Electric guitarists rely on tube amplifiers for rich, overdriven tones, but valves can also produce tantalizingly warm textures for acoustic guitarists. While tube options for acoustic musicians have been fairly limited, Orange, a UK company known for its electric guitar amps with vivid carrot-colored cabinets, has introduced the Acoustic Pre. This high-quality stereo preamp/DI offers a great tube sound for acoustic guitarists—plus a few twists.
At nearly a foot wide and weighing over five pounds, the two-channel Acoustic Pre is a fairly large and sturdy floor unit. In addition to quarter-inch high-impedance inputs, Channel B supports an alternate XLR mic input with phantom power. Outputs include per-channel XLR jacks, as well as a quarter-inch unbalanced jack that mixes both channels, along with effects inserts for each channel.
Each channel offers a similar set of controls but different tonal characteristics. Channel B is clean and uncolored with a flat frequency, while Channel A offers a warmer, more colored sound and adds a control labeled Heat, which increases the drive to the tube, creating subtle harmonic distortion. The master control section includes master volume, line volume, and reverb controls; a mute switch; and a jack for an external mute switch.
Flexibility for Stage or Studio
The Acoustic Pre’s clean layout and relatively straightforward controls mask a fair amount of flexibility. For example, for live performance the unit supports a single instrument in either channel, two different instruments with separate effects, or a dual-source pickup system. When using a single instrument, it’s possible to route Channel A to both XLR outputs, which converts the built-in reverb to stereo. The mic input on Channel B introduces more possibilities; a performer could use Channel A for guitar and Channel B for a vocal mic or a guitar mic to augment the pickup.
The visible tube-glow through venting ports on the top serves as a reminder that this isn’t just another solid-state preamp, and the Heat control drives the tube harder, adding subtle degrees of fatness, upper harmonics, and sparkle. And the sound quality of the built-in reverb is impressive, especially when used in stereo.
Cool and Quirky
The Acoustic Pre does have a few quirks. For example, channels as well as bass/treble controls are laid out right to left, which is the opposite of most designs. The treble EQ on the Channel A offers an 18dB boost, compared to Channel B, which offers +/- 12dB. The device is missing a few performance-oriented features common on other acoustic-focused preamps: no notch filter, boost switch, or tuner output, and requires an external mute switch. But in the end it’s all about tone, and the Acoustic Pre delivers this in spades without compromise—and with a distinct and musical personality.
- Two channels
- Two 1/4″ 2.2MΩ inputs
- One XLR mic input with 48-volt phantom power
- Two XLR outputs, line mix output
- Per-channel gain, treble, sweepable midrange, phase, ground lift, and effects inserts
- Master and line volume
- Stereo reverb
- 12AX7/ECC83 tube
- Mute switch and footswitch jack
- 12V DC power supply included
- 11.4″ x 5.9″ x 3.5″, 5.5 lb.
Made in: UK
This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.