Price paid: $ 570
Purchased from: local shop
Features — 6
Very straightforward layout. It's a one channel amp with gain, 3-band eq, volume, a switch to choose between pentode and triode mode (7 or 15 watts) or standby, and a power switch. That's all you get on the front panel. On the other side of things, you get 2 8-ohms speaker outs and a 16 ohms out and a serial fx loop.
Obviously this isn't a midi monster with 6 channels and 5 modes each, but the few features it has are well chosen: the wattage switch for example is a very useful tool! Not that the 7 watts mode is MUCH quieter, but it mainly responds differently. The EQ is very effective, and it's a definite plus over the dark and tiny terrors. The FX loop, as simple as it may be, does its job perfectly, and since I feel a bit naked without a very subtle delay on my lead tones and I love to create synth-like reverb/delay/chorus sounds on my cleans I would not have bought the amp if there was no FX loop.
Now, things that I would have liked: someone on YouTube modded his OR 15 to have a second set of volume and gain knobs, and ever since I am desperately trying to find a schematic or some guy experienced enough to tell me how to do it. It isn't the concept of this amp to be multi channel, but for live use the possibility to switch between clean and distortion without a change in volume is invaluable. Also, an adjustable parallel FX loop like on my Engl would have been nice. But the one thing that's really missing on this amp in my opinion is a presence control. It would make adapting to different cabs and styles much easier. I'll maybe try to fix this with an eq pedal though.
Sound — 10
Now, on to the most important question: this amp sounds awesome! Its sound and response are so incredibly natural, and it just feels so familiar as if I had always known it.
Starting off with the cleans: with gain at about 9 o' clock, 15 watts mode and volume at about 3 o'clock, it's possible to achieve a fairly loud clean sound using split humbuckers. It's a very responsive sound, snappy and spanky if you pick hard, soft, suspended and fluid if you pick lightly. The EQ can take it anywhere in between warm and jazzy and funky and snappy. There's always a slight hint of saturation and tube warmth in the cleans, they never have this JC-120-ish hi-fi quality to them, and activating the bridge humbucker while picking hard sends it off into a boney crunch sound.
Increasing the gain by just a little bit and leaving the volume where it is gets it fully into blues/classic rock territory, all while remaining extremely dynamic. Gain at about 11 o' clock gets you a very satisfying punk sound, at noon you're starting to drift off into van halen territory. Then, at about 1:30, it depends on your EQ, cab and picking wether it gets fuzzy and doomy sounding or if it goes metal.
The low end is enormous and needs to be turned down quite a bit to get it to the latter option. It takes a bit of EQ-fine tuning, but once you get it right there's a rich, fat and full metal distortion here that still doesn't lack any definition. It never reaches the tightness and definition levels of my Engl Blackmore, but in turn it sounds absolutely ferocious and waaaaaay more raw and angry if you want it to. You absolutely won't have to worry about whether it has enough gain, at about 3 o' clock it reaches slam death territory. Playing Disgorge or Defeated Sanity is no problem with this thing. I sometimes use a Mooer Fulldrive as a boost with it, not for gain, but to tighten it up a bit more. For modern thrash sounds (testaments new album is my reference for thrash tone) it benefits quite a bit from the boost in my opinion, but it isn't a necessity. Lead sounds are bubbly and fluid, and its a very unforgiving amp. If you make a mistake, you and every single member of the audience will notice! I can't say too much about the fuzzy side of the amp, since I don't use it, but the doom/sludge guys all love it, so I guess it must be good at it... All in all, the sound of this amp is a straight 10!
About volume: for a rock/punk/metal band it's easily loud enough to keep up with the drums. Purely for cleans it might lack a bit if they have to be loud and REALLY clean without the slightest bit of saturation, but usually the songs I use clean sounds on are the softer ones anyways, meaning that the drummer won't hit as hard. Let's put it that way, if you have a death metal drummer behind you raping his kit with blast beats, your cleans will drown. Your death metal sound on the other hand won't.
in terms of bedroom amp... Not really to be honest. It needs a bit of master volume to come alive, and even in 7 watts mode that's too loud for evening jamming in an apartment. My 100 watts Engl Blackmore is actually way more suited for this job, and I notice that I always play the orange way louder than the Engl... Noise wise it's one of the quietest amps I ever played.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Can't say much about this. The jacks feel sturdy, the pots all have the same turning resistance, the tolex is pretty and feels sturdy, the switches seem solid, and it hasn't failed me yet in the 4 months of owning it. I have no reason to assume that it ever will, and gigging it is no problem. I'll give it a 9. It's made in China, but I really couldn't care less. I haven't opened it yet, therefore I have no idea how it's built inside, but that doesn't really matter to me as long as it's reliable.
Overall Impression — 8
I love this amp. It's small, it's cute, it sounds awesome, and most of all it has character and feels and sounds honest and natural. Nothing artificial about it. Feature wise it's simple and straightforward, the addition of a presence knob wouldn't hurt though, and if they ever make a dual version with 2 sets of gain/volume controls I'll be all over it! In my opinion the OR15 is the best choice in the 15-25 watts sector for people who want a vintage sounding amp with metal capabilities at a reasonable price. For metal only I'd recommend the Randall RD20, at a slightly higher price the Engl Ironball is the choice for people who need more features and want ultimate versatility combined with lower wattage. I'm very happy with this amp, and I'd buy it again in a heartbeat. It's not perfect, but it has character, and it's a character I fell in love with.