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A world of thick, juicy Orange Amplifier tones in a single pedal that works in front of an amp, into a PA, or straight into a recording unit.


By Chris Loeffler             


Every guitar player loves their amps. Unfortunately, their neighbors, other household members and pets often have a less than fond relationship with the volume most players require to get the right interaction between their guitar and amp. Late nights, small apartments, live performances in churches… there are many times and situations where playing through even the lowest of wattage tube amps just isn’t practical. Tech 21’s Character Series pedals are all-analog pedals designed to emulate the tone and nuance of classic guitar amplifiers that aim to make these limitations a thing of the past.

Designed by Tech 21 design guru Andrew Barta, the Tech 21 Oxford provides decades worth of classic Orange sounds in a single, 9v (battery or adaptor) powered pedal format for running direct into a PA/recording unit or in front of an amp as a distortion effect. Like all the Character Series pedals offered by Tech 21, the Oxford offers Level, Drive, Mid, Low, and High controls (just like a real amp!), adds a Character control and speaker simulation kill switch and features buffered bypass to provide a consistent output for the multitude of applications the Oxford can be put to. 


What You Need to Know 

  • The Tech 21 Oxford Character Series pedal offers a gratifying authentic array of Orange amp tones, from warm cleans to sludgy, fuzzed out distortion, played through their proprietary emulation of a Vintage 30-style 4x12 cab. The Level, Drive, Mid, Low, and High controls provide an accurate sweep of the parameters available in vintage and modern Orange amplifiers, allowing a highly tweakable EQ and distortion experience that is intuitive to any player who has used an amplifier.
  • The Character control is where the magic happens and the core personality of the amplifier behavior is dialed in. Based on Orange’s signature F.A.C. (Frequency Analyzing Control), the Character knob goes from tight and enjoyably lofi at the bottom of the sweep to a thick, vintage aggressive tone in the middle. When turned all the way up, the pedal nails the classic stoner rock “amp about to explode” ripping tone even with the Drive control turned all the way down… filled with presence and higher in fidelity.
  • Played into an amp with the speaker simulation disengaged, the Oxford offers a variety of quality distortion and overdriven tones.  There’s adequate volume on tap to push an amp when the pedal is set to cleaner tones, and finding the right balance of overdrive generated from the pedal and overdrive created in the amp it is feeding to is a rewarding exercise in pulling off previously impossible tones. 
  • When the Oxford is run into a PA or recording unit, it almost too easily captures the sound of a live-miced Orange amp and speaker cabinet. The pedal takes boosts, overdrive, and fuzz in front of it exactly how an amp would, and the added flexibility of running delays or reverbs after the pedal opens up the opportunity for more polished studio tones in a live setting than a traditional amp would allow. The tiniest bit of reverb added in the mixer adds a little space when trying to blend the pedals sound with instruments running through microphones.



  • With so many different eras of Orange crammed into the Oxford, live performances require either sticking with a single tone or tweaking knobs between songs to access them all. While not a fault of the pedal (most amps are single channel, after all), a deluxe version with several bankable presets like their Private Stock Deluxe series would make the pedal even more flexible.
  • There is a slight white noise swell when the Oxford is played direct in quieter, unaccompanied applications.  This is actually part of the Orange Amp emulation, as the original circuits would sag when cranked and needed a moment to recover after a hot input signal.  This noise isn’t detectable in a band setting and is easily carved out for any recording application in post, but in loud amplification and a dead quiet room it is detectable.                                                          


The Tech 21 Oxford Character Series pedal is a worthy overdrive addition to any setup, but really excels at capturing the sound and feel of an Orange amp when run direct into a PA or recording unit. Even the pickiest of players would be hard pressed to argue with the faithfulness with which is captures the Orange experience and how amp-like it plays with other pedals. Based on my experience with the Oxford and a couple other of the Character pedals I don’t know of a comparable product in near the same price range that can match the simplicity, authenticity, and flexibility of the pedal line. Those with the need to run direct when live or late night recording would do well to look into the Series.




Tech 21 Oxford Character Series Pedal at Musician's Friend (MSRP $225, "Street" $169.00)

Tech 21 Oxford Character Series Pedal Manufacturer's Page

Tech 21 Oxford Character Series Pedal Manual

Join the discussion...
Post Comment
CME  |  September 10, 2014 at 11:28 pm

FWIW I have the british version and it too has become my live "amp". Great little pedals. I've used several modelers over the years. I even still have a Johnson Millenium 250 Head and cabinet along with a Pod XTL. But I think they can tend to be "jack of all trades master of none". This with a few choice pedals around it really does the job well. So well another guitar player has picked up the California model. I've actually considered getting a couple of them for my different "channels".

Chris Loeffler  |  September 10, 2014 at 11:15 pm

On a personal note, the Oxford has become my default "amp" since this review.  While I own and cherish a large number of classic tube amps, for regular "cover band" gigs in a five person band get pretty chaotic sonically and every show becomes a crap shoot for where things will be and how to get a decent monitor/room mix.  Having had the opportunity to extensively demo most modelling units available through the years, I never really bonded with them.  As techonology has improved I found the sound quality has gone from "passable" to "pretty good", but the feel was never there.  

The Oxford sits on my pedalboard and runs straight into the mixer, and I know that what I'm hearing is what the audience is hearing (my bassist and second guitarist have moved to Character Series pedals as well).  It takes pedals (a requirement for me!) just like an amp should and sits right in the mix.  An added bonus?  When everyone is running direct (and happy with their sound) the constant upping of volume is drastically reduced.


Don't get me wrong... I love my amps, play through them, and use them for product demos.  Sometimes (most of the time, if I'm being honest), however, the Oxford solves so many problems I forget to miss them.

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