Orange Amps’ portable Bluetooth speaker shines by sticking to the basics Leave a comment


If you’re looking for a portable Bluetooth speaker that puts natural-sounding analog audio at the forefront, then you’ll enjoy the Orange Box. As long as you don’t have too many other requirements, that is. Orange has been making guitar amps since the 1960s and it’s apparently not changing the formula to compete against commonplace plastic Bluetooth speakers with all the mod cons. I’ve personally come to enjoy the bohemian design and bright orange exterior, which is a refreshing change from what you’d usually find. You do have to deal with losing some useful features and it’s less rugged than some other portables, but the audio quality is a standout.

Hardware

The hardware elements and iconography from the company’s long history of amps and speakers have been merged into this portable battery powered version. The orange Tolex (vinyl) exterior, logo badge, speaker mesh, wood framing, dials, toggle switches, indicator lights and other details are a perfect match with the brand’s existing stable of products. The mechanical ‘thunk’ of the on/off toggle is satisfying, while the domed orange power light seems pleasantly retro.

An overhead view of the Orange Amps - Orange Box Bluetooth speaker's control panel on the top.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

There are manual volume and EQ dials on the top panel. The bass and treble start out flat in the 12-o’clock position, letting you boost or lower those levels as desired. The dial positions are a little hard to read, though, unless you’re standing directly above them since the position dot on the dial is near the bottom. The Bluetooth control has a blue light that flashes when it’s in pairing mode and does double-duty as a pause/play control. You’ll also find an orange overload indicator light, which could become a common sight if you like to play your music loudly, especially with heavy bass.

Aside from that, there’s a 3.5mm minijack on the top and an DC charging port on the back. You can charge the 2,600mAh battery for up to around 15-hours of playback or you can just run it while it’s plugged in. Next to the domed power indicator is a battery level light that’s red as it’s charging, green when it’s full and flashes red if the battery is at 10 percent or lower, with nothing in between. Like any speaker, if you’re planning a long outing, you should keep the power cable handy. I tested the speaker at a relatively high volume for an hour, plus 10 hours at medium and two overnight stretches powered off. This got me to the 10-percent warning and seems par for the course in regards to battery life.

The Orange Amps - Orange Box Bluetooth speaker seen on the stoop of a brownstone, showing the rear panel.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

If you plan to travel with your speaker, you may want to consider getting the $60 Gigbag carrying case since there’s no IP rating or waterproofing for the device. You’ll just have to trust Orange Amps’ build quality. Although we haven’t seen the bag in person, I expect it should at least help keep the speaker dry and clean when you’re not using it. There’s a shoulder strap option as well, and while the Orange Box is portable, it’s still over 6.5 pounds. You could always save some money though, since it does fit into a backpack easily enough.

Sound

The best part about the Orange Box is its warm and bright output. There’s both digital Class D and A/B analog amps that deliver crisp and punchy front-facing sound from the 4-inch sub and dual 2-inch high frequency drivers. There’s a relatively wide frequency range from 35Hz to 20kHz and aptX support is a huge plus, especially if you have access to hi-res streaming. Most styles of music sound good on the Orange Box, but the speaker really shines with songs that have live instrumentation or anything that can benefit from an analog touch. Some types of modern digital music didn’t come across quite as well here, so it’s worth testing your types of tunes before buying.

The 50-watt speaker puts out enough volume to work well as a personal boombox in the park or around the house. It’s fairly loud for its size and can handle small outdoor get togethers well if you just need background music. The output has decent bass that does reverberate through its case, especially if you’re near to it. Although when testing on a large windy rooftop area, it didn’t project as much if you’re 15-20 feet away.

I didn’t notice any distortion when pushing it to the max, but that overload light is a subtle hint to always check your levels. You’ll see the light flashing quite often if you enjoy loud music. It’s only when you have the overload light on constantly that you could get distortion and potentially damage the drivers. If that does happen, you do have the benefit of contacting an authorized repair center instead of having to cut your losses.

Features

Some features that many have grown used to using aren’t available on the Orange Box and if you just want something to play tunes, it’s not a big deal. However, there’s no app for the speaker and it doesn’t support multipoint or pairing with a second Orange Box for more sound. It won’t go to sleep even if you’ve disconnected Bluetooth, so the battery may slowly drain if you leave it on all night without charging. And if you’re used to watching the battery levels, it will be a bit of a mystery until you’re at 10 percent power. Plus, since there’s no USB charging, you’ll want to keep track of the power cable that came with the device.

On the plus side, there’s obviously the analog amps on board and aptX support sweetens the deal. The Bluetooth 5.0 range is as good or better than some other speakers in this category. Also, if you need a tiny DJ monitor, there’s no processing delay when using the 3.5mm input jack, so you can mix by ear if needed. For eco-conscious consumers, the authorized service centers and replacement parts on offer until 2030 means you can actually repair the speaker if something happens to it. It’s a proper piece of equipment that you should be able to enjoy for a long time.

The Orange Amps - Orange Box Bluetooth speaker seen indoors on a round table with a green plant behind it.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

Wrap-up

While I wouldn’t quite call it an audiophile speaker, it’s certainly for analog or Orange Amp enthusiasts. I know the design isn’t new since the Orange Amps style has hardly changed since the ‘60s, but for me it feels like a refreshing change of pace. I can imagine lots of people with those turntables in luggage cases hooking up the speaker (although make sure you have good needles people). Sure, it’s a bit chunky, you shouldn’t leave it out on the porch in the rain and you’ll need to keep track of the specific charging cable, but that’s doable.

It’s hard to say if the sound or style will appeal to everyone, but it’s great to have another option available, especially one that’s built and sold by a brand with a legacy. At $299 the Orange Box isn’t terribly expensive and it feels less disposable than many of the products out there. The Orange Box, its $60 Gigbag carrying case and the slightly larger non-portable sibling the Orange Box-L ($345) are all currently available from the Orange Amps website. Oh, and you can also get them in black if that’s your preference. I know Furry Vince Noir would.

Specs

  • Style: Orange peel Tolex, acoustically transparent grille

  • Drivers: 1 x 4-inch bass driver, 2 x 2-inch high frequency drivers

  • Amplifiers: 1 x 30-watt sub, 2 x 10-watt full range

  • Frequency Range: 35Hz – 20kHz

  • Weight: 3 KG / 6.62 LBS

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm aux input

  • Codecs: aptX, AAC, SBC

  • Battery: 2,600mAh, 3 hours to full charge, 15-hour runtime

  • Extras: Vegan-leather carry strap, 3.5mm aux cable, 19.5V power supply





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