3 Monkeys Orangutan
By Michael Kohn 07/12/11
I was a kid if you wanted to buy a tube amp you had mostly the big amp companies
to choose from; Fender, Marshall, Peavey, Mesa Boogie, etc. Sure there were
small builders out there but they were pretty “under the radar”, after all
it was the pre-internet era. I know…hard to imagine! Now days, there are a lot
of boutique amp builders out there. It can be difficult for an amp to stand out
in the crowd with so many contenders. Rarely does it seem like an amp can live
up to the hype that surrounds it. I’ve read many, many glowing reviews of this
amp and that amp. Besides getting to go to NAMM annually, we have a lot of local
players that come to the shop to get their gear tubed up. Needless to say, we
get a chance to hear and play a lot of amps! Some of the boutique stuff I’ve
played is honestly kind of under whelming. Sure it looks nice and has a hefty
price tag but it falls short tonally. In my opinion there is a pretty short list
of builders whose amps truly stand out in the crowd.
Ever since I first heard of 3 Monkeys amps I’ve been intrigued since the company was co-founded by Brad Whitford of Aerosmith. I figure the man has gotta know good tone. Plus, they look killer! Recently, I traded a guitar for a 3 Monkeys Orangutan. It was a cross country trade so I didn’t get to hear the amp first. Risky, I know…but I had a good feeling! I called up 3 Monkeys to get some technical info on the Orangutan before it arrived. I spoke to Greg Howard who is also a renowned guitar tech for bands like Aerosmith and Green Day. He was really helpful and let me know that the amp was designed around the JJ 6V6 and JJ ECC83S’s. Cool!
I received the amp a few days ago. What a beauty with its surf green tolex and crushed glass faceplate! I plugged it into my oversized Anderson 2x12 cabinet loaded with Weber Blue Dogs. All I can say is, “Wow!” This amp truly stands up to the hype that surrounds it! It’s non-master volume and has pretty basic controls. There is a “Voice” switch, which interacts with the volume control that changes the gain structure and tone as you switch it. It helps give the amp a gamut of tones which are kind of like a Fender, Vox, Marshall and Supro all rolled up into one.
The cleans are fat and full with plenty of sparkle, chime and swirl. The overdriven tones are truly outstanding, very organic and rich! This amp can conjure up just about any classic rock tone you can think of; ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Hendrix, etc. It also sounds great for punk rock riffage. Your playing attack really dictates the response of the amp which makes it very dynamic. You can have a glorious clean tone that will easily breakup when you dig in hard. The amp has a unique feature called “Lift” that is footswitchable. It defeats the bass control to add a gain boost and overall clarity. The reverb, which is labeled “Room” is outstanding… it never washes out even with a lot of gain and sounds very natural.
Overall, the Orangutan covers a lot of territory; country, jazz, rock and blues tones are easy to dial in. The only style the amp doesn’t really do well is Metal. After all this is no modern high gain beast!
I have a pretty short list of favorite amps, my Anderson 18/20/45, Bob’s Marshall Silver Jubliee, Eddie’s Orange OR50, and Mike Mitchell of The Kingsmen’s old Fender Tweed Pro are a few that immediately come to mind. Well, now I can add the 3 Monkeys Orangutan to that list!