Orange Crush PiX CR35LDX Combo
Orange Music Electronic Company Ltd., orangeamps.com
Originally published in Guitar World, June 2010
The 35-watt Crush PiX CR35LDX combo is the heavyweight of the new PiX line, with searing overdrive abilities and a beautifully integrated built-in digital effect section.
Orange's original Micro Crush amp made a believer of players and reviewers who didn’t think a solid-state, battery-powered amplifier could produce the upper-midrange brilliance, soft crunch and layered harmonic swells of Orange’s legendary tube amps. Since the Crush’s wildly successful introduction in 2006, Orange has continued to refine and upgrade the design for players who want an essentially maintenance-free amp for practice, recording or small venues.
The PiX Series is Orange’s latest line of solid-state dynamos. The name is a reference to the company’s use, here and on previous models, of hieroglyphic symbols on the control panel to illustrate connection and control functions. The 35-watt Crush PiX CR35LDX combo is the heavyweight of the new PiX line, with searing overdrive abilities and a beautifully integrated built-in digital effect section.
Even though this is a relatively inexpensive solid-state combo, Orange didn’t skimp on anything, including the exterior. The amp is covered in the company’s recognizable basket-weave orange tolex and heavy tan grille cloth, and black piping adds a nice accent stripe. Orange-and-black graphics with hieroglyphics on a white background complete the classic look. Fortunately, for those that are not familiar with the hieroglyphs’ denotations, Orange also has the standard control names under each knob or jack.
The Crush PiX pushes 35 watts through a 10-inch speaker. It’s an ideal speaker size for this wattage, because of its natural tendency to highlight midrange and high frequencies. Circular ports in the baffle board and a nearly closed-back cabinet design enhance the low-end performance.
The single-channel preamp has controls for low, mid, high, volume and gain. There’s also an overdrive circuit with its own level control, activated by either a top-panel’s push-button or a separate footswitch. The headphone jack and stereo mini jack are useful for practice applications and allow connections to a CD player, laptop or MP3 device.
The digital effect section doesn’t have an on/off switch—just turn the effect level control to zero. The 16 effect programs include a vibrato, four reverbs, a reverb and delay combination, four delay times, and slow and fast speeds for chorusing, flanging and tremolo effects. A separate push button engages the top panel tuner. It doesn’t mute the amp’s output, so you can leave it on all the time.
Solid-state amplifiers are more compressed than tube amps and can’t produce the same deep imaging, something that is especially noticeable on clean settings. However, Orange found a way to utilize the compression, speaker and cabinet such that there is still ample note separation and a candy-sweet layer of overtones that enhance every sound. Its clean tones are especially ear pleasing, and quite a while passed before I realized I had yet to dial in any crunch or high-gain sounds.
When I finally dialed up the gain knob, I was shocked by how close the PiX’s crunch tones were to the sound of my tube-powered Orange amps. While not quite as dynamic as the tube amps, the tone was spot on, and in some ways I preferred the evenness of the PiX’s output across the spectrum of amplitudes. With the gain knob full up, the crisp crunch morphs into a thick distortion. Activating the overdrive switch and dialing up the overdrive level knob pushes the preamp much like an external distortion or overdrive pedal. This puts a storm of screaming gain at your fingertips, but the classic Orange hues of warm bass, blooming upper mids and harmonically dense highs remain intact.
I have to give Orange extremely high marks for its digital effect integration. Turning up the effect level had no impact on the signal volume or tone, and the effect parameters are perfectly preset to compliment the amp’s innate characteristics rather than overwhelm them. These aren’t studio-quality effects per se, but I have yet to hear another built-in effect section that is so finely tuned.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Orange's Crush PiX CR35LDX is addictive both for its tones and features. Regardless of the solid-state platform and low price, the clean, crunch and high-gain sounds are worthy of the Orange badge. Add to that the perfectly executed accompaniment of digital effects, and you’ve got another inspiring addition to the Orange amp line.
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