December 23, 2014

Vintage Guitar Magazine Reviews The Orangutan

Monkey See, Monkey Groove

The 3 Monkeys Orangutan Amplifier

For decades, scientists have disputed the differences between man and ape. So it’s only fitting that when three guitar-geek “primates” start an amplifier company, they would reinvigorate the debate.

The “primates” behind 3 Monkeys Amplifiers all have the passion for fun – and great sounding gear – readily conveyed by Greg Howard and Ossie Ahsen, who have worked as guitar and amplifier technicians for some of the top bands in the world, including Green Day and Aerosmith. The third primal force in this combination is guitarist Brad Whitford, who, along with his Aerosmith bandmate Joe Perry, has for decades been a tone freak.

Marked by clean hand-wiring, custom-wound transformers, a cathodyne phase inverter, powder-coated aircraft aluminum chassis, G-10 FR-4 circuit boards, and a Belton (Accutronics) reverb tank, the Orangutan’s innards are housed in a great-looking birch cabinet with a crushed-glass silkscreened faceplate that gives it a unique, eye-catching aesthetic.

The amp’s heart and soul are conveyed courtesy of four 6V6 power tubes that deliver approximately 35 watts output. Its preamp is warm and deep, thanks to three ECC83 tubes, which are an uncommon application. Even more uncommon, though, is a feature cool as the tailfins on a ’59 Caddy – a six-position Voice Switch.

Plugged in between a humbucker-equipped solidbody guitar and an open-back 1×12 cabinet with a Celestion Vintage 30, and with the Voice switch in the first position, the amp is reminiscent of a vintage Silvertone, with a cool chime on various clean tones. This setting sounded great with the amp’s tone controls set flat and the guitar’s pickup selector in the the neck and middle positions – superb for rhythm parts. Through the other five positions on the Voice switch, the Orangutan continued to please; second position adds cool, deep, warm low-end sound and a slight bump in gain that made a P-90 loaded hollowbody erupt. It was easy to get a Montgomery-style jazz tone, then grit it up for serious rockabilly. No matter the guitar or amp settings, the Orangutan sits extremely well in a studio mix, proving that seasoned professionals – aware that producers and engineers also need to be happy with a guitarist’s tone – had a hand in the design.

The footswitchable Lift (boost) function is another integral part of the design, and allows for a 6db signal boost in any Voice position by bypassing the Bass control while leaving the Treble control active. When the footswitch is not connected, the feature is activated by pulling out the Bass knob.

And lest you fear this is “just” a clean amp, remember one of the greatest rock bands in the world had direct input on the design. Then add the fact that all three of the company primates are “Les Paul guys”, and it’s no wonder the amp rocks when driven hard or boosted with a stompbox. As with the clean tones, each position (on the Voice switch) takes on a new life. Beware, though, that high-end response may need to be reeled in at times, as it can seriously cut. And single-coil guitars may also need to be EQ’d, but it’s by no means a deal breaker. Either way, turning up the Orangutan is the preferred way to ride!

If you are looking for a great-sounding
vintage-style amp with lots of tonal options, the Orangutan should be on your short list. – Sean O’Bryan Smith

August 2009


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