Orange Beginners Electric Guitar Starter Pack with CR12L Combo Review

Whether starting out or returning to the fold, a starter pack can get you rolling in the right direction. Review by Marcus Leadley

Details
Description: Solidbody electric guitar and Crush 12L amp, both made in China. Digital tuner, lead, plectrums, spare strings, guitar strap and soft case
Price: £229
Contact:Orange +44 2089052828 www.orangeamps.com

There are starter packs, and there are starter packs. These days you can pay anything from £100 to £500 for a guitar and amp package complete with a soft case and an assortment of related goodies, and the high quality of Chinese manufacturing means that even guitars at the absolute budget end of the market play well and sound, within limits, remarkably good.

With the lower-cost packages it’s often the amp that lets the side down, so the fact that this Orange starter pack features an already existing practice amp, a Crush 12L that you can purchase separately for £75, is very good news.

Basically the R&D has already been done to ensure the best possible sound at a nice price – a much better option than a new amp designed specifically to keep the overall package cost down. £229 seems very fair, and there are plenty of deals that bring this down as low as £193. For a functional set up, that really is peanuts.

The version of the pack we’ve been sent features a bright orange LP Special-style guitar with twin humbuckers, independent tone and volume controls, and a three-way selector.
If you prefer, you can have the guitar in white or black. The guitar has a bolt-on neck with what looks like an actual rosewood fingerboard. The 24.75″ scale length is the appropriate choice and, all things considered, it feels very nice to play.

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The fret work is especially good and the fact that the tangs are inset is a surprise – something you’d not normally expect on a budget model. The adjustable tunomatic-style bridge and stop tailpiece are good quality items.

Realistically, a hard tail instrument like this is a good option for anyone learning to tune an instrument; whammy bars can be fun, but budget units rarely make a guitar more playable or tuneful.

The own-brand tuners have a nice smooth action and, as the package includes a nifty little clip-on digital tuner, there really is no excuse for being out of tune. While intonation is another thing that lets many low-price guitars down, this one seems fine.

Maybe as a review sample it’s been ‘breathed on’ but as all the packaging’s intact I’m guessing this is in ‘from factory’ condition – and if so, well done Orange. If you buy from a shop you could haggle for a set-up, but even if you take your chances online it doesn’t look like you’ll be disappointed. Acoustically the guitar rings nicely and sustains well.

The Crush 12L is a smart little amp with a remarkably loud voice – more than enough to annoy other family members, flatmates or the neighbours.

The Volume, Overdrive and Gain controls are remarkably interactive, and with independent Low, Mid and High controls you can create a spread of tones ranging from simple clean sounds right through to the barking mad mini rock monster sound every novice needs to explore at some point.

There’s also a headphone socket for those moments when you really want to be loud, but need to keep it down.

I’m often surprised that Orange amps, no matter what the cost, big or small, always sound like Orange amps. There’s an appealing midrange hump that makes them great for blues, boogie and classic rock.

The fact that a Crush is the type of amp a more seasoned player might buy as a practical practice option or for a workshop bench (heavens, there’s a Micro-Crush on my desk) tells you a lot about the usability of the tone.

Getting a well-defined but lively clean sound is the hardest thing; pairing a budget amp with budget humbuckers isn’t likely to be recipe for total success. However, with a bit of tweaking, the neck or twin pickup combination delivers good results.

On its own, the bridge pickup is a little too dark for clean strumming – but it’s a characteristic that comes into its own when you start to ramp up the gain. For midrange crunch or punky power chords, a good blues-rock solo tone and more aggressive lead voices the bridge pickup delivers very well. If you have the aptitude and dedication to learn and progress this gear will help, rather than hinder, your progress.

One good way to test the potential of lower-cost equipment is to pair it with top end kit. Plugging the Orange guitar into a quality valve amp delivers surprising results. The pickups are still a little dark, but the instrument punches well above its weight.

Here, the musicality of the tone controls can be heard, and all up, this guitar has the capacity to grow with you.

Paired with an expensive guitar with single-coil pickups the Crush 12L develops a much clearer and coherent voice – so it too may remain a bit of kit you want to hold on to as you progress up the ladder.

Finally, to the added extras. There’s a spare set of strings, six (!) plectrums, a tuner and a decent branded strap. The padded soft case has both carrying handles and a detachable shoulder strap, and will get you to school or your mate’s house without a problem.

Purchasing the pack also allows you to access the beginner’s level of the online Orange Rock Guitar Course, which normal mortals will need to pay £14.99 for.

Signing up is easy and resources are surprisingly comprehensive with video lessons, audio backing tracks and enough theory content to get you to Grade 3 standard if you work thorough the material diligently. It’s all good solid advice presented in a professional way. There’s even an exam, if that sort of thing tickles your fancy.

Verdict
It’s hard not to be impressed by this Orange starter pack. Not only do you get a lot for your money, but the quality is very good. This guitar will see you through your beginner years, or if you already have some experience then it may come as a nice surprise.

Once you start playing seriously with other people you will probably want to upgrade the Crush to something with more power and a more refined tone stack, but it will always be the amp that’s easiest to hop on the bus with.

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