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This article was originally published in issue #30
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Really this amplifier needs no introduction. Orange is a great brand with all the prestige and support that goes with it. Countless bands over the years have backed their performances with Orange amplification and it seems the company just goes from strength to strength.
Big valve (aka tube) heads take a lot of beating when it comes to punishing audiences into euphoric submission (steady on old boy, this isn't a Fifty Shades of Grey review! - Ed), but there's something else that this AD200B head does rather well, which is remain very clean and very punchy all the way up the volume dial. Indeed Orange is quick to make the point that this amplifier is designed to deliver big pounding bass with a rich tone without extra bells and whistles - a truly plug and play design amplifier.
For this review, in keeping with the British prestige theme, I chose my Shuker custom bass born from the valleys of the Peak District that I recently had fitted with Aguilar DCB pickups. For reference, the bass has a clean 'upper mid present' tone, so I was looking forward to hearing what the Orange would make of it. I was very pleased to hear the pair sounded great together through our reference studio cabinet!
As I point out in the video - it's one thing to hear that wonderful bass tone recorded but sadly there's one thing you won't get to experience via the internet and that was how this amplifier sounded when we turned up the heat a bit. Its big tone showed no signs of weakening as the dial increased and the studio rattled! This amp is loud!
Looking at the amplifier face-on, the build quality of this review unit was superb. Fit and finish was very tidy and neat with a very clear to read front panel.
The layout of the faceplate is a little unusual, though it follows traditional Orange conventions, with the gain being on the far right hand side, bass, mid, treble coming towards the left hand side, with the master volume on the far left. Well, I guess there are no rules about where your knobs should be, but might catch a new user off guard at first. If only briefly.
Under that vinyl covered wooden sleeve, the AD200B is loaded with four 6550 power amp valves and a complement of two ECC83 and one ECC81 for the pre-amplifier, generating an enormous sound. Orange advertise that they have kept the signal path as direct as possible and certainly we noticed no extraneous noise or artefacts in our audio. Clean as a whistle!
Round the back we have a set of speaker outputs (sadly, only jack sockets here, no Speakon that I would have preferred to have seen) and there is a slave output that allows you to feed your signal to another amplifier signal input or DI box ready to send off to a house PA for example. There is no in built DI here.
I don't have anything bad to say about this amplifier. The only negative comes with the territory really. This is a valve amplifier which means it will weigh a lot. Expect that. The valve hardware including output transformer and the power supply transformer are all going to be heavy and the metal chassis is wrapped in a wooden shell. Sure, this thing will probably take a direct hit and survive, but with that comes a 'character building' package to lug around. This is a traditional, British-built valve amp, with all that entails, for example, you need to be careful what impedance speakers you connect to it, so you will need to read the manual! It's also not exactly cheap but, again, this sort of impeccable, solid engineering costs money - and also, in passing, ensures reliability. If that ultimate valve bass tone is what you are after - then this is where you'll get it.