Nick Jennison reviews the Orange Super Crush 100 Combo Amplifier—a 1 x 12-inch solid-state amplifier packing 100 watts of tube-emulated power. Building off their successful Crush Pro, the Super Crush 100 compact design features a 2-channel JFET preamp and a 100-watt power amp that pair to make it sound like you're really wailing on a giant tube amp. Equipped with four stages of gain, a passive 3-band EQ, and Orange's aggressive Dirty Channel, the Super Crush gives you plenty of headroom on your clean tones while shaping your overdrive to just the right level of classic Orange grit.
Guitarists are superstitious creatures by nature. If, for whatever cruel reason, you want to make a guitar player recoil is completely unwarranted horror, try uttering the following phrases: "Buffered bypass". "Gauge 8s". “Yngwie Malmsteen blues album”. Or the worst one of all - "Solid-state amp".
Yes, for some reason, the words "solid-state" have become synonymous in the minds of many guitar players with "the sound of 1000 wasps being individually hacksawed to death". Given the crimes against tone that were the cheap "transistor" amps of the 60s and 70s, it's easy to see why. But, much like men's leisurewear, things have gotten quite a bit better in the last 50 years.
Enter the Orange Super Crush 100. It's a recreation of the legendary Orange Rockerverb 100 - a firebreathing, Soldano-Esque monster from the turn of the millennium - but using solid-state technology in lieu of vacuum tubes… and it's really good! Available as either a 100w head or a 1x12 combo, it's a two-channel amp with a clean channel and a (really, really) dirty channel, footswitchable reverb, a buffered effects loop and a balanced, speaker-emulated XLR out.
In terms of operation, it's typical Orange simplicity. Orange has a knack of giving the player just enough controls to get the tone where you want it, and not a single knob more. There's volume, treble and bass for the clean channel; gain, volume and three-band EQ for the dirty channel and a master volume and reverb control. The effects loop, footswitch jacks, speaker jacks and XLR output are all around the back on the head, but you can find them tucked away inside the open back cab on the combo version. I won't lie, it's a bit of a pain to get to these sockets on the combo, and it might've been better to mount them on the back.
So, what about the tone? In a word, it's great, and testimony to the fact that great amp tone depends way more on circuit design than one particular type of component. The clean channel has that signature Orange midrange push that sounds full and fruity with both humbuckers and single coils. There's plenty of sparkle if you want it, but it's also warm enough to work as a really great pedal platform, too. There isn't a whole lot of breakup available on this channel, but cranking the volume does compress the front of the note a little more in a very pleasing way.
The dirty channel picks up just past where the clean channel leaves off, and at low gain ranges you can get some of that AD30 purr. Start cranking the gain control and you'll find everything from Black Crowes to Black Sabbath to Black Label Society. It's not exactly a "modern" gain sound, but there's a crazy amount of saturation on tap if you want it, and as powerful as the EQ is, it's really difficult to dial in a bad sound - so much so that when I "dialled blind" for the intro jam in the video that accompanies this review, I wound up with a setting that had the bass up high and the mids turned way down (scooping the mids on a solid-state amp? Send for the inquisitor…).
The XLR output is a very handy addition that allows you to either go direct to FOH or record straight to your DAW without the hassle of mixing up a cab. One slight oversight is that the volume of the XLR out is controlled by the amp's master volume, meaning you can't record silently using the combo without unplugging the internal speaker. That gripe aside, it's a very convincing sounding speaker simulation. The closed-back model is warmer and fuller for high gain sounds, while the open back mode has an extended high end that might suit cleaner tones. In all honesty, I found the open back mode to be a little harsh and sizzly, but the closed-back setting sounded great - and ironically, sounded much more like the combo "in the room".
The Orange Super Crush 100 is a killer sounding amp that's loud, light, affordable and versatile. Ok, it doesn't have any hot little glass bottles inside it, but that doesn't stop it sounding all kinds of great.
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