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Orange O PC Personal Computer Review

Orange O PC Personal Computer Review

Software guitar amp emulators have come a long way in the last 10 years and the OPC is built around some of the best advancements.

Orange Amplification is one of the world's most iconic amp builders. Their circuits have powered the work of musicians across genres, from Peter Green and James Brown to Mastodon. And from the very company's very first amp, Orange has always deftly combined style, tone versatility and innovation. But aside from a few short-lived experiments with digital amplifiers in the mid 1970s, the company has remained resolutely dedicated to the power of the vacuum tube. With the OPC, which is as much a desktop computer as a guitar amp, Orange is venturing beyond their time-tested template for success—creating a tool that gives players the power to practice, record, and create from a portable, combo-sized box that still beams with bold and striking Orange style.

A Geek in Rock 'n'Roll Threads

There's little clue that the OPC is anything other than another cool-looking Orange amp at a distance. Like most other Orange products, the presentation is immaculate and features their signature orange vinyl, wicker grille, and iconic crest & logo. The controls on the top of the amp look like typical guitar amp fixtures too—there's a Volume control, Treble, Middle, Bass, an orange jewel light, two ¼" input jacks and a power button. It's important to note that the knobs control the signal between the computer output and the internal speakers; they do not control the signal routed into the computer. Also on the top-side control panel is But there is also a slot for a CD/DVD drive and a USB jack on the top control panel. One of the ¼" input jacks is a guitar input, the other has two mini-switches that toggle instrument/mic impedance and +20dB boost. A retractable Wi-Fi antenna stows away from the top panel.

On the back of the unit you'll see a lot of typical PC connections as well as some additional audio in/outs including optical S/PDIF Out, digital S/PDIF Out, integrated audio outputs for 5.1 and 7.1 setups, and integrated mic & line inputs. There's two additional ¼" line inputs allowing you to wire in keyboards or rack effects, for instance, and two ¼" line outputs for connecting to studio reference monitors. The right channel line output also doubles as a stereo headphone output.

The OPC is built around an Intel i3 3.10 GHz dual core CPU running 64-bit Windows 7 with 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500 GB 7200 RPM hard drive. And it comes loaded with PreSonus Studio One recording software, Acoustica Mixcraft 5 multi-track/midi software and IK Multimedia's AmpliTube emulations software.

There are a multitude of data connections for interfacing with peripheral devices as well, including eSATA, two HDMI outs, VGA out, Ethernet, and seven USB ports, two of which are USB 3.0 capable. Stock graphics are handled by the motherboard however, the OPC allows you to install a graphics upgrade into a PCI Express x16 slot. If this all looks like hieroglyphs, rest assured that the connectivity options will allow you to connect just about any peripheral device, with the exception of Firewire

While a traditional guitar amp uses guitar speakers to color the sound of an amplified signal, the onboard software in the OPC emulates the entire signal chain, from the amp, to the cab, to the mics, all the way down to their placement around the emulated cab. For this reason, the OPC uses two two-way 165mm JBL GTO6528S speakers full range speakers, which are not intended to color the sound but—like studio reference monitors—project a flattened, source-accurate frequency response.

Future Sounds

After connecting the OPC to my own monitor, I hooked up the included keyboard, mouse and power, powered up the ultra-quiet unit and plugged my Fender Stratocaster into input 1. Once Windows 7 was running I opened AmpliTube 3 software and immediately heard my processed signal through the OPCs internal speakers. Getting up and running is about as effortless as turning on any normal amplifier, and players otherwise intimidated by using a computer interface will dig how streamlined the process of plugging in and making music is.

The OPC does not get very loud. In fact, at medium room volumes the full-range speakers begin to overload under the pressure, and, since the speakers are not designed with breakup in mind, the results can be less than pleasing. I definitely had enough headroom to practice by myself or with another guitarist, and when the unit is operating within its capabilities it delivers the emulated tones effectively. This is not an amp that you'll use with a big, loud band, though I definitely had enough headroom to practice by myself or with another guitarist. But the OPC interacts with the player much differently than a regular amplifier. The full-range speakers and emulators together limit the ability to create nice musical feedback. And instead you'll often get shrill, almost microphone-like feedback rather than the sweet singing stuff you'd hear from say an overdriven Orange stack.

