If you’re looking for a portable Bluetooth speaker that puts natural-sounding analog audio front and center, then you’ll appreciate the orange box. As long as you don’t have too many other requirements, of course. Orange have been making guitar amps since the 1960s and that apparently doesn’t change the formula for competing with common plastic Bluetooth speakers with all the mod cons. Personally, I like the bohemian design and bright orange exterior, which is a refreshing change from what you’ll usually find. You have to deal with the loss of some useful features and it’s less robust than some other laptops, but the audio quality is outstanding.
Hardware elements and iconography from the company’s long history of amps and loudspeakers have been merged into this portable, battery-powered version. The orange Tolex (vinyl) exterior, logo badge, speaker mesh, wood frame, dials, toggle switches, indicator lights and other details perfectly match the brand’s existing stable of products. The mechanical ‘noise’ of the on/off toggle is satisfying, while the bulging orange power LED looks pleasantly retro.
There are manual volume and EQ dials on the top panel. Bass and treble start flat in the 12 o’clock position, allowing you to raise or lower these levels as you see fit. The dial positions are a bit difficult to read, however, 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 in pairing mode and doubles as a pause/play control. You’ll also find an orange overload light, which could become a common sight if you like to play your music loud, especially with heavy bass.
Besides that, there is a 3.5mm mini-jack on the top and a DC charging port on the back. You can charge the 2600mAh battery for up to around 15 hours of playtime or you can just run it while plugged in. Next to the dome-shaped power indicator is a battery level light that’s red when charging, green when full, and flashing red if the battery is at 10 per cent or less, 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 relatively high volume for an hour, plus 10 hours on medium and two night stretches off. This got me to the 10% warning and seems normal as far as battery life goes.
If you plan to travel with your speaker, you might want to consider getting the $60 Gigbag carrying case, as there is no IP rating or waterproof rating for the device. You will only have to trust the manufacturing quality of Orange Amps. Although we haven’t seen the bag in person, I think it should at least help keep the speaker dry and clean when you’re not using it. There’s also a shoulder strap option, and while the Orange Box is portable, it still weighs over 6.5 pounds. However, you can still save some money, as it fits into a backpack quite easily.
The best part of the Orange Box is its warm and bright output. There are both Class D and A/B digital analog amps that deliver crisp, punchy front-end sound from the 4-inch and dual 2-inch high-frequency speakers. There’s a relatively wide frequency range of 35Hz to 20kHz and aptX support is a huge plus, especially if you have access to high-res streaming. Most styles of music sound great 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 aren’t as well found here, so it’s worth testing your song types before buying.
The 50 watt speaker produces enough volume to work as a personal boombox in the park or around the house. It’s quite loud for its size and can handle small outdoor gatherings well if you just need some background music. The output has decent bass that reverberates through its casing, especially if you’re close to it. Although when testing on a large, windy rooftop area, it doesn’t project as much if you’re 15-20 feet away.
I didn’t notice any distortion when pushing it all the way up, but that overload light is a subtle hint to always check your levels. You will see the light flash quite often if you enjoy loud music. Only when the overload light is constantly on can you get distortion and potentially damage the drivers. If this happens, you have the advantage of contacting an authorized repair center instead of having to cut your losses.
Some features that many have grown accustomed to using aren’t available on the Orange Box and if you just want something to play music on, that’s okay. 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 drain slowly if you leave it on overnight without charging. And if you’re used to watching battery levels, it’ll be a bit of a mystery until you’re at 10 per cent power. Also, 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 are 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 class. Plus, if you need a small DJ monitor, there’s no processing delay when using the 3.5mm input jack, so you can mix by ear if needed. For environmentally conscious consumers, authorized service centers and spare parts offered through 2030 mean you can actually repair the speaker if anything happens to it. It’s a good piece of equipment that you should be able to enjoy for a long time.
While I wouldn’t quite call it an audiophile speaker, it’s definitely for analog or Orange Amp enthusiasts. I know the design isn’t new since the Orange Amps style hasn’t changed much since the 60s, but to me it feels like a refreshing change of pace. I can imagine a lot of people with these turntables in suitcases plugging in the speaker (although make sure you have good needles). Sure, it’s a little big, you shouldn’t leave it on the porch in the rain, and you’ll have to keep track of the specific charging cable, but it’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 heritage. At $299, the Orange Box isn’t terribly expensive, and it feels less disposable than most products out there. THE orange boxits $60 Gigbag carrying case and the slightly larger non-portable sibling the Orange Box-L ($345) are currently available from the orange amps website. Oh, and you can also get them in black if that’s your preference. I know Hairy Vince Black would be.
Style: Tolex orange peel, acoustically transparent grille
Drivers: 1 x 4 inch woofer, 2 x 2 inch high frequency drivers
Amplifiers: 1 x 30 watt subwoofer, 2 x 10 watt full range
Frequency range: 35Hz – 20kHz
Lester: 3KG / 6.62LBS
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm auxiliary input
Codec: aptX, AAC, SBC
Battery: 2600 mAh, 3 hours for a full charge, 15 hours of battery life
Supplements: Vegan leather carry strap, 3.5mm aux cable, 19.5V power supply