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Cliff Cooper Takes up the Story:
“We had a choice of two or three firms but decided to go with Mat Mathias of Radio Craft. The amps that Mat made were basically hi-fi guitar amplifiers. They were very clean sounding and beautifully built, but when he sent a sample down to us we found we needed to modify it somewhat because it didn’t sound quite right for the market we were aiming for. It was great for bass guitars because it was so clean, but it was too clean and flat for electric lead guitars. The new generation of guitarists back then wanted more sustain, which you don’t really get with a clean sound. Therefore, in our first year we modified the front end and changed the chassis material from lightweight aluminium to robust enamelled steel.
“We designed the Orange logo so that it would be bold and clearly visible onstage, and sent it up to Radio Craft for use on our front panel. Mat then suggested that we put a small Matamp logo on it as well, which we gladly agreed to do. Mat assembled our first amps in the back room of his tobacconist shop in Huddersfield town centre. The first Orange speaker cabinets were made and covered in the basement of the Orange Shop.”
Step 2: Projecting the Orange Sound
In December 1968, Mick Dines [right] joined the company as a salesman in the Orange Shop. He immediately became involved in the design of the Orange cabinets. As a young bass guitarist he understood how equipment could be so easily mistreated on the road. His first priority was to make Orange cabinets the most solid and robust cabinets available. When it came to choosing the speaker front cloth, his main concern was durability.
Mick chose a tough material called Basketweave. Orange speaker cabinets could now certainly take the knocks and were appreciated by the roadies. Guitarists loved the “thickened” sound that the Basketweave helped to create. What’s more, the Orange 4x12 was 15" deep—until then, 14" was the norm. This extra depth also helped to define the distinctive “Orange sound.”
40th Anniversary Limited Edition 4x12
[Cliff Cooper continues]
“When I first noticed the Marshall 4x12, I thought it was made of very thick plywood, but then when I looked more closely, it wasn’t as thick as it looked—it had an extra wooden frame border fixed inside the front rim of the cabinet to create the illusion of thicker wood. I had the idea of having a picture frame rather than a rim on our own 4x12 cabs. That design was a first for us. It made Orange cabs and amp heads look very unique. The design remains almost unchanged today.
“The 4x12 was built to be very strong and featured a baffle centre post, 13-ply (18 mm) birch-faced marine plywood and a tough orange vinyl cloth covering called Rexine. The use of Basketweave really helped to define the ‘Orange sound.’ Instead of fitting plastic feet or casters, which we found tended to rattle and roll, we came up with the idea of having tough wooden runners—which we called “skids.” The original idea was durability, making loading and unloading out of vans or onstage easier. It turned out that the skids dramatically improved the sound by acoustically coupling the cabinets to the stage or wooden floor.”