A trio of vintage-rooted analog stomps rises from dustbin has-beens to just-maybe gotta-haves.
Beholding the three new Orange Vintage Series pedals—in all their substantial, Technicolor splendor—it’s hard to believe that they weren’t more successful in their original incarnation. Orange didn’t shift many original Distortion, Phazer, and Sustain units. And these days, when even the most obscure stompbox has been dissected down to the molecular level, little is written about them. Few original specimens pop up for sale, and even Orange itself had to hunt and gather pedals from the guitar community so they could study for this resurrection project.
I’m grateful they went to the effort though. The new U.K.-built Orange effects are awesome. They’re stupidly easy to use. They look amazing—pedalboard space be damned. They also sound killer and offer real sonic alternatives to more common old-school-style effects.
Each of the Orange Vintage Series pedals are $249, which is not cheap—especially given their simplicity. By they are beautifully made, with tidy through-hole circuit boards, serviceable parts, and quality that rivals or equals what I see in a lot of boutique-class pedals selling for similar prices. They are also beautiful. And I, for one, find inspiration in pedals that are fun to look at—particularly when they sound as good as these.
Orange Distortion, Sustain & Phaser Pedal Demos | First Look
When the original Orange Distortion appeared in the late ’70s, the delineations between fuzz, booster, overdrive, and distortion were neither clear nor very widely discussed in the greater guitar sphere. Generally, a customer probably went into a store looking for a tool to make their rig sound nastier, tried out a few things, and left with the one they liked best.
It’s cool, then, that this iteration of the Orange Distortion—which, from this trio, deviates most from the original—so adroitly spans so many of those categories. Engineer Ade Emsley didn’t love the sound of the original, so he overhauled the whole circuit. In this iteration, the Orange Distortion is built around a JFET-based amplifier circuit with preset bass and midrange in the tone stack and a treble control that can be adjusted via an internal potentiometer. This shift in design ethos does nothing to diminish the Orange Distortion’s 1970s aura when it’s switched on, however.
Like a few late-1970s circuits—the DOD 250 and MXR Distortion + come to mind—the Orange Distortion’s drive can be hot and aggressive but leave a lot of room for string detail to breathe. The compression inherent in distortion is not too oppressive here, which helps make things sound big and organic. The high-mid voice has a tough Marshall accent that can dish sweet Peter Green-style lead tones. And pretty grinding distortion tones can still feel and sound articulate. The Orange Distortion also excels at the other end of the gain spectrum. It works as a pretty-clean to just-barely-dirty boost that adds lots of extra-explosive life and sparkle to a bridge pickup and lends a Fender amp circuit a just-right dose of Anglo-amp presence and heat.
A shift in design ethos does nothing to diminish the Orange Distortion’s 1970s aura when it’s switched on.
A few players will want to take advantage of the treble pot on the interior—particularly humbucker players. But while the Curtis Novak Widerange units I used could sound blurry past the first third of the gain range, these tones were still beautiful, liquid stuff. The pedal is also responsive to dynamics, and guitar volume attenuation is effective for coaxing clean tones.
Though “distortion” may suggest a narrow range of tones, Orange’s Distortion gives you a lot of sounds to work with. The near-clean tones are lively and detailed. The mid-gain tones, meanwhile, are rich and brimming with naturalistic and amp-like saturation characteristics. It’s less claustrophobic than my favorite old RAT2, more open and meatier than a Klon clone at high gain settings, and responsive to picking and volume dynamics. Classic rock-oriented players will rejoice at the sounds available here, but there are also loads of tones for less stylistically constrained players to explore, from jangly to compressed and fuzzy.
We are spoiled for phaser choice these days—both in sheer numbers and in the extensive waveform-shaping options you get in newer pedals. In light of these evolutions, it’s easy to forget how limited and primitive early phasers were. The two pillars of phase at the time, the MXR Phase 90 and Electro-Harmonix Small Stone, each had just one knob for modulation rate. Only the latter took the radical step of adding a “color” or phase intensity switch. Orange’s Phaser is built in the manner of these classic units. It exhibits many of the best attributes of both but is intoxicating on its own merits. And like so many great 1-knob phasers, it’s deeper and more versatile than you might think.
Like both a vintage Small Stone and the Phase 90, the Orange Phaser’s modulations feel and sound extra dimensional.
Like the original Phase 90 and Small Stone, the Orange Phaser is a 4-stage phaser circuit, which usually adds up to a sweet spot between intensity and clarity. In the Orange Phaser, that translates to a liquid pulse that’s reminiscent of a favorite vintage Small Stone. It’s a little less vowel-y than my favorite script Phase 90. But like both a vintage Small Stone and the Phase 90, the Orange Phaser’s modulations feel and sound extra dimensional. In the case of the Orange unit, that means a balanced emphasis on low- and high-end frequencies as it cycles through its modulations, which gives it a chewiness and a noticeable sense of size. And for an analog phaser, the Orange is a remarkably quiet pedal. Its low noise floor creates extra clarity and a full-spectrum feel.
A 4-stage, 1-knob modulator—we’ve heard this tune before, right? Yes and no. The Orange unit is highly reminiscent of vintage Small Stone and Phase 90 sounds. But the low noise floor enhances detail in an already clear-sounding circuit, creating a more vivid picture of the rubbery drag and elasticity that makes a vintage phaser sound so watery and immersive. It may be very old school, but Orange’s phaser still feels like real refinement.
“Sustain” in the case of this new Orange pedal means compression. And this take on vintage optical compression spans familiar and more open-ended sounds and textures. For starters, the Orange Sustain, like the Phaser, adds very little additional noise to your signal, so you can add loads of sustain (via the depth control) and an ample helping of boost (from the level control) without adding an intolerable layer of hiss.
