Orange Amplification TremLord 30 by Arthur Stone
Been a Long Time: The Orange TremLord is a 30 watt, 1 x 12” combo guitar amp featuring a tremolo, spring-reverb, and buffered fx loop. It has simple, effective, gain and EQ controls; also, 4 selectable power modes. All valve-driven.
Orange (currently celebrating their 50th anniversary) say that the The TremLord 30 is their take on a 1950's-style amp and they have achieved this with aplomb but the TremLord offers much more and is capable (with some pedal mojo) of creating a range of sounds from any era.
In the ancient Anglo-Saxon language, the word 'Lord' referred to 'bread-winner' or 'bread-provider.' The Orange TremLord 30 is doing just that – putting bread on the table, sonically-speaking. Bread is the foundational food of civilization and similarly the TremLord 30 is providing a foundation for your guitar sound. Clean, musical, pleasing, powerful.
There is warmth and colour in the 'clean sound' but for overdrive, fuzz, dirt and gristle distortion you need to bring your own butter and jam in the form of pre-input pedals or fx loop inserts.
The build quality is first-class; the design allows easy access to the important controls and functions. To carry, the TremLord feels like a medium-sized suitcase (a suitcase full of valves, wood and metal) – a bit bulky but manageable. Not something to walk a mile with. A solid Les Paul will balance it out a bit.
The cab is plywood; Orange haven't specified whether it's the same birch-ply 'tonewood' as used with the OBC-112 bass cab but it has a nice tone/response when tapped. The handle is a thick plastic strap and seems good with care; time will tell. Underneath are two wooden rails (screwed on) which raise the amp from the floor by around 3/4”.
The finishing on the metal surfaces is exceptional – a work of technological art. Nothing feels cheap or wonky.
Electronically, the signal path moves from the input to preamp, then tremolo, then EQ and phase inverter. The in-series signal is split at this stage: one path direct to the spring-reverb and power amp and then output, and the second fork of the split to the fx loop SEND. Usually the send would connect to an fx unit the output of which returns to the RTN of the fx loop.
If the RTN is not connected then both forks of the split signal will be active; this creates a high-quality DI signal with tremolo and EQ available, and an output from the TremLord. If a dummy (shorted) jack is inserted into the RTN then this mutes the TremLords output.
Jack outputs are available for 8 and 16 Ohm extension cabs.
First Impressions: It's a bit unfair to say the TremLord is providing a blank canvas; the gain-structure and tonality is more complex than that. It's the kind of amp that you'd like to play clean due to it's musicality and the presence of harmonics and dynamic nuances that overdriven or inferior amps can flatten out. Just because it's billed as 'clean' doesn't mean it's not exciting or edgy if required. The sound is well-defined and articulate without harshness. The EQ has a useful range for darkening or brightening.
As a clean-sounding amp, with a humbucker'd Tele (FMT HH), the TremLord feels natural for fingerpicking country-blues (Byrd's-version of Goffin and King's Wasn't Born To Follow) or rock-blues (Arthur Crudup That's All Right Mama), clean Beatles or early/mid Pink Floyd e.g. Shine On..., and Breathe. Absolutely beautiful and inspiring sound.
This authentic, familiar sound is accentuated by the tremolo and spring reverb; even pushed to full there's material to work with. On max I was getting close to Fred Neil's The Dolphins or The Smith's How Soon Is Now. Chugging rhythm or vibrant soul shimmer on a fast semi-wet position.
What kinda surprised me was how the TremLord led me into lead playing; it just felt natural and obvious – a clean, powerful tone (perfectly-suited to sit well in a mix). I moved onto an arpeggiated, jazzy version of Wild Is The Wind by Tiomkin and Washington. The TremLord is perfect for the task. Tonally, to my ears, it sits somewhere between a Fender and a Vox.
The recording gear: I mic'd the TremLord 30 with an SM58 (approx 2” distance from grille at 45 degrees to centre) and a WeissKlang V13 approx 12” front left at a slight angle towards centre. On the distorted guitar I removed the windshield from the SM58 to turn it into a '57 (yes!). Both these mics were fed into a BAE 1073mpf preamp and straight into a Reason DAW session via RADAR Studio conversion.
I time aligned the two mic recordings (and checked phase); the 2 mono tracks were summed to a stereo bus (some SSL-style EQ applied: couple of dB bass bell; 1 dB mid cut; and a half dB at 1.5 kHz and 8 kHz. On some mixed rhythm/solo tracks I engaged the channel compressor at 4:1 with fast release and mid threshold. The audio then passed through an SSL-style bus compressor (usual settings...tickling the needle), then 20 Hz HPF and Ozone Maximizer (no limiting added). Then exported at 24-bit/48 kHz and converted to 320 mp3.
