First impressions are always important. Particularly when it comes to instrument reviews. So, I was pleasantly surprised, even delighted in fact, to find that the O-Bass came with a gig bag. It may seem like an insignificant thing, especially to a manufacturer, but the truth is, when an instrument includes a gig bag, it’s a straight-up, feel-good moment for the end user. And it absolutely increases the brand’s image ten-fold in the eyes of the beholder. I would assume it’s even better protected during shipping. I’m serious; calling all manufacturers, “No matter the price point, include a gig bag!” You’ll have a customer for life. Right out of the gate, its inclusion elicited goodwill (and I don’t even get to keep the bass!). At least that’s how it made me feel, and conversely, I’m often a little disappointed when I open a box and it’s a bass wrapped in just a thin sheet of foam. It seems careless. Besides, wouldn’t you want someone walking around with your logo on the gig bag rather than some third-party company? Just sayin’; it’s the little things. Thank you, Orange for taking that into consideration.
If you play guitar or bass, you’re likely already familiar with Orange Amplification, the British company that built its reputation on the backs of amps known for killer tone and featuring that distinctive orange Tolex-like wrap. Founded in 1968, Orange became a well-established manufacturer of valve amps by the mid-1970s, via the collaborative efforts of musician and electronics designer Clifford Cooper and Mat Mathias of Matamp. From there, the company was bought and sold by Gibson and had its fair share of ups and downs, but if you’ve ever stood in front of an Orange guitar amp, then you understand their lasting appeal. The distortion has an unsurpassed crispness and clarity. I remember my first time, at a Blue Man Group audition. The guitarist was playing through Orange amps, and though I didn’t get the gig, I do remember his guitar tone. It made an indelible impression – that’s how good it was.
Though recognized as an OG of the modern guitar amp, Orange was not necessarily known for instruments, so this current foray into the world of mid-market bass guitars is relatively new territory for them. After an initial run in 2015, Orange decided to make some tweaks to the O-Bass and re-released it in 2022. Designed in the heart of London’s West End by Orange Technical Director and lead designer Adrian Emsley, the O-Bass was inspired by Emsley’s deep love and knowledge of classic gear, as well as his time spent working with bass players in 1990s Los Angeles. Emsley wanted something lightweight, long-scale, and with a classic tone, and the O-Bass aptly fulfills those basic requirements.
Bits of the original 2015-era O-Bass that have been retained, including the classic single cutaway body shape and the split-coil pickup positioned slightly more toward the neck than most other basses. In Orange’s own words, this pickup positioning produces a “deep, warm growl.” Indeed it does (more on that later!). Obvious aesthetic improvements include cream binding, which provides the instrument with a premium look, and the black headstock, which adds a nice touch of class to the bass.
Aesthetics & Build Quality
The bass itself has an incredibly nostalgic look and feel to it. It seems like it would fit perfectly into mid-century modern-style home or studio. Think Mad Men TV series-era. It exudes that kind of vibe with its smooth contours and eye-popping color. I received an orange one, which I requested, but it also comes in black. An orange instrument may not seem that appealing to many folks, but let me assure you, this is not Cheez-It® orange, but more like a Good Humor Creamsicle Bar, which again elicited a positive, nostalgic response from me. Probably because I have fond memories of eating those creamsicle bars on warm sunny days as a kid. I’m not sure what went in to determining the exact shade of orange, but kudos to Orange for making the hue palatable (pun intended). The cream binding may also influence or soften the overall effect of the orange color. A white pickguard and chrome hardware add nice contrast to the orange/cream combo and round out the instrument’s mid-century-modern-esque features. The open-gear tuning machines have a nice retro look as well and complement the bass accordingly. The tuners were firm to the touch (i.e., no “slipping”) and kept the instrument in tune through multiple days of playing. All of this attention to detail seems to exceed the instrument’s price point, which adds a nice level of care.
Outside of the look, the first thing that struck me about the O-Bass was its solid construction. Upon taking it out of the gig bag I was immediately impressed with how sturdy it felt. The 34” scale maple neck with purpleheart fretboard features 23 frets and felt solid in my hands – and it was set-up well. There we no weird anomalies, like fret wire protruding from the fretboard or high action (I’ve purchased high-end instruments that showed up with both). The fretwork and neck molding have obviously been retooled with playability in mind. My fingers felt immediately invited to dance along the fretboard. The body is okoumé, a very light exotic African wood that provides the instrument with a balanced, snappy resonance that projects well acoustically. The nickle top-loading 4-saddle bridge helped produce a clear, articulate sound that is immediate and natural, even when played acoustically.
