There’s no shortage of bluetooth speakers with a retro flavour. Marshall has been doing the classic looks/modern tech thing for a while, as has Fender. Now British firm Orange is getting in on the action, except here the throwback features aren’t just found on the outside. The Orange Box also adds analogue amplification into the mix.
This portable boom box has a built-in battery for taking on the move, and doesn’t go overboard with modes and settings. It’ll simply play your music loud, and look good while doing it. But it’s a sizeable system, and with prices starting from $299/£275 it’s also on the expensive side. Does the analogue approach justify the extra outlay, or is this one nod to the past too many?
Design & build: retro revival
With orange vinyl-wrapped wood, a wicker grille and leather carry handle, the Orange Box is proper time warp stuff. It looks like it came straight from the Sixties, which is sure to please music fans of a certain vintage. Orange will sell you one in black if you want, but given the firm’s name we can’t imagine they’d be happy about it.
This is a luggable speaker, rather than a truly portable one, weighing in at 3kg. Squeeze it in a backpack and you won’t get much else in there with it. The carry handle gets the job done, but you may want to invest in the optional Gig Bag carry case to make travelling easier; it has a well-padded shoulder strap, pockets to hold the power brick, and a mesh front means your tunes aren’t muffled while the speaker is stowed. Just keep in mind it’ll add $60/£50 to your total spend.
The flip-style power switch is a satisfying 60s throwback, as is the jewel-like orange power LED. The manual bass, treble and volume dials could’ve been ripped right off one of Orange’s guitar amplifiers, too. The only hint of modern convenience is the Bluetooth button. There’s also a 3.5mm analogue input up top for hooking up any wired gear. A neat coiled cable is included in the box.
Given the go-anywhere nature, it’s a shame there’s no official water resistance rating. You’ll need to head for shelter if the heavens open.
Features & battery life: keeps it simple
While most modern Bluetooth speakers are loaded up with companion apps and extra connectivity, the Orange Box keeps things simple. Pairing is manual, with a neat guitar strum sound indicating a successful connection. The pairing button then also plays and pauses tracks, but there’s no multipoint for hooking up two devices at once. You can’t hook up a second Orange Box in party mode either. AptX streaming is a welcome inclusion, though.
Volume, bass and treble are also manual, with the dials being rather tricky to read unless you’re stood directly over the speaker. There’s +/-5 levels of adjustment, with the upper ranges likely to trigger the audio safety monitor LED. This flashes if you’re driving the speakers a little too hard, and is meant to prevent damage to the drivers over time. If it’s on constantly, you definitely need to dial the volume back. We largely stuck to 75% or below and had no issues with rattles or distortion.
It’s a shame there’s no automatic sleep mode, meaning you have to physically power the speaker off after each listening session to avoid a flat battery when you next come to use it. The power LED only starts to flash at 10% charge, and with no companion app it’s impossible to get a more accurate figure.
Speaking of power, the bundled charging adaptor is proprietary, rather than USB. You’ll need to bring it with you to keep the speaker topped up, and the cable isn’t all that long either. With no extra USB ports or niceties like a wireless charging pad, you can’t refuel your other tech using the internal battery.
We largely found the Orange Box matched the firm’s claim of up to 15 hours of listening, regularly lasting close to that figure at high volume. This isn’t the longest lasting speaker out there, though, which might put off those looking for something to bring to a multi-day music festival or camping trip.
Sound quality: easy listening
With its mix of Class D and Class A/B analogue amplifiers, instead of just Class D amps like many Bluetooth speakers, the Orange Box produces wonderfully warm and engaging audio. It copes just fine with electronic tunes, but is at its best when fed live instruments; they have subtle added depth and tone that’s often missing from all-digital rivals. Detail is exactly what we’d expect for the money, too.
It doesn’t have the widest soundstage, even for a speaker of its size. There’s a mono vibe here that suits the styling quite well, but it’s something to think about if you’re looking to fill your room with sound from a single source.
The 4in subwoofer and twin 2in full-range drivers have a very respectable frequency range, with ample bass and clean treble. Certain tracks benefit from a bit of EQ tweaking, but the manual dials let you adjust on the fly in seconds. There’s also a bit of bass boom when you’re up close to the speaker, especially at larger volumes, but not enough to detract from the mix.
A 50W output makes this a fairly loud speaker for its size, although we avoided maxing out out on the advice of that audio safety monitor light. Even then it coped just fine at a garden party, and could make itself heard in the park even once the wind picked up. For background listening indoors you’ll rarely need to crank it higher than 50%.
Orange Amps Orange Box verdict
As throwback speakers go, the Orange Box is as fun to look at as it is to listen to. It goes all-in on retro styling, and the analogue amplifiers subtly set it apart from the competition. You’ll look the part at music festivals and it’ll fit right in at home too. If that’s all you’re looking for, it’s a great buy.
Anyone after a longer feature list has plenty of choice, though. The slightly smaller Marshall Kilburn II has a beefier battery and is water resistant, for example, but costs a similar amount of cash.
With classic looks and convincing analogue audio, the Orange Box will keep old-school music fans happy – but you don’t get many advanced features for your cash.
Decent battery life
Punchy analogue audio
Proprietary charger, no USB for sharing power
No waterproofing rating
Pricey, given the basic feature set
Orange Amps Orange Box technical specifications
|2x 2in full-range, 1x 4in woofer
|Bluetooth, 3.5mm analogue
|SBC, AAC, aptX
|280x175x170mm, 3.0kg / 11.02×6.9×6.69in, 6.62lb