At certain settings (and especially at low volumes), the Sustain feels and sounds a little like the many Ross-derived compressors that appeared in the 1970s. And many players who use a Dyna Comp or other Ross-inspired compressors will find cool equivalent sounds and effects in the middle ranges of the Sustain’s controls. In general though, the Orange’s optical circuitry helps make the Sustain feel much more oxygenated. There’s a lot less speaker-smothered-in-a-blanket squish and obliteration of picking dynamics—even at high sustain levels. For players that like the sonic benefits of super-heavy squish, the absence of these heaviest compression sounds might be a deal breaker. But I suspect most players will love the clear, potent boost and the more subtle squish and sustain this circuit generates.
The Orange’s optical circuitry helps make the Sustain feel much more oxygenated.
The Orange Sustain, like its sibling pedals in the Vintage Series, inhabits a very cool niche. It’s as simple-to-use and as sonically forgiving as a Dyna Comp—perhaps even more so. But with a well-executed and simple optical circuit, it manages to sound big and transparent almost in the fashion of a studio compressor. Low-compression boost sounds are burly and smooth, thanks, in part, to the optical circuitry. And piling on more sustain and output volume makes things warm and growly. High-squish addicts, or those that like the more brash side of a Ross or Dyna Comp, might find the Orange a little refined. But try plugging one in with a little reverb and a big tube amp cranked up loud.… I expect you’ll be psyched.
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Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Fender honors the indie-legend with signature pickups and accessories.
Fender announces the J Mascis Signature Jazzmaster Pickups, an ode to one of alternative music’s most prolific shredders. Throughout Dinosaur Jr’s twelve album discography and his rich solo career, Mascis has established himself as one of guitar playing’s most tone-savvy and ferocious players.
At the heart of his genre-defining, nearly four decades-long legacy is the Fender Jazzmaster. Not only does the bold and angular design of the Jazzmaster lend itself to a player as subversive as Mascis, but there is no instrument that sounds quite like it. That is, until now.
Compared to the tones on the Fender J Mascis Signature Telecaster and the Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster, Mascis notes,“The new pickups have a sweeter more vintage sound,” and as his hopes for what people might feel when they test out the new pickups, J Mascis adds, “I hope they feel like playing their guitar, ideally they could make a song that could be my new favorite record!”
Key Features Include:
- Neck Pickup: 7.27K and Bridge Pickup: 7.31K DC Resistance
- Neck Pickup: 3.6 Henries, Bridge Pickup: 3.7 Henries Inductance
- Enamel-coated magnet wire delivers warm vintage-style tones
- Alnico 2 rod magnets for warm, sweet output
- Flush-mount pole pieces produce even string response
- Installation hardware include
Exploring the J Mascis Signature Jazzmaster Pickup Set | Artist Signature Series | Fender
The pickups are being released as part of a larger collection of signature J Mascis Accessories which include J Mascis Magenta Flower Strap, J Mascis Yellow Burst Strap, J Mascis Coiled Instrument Cable and J Mascis Dinosaur Jr. Pick Tin.
For more information, please visit fender.com.
Charvel unveils its new collab with guitarist Marco Sfogli.
Charvel unveils its new collaboration with PFM and Icefish guitarist Marco Sfogli. To pay homage to a guitarist whose sonic capabilities seem to know no bounds, Charvel has sought out to create a signature instrument as limitless as the player who inspired it. A pair of active EMG SA single-coils in the middle and neck positions effortlessly evoke classic Stratocaster bell tones, while an EMG ‘89 bridge humbucker provides a powerful bite. The signature model’s bolt-on maple neck has received a unique “caramelized” heat and drying treatment that imbues the wood with a warmth and comfort that is usually unique to expensive vintage instruments.
- Alder body with quilted maple top
- Scalloped lower back bout and cut heel
- Bolt-on maple neck with graphite reinforcement, 22 jumbo frets, and Luminlay side dot inlays.
- EMG SA single-coil neck and middle pickups, EMG ‘89 humbucking bridge pickup.
- Floyd Rose 1000 Series double-locking tremolo bridge system
- Five-way blade pickup selector, tone control, and volume control with push/pull coil splitting capabilities for the bridge pickup.
Marco Sfogli Presents His Signature Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HSS FR QM
- Signature S1-style guitar designed in collaboration with Marco Sfogli
- Classic alder body with an unmistakable California sound
- Quilt maple top for added tonal depth and a premium look
- For more information, please visit charvel.com.
A highly versatile sonic tool, the pedal can deliver a broad range of tones – everything from mild, wonderfully organic overdrive to medium-gain crunch with a richly satisfying midrange kick.
The pedal is a collaboration between Shnobel Tone and guitarist, songwriter, composer, and record producer Frank Simes. Based in Hollywood, Simes‘ long list of credits includes work with A-list artists such as Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Warren Zevon, RodStewart, Roger Waters, Roger Daltrey, and Martha Davis from The Motels. Additionally, Simes was the musical director for The Who for many years.
Its touch sensitivity makes it a perfect choice for guitarists who rely on precise right-hand technique, and it cleans up nicely when you roll back your guitar's volume knob.
Frank Simes Overdrive features include:
- Three knobs: Volume, Gain, and Tone controls
- True bypass foot switch
- Top mounted power and in/out jacks
- Hand-built with through-hole components
- Crinkle-coated diecast aluminum enclosure, dimensions 4.7 x 3.7 Inches
- Standard 9v center negative power – no battery compartment
Frank Simes Signature Overdrive
Shnobel Tone’s Frank Simes Overdrive has a suggested retail price and MAP of $249.
For more information, please visit shnobeltone.com.