Orange OR30 review – a British-built 30W head that can breathe fire onstage… or in the bedroom

This single-channel tube head could put the squeeze on its rivals thanks to a surprisingly versatile range of tones – with a distinctly British accent

Orange OR30
(Image: © Orange)

Guitar World Verdict

The Orange OR30 delivers Orange’s distinctively British tonal character, but with a lot more tone-shaping versatility, particularly in the upper mids and treble, along with enhanced performance flexibility thanks to its footswitch-controlled second volume.

Pros

  • +

    Surprisingly versatile.

  • +

    Superb tones and low noise.

  • +

    Plenty of power.

  • +

    Two-watt bedroom setting is neighbor-friendly.

Cons

  • -

    Cleans are maybe a little polite in bedroom setting but not much to complain about here.

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Orange Amps seem to be showing up on concert stages more and more frequently these days – admittedly, they’re pretty hard to miss with their bright orange covering. But there’s a good reason for that increased visibility, as Orange has steadfastly expanded their products’ features and variety of available tones with some well-designed heads and combo amps introduced over the last few years. 

Orange’s new OR30 is likely going to keep that trend going strong. In addition to providing its own unmistakably British/“simply Orange” tone that fits a nice sweet spot between Marshall amps and Vox, the OR30 adds a few helpful new features that provide expanded stage performance and tone-shaping versatility.

Features

Orange OR30 amp head

(Image credit: Orange Amplification)

With an output section driven by a quartet of EL84 tubes, the OR30 is conservatively rated at 30 watts, although its impressive output levels suggests it’s pumping out more than that. 

Three 12AX7 tubes handle preamp and phase inverter tasks, while a 12AU7 is employed to buffer the effects loop. The amp also features a good old 5AR4/GZ34 tube rectifier that provides tantalizing, expressive sag and smooth attack without sacrificing low-end punch and tightness.

Even after a straight half hour of pummeling the top wasn’t even hot enough to brown a bagel

Front panel controls include a few new features: a cross-line Presence control that is audible at any volume settings (unlike typical negative-feedback presence that is more apparent at higher volume levels), a footswitch-controlled second volume control and a three-way Bright switch, the first Bright switch ever featured on an Orange amp.

Other controls consist of Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass and Gain, and all of the controls are designated in Orange’s signature pictogram fashion. In addition to 1/4-inch send and return jacks for the tube-buffered effects loop, the rear panel includes one 16-ohm and two 8-ohm speaker output jacks, a jack for an optional footswitch to engage the second volume control and the perfectly named “headroom/bedroom” switch that provides either the full 30 watts or only two watts of output.

Orange OR30

(Image credit: Orange)

Performance

Orange proudly notes that the OR30 is one of the company’s first made-in-the-UK amps in a long while, but don’t worry – it’s rock-solid, reliable and won’t spontaneously combust like Moss’s fire extinguisher in The IT Crowd

Even with all of the controls at maximum settings the OR30 seemed to barely break a sweat and delivered noise- and hum-free performance. Even after a straight half hour of pummeling the top wasn’t even hot enough to brown a bagel.

I tried the head with various cabs, including a Vintage 30-loaded 4x12, a 2x12 with 65-watt Celestion Creambacks and a 1x12 with an Eminence Wizard. The OR30 delivered pretty consistent tones over this wide variety of configurations and speaker styles, with the 4x12 sounding like the best match to my ears. 

The Bright switch can nicely compensate for darker speakers, with the left setting providing just a touch more edge while the right setting is much more dramatic, providing a noticeable zing with clean settings (similar to my favorite ’60s Watkins amps) and a razor-like fizz with extreme high-gain settings. The middle setting is neutral.

Orange OR30

(Image credit: Orange)

The footswitch controlled second volume control gives this single-channel amp quasi-dual-channel performance, although it’s really more of a “same sound but boosted” effect rather than a dramatic tonal/textural shift of a true dual-channel amp. You can go from crunch to high-gain roar, however, which is ideal for rhythm/lead switching.

The OR30 provides a decent amount of clean headroom with the Gain control set from minimum to about 9 o’clock with humbuckers, but this amp performs best when belting out loud and proud overdrive crunch and distorted high-gain tones. The EQ knobs are very interactive, and the Presence control and Bright switch provide quite an impressive variety of tonal options in the upper mids and treble regions. 

The headroom/bedroom switch lives up to its promised functionality. For high-gain addicts like myself who live to push amps to the edge but don’t want the neighbors calling the cops every time I want to lay down some tracks, the bedroom setting is particularly effective as it provides those elusive “fire-breathing” tones at mic- and neighbor-friendly volume levels. 

Clean tones at two watts are perhaps a little too polite and genteel, but some nice crunch tones can be dialed in for AC/DC-style head-banging without having downstairs neighbors banging on their ceilings.

Specs

  • PRICE: $1,799 / £1,699
  • TYPE: Tube amp head
  • ORIGIN: UK
  • POWER: 30-watts (2-watt bedroom setting)
  • TUBES: 3x 12AX7, 1x 12AU7, 1x 5AR4 rectifier, 4x EL84
  • CONTROLS: Presence, footswitch volume, volume, treble, mid, bass, gain, bright switch
  • CONTACT: Orange Amplification

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.