Most players’ first practice amps were garbage. They were there for us during our formative years as we learned the tricks of the trade, but every time you thought of your hero standing in front of a full stack that little 1x8 solid-state combo was sort of a letdown. Contemporary practice amps have never really had much cool factor—at least since solid-state became the standard at the affordable end of the spectrum. But Orange Amplification aims to change that with the new Micro Terror—a 20-watt, tube/solid-state hybrid mini stack that oozes Orange cool and delivers many of the sweet tones that put Orange on the map.
The Micro Terror is—let’s be frank—adorable at only 5.3" tall and 6.5" wide. Its looks a lot like Orange's Tiny Terror—complete with pictograph control labels and the company’s classic color scheme—but shrunk down to less than half the size. The pint-sized powerhouse is sturdy, with an all-metal chassis and removable top cage housing all-analog circuitry. The surprisingly loud 20 watts are generated by a solid-state power amp fed by a 12AX7-based preamp for added warmth and response. Replacing the single tube is an easy process: Just remove the retaining screws securing the top cage, and pull it from its recessed socket. And since the amp was designed for ultra portability, it also comes packed with a set of European power adapters that can be quickly snapped into the amp's wall wart.
Due to its size, the Micro Terror has a limited—but useful—control set: Volume, tone, and gain knobs enable you to dial up everything from clean to highly saturated sounds. An auxiliary 1/8" jack serves as an input for an external audio source like an iPod or stereo. Orange also designed a matching 1x8 cabinet with a speaker that’s voiced to get the most out of the Micro Terror. But the amp also has plenty of power for pushing a large 4x12 if you enjoy bigger tones. For late-night jamming, there's a 1/4" headphone jack that also disables the amp's 4 Ω speaker output when in use.
The Micro Terror might look like a novelty item, but don't be fooled—there's a surprising amount of punch, grind, and real tones lurking inside. And it’s certainly not your average practice amp with tin-can tone and stiff (or nonexistent) response.
With a Les Paul on the opposite end of the cable, the Micro Terror has a lot in common with its bigger brother, the Tiny Terror. Overdriven single notes are thick and spongy and topped off by a bright but round attack that's a hallmark of Orange amps. There's plenty of gain on tap for most applications, and you can move from lightly overdriven classic-rock rhythms to screaming leads and fuzzy doom distortion depending on how generous you are with the gain control. At its heaviest settings, the Micro Terror kicks out more than enough volume to seriously piss off your sleeping roommate, though its probably not quite enough to be heard over a bombastic drummer. That said, the more saturated tones and added headroom you get with a 4x12 reveal a really cool, razor-like edge on the midrange that works very nicely with both galloping, palm-muted riffs and clean leads.
Since the amp has only one channel, changing the tone from clean to dirty requires the old-school approach of adjusting the amp's controls on the fly—which can be a pain if you're used to quick changes by stomping on a channel selector. Dropping the amp's gain knob for clean tones can result in a loss of body, too. Thankfully, the Micro Terror is pretty sensitive to changes from the guitar's volume knob, and cleaning up the tone that way delivers consistently pleasing results without much loss in tone thickness. In fact, the clean tones are quite sparkly and lush for such a tiny package, especially through a Stratocaster’s neck pickup at half volume, and the amp's preamp and volume knobs at around 1 o'clock.
For serious Orange fans, the Micro Terror's adorably raging looks might be reason enough to reach for their wallets, but it’s the wealth of surprisingly smooth tones and reasonable price that put the cool factor way over the edge. Few amps in this price range offer what it does in terms of tone, build, and fun. But it’s also easy to see the Micro Terror finding a home in studios where big tones at mellow volumes come in handy. At its core, however, the Micro Terror is a great practice amp loaded with charm and satisfying tones at an extremely satisfying price.