Can good things really come in small packages? In this Orange Micro Dark review we’ll take a look at this tiny box and assess it’s credentials as a viable amp to sit atop a speaker cabinet. How does it perform and when might you want to use it? Let’s find out.
Overview of Micro Dark
The Micro Dark is housed in a solid casing packed into a micro form. There’s a very appealing simplicity to the Micro Dark. Any complex controls have been eschewed in favor of using just a few control knobs to shape your tone.
The design is classic vintage and starts with the power switch that looks like something out of a 1930’s power station. Plug in your guitar via the 1/4″ jack. If you don’t have a cabinet you can output to a set of headphones or a PA system by connecting to the 1/4″ phones jack. The Micro Dark has a cabinet simulator to make it sound as if you’re playing through a 4 x 12″ speaker cabinet. which sounds excellent through a set of phones.
The Micro Dark features high gain circuitry, ready for the rigors of metal styles that it’s capable of producing. The amp uses a combination of an AX7 tube with solid state technology to provide it’s output. That means you can find a tube overdrive sound as well as high gain sounds.
It’s hard to believe that there’s any room for it, but an effects loop has also been squeezed onto the back of the unit along with the output jack to enable you to connect to any 8-16 ohm speaker cabinet. If you want a practice set up, capable of annoying the neighbors, you could connect to an Orange PPC108 (1 x 8″) cabinet quite cost effectively. However there’s nothing to stop you from connecting to a 4 x 12″ cabinet, so long as it’s 8-16 ohms.
As mentioned the amp is tiny, weighing just 1.7lbs (0.78kg). You might well misplace and lose it!
In keeping with the ethos of the amp the control section is extremely simple. The volume controls the master output. The shape defines how much middle is blended. Turn the shape control knob to the left to find tones similar to the VOX AC30, synonymous with the bands of the 60’s as well as crunchier tones. Turned to the right more gain is blended giving you classic Fender amp type tones. It can sound a little thin when turned all the way to the right, but perhaps that’s personal preference.
The gain control pretty much does what is says. Turn it to the right for full on high gain. One thing to note about the gain is that it provides bags of sustain, which is a really nice bonus. Great for blues players and smooth lead parts. There’s only one channel, so you’ll need to adjust the controls to switch between clean and distorted, or you could connect external effects. Another way around that is to use the volume control on your guitar, but you won’t have as much fine control.
The Micro Dark is capable for outputting 20 watts, but it seems a lot louder. Perhaps because it’s geared so well for high gain styles. It’s loud, but I don’t think it’ll keep up with a band without being mic’d up to a PA system. You can run the Micro Dark to a PA directly via the phone jack and it’ll work well. For garage practice, especially though a 2×12″, it’ll do the job.
You can achieve some nice clean tones with the volume and gain dialed back, moving through crunch and classic rock at the middle positions right thought to high gain tones. Like I said before, the tone feels a little thin when you get to 10 on the shape and gain controls.
The natural option to combat that is to go with the Dark Terror, the bigger brother to the Micro Dark. Sure you do get a much more balanced tone, and you don’t get the thin sound at higher shape and gain levels. But it’s also around $500 more expensive so perhaps out of range for most beginners.
The real benefit of the Micro Dark is that you can connect to any 8-16 ohms cabinet, so you’ll get a lot of punch out of a bigger cabinet. However that requires you to buy both the Micro Dark and a speaker cabinet. If you want the Orange tone in a practice amp, you might be better off with the Orange Crush 20RT, which is around the same price. There’s also the Fender Champion 20, which includes on-board effects and comes in around $60 cheaper than the Micro Dark.
The Micro Dark is definitely compact and easy to use. There’s a surprising amount of features on such a tiny chassis. An effects loop enables you to connect some external pedals to compensate for the lack of a dedicated drive channel. The cabinet simulator makes silent practice sound great, pumping the sounds of a 4×12″ cabinet directly to your ears. You’ll also get that benefit if you connect to a PA system via the phones jack.
There’s a decent range of tones too, from clean to crunch to overdriven to high gain scream. It can sound a little thin when the shape is turned up to 10, but perhaps that’s just my personal preference. If you want to play via speakers you’ll either need to connect to a PA system or get a separate speaker cabinet. You can start with the PPC108, which is a 1×8″ speaker, but it’ll work with any 8-16 ohm cabinet.
Alternatively you could go for a standard amp, such as the Orange Crush 20RT or the Fender Champion 20, which are both in a similar price range to the Micro Dark. Check out my Amp Page for more amps of varying shapes and sizes.
I hope you’ve found this post useful. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page. Want to find out more about the Orange Micro Dark? Click the link below.
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