Based on the exceptionally rare Orange stompbox from the '70s, the Orange Vintage Series Distortion pedal delivers the tone of the past with the technology of the future! This chunky orange-colored dirtbox is a straight-up visual recreation of the original Distortion pedal, sporting simple stenciled text and logo, an intuitive 2-knob design, and an old-school metal shell. However, on the inside, it’s a whole new beast: the back-to-back diode design has been updated with a more modern amp circuit with its own tone stack, producing a tone that authentically captures the original with an extra helping of tonal flexibility. Sam Bell reviews.
UK amp company Orange are well known for its eye popping, ear-shattering amps. They’ve been around for a long time and they know about classic tone. Recently, Orange have reminded us that they also made some really goodpedals back in the day. On my last visit to G.I Head Quarters, I had the pleasure of checking out their re-vamped and updated Pedal offerings in the shape of a fantastic Vintage style Distortion pedal.
Vintage is all the rage these days, or maybe its always been? We have nostalgia for times gone by and wish we could go back to those dreamy days. However, perhaps the only reason why nostalgia feels so good is because we aren’t there now. We can look back with rose-tinted glasses, we forget the bad or the frustrating times and focus on a fabrication of memory. Now, where am I going with this? Orange made and still make amazing amps, what they have done with these classic pedals is give us the nostalgia, but instead of it being an idea, we can actually have it and use it now, with updated features!
The pedal is simple. Its Orange. It has two controls, one for Level and one for Sustain (its labelled ‘depth’) it features the classic Orange writing and it comes in a quite large foot print pedal, bound to catch a few eyes and easy to find on a dark stage. The updated features of this pedal include a brilliant Blue LED to let you know its on (if you can’t hear it already!) its also got a 9 volt in (no batteries for this pedal!) and inside the unit itself, we have a treble trim pot. What is that? Well, to put it in Guitarist terms, it’s a small control pot inside the pedal, near the circuit board that we can adjust with a small screwdriver of some kind to adjust the pedals overall top end EQ. The pedal comes with it pre-set at 1/3rds of the way up.
Putting my experience as a reviewer into practice, I headed over to the Orangewebsite to check out their take on the pedal. I was treated to Ade Emsley (technical director of Orange Amps) talking about his approach to re-vamping this classic pedal. The original was apparently featured a back to back diode design, and replaced it with an amp circuit with tone stack where bass and mids are still present and (as I mentioned!) the treble is still adjustable. So this leads this unit to be used in several different ways. Its like a classic amp distortion in a box and it can be used as a clean boost into an already slightly driven amp for some monster tones.
So how does it sound? All this stuff about circuits is interesting, but like most pursuits in life, will it make me happy? The short of it is, yes, it very much did. It did put me instantly into classic rock mode, the pedal at ‘noon’ settings into a clean amp (as you can hear from the video portion of this review) made me do things that I’ll probably regret if I watched the video back. The saggy, undulating sustain was super inspiring to play with and a lot of clarity within the saturation. Even with the depth at its highest setting, the pedal retained character, it was like James Bond, mowing down villains whilst also looking calm and collected. At lower depth settings, it resembled a nice pushed, compressed and warm crunch tone (which I’m sure could be modified further with clever adjustment of the treble trim pot!)
I love it, I’d love to pair this with a uni-vibe or an octave pedal as well as I’d imagine this would lead to all kinds of psychedelic riff binges. Holding onto bends was a pleasure with this pedal. If you’re pedal life is feeling a bit flat, pop one of these on your board and turn it up. You’ll remember why Guitar was one of the coolest instruments in the late 60s and 70s!
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