|#||Model||Rating||Amplifier Power||Weight||Our top||Check|
|1||Micro Dark||20 Watt||2.2 pounds||1|| Check|
|2||Dark Terror||15 Watt||15.43 pounds||2|| Check|
|Amplifier Power||20 Watt|
|Amplifier Power||15 Watt|
Orange is famous for creating super tiny amplifiers and packing them with more heat than ever – this is their trademark approach, you could say. Orange Micro Dark is actually a hybrid head, meaning it’s not capable of generating an audio signal on its own – you’ll need to buy a speaker for that. So, why would you even consider going for this model when there are so many amps that are bigger, stronger, and come with 1 or even 2 speakers? Well, first of all, they will cost you a lot more. Second, for a practicing musician that’s always on the move, something so lightweight and flexible that can be fitted in a backpack is like a breath of fresh air.
Making Sense Of The Various Models In The Terror Series
Now, before we go ahead and learn everything there is to know about this amazing gear, let me clear the confusion: there is no Orange Micro Dark Terror available – the company simply never made an amp with that name. Folks get it confused on the Internet, and I just wanted to clear the air. We have Micro Terror, Dark Terror, and Micro Dark, the golden middle that we’re reviewing today. Tiny Terror is the “grandfather” of this series and created a lot of buzz back when it was released. That’s when Orange developed a habit of manufacturing “teeny” amp heads that look a bit childish but sound like the bigger, stronger, more expensive alternatives.
Say, CR120H packs more heat and looks more convincing, but it will also cost you almost three times more. Alright, what do we have with Micro Dark? Much like Micro Terror, this is a hybrid amp with 20 Watts of power under its hood. The solid-state output and the ECC83 preamp work together very well and create some decent tones for your guitar. Obviously, the greatest appeal of this approach is the fact that the resulting gear is unbelievably small and lightweight.
The metal handle sure looks cool, but, honestly, you won’t really need it, as it’s easier to grab the whole thing with two hands. The high-gain circuit – in 4 stages – is the heart of this head. Sadly, there is no aux input like in the previous models; instead, you’ll find a pretty cool effects loop. The regular “Tone” knob is called “Shape” here, and it actually behaves a little differently. This is an amazing tool for shaping the tone and was the biggest selling point of Dark Terror back in 2011 when it first hit the market. On the left side of it, you’ll find just a regular Volume knob for, well, controlling the volume level. On the right, there’s a Gain control (preamp).
This head operates on 15 volts, more than enough for a tiny monster. As for the power supply, it consists of a standard adaptor and a kettle lead that sits on the side. But let’s not get technical here. Just like the other models in this series, Orange Micro Dark is a great pick for the newbies, as they won’t have to make sense of numerous controls, features, and – God forbid – circuits. Simply plug your favorite instrument in and get to cracking! The headphone output is a must in modern-day amplifiers, and Micro Dark comes packed with one as well. You can also use it as a DI output for some decent silent recording.
How Does The Amp Head Sound In Real Life?
So, obviously, to check whether this little guy is worth our while or not, we’ll need a fairly decent speaker cabinet (we talked about this in the beginning). I know that you probably want to see how Micro Dark sounds distorted, but let’s take a look at the clean tones first. Besides, according to the expert, if an amp sounds decent without any overdrive, it will most definitely sound amazing with everything cranked up to 11.
I’m not saying that the tone is on par with the 1000-dollar amplifiers, but the iconic Orange character is still there in the midrange. Use the Shape control to either accentuate this or cut it out. The master volume control is great for keeping everything at a reasonable level and proves its worth when you go with a distorted sound. Once you switch to 10/11 o’clock on the Gain knob, the spirits of the dead rock stars will come to life. The sound will become crunchy, crispy, and surprisingly smooth. Again, don’t forget to put that Shape control to use. With it, you can achieve a very wide range of different tones that will suit different genres.
Learning More About The Controls
Ok, let us move forward with this Orange Micro Dark review and talk more about how this hybrid head performs in action. You should definitely plug your favorite guitar in and see how it sounds through this amp. As they say, experimentation is the key to “syncing up” with your gear. Every single instrument feels and sounds different, and what works for me might never work for you. However, for the most part, we all hear the same tones, and pretty much anything you connect to Micro Dark will sound just right. One thing is for certain: this head will sound better if you pair it with a big cab rather than a small one.
True, it would look pretty funny sitting on top of a huge speaker cabinet, but hey – it’s all good as long as the tones it generates are solid, right? Don’t be afraid to crank the amp up. With Gain pushed to the far right, the Shape knob will have an even bigger impact. If you’re a fan of the classic rock vibes, turn it to the left. On the other hand, if the modern-day metal is what’s giving you the chills, then stick to the right. Yes, it’s that easy. With a big, strong cab, palm-mutes sound pretty amazing on Orange Micro Dark. You don’t even have to own a super-expensive electric guitar for the head to shine through: it will work great in combination with even a low-budget axe.
Cranking It Up Or Going For A More “Intimate” Tone?