No DI, no fx or colour/tone was added in the DAW; it's 99% the mic'd sound of the TremLord.
Fast Trem>Slow Trem
Clean with Trem and Reverb
Hi Gain rock
More audio samples at bottom of page...
The tremolo (and I think the valves, in general) really suited the electro-acoustic, as did the spring reverb. In DADF#AD tuning there can be sonic flat spots on the guitar (around the 1st, 2nd and 3rd frets of the A and D strings); on the 1 watt bedroom setting the TremLord brought a consistency and dynamic across the fretboard. All strings and positions sounded consistent. Naturally this was an encouragement to play and finesse familiar songs. I felt my electro-acoustic style was supported by the TremLord.
The TremLord felt (and sounded) well-suited to the humble Harley-Benton 8-string lapsteel too. The front-end tube stage really helped to thicken what can be be a feint and glassy signal. Again adding a little spring helped to add body. The tremolo sounded well-matched too.
Similarly the Hudson Goldstar semi-acoustic (with single coil pick-ups) benefited from the above-mentioned sonic enhancements and an easy and clearly-defined presence without any bad harshness.
Memory Lane: The TremLord reminded me of my old Vox AC30 (Hey Baby, I still love you). A valve amp with tremolo. The old AC30 is dual-speaker and larger cab...and weight...whereas the TremLord has a single 12” Lavoce speaker which, in a way, makes the TremLord comparable to an AC15 although that will likely have a Mosfet-driven tremolo whilst the TremLord's is valve-driven (such as seen on Fender amps for example).
Interestingly the TremLord has two separate tremolo speed controls to allow pedal switching between settings, plus an 'Amount' dial. I didn't have a foot-switch, and an expression pedal will not work but there is a video from Orange demo'ing this dual-tremolo A/B feature. The tremolo frequency ranges from approx. 90 to 260 BPM; from a fast, chorus-like shimmer to a slow, deep juggernaut.
I couldn't identify an exact wave-shape at all settings but it seemed to range from a smoothed-square to triangle. Combined with the Amount dial (and interaction with the reverb) it is a lot more versatile than just tremolo as such. The EQ is post-tremolo and this gives some extra flavours.
The bass content and control comes into play with the tremolo. Ian the Pirate, a rapidly-improving local guitarist (and pirate), came to visit. Basically the sound (with the Taylor 414ce) was organic and beautiful, like a Flamenco-style religious experience as we communed with the throb of the valve tremolo. It did him a lot of good, and me. The TremLord 30 is a healing device for musicians too. Five minutes with this after a hard day at the office is medicine.
The TremLord Speaketh:
Lavoce manufactures the 12” 16 Ohm speaker powered by ceramic magnets. My first (positive) experience with Lavoce speakers was in the Orange Terror Bass review. Lavoce, an Italian company with manufacturing in China, were selected from a range of speakers after listening tests at Orange. To my ears the 12” Lavoce conveys the character of the preceding components and source rather than having a particular sound/colour itself. There is a good sense of linearity at all volume levels. It can be polite or a bit angry when cranked and interacting with the cabinet. In general it sounds very clear and detailed without sounding too 'hi-fi.'
Springtime: The combination of the valve, dual-spring and Lavoce speaker reminded me of the IGS Springtime (a superb-sounding tube-spring rack unit). Just a little added improves the source.
At a quarter level there is a subtle thickening of the source. From half level (50%) it gives a little slapback feel and from three-quarters to max the space opens up, immersing the dry signal – a kind of large, dirty, lo-fi plate reverb.
With the tremolo cranked and choppy it's possible to get almost a delay-feel and there's a sense that the tremolo and spring are interactive, producing a wide palette of possibility.
Wattage: There are 4 wattage modes: 1, 2, 15, and 30. On a rear switch it's possible to select either 2 tubes or 4 on the output stage; on the top control panel is a 3-way toggle switch with 'standby' in the middle position, 'Bedroom' (quieter) top and 'Headroom' (louder) at the the bottom position.
Despite being advertised as a clean amp it is possible to get warm, thickening saturation (albeit subtle) particularly bass energy in the 1watt bedroom mode, and then increase the saturation using the EQ.
The Headroom settings are much louder and cleaner, more suitable for dedicated acoustic spaces e.g. guitar rooms, live venues, stages, or band spaces. Even so, on a low gain setting, I was easily able to run at 30 watts with the four output tubes in a domestic residential space; that said the TremLord is designed to operate optimally at full capacity so the inclusion of the selectable wattage greatly extends the usefulness and sonic possibilities of the amp.
