CREATING THE FIRST ORANGE AMPLIFIER…
In the early 1960s, a Yorkshireman called Tony Emerson was a member of ‘The British Interplanetary Society’ – a group of H.G. Wells-inspired space-age futurists. He designed a state-of-the-art hi-fi amplifier – the Connoisseur HQ20. Tony subsequently took this to show his friend Mat Mathias at ‘Radio Craft’ – a small repair business operating from the back of a tobacco shop Mathias had in Huddersfield. This later inspired Mat to build his own guitar amplifier called the Matamp Series 2000 – which was initially a 20 watt, and then a 30 watt model.
In autumn 1968 Cliff Cooper was looking for a sub-contractor to manufacture amplifiers for Orange Music and was introduced to Mat Mathias. By the end of the year a 100 watt upgrade (powered by two KT88 valves) of the Series 2000 went into production housed in a bright Orange picture-frame sleeve designed by Cliff. As a courtesy, Matamp’s logo was added to the front plate below that of Orange’s.
Matamp remained Orange Music’s main amp supplier until 1971-2 during which time three versions of the Orange Matamp were made: the ‘prototype’ 2 x KT88 100 watter; the 4 x EL34 100 watter (OR 100) and the 4 x KT88 200 watter (OR 200) which was also available as a slave amp.
Orange Amplification’s innovative marketing methods ensured that Orange Matamp amplifiers sold in large numbers worldwide but by 1970 Cliff Cooper was looking to design a guitar amp that was definitively rock’n'roll. As explained above, the Orange Matamp was originally designed to be a clean sounding hi-fi amplifier and, increasingly guitarists were of the opinion that this amplifier sounded too clean*.
It was around this time that Cliff hit on the idea and concept of Classic Amplifier #2: the ‘Pics Only’ was launched in 1972 and would define the Orange sound.
* The subject of clean versus distorted sound in amplifier design is covered in much more detail on pages 12-13 of The Book of Orange.