Orange's iconic coloured amps can be seen adding guitar grunt on stage to the likes of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Death Cab for Cutie, Jimmy Eat World and Bloc Party. Now Orange is doing the same for your home computer, encasing a powerful desktop PC in one of its distinctive cabinets.
The valve-driven guts of its regular amps is replaced with a potent set of components, coupled with an impressive bundle of music software, to provide a micro-studio in a cunning orange shell. If you're a keen guitarist looking to step into the world of recording -- and you want to do it in style -- the Orange OPC might be just the thing you're after.
Design and build quality
The OPC will be instantly recognisable to any guitarist who's spent more than a few minutes browsing for a new amp. From the front it looks exactly like Orange's classic Tiny Terror practice amp -- the iconic orange covering is present here, as is the beige front. So it can sit in the corner of your room as a badge of honour for your guitar-playing skills.
The case is made from the same wood you'd find in the amp, giving it an extremely sturdy feel and adding to the illusion that it's really an amp. It also makes it pretty weighty so I wouldn't recommend you moved it around too much. There's a handle on top, but I still found carrying it across London to and from the CNET UK office a chore -- although the same could be said of any desktop PC, and indeed most guitar amps, so it's not much of a complaint.
The only way you'd realise that the OPC isn't actually an amp is if you turned it round. On the back you'll find all the ports, inputs and fan grilles you'd expect to find on any PC. There's two USB 3.0 and five USB 2.0 ports (of which one is positioned on top for quick access), two HDMI sockets, VGA out, an eSATA port and inputs for a 5.1 surround sound system. There's also coaxial and TOSLINK digital audio outputs for feeding high-quality sound to home theatre systems. A slot-loading DVD drive is situated on top as well.
You'll also spy two quarter-inch stereo inputs for hooking up an external device like a mixing desk, as well as two quarter-inch stereo outputs for connecting a pair of studio monitors. On top are two quarter-inch inputs, one for a guitar lead and one for a microphone as well as volume, treble, middle and bass controls for when you're playing aloud.
Sadly, there's no XLR input for a microphone, so if you're hoping to record vocals with a phantom-powered condenser microphone you'll need to get a seperate amp. Given that the OPC is specifically aimed at guitarists, rather than vocalists, it's not a surprising omission.
Alternatively, you could get hold of the TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play and sing your heart out through that. You can apply a plethora of effects to your voice such as reverb, distortion or T-Pain style auto-tune and record directly onto the OPC. It's going to set you back an extra couple of hundred quid, but there's a lot of fun to be had with it.
The OPC is just a computer tower, so you won't get a monitor with it. With VGA and HDMI outputs though you can easily hook it up to your existing display or invest in a twin set of 24-inch monitors for some fancy-pants dual-screen editing. You do get a keyboard and mouse, but they're standard pieces of kit, so you might want to upgrade to something more lavish.
Using the OPC for guitar
Although it might look exactly like a guitar amp, the OPC is primarily a PC, just in a cunning disguise. Rather than being packed full of traditional valves and proper guitar amplifier speaker cones, which give that trademark warm sound, the inside is stuffed with processors and fans and uses two 6.5-inch JBL speakers on the front.
You therefore won't get the same rich tube-driven sounds as you would from a regular Orange amp, but the high-quality speakers and wood casing provides a considerably more authentic tone than you'd achieve with regular computer speakers. You wouldn't want to use it for a live gig, but it's perfectly suited for practising in your home -- you might want to warn your neighbours first though.
Of course, the benefit of having PC internals is that the amp functions exactly as a regular computer. Your guitar sound is created digitally from software, rather than from physical hardware.
The software at the heart of this process is Amplitube 3 by IK Multimedia. It's an extremely potent piece of software and retails at nearly £200 by itself, so it's rather impressive that Orange has bundled it as standard with the machine.
Amplitube 3 is a guitar modelling application that allows you to create virtually any guitar sound by selecting different amp heads, speaker cabinets and stomp boxes to make a completely custom tone. There's a massive amount of pre-built digital rigs to choose from, all of which can be endlessly customised with effects. This even extends to choosing what mics are 'recording' your chosen cabinet and whereabouts in the room they're positioned -- exactly the same choices you'd make in a professional recording studio.