This is your opportunity to add flavour: pre-input or through the valve-driven effects loop. Personally I find connecting guitar amps with studio fx can be problematic (ground loops or level-mismatches) but the TremLord (and the fx) performed flawlessly.
I started with Orange's OMEC Teleport interface in the loop: this enabled me to send the signal from the TremLord's SEND (post-EQ and tremolo) and into my PC via the Teleport. I was able to use Amplitube4 and Reason fx and return the signal to the TremLord. With proper level- and impedance-matching it 's possible to use a regular interface too.
I tried my DIY 'Germanium Flavour Flow' fx pedal between guitar and TremLord input; the TremLord was clean enough that I could discern the subtle harmonic thickening imparted by the pedal.
Having spent all my distortion pedal money on cables, I pulled an 01X mixer off the shelf and plumbed it in to the fx loop. The now-defunct 01X contains some great amp simulations: Marshall, Hiwatt, Fender, high-gain and clean. I really enjoyed this: the TremLord took the grit well and I suspect with a real Klon Centaur/Tube Screamer, etc. you'd be getting high-quality sounds. The only real issue I had with the added 01X fx was creating a good break-up point between clean and saturation – but that is a sim thing not just the TremLord. If you are looking for break-up it really needs to be generated externally with (analogue?) fx despite the TremLord's character and power.
Second opinion from a proper guitarist:
I phoned Rob The Guitar who arrived with a Boss DS-1 distortion, Orange Kongpressor pedal and a white 80's Japanese Strat. Rob spent the next 6 hours testing the TremLord with and without pedals on the input. Rob has played gigs at the 'four corners of the Earth' and used a range of amps, pedals and guitars.
We've worked together on several Gearslutz reviews and nothing has really impressed Rob; certainly not digital guitar gear. Rob was equally as impressed with the TremLord as myself (and Ian the Pirate). The points we both noted were: the vibe of the all-analogue signal path; the 'tube effect' – a comfortable, warm presence; the speed of the amp, the cleanliness without harshness; bass heft without mud; the flexibility of the routing and fx; the quality and range of the fx; and, the enjoyment of playing and listening.
Rob agreed with the clean Vox/smooth Fender analogy but he also noted the TremLord's own unique character too. Rob mentioned the clarity and detail which conveyed the nuances of his playing and encouraged him to dig deeper.
After running through the four gain modes, Rob said he would be happy to gig with the TremLord in most live situations. It was clean and loud enough alone and took the pedals very well.
So the TremLord is a winner with Rob too. In his own words: “It sounds Orange.”
I'm reviewing the TremLord 30 from the perspective of home recording enthusiast - aspiring towards professional standards and sound. As an audio engineer, the most appealing TremLord qualities are: the low noise floor/high headroom/linear power; the stand-alone sound quality; and, the ability to incorporate other gear (fx, pedals) to shape the sound further. The TremLord 30 can also handle a range of stringed-instruments: electric, electro-acoustic, semi-acoustic, and lapsteel. I got great results mic'ing the amp.
As a guitarist and performer, the TremLord 30 appeals primarily due to the quality of the sound and the sense of connectivity with it. The vibe. Add in the tremolo and spring-reverb and it's possible to get lost in the soundscapes it offers. It's malleable; it provides a great base to add your own flavour of tone, colour, and fx, and despite being a relatively clean amp it's possible to get a good range of colour and character solo. The range of output settings, from 2-tube Bedroom mode to 4-tube Headroom, adds to the versatility, range of tone, and possible uses.
For live use, you should read some reviews. Personally I'd have no problem doing a small gig, band practise, or solo performance with confidence that a coherent, clear and loud sound will be heard.
So, I'm an Orange fanboy then. I tried to find faults or criticisms but couldn't. It's awesome to play through and record. OK, the price is substantial, but then you're getting value-for-money and an amp destined to last a lifetime with care. To my ears and fingers, I hear something between a clean Vox AC30 and a smooth Fender Twin; add some quality fx, hi-gain or blues overdrive and it'll represent that very well.
In addition to acting as a base for traditional sounds the TremLord 30 also has it's own character. The Orange sound. Here accentuated by the valve-driven tremolo and spring reverb.
This could be a classic. A breadwinner. Buy now to avoid vintage prices.
Sound Quality: Impressive. A rich and engaging clean sound with some extra harmonic warmth in 1 watt mode. Brought the best out of instruments. Articulate. Musical-sounding.
Ease of Use: Very intuitive. Straightforward controls. Linear sound at differing volumes.
Features: Simple, effective feature set and interface. Very sweet tremolo and authentic spring reverb. Relatively portable for it's power.
Bang-for Buck: You get what you pay for; which is substantial but not excessive.
Credits and Links:
Thanks to Rob 'Finchy' Lewis for the TremLord audio demo.