Orange Rocker 15 Review
Rebooted range shows its class
It’s fair to say that Orange’s Tiny Terror amp changed the amplification landscape. Amp heads now commonly known as ‘lunchbox’ heads weren’t really a major thing until the British company launched its 15 watt box of tricks. Afterwards, they became fairly common. You could argue that the new trend towards these shrunken down units lit the touchpaper for an overall shift in the industry towards making things tiny. Tiny amps, tiny pedals; for the first time we saw people begin to realise that bigger wasn’t always better.
So it was something of a shock when Orange announced in 2016 that they were discontinuing the now legendary Terror series. After all, it had become a stone cold modern classic in its 10 years on this planet. Better to burn out than fade away though, right? But it did make us players wonder what Orange had up their sleeves instead. After all, a solid 15 watt combo is a mainstay in most amp brands’ line-ups. It’d be like VW saying they were going to stop making hatchbacks. Obviously they were going to replace it with something…
And replace it they have only, surprisingly, with a reboot of one of their cult classic models. Ladies and Gentlemen, we present to you the new (but, in a way, old) Orange Rocker series amps. This new range comes in two flavours; a 15 watt combo and a 30 watt combo. So far, so normal. But look a bit closer and you’ll see Orange have given these new amps a few interesting tweaks to bring them into the 21st century.
The Rocker 15, for example, features some interesting power scaling options which make it a great proposition for the bedroom player, while the Orange Rocker 32 version boasts two speakers so it can run in full stereo mode. Both are pitched as perfect pedalboard amps, and both deliver that classic Orange tone in spades.
We’ve had a bit of time with the Orange Rocker 15; here’s our review.
First impressions last
It wouldn’t be unreasonable of us to say that Orange amps have a distinctive visual appeal. In a world of black and sometimes grey boxes, their amps stand out by virtue of their bold colouring. The Rocker 15 is no different, although it does come in a less lurid black tolex for those who prefer to hide their light under a bushel, so to speak.
You’ll notice straight away that the amp has a pleasant heft to it. It’s certainly not going to blow away in a stern wind. Orange has been manufacturing certain amps out in the Far East for a number of years now, and the levels of build quality on display are superb. No wobbly controls or bubbly tolex here.
The control panel is laid out in a logical fashion on the top of the amp, with a single control for the clean channel, and standard gain, master volume and three-band EQ controls for the gain channel. To the back of the amp are the power connection and the send and return connections for the effects loop. There’s also, located under the panel, a switch to access the amp’s power scaling controls.
The Rocker 15 includes a neat option to scale the power down from 15 watts to 7 watts, and then again from 1 watt down to half a watt. They call this switch the ‘bedroom/headroom’ switch, on account of it being able to alter the output from a volume level suitable to a stage down to one suitable for more low-key playing. This is a welcome inclusion; anyone who’s ever played a 1 watt valve amp before will know that, even at low-ish volumes, it can still wake the neighbours up if you’re not careful. Reducing this even further to a fraction of a watt means the player can edge into power valve harmonics at a far more reasonable volume level.
Your ‘boards new best friend
Plugged in, you’ll instantly warm to the simple charms of the clean channel. As with the ‘old’ Rocker amps, and the more modern Thunder series, the clean channel offers a pure, untouched tone. There are no EQ settings for this channel, it’s simply chiming valvey goodness all the way. Push the channel at its higher levels, and experiment with your playing dynamics, and you can unlock some earthy, slightly grizzled tones which will grace any blues playing. Dial it down and it’s almost Fender-like in its clarity, and it allows the guitar’s natural resonance to come to the fore.
The gain channel incorporates the British grittiness as the older Rocker models, and allows the user to travel from a hearty, raw flavour through to full-bore chunky metal tones with ease. The Rocker amps also do away with the ‘shape’ control found on the Thunder and Terror amps, which gives the user more scope for sculpting their desired tones with more precision.
As mentioned, Orange is keen to position the new Rocker amps as perfect pedalboard amps. The valve-driven effects loop on the Rocker 15 demonstrates its credentials here, offering a high level of flexibility for players who rely on their stompboxes. Played through the clean channel, you are giving your pedals the perfect stage to show off what they can do without being held back by the inherent characteristics of the pre-amp stage.
All told, the Orange Rocker 15 is more than worthy of its place in the Orange line-up. It delivers genuinely superb quality tones, and has some extremely welcome additions to its functionality which players of any genre would welcome. Orange has long been seen as one of their bolder, more unique brands, but with these new models their quality and craftsmanship has shown that they are truly at the top of their game.