Orange’s Dual Dark DD50 amp is a great choice for those who want fat, aggressive, angry tones. And their Micro series is the perfect fit for players who want a lot of tone in not a lot of space. So with the success of each, it was only a matter of time before the two were blended. Enter the Micro Dark.
SMALL BUT DEADLYThe Micro Dark is a teeny tiny little one-channel amp. It’s alternatingly cute and hilarious how tiny it is. About the size of the box an iPhone comes in, come to think of it. It pumps 20 watts of power from its diminutive little frame thanks to a solid state power section, while the preamp is pure valve power with a 12AX7 doing the grunt work. There are only three controls – Volume, Shape and Gain. The Shape control is for sculpting your tone, and the Gain control lets you dial in anything from clean to mean to scream. There’s a headphone jack on the front panel too, which doubles as a line out. It has Orange’s CabSim circuitry to give you the feel of a mic’d up cab through headphones or into a mixing desk.
The Micro Dark has an 8/16 Ohm speaker output, and while there’s an adorably tiny matching cabinet available with an 8” speaker, you can plug it into any cabinet with compatible impedance, so don’t be afraid to plop it on top of a 4X12 and have at it.
Aside from the output jack you’ll also find an effects loop on the back of the unit. In a way it’s almost surprising to find a loop on such a teeny, tiny amp where space is at a premium. But then again, it’s the only way to get reverb effects into this amp, and you’re probably going to want some kind of spatial enhancement from time to time. This conserves more space than including a reverb circuit, and gives you more flexibility.
COME TO THE DARK SIDEThe most surprising thing about the Micro Dark is that for all its tiny size, it sounds like a big amp. This is already true of the matching cabinet but especially true when you plug it into a 4X12 and you realise that not only is it loud but it’s nuanced and sonically complex, no matter what you’re playing it through. This ain’t no toy. Set the Gain control low and you’ll get a clear but characterful clean sound that has a bit of Voxiness to it, and with enough fidelity and sensitivity to allow the voice of your guitar and pickups to cut through. That’s not always true of tiny amps. Nudge the gain up a little and you’ll get classic rock crunch. But this amp shares some DNA with the mighty Dual Dark, so expect insane, fat, aggressive distortion when you turn the gain up. And the Shape control is very cleverly voiced. Turn it all the way down and you’ll get a fat, thick, sustaining tone that’s great for stoner rock or for compressed soloing. At about midway it sounds a little scooped in the midrange, and you’ll find a great all-rounder kind of tone. Turn it all the way up and you’ll get plenty of treble edge but it’s all usable. This is not one of those tone controls that is useful for about two thirds before becoming all harsh and buzzy.
The only real downer is that because it’s a single-channel amp there’s no way to mechanically switch from a clean to a dirty sound. But the preamp is so responsive that you can pretty much pull off the ‘use the guitar’s volume control as a gain pot’ trick: dial in your rhythm gain with the guitar at about 6, then you have somewhere to go for your cleans as well as for your high gains. Or, y’know what? These are so damn inexpensive that you could happily buy two and an A/B switch and still end up with change in your pocket.
THE BOTTOM LINEOrange has truly pulled off a feat of greatness with this little bruiser. It punches way above its weight with authentically complex distortion tones as well as with clean tones that sound rich, full and useful instead of just being an afterthought. There really isn’t anything bad you could possibly say about it that couldn’t be explained away by, “well just get a second one”.
“I wish it had channel switching for different gain levels”. Just get a second one. “I wish I could go from a fat Shape setting to a scooped one”. Just get a second one. At a recommended retail price of $279, and probably less if you know how to sweet-talk a retailer, you can set yourself up with one of these for less than many distortion pedals, and yet it’s every bit an Orange.
• One channel• 20 watts• Solid state power section• 12AX7 preamp valve• FX loop• CabSim headphone/line out• 8/16 ohm speaker out
WHAT WE RECKON
Huge range of gain
Even huger range of tones
Handy FX loop
No channel switching – obviously
Australian Musical ImportsPhone: (03) 8696 4600Website: www.gibsonami.com