With their bright colours, sci-fi controls and distinctive crest, Orange amps couldn’t have been born in any other decade or any other country.
When Cliff Cooper opened a music shop and recording studio in the summer of 1968, he never imagined that from this near-derelict premises in the heart of swinging London, a sound and a brand would emerge that would still be going strong more than forty years later.
The tone and expertise of a host of famous names went into the development of the first Orange amps. Guitar luminaries like Peter Green and Paul Kossoff plugged into early prototypes at the Orange Shop, and their feedback was baked into the amp circuitry. Orange has sounded like no one else since.
And they haven’t looked like anyone else either. Right from the start, Orange took to heart guitar design legend Les Paul’s maxim that “people hear with their eyes”, and began producing heads and cabinets that once seen, could never be forgotten. All of Orange’s trademark design cues were there from the start: the vivid vinyl covering, the amp control hieroglyphics, and the regal crest, establishing a look that has set the standard for British amplifiers ever since.
As the sixties drew to a close, Orange amps began to be seen on stage with some of the biggest names in music. Fleetwood Mac were the first chart group to go Orange in late ‘68, taking the company’s first half-dozen 100 watt amps to America, and in 1969, Peter Green took the first 200 watt head on their spring tour with BB King. Pretty soon, the list of Orange converts began to fill up with names that still inspire legions of devoted fans today: Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Page, John Mayall, and even James Brown – the King of Soul himself – relied on Orange’s already famous tone.
The seed planted in 1968 began to grow into a genuine ‘World Tree’ by the start of the 1970s. The crunchy mid-range of Orange’s amps made them popular with blues-influenced rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Free, and even metal pioneers Black Sabbath. Sales exploded on the back of these influential endorsements, and with the release of the classic 80 & 120 watt OR amp, at one point Orange was even outselling Marshall.
You remember the 80s, don’t you? We try not to.
After the electronic revolution of the 1980s, rock music was ready for a comeback, and Orange was waiting. Bands like Oasis and Travis went looking for the sounds they’d grown up with, and turned to Orange’s quintessentially British tone in their droves. Orange was back, and production ramped up on a new generation of amps that would propel the company into a new millennium.
Just as the leading lights of the 60s and 70s helped shape the Orange sound for their generation, in 1997, Noel Gallagher popped in to Orange HQ to lend a hand. Touring with U2 at the time, Noel wanted more sparkle and crunch out of his amp, and after plugging in and cranking every available dial up to ten, he showed the Orange team what he meant. Noel’s feedback was integral to the development of a new overdrive circuit for the OTR head, delivering crunch, sparkle, and sustain that almost lived forever…
In 1998 the flagship AD series launched, which helped establish Orange back at the top of the amp tree. Quickly becoming a favorite with recording stars everywhere, the AD15 was Jimmy Page’s amp of choice on tour with the Black Crowes. Then in 1999, the AD15 became the first British amp to win an ‘Editor’s Pick’ award from US Guitar Player magazine.
Rock’s return to the top of the charts inspired a new wave of aspiring guitarists, and with the launch of the affordable Crush in 2001, for the first time Orange was able to cater to beginners and guitarists without rock star paycheques. At the other end of the scale, Orange continued to add to its impressive list of acolytes, handling the tone requirements for everyone from Prince to Slipknot, from Madonna to the Arctic Monkeys.
During the course of the decade, Orange continued to innovate, adding new models to the product line such as the Rockerverb (favoured by Jim Root of Slipknot, and Madonna’s guitarist Monte Pittman). Then, in 2006, a completely new concept in portable amplification was unveiled: the Tiny Terror. This little amp came with its own custom-made gig bag, and sold over ten thousand units in its first year. Guitarists were suddenly liberated by the ability to take studio standard amplification absolutely anywhere. From its successful launch, the Terror family has grown to include the Dual Terror, the Terror Bass, the Terror Combo and the Dark Terror to name but a few. On the back of these impressive sales, and even more impressive innovation, 2006 also saw Orange win its first Queen’s Award for Enterprise.
In 2008 Orange celebrated its 40th birthday, launching custom shop limited editions, and the Anniversary OR50 head. A year later, the company would celebrate its second Queen’s Award for Enterprise, firmly establishing Orange as one of Britain’s global success stories.
2010 and beyond
Orange might have reached comfortable middle age, but our innovations haven’t slowed down at all. Since the turn of the new decade, the Mini Terror, the Rockerverb MKII and the TH30 series have all been added to the product line, and received rave reviews in the press – while Orange’s revolutionary DIVO OV4 valve optimisation unit has once again pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in traditional valved amplification.
Then at the start of 2011, Orange launched the OPC, a musician’s workstation offering unparalleled functionality. A hybrid PC/Amplifier, the OPC created huge buzz when unveiled at CES 2011, and showed that even after forty years, Orange is still leading the way when it comes to providing musicians with the tools they need to unleash their creativity.