In the past 44 years, Orange
Amplification has built some of the
most iconic and prized amplifiers in the
world. When they celebrated their 40th
anniversary four years ago, Orange introduced
the anniversary OR50—a limited
edition of 50 heads based on the legendary
Pics Only amp that has since become
one of the most sought-after products in
the company’s history. Now, the ensuing
clamor has driven Orange to reissue
the amp as a production model, the new
OR50H. The result is one of the most versatile
Oranges ever—an amp that delivers
a wide range of sounds in addition to the
muscle and headroom typically associated
with the brand.
An Orange by Any Other Name
While the original OR50 amps were
billed as anniversary models, they were
more tribute models than exact reissues.
Orange’s lead amp designer Adrian Emsley
used the 1972 OR80 model—one of the
first amps designed and released exclusively
by Orange after parting ways with the legendary
Mat Mathias (of Matamp fame)—
as an inspiration for the anniversary heads.
The OR80 and larger OR120 helped
establish what would become known as the
Orange sound—thick tonality and a beefy,
The build of the new OR50H is classically
Orange, complete with beveled
edges along the cabinet, dual roll bars, and
pictographs to indicate the function of
each control. The only major cosmetic difference
between it and the original OR50
heads is that it has a silkscreened metal
faceplate instead of a Plexiglas plate.
At the heart of the amp is a simple
single-channel circuit, fueled by a trio of
12AX7 preamp tubes and a pair of EL34
power tubes. The extra 12AX7 adds a
preamp gain stage for more aggressive and
The control layout is pretty standard
fare, save for Orange’s signature and
delightfully cryptic pictogram layout.
There are knobs for the 3-band EQ, preamp
drive, and master volume. But the
really interesting component here is the
HF drive control—marked with a fist—
that adjusts presence and also injects the
tone with power amp gain as you crank it
clockwise. If you’re a true single-channel
purist, the master volume control can
be removed from the circuit via a singlebutton
footswitch that plugs into a jack on
the front panel.
Orange amps are popularly regarded as
a rocker’s means for reaching gained-out
bliss. The truth is that the OR50H has
much more range than that. It dished out
crisp country snap, mellow jazz vibes, and
searing blues tones—along with Orange’s
signature thick and scorching gain—when
I called for it.
Connecting the head to an Emperor
4x12 loaded with Weber C1265 speakers,
hooking up a Telecaster, and disengaging
the amp’s master volume is the ticket
to beautiful, gut-punching clean tones.
Offering plenty of sparkle and fat, wide
lows, this is a combination that works well
for fingerpicked arpeggios. The EQ controls
are effective for adding or subtracting
harmonic content in their respective
frequency ranges—particularly the treble
control, which is, delightfully, neither
harsh nor abrasive.
The HF drive control is very effective
for dialing in a solid, fundamental tone.
And by keeping the EQ controls at noon,
I was able to coax snappy Jerry Reed
sounds, buttery jazz rhythms, and balanced-
but-toothy Jimmy Page-esque jangle
by moving the control through its range.
The impressive clean headroom with
master volume disengaged is another key
to the OR50H’s range. You can keep this
amp clean at volumes that border on ludicrous.
I got breakup right around 1 o’clock
on the HF drive control, but it cleaned up
beautifully when I rolled the Tele’s volume
knob off a tad.
With the master volume kicked in,
the OR50H is a very different machine.
The voicing takes on a more compressed
nature, and the lows become a little
punchier. The combination of the drive
knob set at noon and the HF drive at
around 3 o’clock yields glorious blues leads
with impressive, heaving low-end sustain.
The signal won’t clean up as readily at
these settings and you can lose a little
harmonic depth, though the amp’s EQ
controls are rangy enough to compensate
in most cases.
With a Les Paul out front and the
preamp gain up to around 2 o’clock, the
OR50H becomes a great tool for heavy,
old-school British riffage. The tone is
classic Orange at these settings—blistering
and boisterous mids, snarling highs,
and a cavernous low end—with a slightly
modern edge to the gain voicing. With
humbuckers in the mix, turning up the
HF drive beyond 3 o’clock sludges up the
tone a bit and you lose a little definition.
Dialing it back between 2 and 3 o’clock
keeps the tone balanced and prevents the
signature Orange fuzzy top end from overpowering
the rest of the spectrum.
There are, of course, great tones to be
found at more extreme gain levels. With
the gain control at 4 o’clock and the master
volume cranked, the amp is perfect
for modern stoner rock, and it will tickle
anyone with a passion for Electric Wizard,
Orange Goblin, and older Melvins. I even
found a really cool, fuzzed-out tone with
the gain maxed and the bridge pickup’s
tone knob lowered all the way. Imagine
Marc Bolan’s juicy rhythm on the T. Rex
classic “Baby Boomerang” with a little
more saturation and thickness.
The OR50H walks the line between oldschool
heritage and modern amp tone beautifully,
perhaps because the original incarnation
of this amp helped draw that line in the
first place. The single-channel layout keeps
things simple and straightforward, and the
switchable master volume gives the amp clean
headroom that will probably surprise guitarists
who associate the Orange name with
thick overdrive—though there’s plenty of that
when the master volume is introduced to the
circuit. The OR50H is a great amp that can
wear a lot of different hats. But for die-hard
fans of classic and modern Orange tone who
weren’t lucky enough to score an original
anniversary head, this one is a must-try.