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This article was originally published in issue #38
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I have used and reviewed many 'small package, big sound' amps that have swept the industry in recent years, but this is possibly the smallest. The Micro Dark from Orange is tiny, less than six inches tall! For extra visual effect we placed it on top of the studio Orange 4x12 cab, which is enormous and completely fab, but due to volume reasons, we connected it to the studio Marshall 4x12 shut away in our speaker booth and which is loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s. The Micro Dark is compatible with any 8 or 16 ohm speaker cab and when it's connected to one, you really hear how loud 20 Watts can sound! This thing is loud if you want it to be, which is great, because it's better to have that kind of punch and volume available if required, than not have it. With a good size cab, you could gig with it.
I grabbed my James Tyler to put the amp through its paces. The Tyler has Tyler pick ups (sorry can't remember specifically which ones) and an on-board Demeter mid boost which I punched in an out to really take this amp over the top in terms of gain. The Micro Dark's gain circuit has been voiced to be high gain that is controllable from your guitar volume pot, which is exactly what it is. Back your volume down and it goes from high gain, to crunch, to a sweet sounding clean, so it's an excellent amp for the more experienced player who has a good touch and can work the guitar volume to its fullest. The Micro Dark has an all analogue signal path with a 12ax7 pre amp valve up the front and a solid state power amp section, so you could describe it as a hybrid.
The single on board 'shape' EQ pot is really effective and actually works well, taking your tone from a more glassy scooped sound to a thicker darker tone heavy on the mids. It's really easy to dial in the tone that suits your guitar and cab and I would be very surprised if you couldn't hit a nicely voiced tone that suits you and your style really quickly. Balancing the master volume and gain pots gives you everything from clean to scream, but the real joy is cranking the gain and doing it from your guitar volume.
Nice to see a low impedance buffered effects loop round the back which I connected my pedal board to, to give some fairy dust delays and reverbs behind the core sound. The inclusion of a loop makes the Micro Dark a much more versatile preposition and is always a sensible addition on any amp.
The headphone out doubles up as a speaker emulated output for a direct signal to a desk, and is not as convincing as I have heard on other products, but is still usable, especially on some cleaner tones. You can get great results from miking a cab and then blending in some of the emulation when recording, so the headphone and cab emulation output is definitely a nice feature which adds more versatility to the Micro Dark.
The Micro Dark is no mere novelty item. It sounds and performs really well with many tones easily dialled in. A great tool for the studio and loud enough for live work. It's also very affordable and without stating the obvious, it's very portable. This thing will make you smile.