SOLID-STATE OF THE ART
When Orange Amplification’s lead amp designer, Ade Emsley, inflicted Tiny Terror onto the world in 2006, he sparked a revolution. The bone-simple controls, portability and the ability to achieve power amp distortion at reasonable volumes sent every known amp manufacturer worldwide into space-race-style frenzy. The lunchbox head phenomenon is perhaps the most important milestone in modern tube guitar amplification, but today we are going to look at the newest breakthrough in solid-state technology. Enter: the Crush Pro CR120H.
Based on the famous Rockerverb series, this op-amp driven behemoth sports two channels of juicy Orange goodness that can take you from beautifully robust, snappy cleans to the depths of doom fuzz destruction. The real shocker here is the touch-sensitive Orange overdrive that you would not expect without some glass under the hood. Apparently, the R&D team at Orange spent as much time as was needed to ensure that players could enjoy the dynamics of digging in for more dirt and riding the volume knob. Rumor has it that there is even some worry within the Orange camp that this beast sounds too good and might compete with its tube-driven cousin. After ripping into the CR120H at gigging volume I can see why.
THE TUBELESS WONDER
I have always embraced solid-state technology for what it was and some of my favorite guitar players and tones have come from tubeless technology. Wilko Johnson’s signature spank-plank-skank that he achieved with the H&H IC100 is the stuff of legends. Andy Gill of Gang of Four exploited the tight and dry tones of the Carlsbro Stingray for his wiry funk-punk freakouts to great effect. Anyone who has seen The Melvins has had their kidneys melted by the glaciers of gain gobbing from Buzz’s Sunn Beta Leads. The good news is that solid-state enthusiasts can achieve all the aforementioned tones with the CR120H, but tube purists will be disarmed by the cleans, dynamic overdrives and harmonically rich distortions available from this tubeless wonder.
Starting on the clean channel with everything at noon, I was immediately struck by how rich and responsive the tone was. None of that ceramic plate brittleness that you normally associate with a solid-state amps was present here. The second gain stage of the clean channel kicks in around 1 o’clock and gradually adds more hair and bite to the signal. When I maxed out the volume, I got frighteningly close to the beautifully bright bite of my old Hiwatt DR-504 and enjoyed tube-like gritty-clean dynamics conducted by my pick attack. Pedal pushers and Big Muff divers will love jumping off this platform.
Switching over to the four-stage dirty channel opens up a world of overdrives, distortions and fuzzed out ferocity. I tended to stay around noon and ride my guitar’s volume knob for some Precious and Grace-style Billy Gibbons action, but if you want the low end loose juice that can only be squeezed from an Orange, be brave and turn the doom dial past midnight.
What we like: If you are like me and have been waiting for a reliable, robust and versatile analog solid-state amp that can hang with tube amps four times the price, look no further. The hall, plate and spring reverbs are fantastically usable and the effects loop works a treat. The thick chassis, heavy-duty switches and birch ply head cabinet proclaim that this is no beginner’s toy.
Concerns: You will need a beastly high-wattage cab for this head to mount and we would have liked a footswitch included.