click or two without taking the output volume way down you will
have some 'entertaining' moments. Could you use it direct to PA for guitar? Sure. But you'd need to be mega careful not to blow the whole PA rig. I'd almost certainly put some sort of hard limiting compression after the BBg for peace of mind. I don't think that peace of mind is what this box is really about though!!!
Scary stuff Ade. Great job!
PS: Yeah I know, 'pics or it never happened'. Maybe later, kind of busy here...
(PPS: Edited for a couple of minor brain-fails.)