Small amp heads (often called ‘lunchbox’ amps) have been all the rage over the last few years, with most of the major manufactures having at least one (or, in some cases, several) entries into the market. Orange is one company that currently offers many different lunchbox models, and with their Orange Micro Terror they have really hit a home run with an amp you have to hear to believe. Let’s just say what comes out of this pint-sized powerhouse will certainly make you do a double take when you see how big it really is.
One thing that may be obvious when it comes to amps with this kind of package size: you most likely aren’t going to get blown away by a ton of different features that are commonly found on bigger (and more expensive) amp heads. But that’s the beauty of models like the Micro Terror – they were designed to do only a few things, but they do them really, really well.
It’s time to take a deep dive into all that the Orange Micro Terror has to offer. We’ll look behind the curtain to see how it can go from super-clean to mega-metal with just a few small twists of a few small knobs…all for a price that is micro-sized as well.
Who is this for?
This amp is for the guitar player who wants the real tube tone, but can do with less power. This amp is also for the travelling guitarist who wants an amp they can strap to their pedalboard.
The Micro terror is obviously an Orange amp. Its appearance is based on the larger Terror amps, hence its name: ‘Micro’ Terror. Here is a picture of it’s larger counterpart, the Rocker 15 Terror:
It’s metal casing with the classic Orange logo gives a sleek vibe, and the slots in the back make it so you can see the actual tube inside.
The carrying handle is a nice touch even though it’s not really necessary, since it’s the size of a pedal, and weighs about as much (1.87 lbs).
It looks like a proper amp head, and it is. It’s bizarre how Orange managed to pull off something so cool, yet so small.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, this thing is really tiny. As a reference:
This makes it absolutely ideal for travelling light. Fits in a gigbag, and weighs nothing.
The amp is a little light on features. It includes volume, gain and tone controls, as indicated by Orange’s iconic hieroglyphs. Ironically though, the Micro Terror has text above the knobs, explaining what they are, whereas the Rocker 15 Terror doesn’t.
It also has an aux-input, and headphone out. This allows you to practise late at night without waking the house. The aux-input is for playing along to your favourite songs and backing tracks.
The Micro Terror is a hybrid amp, which means it utilizes a combination of tubes and solid-state technology. In the case of the Micro Terror, it uses a single 12AX7 preamp tube, and a solid-state poweramp section. This gives you the real tube tone, whilst being very reliable. A solid-state poweramp is also cheaper, which helps with the budget oriented design of the amp. It also doesn’t have to be biased or replaced, so it’s another money saver compared to its tube counterpart.
Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Well, the tone is not entirely in the preamp. The classic distortion tone of the 70’s was a cranked Marshall, and what happens when you crank an amp? Poweramp compression. Basically, the way you got distortion out of an amp (before a ‘gain’ knob existed) was to turn up the volume so high that the signal would clip. This gives you a chaotic, boomy distortion. It’s perfect for that classic overdrive sound, but not as great for more modern styles of rock/metal. You can’t really get this type of wild distortion out of a solid-state poweramp. Plus, it’s not as loud, but since this amp is not meant for arena tours, the lack of volume is more of a feature rather than a bug.
The Micro Terror does not have an FX-loop, which can be limiting (especially if you play with a lot of gain). But luckily, the Micro Dark does come with an FX-loop.
My only real gripe with this amp is that it only has a single channel. This makes it pretty limiting for a live situation, as you can’t just hook up a footswitch to go from clean to OD. So if you do want to switch between sounds, you’ll have to get creative with your guitar’s volume knob.
The layout of this amp is dead simple. gain, volume and tone knobs is all this thing offers. This might seem fairly limiting, but the response rate of the knobs is very wide. The gain can go from clean to mayhem, the tone from scooped to mid-focussed, and the volume from bedroom to gig.
Now, onto the most important part. The sound is the integral part of any amp, and a bad sounding amp is irredeemable.
The Orange Micro Terror can do it all. At low gain the clean sound is clean (well, duh) and rich. It’s a very nice pedal platform if you wanna go that route. But we’re focusing on the raw sound of the amp.
Turning the gain up a little to about 9 o’ clock will give you a nice edge. If you’re playing through single-coils, you can get a really nice breakup tone. The tone knob will be your best friend at this stage, as it takes the sound from a scooped glassy sound to a rich, mid focused tone.
Turning up the gain a little more to about 11 o’clock will give you a proper overdrive. I recommend switching to the bridge pickup on this one, and you’ll find a rich edge that really cuts through when you pick hard. Really nice for solos.
Let’s go a little crazy. Turning it up to 3 o’ clock will give you a really thick, saturated overdrive. If you wanna play some ACDC or Zeppelin, this is where you’ll want to go. Using a humbucker is advised, as it’ll pretty get pretty noisy from here. Again, the tone knob is your friend, dial it in accordingly to where you want to sit in the mix (scooped is further away, mid focussed is closer).
Not enough gain? Fine, let’s turn it up all the way. This will get you in the realm of stoner and doom. A thick, uncontrolled distortion that Orange is famous for. Using high-output humbuckers and a boost in front might just get you enough gain for metal. But more on that later.
The volume will also help shape the tone. Turning it up a little will really make it sing. Turning it up all the way won’t turn this thing into a Marshall Plexi Superlead, but it’ll be a beast of its own.
