Brand new at NAMM 2015, Orange created a storm of interest from bass players with the OB-1 rack mounted bass head - Orange's first. We bagged an early sample and locked it in the Bassment with Dan Veall. Only one of them would come out sane (and our money was on the amp).
We had the big beast that is the Orange AD200B all valve bass head in recently for review and spent the rest of the week putting plaster back on the walls. We all enjoyed the plug-and-play, pin-you-to-the-back-wall big tones from that one! This time we have, straight from NAMM 2015, Orange's latest - the OB-1, a 2U rack mountable, all solid state amplifier that comes in two versions, the 300 Watt model we had, the OB-1 300 and an even more powerful 500 Watt power unit, the OB-1 500, with the same feature set. Orange has decided to step away from the D Class topology of the Terror Bass models with these, returning to a more traditional A/B amplifier design. Orange has said it feels it sounds more full and “nicer” for this amplifier and I have to absolutely agree.
The magic in the OB-1 is that the amplifier essentially has an 'always-on' clean channel and a blend-able distortion signal path that can be engaged by foot switch. Listening to that clean channel alone, the head imparts a tone that has weight and depth. It's one of those things that is very hard to explain in words, but you'll know it when you compare this amp to another that doesn't have these qualities! A girth to the fundamental bass note, is another way I'd put it.
The front and rear panels of the OB-1 are simple to understand, clear and easy to see. I love the traditional Orange 'icons only' approach. One of the most eye catching things for me though, like the Terror heads is the ice white casing! A nice change from characterless black boxes, thank you very much.
A tour of the front panel won't take long and that is the beauty of this amplifier - simple plug and play with no messing about with complicated functions. Front left there is a nice big power switch and orange (what else?) indicator lamp. To the right of that is the jack socket to attach your foot switch that will allow the engaging of the drive section. Slap bang in the middle, a nice big master volume control shares the middle third of the panel with the three controls for the equaliser: Bass, Middle and Treble, all of which are active, offering wide range cut and boost that is very responsive and tailored to suit the needs of us bass players. The equaliser is set in the signal path after the drive section giving it the ability to affect the drive characteristics also.
On that subject, if the clean section is where the serious bass tone lives, then the right hand side of the panel is the Jester's play area. As I mentioned earlier, the OB-1 heads don't just 'overdrive' when pushed hard, which can sometimes lead to a murky and ill-defined low end. Orange has created a parallel signal path to that big clean sound so that a player can blend in anything from a mild grit to an all out 'bass distortion' offensive. The left hand knob (with a little blender icon) is used to mix in the amount of drive you want blended with the clean signal. The right hand knob controls the level of saturation (the intensity of the distortion effect from mild grit to full bore sustaining drive).
I must point out that the drive circuit only affects the mid range and top end portion of the bass signal. Orange, this is brilliant. You've paid attention to bass players' needs! The clean channel is allowed to get on with delivering fat punchy lows, while the top end of the bass signal can be treated with sizzle and bite by using that blend control. Your bass tone will carry its original weight and power while having bags of character that will cut through a band mix. Often, when using non-bass specific distortion pedals, your low end will suffer, or at worst disappear, when the pedal is engaged. Not so here, ever. However, using a foot switch, the drive sound can be disengaged ready for quiet or clean passages of music before stomping down and hitting that bass line hard with an aggressive bass tone - the blend control does still work in the absence of a foot switch.
Topping off the front panel is the input jack and a switch to attenuate the signal going in to the amplifier if your bass signal is a bit on the 'hot' side.
Round the back of the OB-1 it is again nice and easy to navigate. There is a D.I output with a ground lift switch and a Line Out jack next to that for slaving another amplifier. The fan to keep things cool was either silent or didn't need to kick in throughout the review and to the other side of that there are a pair of Speakon connectors for linking up to your cabinets. Take note that there is a minimum load specification of 4 Ohms. Finally there's a standard IEC socket for your mains lead and also a voltage selector switch so that you can take this brute on tour with you across the world!
To sum up, this all analogue, solid state amplifier delivers a beautifully rich bass tone and I found that the blendable distortion is a great idea for those wanting aggressive bass tones, for which you will no longer need to remember to bring your bass distortion pedals to a gig!
In short, this is yet another great bass amp from Orange, proving that it's not only specialist bass amp manufacturers who listen to what we bass players need!