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May 2014
more... AmpsGear HistoryJuly 2011Orange

"The Book of Orange" Excerpt

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"The Book of Orange" Excerpt


Cliff Cooper Explains the Orange Graphics
“I got the idea for graphic symbols on our amplifiers when I noticed the new road signs which suddenly appeared in the late 1960s. Instead of words, the signs used graphic symbols. In 1971, I suggested to the team that, instead of using words, we should use our own custom symbols. I wanted us to keep one step ahead. Years later, when we started manufacturing again in the 1990s [Ed. note: Orange’s main manufacturing operation closed in 1979, though a limited number of amps were built on a custom-order basis. In the early to mid 1990s, Gibson also built Orange amps under license until Cliff Cooper returned to head the company in 1998.], we decided to keep the graphics— these hieroglyphs were now a part of the brand.

“The Orange logo on our amps is now near perfect, whereas if you look at the original logo, it was hand drawn. The reason for this is simple—there weren’t computers in those days, and you had to engage an artist to draw it using French Curves (as shown on the right).”


The Custom Reverb Twin

The Custom Reverb Twin, designed by John James, had two channels: Normal Channel (One) had two inputs for Hi and Lo gain, as well as Bass, Treble, and Volume controls. Brilliant Channel (Two) also had the Hi- and Lo-gain inputs [and] Bass, Treble, Middle, and Volume controls. The intensity of the reverb was adjusted by a Depth control. The tremolo had separate Speed and Depth controls. A Master Volume and [a] Presence operated on both channels. The Mk 1 Reverb Twin combo (not shown) had a Basketweave front cloth, but very few were ever made during 1975. The Mk 2 [the head version is shown above] featured a black-with-silver-fleck speaker cloth.


Cliff Cooper on the OMEC Programmable Digital Amps

“OMEC stands for Orange Music Electronic Company. We chose the word ‘electronic’ to suggest digital and transistorized amplifiers, as opposed to the valve amps that had established the Orange brand in the early 1970s. OMEC’s main products in the mid 1970s were the programmable digital amp, the Jimmy Bean solid-state amp, and— most successful of all—the Jimmy Bean Voice Box. We sold thousands of those.

“The OMEC Digital was the world’s first digitally programmable amplifier, which enabled musicians to key-in four different preset, instantly recallable sounds. There were seven sound controls that could be programmed into each of the four presets: Volume, Bass, Treble, Reverb, Sustain, and two specified effects … fuzz and tremolo. The amp’s power rating was 150 watts into 4 ohms. We spent a lot of time and money developing this revolutionary digital amp, and it still really upsets me to recall how we never really got the chance to market it properly. The reason for this was that the bank wouldn’t lend me the capital needed to develop this product in order to make it cost effective.

“Back then, bank managers were very Victorian in attitude and usually wore stiff white collars and dark ties. If you had long hair, there was little or no chance of being able to borrow money, and if you looked young you were unlikely to get past your bank manager’s secretary. Before I went to ask my bank for a loan to develop the Digital amplifier’s chip, I had a haircut and grew a sort of a beard in order to look older. Needless to say, it proved to be a total waste of time and my application was turned down. Had I been living in America, I’m sure things would have been very different. There, they judged you on the merits of your business plan—not your appearance.”

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