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Dark tones for a bright future!

By Chris Loeffler

 

Orange amplifiers have been in production since 1968 and have earned a reputation as being the “other” English vintage amp for heavier rock tones. Combining the harmonic complexity of a classic Vox with the rude, saturated gain associated with early Marshalls, the hallmark of the Orange sound is a dark, almost fuzzy distortion created in higher gain settings and warm, edgy cleans. The last ten years have seen a significant expansion of the Orange amp line as designers supplement the legacy of the AD30 and Thunderverb with smaller wattage amps like the Tiny Terror and high wattage, multi-channel offerings like the new Dual Dark series amplifiers.

The Orange Dual Dark 100 is a 100 watt tube amp head that features two channels (A and B) with Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, and Gain controls for Channel A and Volume, Shape, and Gain for Channel B as well as a global output attenuator. The preamp section features five 12AX7’s (four for preamplification and gain, one as a phase inverter) and there are four EL-34s in power amp section (as opposed to only two in the Dual Dark 50). The amp head includes a low resistance effects loop and 8 and 16 Ohm speaker outputs for maximum compatibility with speaker cabinets.

What You Need to Know

  • The Orange Dual Dark 100’s Channel A is built around an entirely new voicing that builds on the foundation of classic Orange tones with a slightly more modern and high-fidelity frequency band while significantly expanding the gain range from even more sparkly cleans than usual to something like twice the gain of a typical vintage Orange. The four gain stages (preamp tubes) allow distortion that is not only thick and syrupy but also complex without getting buzzy. There is quite a bit of magic to be found in the “in between” settings, and the amp has the right amount of jangle and roar in low breakup settings.
  • The Dual Dark 100’s Channel B takes the sonic imprint of the Orange Dark Terror to the big stage by adding nearly seven times the output wattage and a lot more gain on tap in the preamp section. The Shape control, a carryover from the Orange Thunder series, is a frequency filter that cuts or boosts the mids while adding or subtracting bass and treble frequencies. This is the gainer, almost fuzzy (but never buzzy) Orange sound made famous by stoner rock and metal legends. Most players will never need to have the Gain control past noon, but it’s nice to have the option to go thermonuclear at a moment’s notice.
  • In comparison to the Orange Dark Terror, the EL34s of the Dual Dark 100 offer more bass, punch, and a slightly thicker mid-section while the Terror’s EL84s produced spongier gain with more emphasis in treble and a higher upper-midrange curve. Obviously, the tubes are far from that only thing that are different (different circuit topology, different stress levels on the power tubes given wattage handling, etc), but the end result of the comparison is that the Dual Dark 100’s Channel B is a bigger, more aggressive version of the scrappier and more (pleasingly) lo-fi Dark Terror.
  • Channel switching and, surprisingly, attenuation can be controlled via an optional footswitch for players looking to access the power of both channels in a live setting. The attenuator can effectively even be used as a post-distortion clean boost for players looking to bump the volume during solos without changing their tone or gain structure. The Attenuator does an admirable job of cutting volume without altering the tone. The ability to cut the Dual Dark 100 from 100 watts to 70, 50, or even 30 watts makes it easier to push the power amp tubes into compression and gain in smaller venues.

Limitations

  • While I would be hard pressed to say it is needed, the Orange Dual Dark 100’s approach to pure tone excludes onboard reverb.

Conclusion

The Orange Dual Dark 100 is a beautiful, brutish beast of an amplifier that nails the marriage of classic Orange tone with modern fidelity and increased gain without ever sacrificing cleans or warmth.  An amp that can please both classic rock players and dropped-tuned sludge metal guitarists is an impressive feat to pull off; Orange makes it look easy. 

 

Resources

Orange Dual Dark 100 Tube Amp at Musician's Friend (MSRP $3,399.99, Street $2,499.99)

Orange Dual Dark 100 Tube Amp Product Page

 

 

 

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

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