John is a fervent writer, gamer, and guitar lover. Former automatic-transmission repairer, welder and hobbyist game developer.
Practicing electric guitar through an amp may sound so much better than unplugged, but it's not always practical—especially if you have a large and/or complex rig. Practice amps are a good way to go for portability, but even they can be a bit cumbersome to carry around in some situations.
That’s where micro amps come in handy.
A micro amp—or mini amp—as the name suggests, is a much smaller guitar amplifier than a regular or practice amp. Typically in the region of five inches across, micro amp’s will easily fit in a gig bag or stowed away in a car compartment.
The micro amp we’re looking at is the Orange Micro Crush CR3, a combo amp from the British amp makers.
What's in the Box?
The very small box, that is.
The Micro Crush CR3 comes in at around $50, and for that you get the amp and nothing else which means you’ll have to get your own power supply. Measuring in at roughly 6” x 6” x 3.5” (8.5cm x 15cm x 15cm to be exact), it is a small package so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there aren’t a whole lot features to fiddle with.
The Micro Crush has dials for tone and volume control, as well as an overdrive button for that all important crunch. That’s all the control you get with regards to sound (other than your guitar controls, of course). There is also a built in tuner that can be switched on and off at the press of a button, saving the need to carry a separate one with you.
There are two jacks; a 1/4“ input jack for your guitar and a 3/8“ output jack for your headphones should you choose to use them. You don’t have to use headphones, however, because the Orange Micro Crush has a deceptively powerful 4” speaker that can kick out quite a bit of noise for a small thing.
The CR3 can be powered by either an external 9V (500mA) power supply, or a standard 9V battery, adding an extra degree of portability to this tiny package. Though, as mentioned above, you'll have to buy your power supply separately.
Appearances might not be everything, but we still care.
The Orange Micro Crush CR3 maintains the distinctive look and feel of the Orange brand. The eye catching orange body of the amp sits nicely with the wicker effect speaker cover and white control panel. Were the Orange name and emblem not stuck to the front of the amp, there would be no question which company was responsible for this product.
Nobody could ever call the design of a typical Orange amp “subtle” or “understated”, but there’s a definite charm to the bright colours of the Micro Crush.
How it Sounds
The all important tone factor.
Typical of Orange amplifiers, the Orange Micro Crush CR3 offers a nice crisp clean sound when played through the clean channel, but also provides an overdrive feature to get warmer, distorted tones, and the CR3 does an admirable job at crafting that Orange crunch.
The bass response is a bit lacking, producing a somewhat thin sound, but then this is a box less than six inches across so there will be some physical limitations. One of those limitations is of course the maximum volume you can get out of the Micro Crush, which is obviously nowhere near what you’d get from a full guitar amp. That being said, the Micro Crush is no slouch, and the amount of noise you can produce with this little box is quite surprising.
It should come as no surprise that an amp by Orange isn’t necessarily great for playing acoustic guitar through, but you can, with a bit of tweaking of the dials, get a decent acoustic sound through this amp. That being said, given the size of the amp, if you’re playing an acoustic guitar you’re probably not going to gain much by putting it through the Micro Crush given that the guitar itself will be competing for sound.
It’s plugged into an electric guitar with a clean tone that the Orange Micro Crush really shines.
Because it doesn't matter how good it sounds if it falls apart on you!
Good to Know...
Though I certainly wouldn't recommend trying it, my own Orange Micro Crush has taken no less than three tumbles from a counter top, shelf, and desk, and has continued to function as well as the day I opened the box.
The Micro Crush feels solid—not something that will fall apart if it is handled a little more roughly than would be ideal. The body of the amp is textured with a rubberized material that provides a great degree of resilience to scuffs and scratches and other blemishes. All the panels are metal, adding a reassuring sturdiness to a product that could so easily have seemed flimsy and cheap had they chosen to use something weaker like plastic instead.
The amp sits on four rubber feet which raise it off the surface it’s sitting on and stop it sliding around too much when being used. They also help prevent vibration noise when playing the amp loud on a hard surface, such as a table or wooden floor.
The controls feel okay. They have a hint of “cheap” about them, but they don’t feel like they’re going to give up the ghost after a few turns.
Why would you want this amp?
Obviously you’re not likely to be using an Orange Micro Crush CR3 in a studio or recording situation (unless you’re doing a bit of experimenting), but it’s perfect for warming up before a gig, practicing quietly in the house late at night, and any situation where you want to play guitar on the move.
If busking is your thing, this amp is perfect for you. The addition of a set of regular guitar strap buttons can make this extremely portable guitar amp into a wearable guitar amp and, of course, it doesn’t hurt that it can run on batteries.
So, what do we think?
The Orange Micro Crush CR3 will never replace a proper amp, or even a decent practice amp for that matter, but what it lacks in features and power, in makes up for in portability and ease of use. The ability to run this amp on a single battery makes it ideal for travelling and impromptu performances, and nice little features such as automatically switching itself off when there is nothing plugged into it make it all the more practical.
If you make a habit of busking, regularly find yourself playing impromptu performances at friends houses, or just want something you can take with you on the off chance you need an amp, the Orange Micro Crush CR3 is the perfect solution.
Now, I have reviewed the Micro Crush because I own one, but there are other micro amps out there. In the interests of giving you as much information as possible before you buy, I have included a video comparing the Micro Crush and some other micro amps. Enjoy.
© 2016 John Bullock