For the past decade, amp manufacturers have waged a low-wattage guitar amp war, all vying to produce the greatest sounding tube-powered, low-output machine.
Orange is credited as firing the first shots with its wildly popular Tiny Terror and high-gain Dark Terror amps. That trend seems to be shifting as more and more of these diminutive divas are upsized and reconfigured into multichannel, higher wattage versions.
Orange’s new Dual Dark 50 (which is also available as a 100-watt head) does far more than just repackage the Dark Terror’s high-gain engine. It offers earth-shaking tonal depth, power attenuation and two highly versatile channels, one of which is an entirely new dynamic preamp section created specifically for the Dual Dark series.
Features: Chrome face handles, bulletproof construction and beveled cabinet edges are all familiar sights for fans of Orange’s classic heads, as are the front panel’s pictograph control markers. Channel A offers controls for volume, treble, middle, bass and gain, while channel B’s minimalist but effective control set includes controls for gain, volume and shape.
This shape control is similar to the one seen in numerous other Oranges, effectively allowing the player to dial through a range of EQ curves and achieve ideal midrange balance. Channels are footswitchable or can be selected via the front-panel switch.
The Dual Dark ships with a pair of EL-34 power tubes that pump out 50 watts, but 6L6s and other tetrode tubes can be used, if biased correctly. Power is switchable on the front panel from 50 to 25 watts, but Orange has also included a footswitchable attenuator, which controls attenuation for both channels. Unlike simple preamp attenuation, this circuit allows players to experience the harmonic bliss of a cooked power section at any volume level. Rear panel jacks are included for the tube-driven effect loop, three speaker outputs (two eight and one 16 ohm), and optional channel and attenuator footswitches.
Performance: Curious to see if what I’d heard of the Dual Dark’s abilities was true, I set the amp’s gain at nearly full. What came out was a hair-raising blast of dizzying distortion. Still, this gloriously insane level of gain was controlable, allowing notes to sing without being mushy and lows to sound chunky and tight. Either channel is capable of this wild overdrive, yet each can also be dialed back for truly harmonious clean and historic British crunch derivatives.
Channel A, specifically designed for the Dual Dark, includes complex harmonic tonal elements from the high-end “Pics Only” Orange heads, with much more gain on tap. Channel B is accurately billed as a reproduction of the Dark Terror’s speaker-hammering preamp, only it sounds much deeper, fuller and defined through the Dual Dark’s more robust power section.
Street Prices: 50-watt, $2,299; 100-watt, $2,499
Manufacturer: Orange Amplification, orangeamps.com
Cheat Sheet: Rich with tube tone and impressively malleable, both channels can produce anything from top-shelf clean to vintage crunch and modern über-gain sounds.
Switchable full and half-power options, along with power amp attenuation, provide control over the power amp’s drive, response and overall volume.
The Bottom Line Taking its place among the elite super-high-gain heads, Orange’s all-tube Dual Dark 50 is equally proficient at producing modern, ear-melting gain and yesteryear’s British chime.