PMT House of Rock’s Facebook was being taken over by Orange Music Electronic Company on Thursday 18th December, where Orange Amp’s Lead Amp Designer and Technical Director answered people's burning questions.
Orange Amp’s Lead Amp Designer and Technical Director, Ade Emsley, has worked with Orange since 1998 and is the creator of the Tiny Terror series and the design of Orange’s 100% tube amp, the Rockerverb 100. He’s a very cool man that cares a lot about enhancing your unique guitar sound, and we've decided to write up the Q&A session for you to have a look at.
Q&A Session with Adrian Emsley, Orange Amps
Q: Hi Ade, can you tell us how you got started with Amp design? And how did you land a job at Orange Amplifiers?
Ade: My Dad taught me to use a soldering iron at a very young age. I then started fixing old Marshalls, Vox's, etc. In the 80s I got into modifications for gain and functionality. This went onto restoring vintage tube amps and starting to appreciate their tone along with the spectacular output tube overdrive some of them yielded. I then started building my own amps that had that kind of response and tone. This led me to design amps for Orange in late ‘97.
Q: Which product in the Orange lineup were you most satisfied with? Do you have any personal favourites?
Ade: I try to make them better sounding and more reliable each time really. You learn a lot from servicing, regarding what is likely to hold up and what's not. You get to see what fails on the road and know to do things differently next time. I guess I'm happiest with the OR100 and the Dual Dark 50 and 100. I personally like to use a Tiny Terror myself as I like 15 Watt, EL84, power amp distortion. That's my favourite overdrive really.
Q: You’ve been working for Orange for 16 years now. Have you got any words of wisdom for younger people getting into amp design? Is it a tough in industry to get into?
Ade: It is pretty tough these days as you have so much more legislation to deal with. If someone is thinking of getting into it in a serious way, they need to do their homework.
Q: How close do work with the artist when creating an Orange signature amp?
Ade: We've only really made one signature amp recently and that was the JRT. Jim Root wanted his signature to be available on a tight(ish) budget so I suggested going smaller rather than cheapen a 100 watt amp. It is effectively a Rockerverb lead channel in a 15 Watt terror package. He tried it for the first time at NAMM and approved it straight away. He turned up two hours early for his signing the next day because he wanted to play his amp in the demo room! Having said that, I do sometimes get artists in when I am at the final stages of an amp design. I get them to have a shot on it and tell me what they think.
Q: Couple of questions about the ‘missing’ bits on the Rocker 30. Did you decide to leave the choke out because you thought it sounded better without, or was it an accountant's decision? Would there be any benefit to retro-fitting one? And was it originally intended to be switchable 30W cathode bias/50W fixed bias like some of the other Oranges (because the fixed bias circuit is marked out on the board)? By the way, I think the RK30 is superb as it is - just curious about why these bits were left out, obviously very late (or after) in the design stages.
Ade: The Rocker 30 was a cathode biased amp and although it would benefit in some ways from having a choke, it wouldn't benefit as much as a Class AB amp would. An amp like that would have more apparent clean headroom with a choke fitted, but that's not what I was going for at the time.
Q: How come the Crush series sound so ‘tube’ like and warm?
Ade: The op amps are running at the same impedance and within the same circuit (pot, resistor, cap values, etc.) as 12AX7's do in one of our tube amps. Most other solid state amps are designed with a different approach to this. It's not just down to the tubes or transistors used. It's down to the circuitry they are running in. Tubes will always be tubes and will always have more complexity and textures in the way they distort.
Q: What amp would you say is your masterpiece or is this something we can see in the future... maybe 2015?
Ade: I'm never satisfied and I always want to make things better. It's not for me to say anything I've done is a masterpiece. Some cool stuff is coming in 2015 though.
Q: Are there any current artists you'd like to design for?
Ade: That's a tough question! I think Richie Faulkner is probably one of the best Rock/Metal guitarists out there right now. I'd be up for doing a signature model for him, although he is a mate of mine anyway and he is using another company’s amp. Audley Freed is also a great player that I'd be happy to do something custom for. Marc Ford would be another one.
Q: We personally love the Tiny Terror amp. Where do you get new ideas/inspiration from for new amp designs?
Ade: I always like to be able to get an early AC/DC sound on an amp with the gain at around just under half. Crank it up a bit more and I'm hoping for "Never Mind The Bollocks". All of the core tones in the newer Orange amps are variations based around that.
Q: Any hints of what's coming for 2015?
Ade: There will be a few cool forthcoming products to be launched at Winter NAMM 2015 and also at Frankfurt. I'm afraid I can't really spill the beans any further than that!
Q: Do you have a favourite non-Orange amp?
Ade: Yes indeed! Bogner Goldfinger 45, Matchless DC30, original 1960 Vox AC15, 1965 Block Logo JTM45 (KT66's), etc...
Q: Which is your favourite of the vintage Orange amps?
Ade: I quite like the way some of the old "pics only" amps distort, if you find a good one.
Q: What kind of music do you listen to?
Ade: A mixture really as I do a lot of mastering. I like Psychedelic through to Folk, through to Rock, through to Punk, through to Metal. I also really like some Rockabilly.
Q: What would make up your dream rig?
Ade: Depends on the gig? Either two TT15's and two open back 2x12's or two DT30's and two 4x12's will more than do me. Also an ABY box and a Dunlop Octavio fuzz when stuff needs to get nasty!
Q: What's your proudest moment so far working for Orange Amps?
Ade: I'm always well chuffed when we pick up an award for an amp. That's always cool. Also, if I see a player that I really like playing an Orange, that makes me stoked, especially if it was a player I grew up listening to, like Pagey.
Q: What's your favourite colour?
Q: I've noticed a lot of amp manufactures like Marshall, Blackstar, etc. have also started to make pedals; do you think Orange will ever do this? I have space on my pedal board that needs filling!
Ade: How much space? We may make one at some point? If we do, it will be our own approach.
PMT would like to thank everyone who joined in on the Q&A session for their questions and we hope that everyone feels a little more knowledgeable on Orange Amps!
By Ivan Silva