Orange Rockerverb 50 Head
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Orange Rockerverb 50 Head

Rockerverb 50 Head, Tube Guitar Amp Head from Orange in the Rockerverb series.

content in English
King Loudness 18/03/2011

Orange Rockerverb 50 Head : Recensione di King Loudness (content in English)

"Rockerverb... not for this rocker."
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(NOTE: This is (for the most part), a review I did for Rig-Talk forums a few weeks ago. It is still my own however.)

In a nutshell, this is a 50 watt, dual channel tube amp from Orange Amplifiers. The power section is rather unique in that it runs on four 6V6 power tubes. The vast majority of high gain amp heads seem to run on either 6L6 tubes or EL34 power tubes. For those who don't know, 6L6s are generally described as a very full and rich sounding tube... great for clean tones as well as a nice American sounding high gain. They're generally a very "tight" sounding tube and work very well for a precise sound where clarity of notes is very important. By contrast EL34 power tubes tend to be much looser and rawer. They were the tube of choice for many British amps like Marshalls and they have a very biting, aggressive vibe. The cleans aren't as stellar, but they're not usually used for that application as a first choice. The 6V6 tubes in the RV50 are sort of like a "best of both worlds" type of scenario. They have a very nice American vibe (which allows the cleans to be a bit more sparkly than an EL34 powered amp), but they can get that raw British sound quite easily as well when you dial the amp in for it. I'd always thought of 6V6s as a tube used for cleaner/lower gain tones (IE: older Fender amps), but it does work on a really interesting and unique level for higher gain rhythm and lead sounds as well.


UTILIZATION

To me, the amp has a very straightforward and simple layout. It is not difficult to figure out the controls on the amp, but rather learning how they interact and react with one another (which I will address in the next column).

The clean channel is very basic and to the point, featuring only a volume control for levels, and a single set of bass and treble controls for the equalization. It reminds me very much of an old tweed Fender or something because of this control layout. I personally wish there was a gain control for the clean channel so that you could control the amount of breakup on the clean channel as compared to volume, but it's certainly usable as is. The dirty channel is laid out much like the clean channel, but it adds gain and middle (midrange) controls to the equation. As far as this channel goes, the only thing I wish they had added would have been a presence control to control those highest peak frequencies that the treble control doesn't deal with. There's also a tube driven reverb (very cavernous - I find it's mostly unusable past about 2), as well as a tube driven effects loop, which I've found is very kind to pedals (specifically time based effects). The only other thing of note is a two way switch on the back panel which reads Output Damping. Basically, what this does is act as sort of a tightness control. In the 'tight' setting, the amp is a bit more responsive to pick attack, and I found that the sound was a little bit cleaner overall. The 'loose' setting was a bit gainer and raunchier than the tight one and worked better for high gain riffage and certain more basic lead things. All in all, it's got a decent set of features but there are definitely things that could better it... (FWIW, some of my gripes were addressed in the RV50 MkII.)

SOUNDS

The Orange Rockerverb is definitely an interesting idea. They basically took a very basic Fender layout for the clean channel (think Fender Champ) and combined that with a fairly typical British distortion channel to try and give people a "best of both worlds" kind of amp. The 6V6 tubes in the power section definitely add a character that, to my ears, is like a cross between Fender and Marshall.

However, perhaps it's my cabinet (Haggerty 2x12 loaded with Eminence V12s), my guitar (I was using a Gibson LP with '57 Classics, a Parker Fly Deluxe with DiMarzios, or one of many different Fender Strats, all with SSS pickup configurations), the room I'm in, or SOMETHING, but the amp just did not cut it in a band mix. When I first got the amp, I jammed on it at home for about a week to get a feel for it, and it was great... very rich cleans and a very thick and syrupy distortion sound that just sang with overtones and musical feedback. However, as soon as I got it into a band mix... I could not have been more disappointed. What had sounded great and fat at home levels (probably about 3 or 4 on the dirty channel volume) was not cutting through in the slightest against a drummer, bassist and second guitarist (who runs a 50w Marshall head and a Marshall 2x12 cabinet.) I found that in order to cut through, I had to either dime the amp (yes, that means 10), or turn my middle and treble controls up to levels that had me cutting through in the mix at the levels I needed... but also caused this atrocious high midrange frequency to be the only thing I could hear. Unfortunately this is still true after about four months of working with the amp (I have since traded it.) I tried boosts, swapping tubes, different room placements, etc, but it just did not stack up in a band setting for what I'm doing. I just couldn't find a balance that gets me what I want to hear AND cuts through without turning the amp up to ungodly levels. This applies to both channels. The clean channel is okay (a bit flat sounding for my tastes), but I cannot get good pristine cleans at band levels because they just get lost as well (this might be where a gain control for the clean channel would come in handy.) I also find that the middle and treble controls tend to control very similar frequency ranges... leaving the highest treble and lower midrange frequencies unaffected, and that is definitely not something that I am a fan of.

OVERALL OPINION

My biggest gripe is the value for money of the amp. At $2,099 CAD new plus 15% taxes, I feel that this amp is grossly overpriced for the features and tone that you are getting. (The RV50 MkII clocks in at $2,225 CAD + tax). Mind you I got this one used, but my point still stands. When you get to that price point, you're within the territory of amps like the Splawn Quick Rod ($1,850 new... approximately $2,300 CAD after shipping and duties), the Mesa Boogie Mark V ($2,299 CAD + taxes), or even something like a Marshall JVM410H ($1,675 + taxes.) This isn't even taking into account the deals you can find used on much higher end gear like CAE, Bogner, Diezel) even if it costs a little bit more in the long run. That isn't to say the Orange is bad for the price per se, but I feel like there are better amps out there that will be more versatile (IE: Mesa Mark V), or do the British voice one better (IE: Splawn Quick Rod) so at Orange's new prices, I would never even consider one (though honestly Orange's pricing is high as it is, but I won't open that can of worms here.) All in all... unless you REALLY want this specific tone/tolex colour, or get a good deal on one second hand, I wouldn't even bother looking at a Rockerverb.

Final Impressions:
All in all, I think Orange did a reasonable job with this amp. The concept is really cool, and I think it definitely has some decent tones... but unfortunately the lack of certain features as well as the very high price point really leaves a sour taste in my mouth. However, in closing I want to stress that my gripes with the amp are most likely to do with my own ear. Try one for yourself and form your own opinions is my best advice, but you already knew that.