Orange Tiny Terror

From the glittery, glammy majesty of towering over T.Rex’s Marc Bolan in the ’70s to recent showcase moments as Prince’s backline, Orange amps have always cut striking figures. Conspicuous design was paramount to founder—and current CEO—Cliff Cooper when he formed the U.K. firm in his Compton Street music store/recording studio during the heady days of swinging London in 1968. Major manufacturers had shunned the young Orange store, which forced Cooper to develop his own line of amps to sell, and he wanted those babies screaming for attention. It was definitely hard to ignore his amps’ pungent orange vinyl, Buck Rogers controls, Hobbit-like typefaces, and “Voice of the World” coat-of-arms. Through the years, Orange has bustled in and out of prominence in the States, but the company’s artist list is proof of an iconic brand, as everyone from Black Sabbath to U2 to Pink Floyd have mixed a bit ‘o’ Orange into their music.
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The new Tiny Terror ($699 retail/$549 street) is the smallest all-tube amp Orange has ever made. Designed in the U.K. by Orange Technical Director Adrian Emsley, and currently built in Korea (future units will be manufactured in China), the TT comes with a cute, padded gig bag with shoulder strap, and I immediately initiated the “rushed-and-clumsy-guitarist test” by smacking the unit against the door jam of my rehearsal studio. Twice. The amp’s Zintec chassis and vented steel top suffered no damage—even though the gig bag’s padding is far from what you’d call “protective”—and none of the tubes were jostled from their sockets. The bitty Brit brat seems pretty tough.

During band rehearsal (two guitars, drums, and vocals), I switched between Marshall 4x12 and Mesa/Boogie 1x12 cabinets, and plugged in a Fernandes Ravelle (armed with a neck-position Sustainer and a Seymour Duncan JB bridge pickup) and a new, totally resin-molded Flaxwood Fairlane (with three Seymour Duncan lipstick pickups) from Finland. As Emsley didn’t want much of anything “messing with the signal,” the Terror’s front panel is as joyously simple as a T. Rex boogie riff. You get three controls: Gain, Tone, and Volume knobs, and on/standby/off and 7 watts/15 watts switches (power reduction is achieved by lowering the plate voltage). The back panel offers one 16-ohm and two 8-ohm outputs, fuse access, and the power-cord input.

Initial sonic impression: This sucker is LOUD. On the 7-watt setting, I positioned Gain near 12 o’clock, and Volume at a bit past 9 o’clock, and I had to knock the levels down a tad to avoid blitzkrieging the vocals. At a cranked 15 watts, I fully obliterated the vocal mix, the other guitarist, and a fair chunk of the drums. You’ll definitely be able to hear the TT on moderately loud stages, and in all but the most deafening rehearsal spaces. Tonally, the Terror unleashes total rock glory, from ’70s-flavored tight-fisted distortion to garage-inspired ragged chime. It’s also an extremely touch-sensitive monster, allowing swings from clean shimmers to dirty barrages with just a twist of the guitar’s volume knob, or by increasing the intensity of your attack. The amp is probably too rude for jazz, polite funk and reggae, and old-school country, but it wails at any music needing a meaty kick in the sonic solar plexis. I really enjoyed the Tiny Terror’s fat, yet articulate sound, and how the amp responded to my playing dynamics. The Terror delivers maximum roar with minimum hassle, and it’s such fun to play that I ended up discovering a few new riffs during rehearsal.