The beautiful thing about this amp is that it gives you a lot of room for experimentation. Despite the fact that there isn’t an equalizer and you don’t have any fancy features, that Shape control is amazing. Besides, the guitar also has a lot of impact on the sound (obviously), which means you won’t know what works best for your current setup until you try it. The effects loop is pretty basic and works pretty much like any other effects loop out there. The headphone out is also pretty standard. As for the DI part of it, even though it’s ok for newbies, it won’t be of any help if you’re serious about recording your music.
What Is Orange Micro Dark Capable Of?
Don’t let that tiny box fool you: it’s got enough volume to fill up a large venue and it doesn’t break down even when you push Gain to the limit. The controls are incredibly simple, and that’s a huge compliment. Forget about spending hours, if not days trying to make sense of it all: everything is right there in front of you, and there are only 3 knobs to work with. If you’re looking for more mids and less highs, turn the Shape knob to the left. And if you’re all about brightness and precision, turn that knob to the right. When you crank up the Gain, you’ll realize that this little guy is capable of great things and keeps the fine Orange traditions alive.
- Controls: Gain, shape, volume
- Headphone out with CabSim circuit
- Impedance: 8-16 ohms
Comparing Micro Dark With Dark Terror
Obviously, we couldn’t finish this review without having a classic Orange Micro Dark VS Dark Terror battle. This comparison is very popular on the Internet, even though these two models appeal to slightly different client bases. First of all, Dark Terror costs 650 dollars (Micro Terror can be yours for 190). Second, it weighs 15.43 pounds (7 kilograms), which still means it’s quite lightweight and portable but not nearly as much as the little brother. Some folks claim that for rock, heavy metal, and everything else in between, Dark Terror (DT) is significantly better than Micro Dark (MD), but that’s not really the case here. If you’re a pro, you will definitely be able to notice the subtle differences, especially with gain pushed to the limit (the beginners won’t).
The fact that it’s an all-tube amp means that it’s got a richer, fuller, warmer tone. You won’t find that vintage atmosphere with MD. Plus, the more expensive amp head is louder. Another thing that sets these two amps apart is that DT is all tube, while MD has a tube preamp but the amp itself is solid-state. However, in practice, they both sound the same. Besides, DT doesn’t have any additional controls (say, an equalizer or a compressor), which again, doesn’t make it that much of a better choice compared to MD. And since we’re talking about an entry-level practice amp, I’m not really sure whether the price difference is justified for the beginners and intermediate-level players.
Which One Is A Better Pick For You?
Remember: you should always consider all the pros and cons before spending your money on a new gear. So, for practice, some beginner-level studio recording and even occasional small-venue gigs, MD will be just fine. There’s nothing worse than buying an expensive amplifier only to realize later that you could’ve saved some money on a less expensive model and purchased a solid speaker cabinet to pair with it. I’ve been through that and would hate to see you make the same mistake. Make your decision wisely and always keep in mind what you’re planning to do in the nearest future. That will help you during the decision-making process.
By the way, if you want a complete pack, meaning both an amp and a speaker cabinet, make sure to check out the official Orange Micro Dark Stack. It comes with Micro Dark, the head we’re reviewing today, along with the company’s famous PPC108 8-inch cab. It is colored in black to match the amp’s vibes and the two look pretty great together, despite the significant difference in size. The whole thing can fit in pretty much any corner; so, don’t worry about finding enough space for it. That speaker is specifically designed to produce some warm, crunchy, and punchy tones, not to mention it will be especially effective with this amp.
With this setup, you’ll have everything a man/woman needs for practicing and recording in the studio. I did mention earlier that for professional studio sessions, Micro Dark isn’t really a good choice, but for beginner/intermediate players, it will be just right. The bottom line is – if you’re looking for that classic British tone that’s equally rich and aggressive, this stack might just be what you need. Orange is not the only company that makes these kinds of “bundles” – pretty much every big player in the industry is doing the same thing, as the newbies really love all-in-one bundles. PLus, they serve as great gifts.
- Tube driven FX loop
- High gain preamp
- It is uncompromisingly brutal, doubtless unhinged, even ferocious
Alright, that’s basically it for our Orange Micro Dark manual. We talked about the controls, the features, the tones it’s capable of generating, and the fact that it’s extremely small and lightweight. For just 190 dollars, you get 20 Watts of power, a headphone out, and the standard Gain-Volume-Tone package (the last one is called “Shape” in this case).
At the same time, the pros and folks with experience give Orange Micro Dark the credit it deserves. As always, it all depends on your current needs. If you’re in the market for a hybrid head, this one will be right up your alley. It has more gain than its little brother – Micro Terror – and is lighter, more portable, and cheaper than Dark Terror, the big brother. As mentioned in the beginning, the tube overdrive comes from a 12AX7/ECC83 preamp valve; it’s paired to a solid-state output section. Together, they make every single cent out of those 190 dollars work towards creating a stable, balanced, rich, warm, and musical tone.