Review: Orange TH30 Tube Guitar Amplifier
Orange Music Electronic Company, orangeamps.com
TH30 head, $1,900.00; 1x12 combo, $1,349.00
The Orange TH30 tube guitar amplifier is a versatile, fully modern beast that delivers everything from rich clean tones to the heaviest metal sounds that any user can dial in instantly.
If you're like most guitar players, you probably spend as much time checking out the gear onstage as you do watching a band’s guitarist. If that’s the case, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of bands are using Orange amplifiers these days — from alternative artists like Death Cab for Cutie and the Kaiser Chiefs to heavy acts like Mastodon and Slipknot.
The original Orange amps of the Sixties and Seventies provided exceptionally loud output but only moderate amounts of gain, which helped the company build a cult following among blues rock players during that time. When the company emerged again during the Nineties after a hiatus in the Eighties, it introduced new models with increased gain to satisfy modern players, which helped Orange attract its current impressive list of endorsees and users.
Orange’s latest model, the TH30, provides the highest amount of gain of any Orange amp to date. Though it features just six controls on its front panel, the TH30’s Dirty and Clean channels provide an incredible variety of tones, ranging from sparkling clean and classic Orange overdrive to fully modern metal distortion. If you thought Orange only made amps for classic and alternative rockers, the TH30 will shatter those impressions with its surprisingly versatile tones.
The TH30 is available either as a separate head or a 1x12 combo. I checked out the head with a variety of 4x12 closed-back cabinets, which suited the extended bass of the high-gain Dirty channel nicely. The TH30 is a 30-watt Class A amp powered by four EL84 tubes and features three 12AX7s driving the preamp. A separate 12AT7 tube is dedicated to the effect loop, and another 12AX7 works as a phase inverter. A front panel switch allows you to run the power tubes at full or half power, and a rear panel switch lets you select either four or two output tubes, allowing users to set up the amp to produce 30 (four tubes/full power), 15 (two tubes/full power or four tubes/half power) or 7 1/2 watts (two tubes/half power) of output.
and a volume control. Although the TH30’s Dirty and Clean channels each have very distinct voices, which essentially allows the TH30 to operate and sound like two separate amplifiers. The Dirty channel is configured like a modern master-volume amp with volume, shape and gain controls, while the Clean channel is more like a classic non-master-volume amp with individual treble and bass EQ controls TH30 does not have the most feature-laden rear panel, it covers all of the essentials (one 16-ohm and two eight-ohm speaker output jacks) and offers a few welcome extras (a footswitch jack for channel switching and mono effect send and return jacks).
Like all Orange products, the TH30 head is sturdily built. It features a thick, beveled cabinet protected by the company’s distinctive bright orange basket-weave Tolex covering and black corner protectors. Although the TH30 head is lighter and slightly smaller than a typical 50- or 100-watt head, the designers thoughtfully included a pair of chrome-plated grip handles on the front panel that make it very easy to remove the chassis from the cabinet when servicing the amp. You can easily access all of the tubes by unscrewing the rear grille—no need to remove the chassis from the cabinet to perform routine maintenance.
While most amp aficionados think “AC30” when they see the phrases “four EL84 tubes” and “Class A,” the TH30 has its own distinct voices and character. The Clean channel delivers a delicious glassy treble sparkle and percussive bass spank, and its midrange is more balanced and hi-fi sounding than the AC30’s nasal honk.
Overdrive starts to emerge when the Clean channel’s volume control is dialed around 12 o’clock and the amp is driven by a guitar with medium-output humbuckers. Cranked all the way up, the Clean channel pumps out rowdy classic rock distortion that falls between the blaze of a “Plexi” Marshall and the shiny shimmer of a vintage Hiwatt.
The Dirty channel lives up to its name from the get-go. Even with the gain control all the way down, this channel delivers delightful high-gain distortion that gets more saturated as you crank it up. However, even at the highest gain settings, notes retain exceptional clarity and definition. The shape control produces some rather dramatic tonal shifts, from warm and punchy midrange that’s perfect for singing solo tones with endless sustain to heavy scooped-mid sounds with aggressive bass and stinging highs.
With all four power tubes engaged at full power, the TH30 is as loud (or louder) than many 50-watt heads. The 4/2 tube and Full/Half switches allow you to enjoy all the sonic benefits of the amp’s higher gain settings at lower volume output levels without changing the amp’s overall tonal character. The channel footswitch feature functions quickly with no pops or momentary silence between channel settings, but you’ll need to provide your own footswitch, as the amp does not ship with one.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Don't let the classic Seventies-inspired styling and simple-looking controls of the TH30 fool you. This amp is a versatile, fully modern beast that delivers everything from rich clean tones to the heaviest metal sounds that any user can dial in instantly.
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