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By Craig Anderton, Editor in Chief, Harmony Central
This is my third review of an Orange amp in these pages because I dig the “Orange sound”—so when I hear Musician’s Friend is looking for someone to write a review, I raise my hand. At first I just expected a 50-watt RMS version of the Thunderverb 200, but there are some not-so-obvious differences that put the Orange TH50H in its own category.
I was shocked to receive a black Tolex model instead of the trademark orange version. Once I recovered, and lugged its 55-pound body into the studio, I plugged it in—and found an Orange by any other color is still an Orange.
The all-tube signal path includes four 12AX7 preamp tubes, two 12AT7 tubes for the reverb and FX loops, and two EL34 power tubes that deliver 50W RMS. The output tubes are the main difference compared to the 6550-powered Thunderverb 200. Previously I remarked on the TH30 combo amp’s unexpectedly low noise levels, but this seems to be an Orange “signature feature”—even with the TH50H cranked up high, residual noise remains blissfully low for an amp capable of this degree of crunch.
You can switch between the A and B channels with a front-panel toggle switch or footswitch (sold separately). Channel A is the nominally “crunchy/vintage” channel, with Volume (master), Treble, Middle, Bass, and Gain (preamp) controls. Channel B is theoretically the cleaner channel, and offers Volume, Shape, and Gain controls. I say “theoretically” because the available gain for both channels seems similar (they each have three gain stages). With either channel’s Gain below 12 o’clock the sound is relatively clean, but turn it up and the thrash begins. As a result, there are more tonal options available from this amp than you might think, especially because of the EQ design.
The “Shape” EQ control is fabulous—it traverses a range from beefy/midrangy when counterclockwise, to more scooped (with accented highs and lows) as you turn it clockwise. Every few degrees of rotation gives another tone—each one good—making this channel exceptionally versatile. Although I’d classify the overall TH50H tone as best suited for classic rock/hard rock, crank it enough and you’ll get full, deep Voice of Doom metal tones; dial it back for a more VOX-ish, chimey vibe.
Interestingly, I had just received a pitch transposition pedal for review and unlike amps whose response rolls off below the nominal guitar range, transposing downward out of the guitar range retained a big, heavy sound . . . well worth noting if you like to tune down, or use transposition pedals.
There are also two “global” controls: Reverb (which affects both channels) and Attenuator, which lets you dial in your favorite sound while controlling levels for rehearsal or minimizing leakage onstage or in the studio. Oddly, it reduces level as you turn it clockwise—then again, the British do drive on the left side of the road.
There are three speaker jacks suitable for 8-ohm, 16-ohm, or dual 16-ohm cabinets. The tube-driven effects loop is handy not just for effects, but for taking the loop send and feeding it into anything from additional amps to driving the cabinets in amp simulators. If you want a really huge sound in the studio, mic the TH50H amp head with a good ribbon mic (or dynamic) for the main channel, then layer that with the TH50H send going through an amp sim’s cabinet. I wish I had a physical 8x10 cab to try with the Orange TH50H; I bet it would sound great for big, thick rhythm guitar parts.
In addition to the channel footswitch, there are jacks for reverb on/off and attenuator in/out. The latter is usable for stage as well, as you can maintain a tone while switching between rhythm and lead—giving yet another sonic option compared to changing level and/or tone via channel switching.
The reverb is not shy; turn up the level and you’re in a really big space. You can’t get “smaller” sounds, but hey, that’s why reverb pedals exist. As to the overall sound, no matter how much you crank up the gain on either channel the sound remains defined, and doesn’t overwhelm the guitar—single-coils or humbuckers retain their characteristics. What’s more, the sound doesn’t “lose it” with various control combinations: You can dial in just about anything, and it just plain works.
Like other Orange amps, the TH50 is built as if the factory never wanted to see it come back again, and, tonally, it offers exceptional flexibility. To be sure, Orange amps have a signature sound—but it’s one that covers an extremely wide range, from country (really!) to hard rock to metal. If I had to choose one word to describe the Orange TH50H, I’d say “satisfying”—it’s one of those rare amps that gives back more than you put into it.
If you don’t need the Thunderverb 200’s extra power, the TH50H offers all of the benefits in a medium-power amp with exceptional tonal versatility. Order today with the complete assurance of Musician’s Friend’s 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.