Pairing this thing up with a good speaker will be necessary to hear what this thing can really do. Luckily, Orange makes its own 8” cabinet that comes in a bundle with the Micro Terror. The cabinet has a custom-voiced speaker, specifically made for this amp. However, this cabinet doesn’t do the Micro Terror justice. I suggest pairing it up with a cab that has some Celestion Vintage 30’s in there. They’re great speakers with a really good response rate. These speakers work well with Orange amps, and a lot of the more expensive Orange cabs come with Vintage 30’s.
This amp sounds huge, way larger than it looks. And considering its price of around $150 new, it’s an absolute must-consider for any guitarist who wants to downsize his rig.
Other amps to consider
Orange Micro Dark/Orange Terror Stomp
This amp is for the player who wants more gain, and the inclusion of an FX-loop. Using high-output humbuckers and a boost will easily get you enough gain for metal, as Ola Englund showcases in his video.
This amp is modelled after the famous Dark Terror, which is a gainy monster. Colin from CS Guitars showcases to difference between the Micro Dark and the Dark Terror.
To summarise what he says in the video, it sounds basically the same in a mix as its bigger counterpart, but a little fizzier and with less headroom. and considering this clocks in at around a third of the price of the big one, it’s phenomenal what can be achieved these days.
The addition of an FX-loop is nice. This way you can play with a lot of gain, but still use your modulation and time based effects without them sounding distorted.
With the Terror Stamp, Orange has taken the ‘pedal-sized amp’ very seriously. The Terror Stamp is basically the same as the Micro Terror, except it’s pedal shaped and comes with an FX-loop. This retails for just under $200 new in most places.
The Bantamp and the Orange Micro Terror often come up in the same sentence. These amps are the same sort of low-cost tiny tube heads as the Oranges.
Joyo currently offers seven different amps, all of them are based off of famous amps.
- The Bluejay (Fender Blues Jr.)
- The Jackman (Marshall JCM800)
- The VIVO (EVH 5150)
- The Atomic (Vox AC30)
- The Firebrand (ENGL Fireball 100)
- The Meteor (Orange Rockerverb 100)
- The Zombie (Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier)
All the names are a clever nod to the amps they’re modelling. An example is the spelling of the word ‘Jackman’. On the face of the amp, the J,C and M are highlighted. Another example is the VIVO, which spells out ‘5150’ in Roman Numerals.
These amps are very very popular. They all come with a preamp tube and 20 watts solid--state power, so they’re very similar to the Orange. The only exceptions are that all of them have effects loops and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can just stream your tracks directly to the amp wirelessly. This can be hilarious if the guitarist forgets to turn the bluetooth off during a gig… They also all come with two channels, most of them have ‘clean’ and ‘OD’, except on the Atomic and the Bluejay, which feature a ‘normal’ and ‘bright’ mode.
Joyo has also recently introduced the Jackman II and the Zombie II, which have separate clean/OD volume, gain, and tone controls, and the channels are footswitchable.
Joyo is mostly known for making great budget guitar pedals, which have been recently rebranded by Harley Benton. It’s nice to know Joyo makes great amps as well. For something bigger, Joyo has the Mjolnir. The Mjolnir is a full-tube dual channel head that goes for around $500 new.
It seems that all companies wanna join the fun, as Vox released 5 micro amp heads.
The 5 styles are:
These amps are a little louder though, they’re 50 watts solid-state class D power. That might just be enough to be heard over a band if run through a 2x12 cab.
The Vox’s do not have tubes, instead they come with the patented analog NuTube technology, which is said to accurately recreate tube response.
There’s not much to say about these but that they sound great. These retail for around $150, so they’re in the same price range as the others.
Peavey 6505 Piranha Micro Head
This little amp might have gone a bit under the radar, but that’s not a comment on its quality.
It’s modeled after the famous Peavey 6505, which is Peavey’s version of the EVH 5150.
This amp certainly looks the coolest out of all of them in my opinion. That’s mostly because of the glowing LED lights in the tube cavity. The amp possesses a gain, EQ, and volume knob just like all the others, and it has two channels: crunch and lead.
With the help of a boost, this amp will get you into tight metal tone territory.
On the top of the amp there is a cool picture of a piranha, which has nothing to do with the sound, but it’s just a nice little detail I felt like highlighting.
It also comes with a carrying bag, so you can easily take it with you without being afraid it’ll get damaged in your backpack.
It goes for about $110 new, so it’s a little cheaper than the others, and it’s a bit of a one-trick-pony. But other than that it’s really good.
Summary and Conclusion
The strong and weak points of the Micro Terror:
- Many tonal options
- Great looking
- Very portable
- Very cheap
- Many great alternatives
- A bit limiting
Like with a lot of cheap small amps these days, it’s easy to forget this is $150. Think about it, you’re getting a real tube head that sounds good within the same price range as literal beginner practise amps. These can barely be considered practise amps, even though the price reflects just that.
The Micro Terror is a real winner in the category of budget amp heads. It’s personally not my favorite amp of all the tiny amp heads I’ve mentioned, but it certainly is for a lot of other people.
Orange certainly knows what they’re doing, and this product once again reflects just that.