With their distinctive orange covering and hieroglyphic control labels, Orange amps have been a sort of boutique alternative to the more mainstream British rock amps. Orange got its start in 1968 when London recording studio/music shop owner Cliff Cooper couldn’t find a supplier for new amplifiers, and was basically forced to design his own amp, which he called the “Orange.” Cooper managed to get one into the hands of Peter Green, and that led to Fleetwood Mac having an Orange backline for their first U.S. tour. Subsequent adoption of Orange amps by Stevie Wonder (amazing in itself on a number of levels) and Jimmy Page helped the brand become a serious option for a lot of major players in the 1970s. The company stopped production in 1980 and went dormant for a time, but Gibson licensed the name and breathed new life into Orange in the mid ’90s. When Cooper got the name back again, he set about updating the line and introducing new models. Oasis and a slew of other Brit-pop bands helped to turn a new generation of guitarists on to the beauty of Orange, and the company quickly regained its reputation for sound and quality. Orange is reportedly the only British amp company that can boast earning the coveted “Queen’s Award for Enterprise and International Trade” … twice.
The Rockerverb 100 MKIII on deck here is evidence of Orange’s continuing mission to evolve its products to suit players’ needs, and to that end what we have here is the latest installment in a line of high-gain Rockerverb models that were introduced in 2005. In basic form, the Rockerverb 100 MKIII is a two-channel amplifier with independent volume and EQ controls and master Attenuator and Reverb knobs. Four EL34s provide 100 watts of power (a 50 watt, 2xEL34 version is also available), and the output can be stepped down to 70 watts, 50 watts, or 30-watts via the Half-Power and 2 Valve/4 Valve switches. While those reductions still classify the MKIII as a loud amp, the aforementioned Attenuator circuit—which is configured post Volume controls—provides full control over the amp’s loudness while keeping the sound girthy and toneful down to very low levels. It’s one of the MKIII’s hippest features, as you can dial it in for any performance space, even your bedroom or home studio, without losing the tactile, dynamic feel. The Attenuator circuit is also footswitchable, which means it can be instantly bypassed it to obtain a volume boost on either channel.
The Clean and Dirty channels are where it all begins, and while it’s unlikely that someone would buy an amp like this for clean sounds, the MKIII certainly has it covered with a Volume control that rolls from pristine with lots of headroom to chiming sounds with a touch of grind to the kind of muscular OD tones that remind me of an old non-master Orange 120 I once owned. Of course, the MKIII lets you scale the power back to 30 watts, making it practical to drive the output tubes hard at less deafening levels for that ultra cool feel of playing the whole amp. If you seek the fiery, early-Fleetwood Mac Peter Green sound, this is probably as close as it gets to what his primordial Orange dished out back in 1969. As always, a little reverb goes a long way with cleaner sounds, and the MKIII’s footswitchable ’verb is surprisingly lush considering it’s generated by a small spring tank attached to the top of the cabinet. The ability to go from blackface “air” to surf drench is impressive, and credit here also goes to a circuit design that uses a custom transformer and a 12AT7 tube for drive and recovery.
Toggling to the Dirty channel, the Gain knob on this preamp ramps smoothly from juicy, old-school grind to searing sustain. The amp’s tight bass response and quick note attack speak to modern rock and metal, and tested through a Bad Cat 4x12 (Orange didn’t send us a cabinet to play with), the MKIII sounded badass with a Gibson Historic ’59 Les Paul and an American Standard Strat. The touch sensitivity is such that I could ride the guitar volume to go between rhythm and lead, and the MKIII stayed defined and non mushy when pushed to the limits of its gain range. I also dug the superbly voiced 3-band EQ, which accomplishes scooped-metal tones as easily as it dials in sounds that are great for blues, funk, country, or pop.
The Rockerverb 100 MKIII is a hell of an amp and a very flexible tone machine for pro players. Factor in its stout construction (the main reason it weighs almost 54 lbs), and classic Orange styling, and it’s an easy win for an Editors’ Pick Award.
ROCKERVERB 100 MKIII
PRICE $2,149 street
CONTROLS Clean Channel: Volume, Bass, Treble. Dirty Channel: Gain, Bass, Midrange, Treble, Volume. Global Attenuator and Reverb controls.
POWER 100 watts; switchable to 70 watts, 50 watts, and 30 watts
TUBES Four EL34, two 12AX7, two 12AT7
EXTRAS Half-power switch. 4 Valves/2 Valves switch. Channel switch. Tube buffered FX loop. 4Ω, 8Ω, and 16Ω speaker outs. Channel, reverb, and attenuator footswitch jacks
WEIGHT 53.8 lbs
KUDOS A killer rock and metal amp. 2-stage power reduction. Footswitchable reverb and Attenuator control. Rugged construction.
CONCERNS FX loop is not footswitchable.