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For England’s Orange Amplification, lower-wattage amps have become a major pedestal of their recent success and resurgence. While the company founded its reputation in the late ’60s and early to mid ’70s with bold, brash-looking high-wattage monsters and big cabinets that spruced up the stage for everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and James Brown, the company’s recent renaissance has been driven by the success of the AD30, Rocker 30, and especially the wildly popular Tiny Terror. The company’s recent release of the new EL84-driven TH30 head (also available as a combo) shows that they’re eager to build on success in this moderate-power category, and the TH30 turns out to be one the company’s most versatile and usable amps to date.

Peeling Away the Layers
The simple control layouts of Orange amplifiers have always been a design strength. In the case of the TH30, that philosophy remains very much intact. Each of the amp’s two channels—which you can select using a front-panel toggle—is controlled by just three knobs, which means you can dial in both clean and dirty sounds with very little fuss. The Clean channel features a Volume knob and Bass and Treble EQ controls, while the Dirty channel features Gain, Volume, and Shape knobs.

The amp’s overall wattage can be cut from the maximum of 30 watts to 15 watts, using the 3-way standby switch on the front panel. And if you’re in the mood for some low-wattage, greasy-amp goodness, another rear-panel switch lets you knock the wattage down to a tiny seven watts by bypassing two of the four power tubes. Rounding out the modern options are a series effects loop and a jack for an optional channel footswitch.

Thunder and Lightning, Very Frightening!
Even though TH30 can summon classic Orange voices with ease, it has a personality—or ratherpersonalities—all its own. And I set about exploring them with by routing the head through Orange PPC 4x12 and PPC 4x10 cabinets and plugging in a 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom with Tom Anderson pickups. Using different combinations of tone settings and the full- and half-power options, I was able to achieve some really unique, usable tones in each channel.

The TH30’s Dirty channel is classic Orange, through and through. There’s no shortage of gain on tap, and the amp retains the quintessentially Orange characteristic of a bright top end with a rounded, expansive low-end foundation. The TH30 also barks with a grinding midrange that cuts well, even when the shape control is dialed to a more scooped setting. And it adds a lot of range to the amp’s voice. I can’t think of too many amps with an EL84 power section that kick out vintage and modern stoner metal tones with equal aplomb, but the TH30 is certainly one of them.

Cutting two of the amp’s power tubes via the rear switch cut the headroom considerably, shifting the amp’s gears into a Billy Gibbons-inspired overdrive that sliced and wailed with authority. For most of these tests, I was using the PPC 4x12 cabinet, which had more of a scooped midrange. But I got very cool results by splitting the signal into both the 4x12 the PPC 4x10—combining the 10" speakers’ tight, snappy character with the looser, brawnier response of the four 12" speakers. And this best-of- both-worlds scenario resulted in one of the best Orange overdrive tones I’ve ever heard.