Hands-on with latest Orange amp models for OS X

I’ve long been a fan of Orange Amps, the pricey-but-excellent-sounding tube amplifiers. Recently, IK Multimedia released Amplitube Orange: it costs $99, and individual amps are also available in IK Multimedia’s in-app Custom Shop Store, but with AmpliTube running natively on OS X, you can record with them in GarageBand via a plug in. Now, given that most of these amps retail between $800 and $2,100, it’s asking a bit much to presume a $99 amp package will sound at all close. But I took them for a spin anyway.

First, a word about my needs

Here’s a little bit about how I make music these days: most of my guitar playing is spent practicing, or doing some light recording. While I’m not in a formal band, I jam with a few regular folks. My live rig, so to speak, is a small Egnator Tweaker tube head, a Mesa cab, and my pedal board with the usual overdrive, distortion, wah and delay pedals. For the most part, I’m a classic rock/blues guy, but one band I jam with is more fusion-oriented.

I mention this because until I started playing with other musicians, I was perfectly content to use AmpliTube as my practice and demo recording setup. I didn’t really care that the sounds I’d put in a demo reel couldn’t be replicated on my live rig. Now that I might be required to reproduce my sounds live, I’ve had to take a little care that the demo can’t be played live. That means I now split my practice time more like 50/50 between my physical and software amps.

Recording, however, is a different story. For that I’m 100 percent digital. I do not mic my amp. For the most part, it’s to eliminate unwanted noise that tends to happen when recording in a non-soundproof environment. Call me crazy, but my neighbor’s chainsaw is not a proper complementary instrument.

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AmpliTube Orange amps to the rescue

Orange amps are pretty much straight-ahead rock-n-roll amps. I’ve played through quite a few of them, and were it not for the immense price tag, I’d own one or more. Thankfully, now I can get something close to that great sound in an amp model.

The AmpliTube Orange suite contains the following amps: AD-30TC, AD-200, OR-50, OR 120, RockerVerb 50, ThunderVerb 200, Dual Terror and Tiny Terror. Sadly, the Dark Terror series is missing. I spent the most amount my review time with the Dual Terror and the RockerVerb and ThunderVerb models.

Man, I loved them.

In the middle of my blues/classic rock style is a love of roots rock. So, I love me some reverb. While nothing in my mind beats an old-fashioned spring reverb, I was quite happy with the sounds I got from the two ‘Verb amps. The ThunderVerb had a nice, deep tone while the RockerVerb had a lot of pop. I didn’t try adding any effects, wanting to keep the tones as pure as possible for testing, but the RockerVerb would sound excellent with a little slap-back echo.

What’s great about this combination is I can get a rock and roll sound that’s not all that hard to reproduce with my live rig. Some of the other AmpliTube amps I enjoy are modeled after high-gain amps my little rig isn’t equipped for.  I feel a lot more comfortable recording a groove to send out to my mates with the Orange amps.

The Dual Terror is an amp with a Fat Channel and  Tiny Terror channel. I found it gave me a slightly heavier tone, similar to the tone Jimmy Page got on the Led Zeppelin live CD, Celebration Day. I’m pretty particular about my distortion sound. I like my distortion dirty and with big man parts; not the over-processed ’80s hair metal distortion. With the Dual Terror on Fat, I got a nice heavy distortion sound perfect for my heavier rhythm needs.

For lead tones, I still found I needed to add an overdrive pedal to give it a little more boost. I like a ton of sustain on my lead tone, and I wasn’t able to get that solely with the Orange amps. As always, your needs may be different and you might get a lead tone you love without adding any in-app pedals.

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Post-gig report

I’m very happy with the AmpliTube Orange amp package. The entire $99 package also includes nine Orange cabinet simulators. While I could tell a difference between the different cabs, I’m still not completely sold on the idea of cabinet simulators. I still like to judge my cabs on how they move air. Yes, I know it’s a little bit weird I’m on-board with amp simulators, but not cabinet simulators. I’m just weird that way. Therefore, if you aren’t sold on the cabinets themselves, you can just buy the amps you want via the Custom Shop store. IK Multimedia also has a generous demo period. You can demo each amp for two days before the demo times out.

While I don’t think the models are a substitute for a real Orange amp, I think for most guitarists doing home recording they are a good alternative to the stock AmpliTube amps. It’s so easy to record in GarageBand with these amps, there’s no shortage of good sounds you can record with in the comfort of your own home.