AmpliTube is, of course, one of the best-known emulators on the market. And it offers a wide array of amp, cab, and stompbox simulations as well as countless routing capabilities that enable preset storage, gating, looping, and tuning among myriad other functions. The possibilities are nearly endless. There's also very little of the latency that's common in any computer-based emulation/recording system, and response feels essentially immediate on the OPC. Earlier this year Tiago Della Vega, the world's fastest guitar player according to Guiness World Records, broke his own speed record by nailing 'Flight of the Bumblebee' at 340 bpm on an Orange OPC, which should clear up any doubts about latency.

In addition to emulations of around two dozen popular amp models, this version of AmpliTube features exclusive emulations of five Orange amplifiers—OR120, Tiny Terror, Rockerverb 50, AD 30, and Thunderverb—and the emulations are fantastic. You can get the sound of high-gain amplifiers blasting with the punch and clarity as if they were recorded in a world-class studio and sparkling-clean amp tones replete with delicious spring reverb emulations. Amp models include most of the more ubiquitous classic and neo-classic amplifiers—enough to cover just about every style of music. There is a modern hi-gain Dual Rectifer-style modeler, several Marshall-like models, Blackface and Silverface Fender styles, and a JC120 clone, to name a few. There are around 50 stompbox effects too and an assortment of popular and unusual speaker cabinet models, microphone models, and rack effects.

For me, one of the key advantages to AmpliTube, and any modeling software, is the amazing versatility. The number of possible rigs you can create is only limited by your own time and creativity. With my Gibson SG wired into the machine I was able to churn out thick, shredding staccato metal riffs, yet I was only a click away from the edgy, dynamic punch of a vintage Marshall or the beefy warmth of a classic Fender. While the input controls on the top of the OPC do not interact with the software, the controls on your guitar do. Simply adjust the input level within AmpliTube using the lighted input meter so your signal is coming in clear, then, as you back off your guitar's level knob, the modeler's preamp responds with a cleaner, more sedated tone, and vice versa. Switching pickups will produce tone changes that you've come to know and appreciate in your trusted axe—with my Gibson SG that translates to thick & punchy in the neck, and cutting & mid-rangy in the bridge. Since these types of control changes are outside of the digital environment, even subtle tweaks sound completely seamless. And I'd venture that in an A/B test of a song mixed with these emulations against one recoded and mixed with real tube amplifiers would leave most listeners stumped.

Inclusion of PreSonus' flagship multi-track recording software, Studio One, is another strength of the OPC. The platform allows you to route, record, and arrange audio within the multi-track environment, and it's a comparatively straightforward alternative to some of the more complicated recording environments considered industry standards. The software features MIDI tracking that enables you to create arrangements that can be played back by software instruments that include basses, organs, pianos, synths and samplers. In my opinion, the most impressive and important instrument is a third-party plug in called EzDrummer by Toontrack, which features an enormous bank of high quality drum samples that allows you to create realistic drum tracks for backing up your riffs. Players more accustomed to Acoustica's popular Mixcraft 5 multi track/MIDI software can also opt to use that very capable platform as an alternative to the PreSonus package.

The Verdict

The Orange OPC can be everything from a totally badass gaming machine to the ultimate practice amp to a robust recording studio—which makes it a qualifier for the most versatile amp on Earth. Players who are familiar with the integration of computers into their own studio/practice rig may wonder why someone would put a computer interface into a combo amp case. But the portable, plug-and-play nature of the system makes it easy for players to experiment with computers and emulators. And in that sense the OPC can offer up whole worlds of compositional and arrangement possibilities to players that might otherwise be turned off by creating in in-the-box tools.

Software guitar amp emulators have come a long way in the last 10 years and the OPC is built around some of the best advancements. But the same march of technological evolution that makes the OPC possible might be its greatest enemy. Though you are able to upgrade software, and open the OPC to upgrade certain parts, the hardware will eventually grow outdated like an y PC. But if you're itching to explore software emulators and venture into recording without the hassle and expense of a full digital audio workstation, the OPC could be the perfect solution. And it looks a lot cooler than a computer too.

Buy if...
you want a supremely versatile modeling amp with a fully capable recording suite built-in in a portable and stylish package.
Skip if...
you work primarily from a single, full-featured digital audio workstation

MSRP $1499 - Orange -