Review: Orange Micro Dark Amp

A prime example of how looks can be deceiving, this pint-sized head is huge when it comes to tone.
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A prime example of how looks can be deceiving, this pint-sized head is huge when it comes to tone. But that’s not really a surprise, considering that the Micro Dark head is based on other raging runts in the Orange Terror line, such as the Tiny Terror, Dual Terror, and Dark Terror. I tested this 20-watt, hybrid tube/solid-state amp with my Les Paul, plugging it into a Peavey 2x12 cabinet, and immediately got a massive tone that we’ve come to expect from the current Orange line.

Obviously designed for hard rock and metal players—which is a good fit for me, as my band Discordia performs symphonic metal—the Micro Dark puts out high gain for days. Hide the amp behind a curtain, and I don’t think anyone would guess such aggressive and loud sounds are coming from a diminutive amp that weighs just 1.72 lbs. Although there’s a single Tone control—the Shape knob—it handles midrange frequencies (of which I’m a big fan) quite cleverly. A counter-clockwise turn brings on some very articulate mids with a steely attack, while a clockwise twist cuts the “speaking” mids around 1kHz-3kHz, and brightens up high-midrange sounds in the 7kHz and higher strata. My favorite sounds were produced with the Shape control at the 12 o’ clock position. Here, I got a beefy and coherent tone that was stable even when I cranked up the saturation and sustain. One of my pet peeves is an amp that gets muddy when you play low, heavy chords, but the Micro Dark stays tight and ballsy, and it never breaks up in a bad way or gets boomy.

This is also a very responsive amp. I adjust my guitar’s Volume knob a lot for dynamics, and the Micro Dark followed every level tweak and change in my picking attack. I could be raging one moment, and then knock down my guitar Volume, and instantly play almost clean in order to leave more sonic space for our singer. The Micro Dark retained its clarity and depth no matter how much I moved from saturated tones to chime-y sounds to edgy overdrive and back again.

While the Micro Dark is loud enough to handle most club stages—and it can certainly hold its own on any stage if run through the monitors—it’s also an excellent practice amp. You can adjust the Gain and Volume knobs to craft extremely savage tones at don’t-wake-the-baby levels, and, if any kind of volume is a bad thing for your house mates, you can plug in some headphones and still hear accurate live-amp sounds via Orange’s CabSim feature that emulates an Orange 4x12 speaker cabinet loaded with the company’s own Voice of the World speakers. You can also run a ¼” cable from the headphone output to a mixer or recording preamp and track the Micro Dark’s speaker-emulated tones direct—no microphones required.

Admittedly, you may get some strange looks if you show up to a metal gig with an amp head that can fit into a toddler’s Hello Kitty backpack, but the Micro Dark is definitely no kiddie toy. It’s more than capable of delivering all the vicious tones you can dial in, and there’s no shame in going for a super-light amp that does the job and costs just $189. Anyway, who’ll have the last laugh when you’re onstage, set up, and ready to rock while the other guys are still sweating and grunting to move their half-stacks around?

MODEL

MICRO DARK

CONTACT orangeamps.com
PRICE $189 street

SPECIFICATIONS

CHANNELS One
CONTROLS Gain, Shape, Volume.
POWER 20 watts
TUBES 12AX7/ECC83 preamp/solid-state power
EXTRAS ¼" headphone output with CabSim feature, ¼" speaker output, buffered effects loop.
SPEAKER None
WEIGHT 1.72 lbs
BUILT China
KUDOS Small. Sturdy. Dynamic. Ferocious.
CONCERNS None.

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