Sound & Playability
The R400 fretboard radius made with C contour neck profile and 43mm nut was easy to navigate. It feels similar to a P-bass neck to me, but it is actually 1mm thicker at the nut. Still, if a P-bass is in your arsenal, you’ll feel at home on the O-Bass. As I stated previously, I played it acoustically at first, and the resonance was clear and bright, with a “snappy” response that projected enough low-end frequencies to excite me about the prospect of plugging it in. It was strung with .045 to .105-gauge strings that were crisp, plucky, and seemed to enhance the natural timbre of the instrument.
Upon plugging it into my Gallien-Krueger 1001RB and Ampeg SVT-410HEN speaker cabinet, I was blown away by both the beefiness and clarity. The custom-wound split-coil humbucker was great at amplifying the instrument’s natural sound with clarity, definition, and tonal balance. And it did in fact exude “deep, warm growl.” Apparently, as the story goes, Emsley realized, via his work in LA in the ‘90s, the sonic difference an unorthodox pickup position made to the tone. This pickup placement gives the O-Bass real growl, with a fatter high register, to boot. I mostly ran the master tone & master volume flat, but boosting the tone a few notches (metaphorically speaking) definitely provided the perfect blend of bottom end thickness and top end “cank” (think Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris). It’s a passive instrument, and yet it doesn’t seem to lack any of the girth I’d expect from higher-end or even active instruments/pickups.
One of the most affirming qualities of any instrument, for me personally, is whether or not it elicits creativity. So, as I normally do with reviews, I dialed up a session on which I’d been working. Full disclosure – I’m running Pro Tools 9. I’m mostly cutting bass tracks at home and my current setup simply works. I’ve avoided upgrading because of the snowball effect that may have on other software and hardware applications. So, call me old school, but that’s where I’m at for the moment. I run my signal through a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 Interface. My signal chain included the aforementioned GK amp and Ampeg cab, along with Tech21 SansAmp RBI preamp. I am currently running three lines: a DI off the GK, an Electro-Voice N/D757B supercardioid dynamic microphone in front of the cab, and the RBI (direct) for dirt. I have to admit I was shocked at how well the bass sat in the mix. There was an immediate presence to it without having to do any EQ-ing, really. As a matter of fact, I’d been playing this particular tune with a pick and the O-Bass allowed me to rethink my approach and switch to fingerstyle. The harder I dug in, the more the bass responded with that infectious harmonic grind that recalls that Steve Harris “cank” I am so familiar with and grew up on as a bass player. The sound was just so conducive to my playing style and the tune I was tracking that I played for hours that night. As a matter of fact, I played so long, and dug in so hard (because I enjoyed what I was coaxing out of the instrument), that my right (plucking) arm was a little sore the next day. I say that mostly to point out that an instrument hasn’t compelled me to spend that much time with it in quite a while. Usually, I get the task-at-hand done and move on to the next thing.
And though I’ve mostly mentioned using is in a hard rock/heavy metal setting, please don’t let my personal preferences deter you. The diverse options for tone on the O-Bass will allow you to access all of your favorite styles from across the spectrum. As Orange aptly describes, “A slightly lighter touch and you’re transported to Motown territory, with earthy R&B overtones in abundance. If dub and laid-back reggae are your jam, just roll back the tone knob and revel in clouds of mellow.” So, if you’re looking for a solid investment under $1,000, I highly recommend checking out an Orange O-Bass. Obviously, playing the O-Bass did not literally transport me back to being that kid chasing down the Good Humor man, but it did bring out a lot of youthful enthusiasm in my playing, and that intangible alone is worth your consideration
|Bridge/color:||Proprietary / nickle|
|Nut (Guide):||1 1/2” (38mm) PPS|
|Tuners/color:||Proprietary, open-style / nickle|
|Knobs/color:||Knurled / chrome|
|Control cavity cover:||n/a|
|Scale Length:||34” (864㎜)|
|Number of Frets/Positions:||23|
|Gauge:||.045 to .105|
|Fingerboard Radius:||15.75" (400㎜)|
|Accessories:||Gig bag included|