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This article was originally published in issue #37
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Orange hasn’t produced a pedal-based product since the 1960s, so when a box arrived at GI Towers claiming to contain a pedal produced by this great amplification manufacturer it’s safe to say that there was more than a little interest to see what they had come up with. Called the Bax Bangeetar and handmade by the Orange Custom Shop, this is a high spec pre-amp and EQ pedal that can be thought of as essentially a highly tweakable overdrive/distortion pedal with all of the characteristics of Orange's highly regarded amplifiers.
Most overdrive, or even fully fledged pre-amp, pedals give some form of EQ control, usually in the form of your standard High, Mid and Low controls with some opting for a single tone control to shape your high end only or switches for preset filter cuts or boosts at certain frequencies. This system works well and offers enough control to shape your tone, but the Bax Bangeetar goes so much further thanks to the inclusion of a fully parametric Mid control to complement the usual high and low options. Mids are the most important frequencies for a guitar player, offering drastic shaping options for overdriven tones and usually being the frequencies that allow you to cut through a mix, especially when it comes to higher gain settings.
Here, Orange has opted for a high end Baxandall EQ solution, inspired by some of the most highly sought after mixing consoles of the 1960s, but brought bang up to date for 2015. A parametric EQ allows far more control over the mid range, allowing the user to select a frequency and boost or cut that frequency around a narrow or wide frequency range, as opposed to the set frequency boost of a graphic EQ for example. The amount of control on offer is enormous, allowing you to dial in almost any drive tone you can imagine from subtle tone changes to extreme mid boosted madness.
The pedal has the standard Gain and Volume controls along with the extensive EQ section and also includes some cool innovations such as an ‘internal charge pump’ that takes the 9v DC power from a power supply and doubles it internally to 18v for more headroom, dynamics and definition. Orange has included a great CabSim output along with the standard in and out jacks that is designed to emulate a miked Orange 40th Anniversary PPC412 cab, loaded with Celestion G12H 30W speakers. It’s very effective and offers a superb recording sound, especially considering the huge amount of mid-range control where overdrive and distortion tones are in make or break territory when you are DI'd. Also included is a clean boost after the drive stage for boosting a lead tone for solos.
Interestingly, bearing in mind today’s obsession with ‘True Bypass’ operation Orange has opted for what they call ‘Ultra Transparent Buffered Bypass’. A chain of true bypass pedals can exhibit high end tone drop-off, but buffered bypass can alter your tone and not play well with certain pedals in your chain, whereas this ‘Ultra Transparent’ option is supposed to give you the benefits of a buffered output, retaining your high end but remaining transparent and playing well with other pedals. In practice it was impossible to tell any difference between removing the pedal from the signal chain and having it in the chain in bypass mode. The bypass is definitely transparent and you lose no signal integrity by having it bypassed in your pedal chain. In other words, it works!
Another very interesting feature is that Orange has gone for a pedal design without the normal diode clipping solution for overdrive sounds. Compared to other pedals that rely on this method, Orange claims that the result is more amp-like and natural in its response and break up, with less wooliness in the low end and a tighter feel overall - and they are correct in this assertion. The Bax Bangeetar sounds and feels just like the high gain Orange heads we’ve reviewed in the magazine in the past, with a really impressive feel and pick response that reacts beautifully to dynamics and volume changes on the guitar.
The sheer amount of gain on tap from this pedal is awesome, with a range of tones from subtle break up or even a second clean tone, all the way up to insane levels of grind available with ease. Being able to shape the mids to such an extent means that this could effectively replace many or all of your existing drive pedals or become your entire signal path running to a PA or power amp thanks to the great CabSim output. That's why we actually think it's great value, even at quite a high price.
The Bax Bangeetar is a superb drive and EQ pedal that really fills its function as a true pre-amp pedal thanks to that amazing, highly customisable EQ section. It is built to the typical bomb proof Orange standards and very easy to operate without you even needing to peruse the manual. You can also choose between black or white versions.
Orange has hit the ball out of the park here and whilst it’s expensive for a single drive pedal, it more than justifies that price point and could easily be the only drive pedal you need on your board. Now we just have to hope that Orange releases more pedals as good as this one in the future. Highly recommended!