We have retubed a lot of the old Orange amps thru the years and with the new AD series released in 1999 Orange began its rise once again and it's good to have them back! So far Orange has kept the production in the UK except for the chinese Tiny Terror, so hats off to them for this! All of the new Orange amps have a nice robust build quality and we have not run into any problems with them. The AD series consist of the 15 and 30 sized EL84 amps and the AD50 and AD140. The AD15 and AD30's are again marketed as class A amps just as VOX claims the AC30 is class A. Neither is true. the only real class A amp Orange has ever made was the AD5 which was a single ended true class A amp using a single EL84 for power and making about 5 watts.
The Tiny Terror is a cathode biased push pull amp which drops the DC plate voltage to get less power in the 7 watt mode. Probably one of the least versatile amps Orange makes. These are a one trick pony and if you like it, its a nice trick. The cool thing about them is their size, it's like having a lunch box amp with plenty of power to drive a 4-12 cab!
The AD15 and AD30's are push pull cathode biased amps which are biased up where a true class A amp would be, thus the claim in being class A. So now that we have gone past this, it does not detract from the sound quality. Orange amps have always had their own sound and the AD series is no exception. I'm often asked to describe their tone by customers and while I hate getting the question "what amp should I buy?" I do try to answer in generic terms and to me the AD15's and 30's do have a Brit thing going on but are not high centered like the VOX AC's are. The AD's are thicker with more mid range and low end girth. They do have a nice chime in the high end but not as pronounced as the VOX amps.
In my opinion the Cadillac of the smaller AD series amps is the AD30HTC which is the twin channel head. The twin channel AD30TC is the combo version but if you have done much reading on this site you will find that we are not fans of combo amps because they are such torture chambers for tubes with the back waves from the speakers pounding on the tubes with every note played... The AD30HTC is very versatile for a two channel amp having separate EQ for both channels including gain and master volumes. The circuitry is unique because there is actually a separate signal path for each channel including separate phase inverter tubes making it easy to alter the channels character with different tubes, this design is also used in the twin channel AD140. The first channel can go from sparkling clean to a down right grind with more gain than you would expect. The second channel produces about twice the amount of gain that you would expect to hear from a two tube format!
Always being on the hunt for good deals I figured that one of these days I would add a new Orange to the collection and just when I was not looking, one fell right into my lap! It was a great deal on an AD30HTC with the matching cab in mint condition that was less than a month old so I snapped it up.
The first thing on the agenda was to replace the 5AR4 rectifier tube with a JJ GZ34 and find the right grade of JJ EL84's for the back end, this alone made a big difference in the dynamic response of the amp and it also added some depth and punch compared to the stock russian tubes. We rolled several combinations of preamp tubes thru the front end and we were really surprised at the results. The first channel simply loved the long plate Gold pin ECC803S, it sounded huge with tons of harmonics and a great chime in the high end. We tried the same thing for the second channel but we soon found that the ECC803S was actually too smooth and did not have the edge that the ECC83S had so we changed over to using a Gold pin ECC83S for channel two and that was it! In general the Gold pin JJ's are richer and smoother and although on average will make a noticeable difference, but in the Orange it was a different story! Using a Gold pin ECC83S in the second channel sounded so good we swapped the phase inverters out for a couple balanced Gold pin ECC83S's and YIKES! This amp really loves these tubes! Now I will say that if you're after more of a gritty Keith Richards or an Angus type sound then stay with the non-gold pin tubes as they do have more grit where the gold pins are SMOOTH.
Quite a while ago there was a drawing that someone posted on the Orange forum showing the location of the tubes for both channels. It seemed like every Orange customer that called us had seen this so rather than spend a lot of time explaining it was incorrect, we went along with it because the tubes shown for the PI tubes were correct but the "V" numbers were incorrect... So, the time has come to straighten this out permanently! The picture below should clear the tube locations up for the AD30TC and AD140TC amps.
The next item of business was to get the vintage 30's out of the cab and because I wanted to keep the British vibe going with this amp I decided to load it up with a couple Weber Alnico Blue Dogs. Eddie jumped on the project and used a couple 50 watters with light dope shown in the pic below. If you have not checked out the Orange cabs these things are TANKS! They tip the scales at over 75 pounds and as you can see are built very well.
Once the cab was together we cranked it up and everyone was all smiles! The Weber's were a huge difference and this makes for one screamin little amp with a VERY British voice that's just a whole lotta fun to play! Thanks Ted! Great speakers!
not often we have three Orange AD30HTCís in to ABC! This was interesting
because the amp on top came in with the Mercury Mag output and power trannyís.
All three amps were loaded up with like grades of the JJ EL84ís and a JJ GZ34.
I confess that the bottom amp is mine and the one in the middle is Michael
Kohnís an ET crew member. I prefer a real smooth rich tone so I use a long
plate gold pin ECC803S and a balanced gold pin ECC83S for channel one and a gold
pin ECC83S and a balanced gold pin ECC83S in channel two. Michael likes a little
more grit so he uses the non-gold pin JJ ECC83Sís all around or what we call a
We used the standard retube in the top amp so it was a direct comparison between two of the amps with the difference being the Merc Mag iron. On occasion we have had other like amps to compare with stock versus Merc trannyís and in most cases the difference has been slight with the Mercís being a bit tighter and more focused. However in the AD30HTCís the Mercís actually sounded a bit bland and took away some of that big open quality the stock iron has. It wasnít bad but we all thought it was just not quite as much fun to play as the other two amps. Here's a few photos of the trio.
The AD50's and AD140's are a different animal and share more in common with the Rockerverb amps. With the exception of the Rockerverb 30 which is cathode biased the remainder of the Rockerverb line are all adjustable bias amps and need to have the bias adjusted whenever you change the power tubes. The AD50 is a great piece of hand wired gear that makes 50 watts and it does have a class A switch which jumps it into a cathode bias mode dropping the output to 30 watts but once again the is not really class A. The AD140 really makes about 90 watts of clean power but 90 watts is a LOT of power and it really does crank it out.
The Rockerverb amps sound pretty good but if you're contemplating a combo be forewarned that the tubes are located ground zero to the speakers! Here is a pic of a Rockerverb 50 with the chassis flipped over and as you can see when screwed into place the 6V6's are in a war zone!
We have retubed these after they have seen less than 6 months use and the stock 6V6's have been shaken so hard that large pieces of mica can be seen floating around in the tube. The tubes are also mounted horizontally promoting filament sag so no matter what power tubes you use, if you play at louder volumes don't expect to get a year from them. The JJ 6V6's do make a nice difference in tone over the stock sovteks with the JJ's providing a deeper and tighter low end and a warmer and less harsh mid and high end. We stay with the short plate ECC83S's in these amps just as we do with all combo amps because of all the vibration.
The RV50 has right at 400 plate volts so we typically set the bias on these at between 25 to 28mA and you can use the generic bias video we did on the 800 Marshall for reference on how to bias the amp.
The Thunderverb amps are also adjustable bias and in the ever increasing race for maximum low end grunt the Tverb 200 is right up there. What are you going to do with your Bass player??