Small amps don’t necessarily mean limitations. In fact, as Dan & Mick have shown previously with the Fender Blues Junior and Marshall 5, amps with small footprints and low-dose wattage can really burn and tag-team with pedals…if you know how to play to their strengths.
This week, TPS took on another “get more out of your [fill in the blank]” challenge with the modern classic of the Orange Tiny Terror. Arguably one of the amps to launch the lunchbox head trend, the Tiny Terror lives up to everything its name suggests: 15 watts of tube-driven aggression through a set of EL34s, that when pushed past noon caves into to that iconic British grit and gain. As Mick noted, however, one challenge users of this amp often meet is how to integrate pedals without getting gobbled up by all that gain.
Here’s a top-three of the take-aways and insights into getting more out of this little lunchbox.
Never Mind Your Intuition: Use a Scaled Back Drive for Your Clean(ish) Sound
It’s a common problem for fans of an amp’s onboard gain: how do you add a bit of punch to that solidified sound when you need it for your moment to shine? Mick described the challenge of hitting that highpoint with the Tiny Terror: “One of the questions I get asked all the time is, ‘I’ve got my amp up and it’s overdriving. Then I step on my pedal and nothing happens.’” The natural inclination for most guitarists in this situation—myself included—is to find a hard-hitting overdrive and hope that its grit and grunge are enough to push things even harder. However, as Mick demonstrated, the best solution might be the exact opposite: to use a gain pedal to lessen the overdrive until you need it. Wait, what?
Dan & Mick had the Boss SD-1W Super Overdrive Waza on the board this week, which was hardly perceptible when punched in on top of the overdriven Tiny Terror. As Mick noted, “Your standard, common overdrive pedal isn’t really going to do anything if your amp, in this case the Orange Tiny Terror, is already feeling the love, i.e., it’s already overdriving in the preamp and the power section.” The issue is headroom; if it ain’t there, it ain’t there. Yet if that grungy Orange drive is really what you’re after in your lead sections, Mick prescribed dialing that in as your heavy gain sound and using a pedal like the Boss SD-1W set down low to reign it in as your cleaner and calmer tone. In short, your distortion pedal ironically clean things up. When you want it loud, edgy, and bold, switch it off and let your amp-based gain shine at its best.
Shaping Your Tone with an External Graphic EQ
To keep lunchbox heads the size of a lunchbox rather than a camping cooler, economy of size often means streamlining features. In the case of the Tiny Terror, you’ll find a WYSISG approach to EQ—bass, mid, and treble nobs are absent. But that’s is not to say they can’t be engineered aftermarket in the form of a standalone EQ stompbox.
As Dan & Mick demonstrated with the MXR 10-Band EQ, the Tiny Terror’s tone and gain structure were highly sculptable and adaptable to any playing situation. This solution enabled the Tiny Terror to keep its edge but dealt handily with the issue of its early onset compression when the amp was on the edge of breakup. Even with the extreme experiment of the Tiny Terror in tandem with the ThorpyFX Fallout Cloud Fuzz Pedal, the MXR 10-Band EQ allowed for just the right amount of fine-tuning to hear the right combination of amp and effect. As Dan concluded, “With an amp like that, it is really about tiny changes in texture.”
The Broadcast Has Landed
As Mick confessed, everyone in the TPS room—including Simon the cameraman—have become massive fans of the Hudson Electronics Broadcast. “What I find with it is that it works in every situation where my normal overdrives don’t work.” So what does the Broadcast bring to the Tiny Terror?
When the Broadcast is partnered with a clean amp it typically offers up some high-range drive and gain. In the case of the already overdriven Tiny Terror it provided something different yet equally impactful: with the low cut switch engaged, it shaved off just enough bottom end to still have the ability to boost the amp. As Dan noted, it solves the problem because “You get your definition back and your string attack is there.”
Feeling Orange, Anyone? Where to Go in a Post-Tiny Terror World
As Mick summed up at the outset of the episode, the Tiny Terror was on the market just long enough to make its mark. Within a few years of its launch back in 2006, Orange retired the amp in the micro head format. Since then, however, Orange has taken some of the lessons learned in this footprint and now have some other options on offer. Arguably, the top two contemporary contenders are the Micro Dark and Micro Terror. While the visual design of these amps is starkly different, one sporting a black edifice the other a fresh white face, they both optimize solid-state power amps alongside a single 12AX7/ECC81 tube for twenty watts of vitamin-C filled Orange tone goodness.
Whether you’re in the market for a pedal-based antidote to an existing gain conundrum with your Tiny Terror or are looking for a pint-sized amp that lays on the overdrive, like the Micro Dark or Micro Terror, head over to see us at Riff City and we’ll find the right lunchbox for you.
TPS Rig Rundown
Guitars: Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster, Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster, Duesenberg Bonneville, Paul Reed Smith DGT.
Amps: Orange Tiny Terror.Pedals: Boss SD-1W Super Overdrive Waza Craft, ThorpyFX Fallout Cloud Fuzz, Hudson Broadcast, MXR 10-Band EQ, Empress Echo System Delay, T-Rex Room Mate Reverb, D’Addario Chromatic Pedal Tuner.