Look behind some of the biggest-name bassists on the planet, and you’ll see a fair share of Orange amps. Geddy Lee, Tom Petersson, and John McVie employ their distinctively rich, gritty tones, among others. But we’re here to talk about something from Orange that’s not from their fine selection of amps and cabinets. Enter the O Bass. This retro-kissed 4-string is the brainchild of Orange lead-designer Adrian Emsley, an incurable vintage junkie with a long history of tinkering with gear. In designing the O, Emsley wanted to give the instrument a deep vibe, a huge vintage tone, and a familiar feel.
This bass has been a bit of an enigma for a couple years now, appearing only briefly behind curtains at trade shows before eventually hitting the prototype phase. The good news is that the O Bass is now in production and that we recently spent some quality time with one.
The Big O
The 34"-scale O Bass’ body is constructed from Okoumé, a lightweight wood native to Africa, and topped with a basswood veneer. Our test model came finished in teardrop sunburst, but black and, yes, orange finishes are also available. The O Bass has ABS binding on the burst and black versions that makes for a great retro touch. And the wonderfully bold headstock atop the maple neck is finished in white, which helps highlight the Orange logo and oversized open-gear tuners.
For all the things the bass features, the one thing it doesn’t have is extremely appealing: weight. The O Bass tips the scales at just a hair over 8 pounds and shares the same dimensions as a Hofner or Kay, which makes for a very pleasant three-set night. But the O is slightly neck-heavy because of it. Playing seated without a strap was a little bit more of a fight than standing, but at the end of the day, neither ended up being too much of a burden.
Unplugged, the O Bass sounded big with lots of sustain—a great indicator of things to come before I ran the bass through a small arsenal of different rigs. Because of variations in amps, settings, air movement, etc., I like hearing a bass in as many scenarios as possible, and for this review, I was lucky enough to have a unique final test.
I first plugged into a FireStudio interface from PreSonus and monitored with a set of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones, a studio quality pair of cans that don’t lie. With the bass running direct, my ears were hit with thick lows, pointed highs, and a tone reminding me of a P bass with a little mid-growl to it. The harder I played, the harder the O growled at me, almost begging me to dig in anywhere on the neck. The upper registers sang with a hybrid P/Hofner tone and had the same snarl when more pressure was applied. I could hear this bass being right at home with rock purists and blues cats.
The next rig was an Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 and matching SL 112 cabinet—a powerful and clear combination. The O Bass was again in beast mode, with robust-yet-slightly-barking tones. This bass likes moving some air, and I got a really nice old-school thump out of it by palm muting. When rolling off the tone, however, the O Bass got choked and a bit of a wet-blanket feeling came over the tone. I found that this bass wants to be played wide-open, very much like its Orange amp cousins.
Speaking of wide open, I also played the bass on a ballad and an up-tempo song at a festival show with 18,000 ears listening. My onstage rig was an Eden WTP900 with matching 4x10 and 2x12 cabinets, and the O Bass did its job well. My tone was tight and responsive to a lighter touch, and I got a nice, slightly growled sound on upper-register runs. When I hit a big, low F in the ballad, the note was felt in my chest and heart, which made them both happy. The aforementioned neck dive wasn’t really a burden, so all I could think was, “This is a $400 bass?” It would make an excellent backup, and I only say backup because I haven’t had a chance to test its road reliability over time.
In a world of P and J copies and the seemingly endless supply of reissues, Orange stepped beyond ordinary rehashing and did a tremendous job in bringing the essence and vibe of their amps to a bass guitar, which is no small feat. The O Bass has everything that designer Emsley wanted and then some. The vintage feel is there, the growl is there, and the affordability is there, too. The O Bass won’t appeal to everyone, but then again, Orange amps aren’t for everyone either, and that’s part of their appeal. Be it for a backup, primary, or solid addition to your studio arsenal, it’s hard to beat the O at this price.
Watch the Review Demo: