Pawn Shop Special Excelsior review by Fender

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 7
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.1 (30 votes)
Fender: Pawn Shop Special Excelsior

Price paid: $ 299

Sound — 9
The best two words to describe the sound of this amp are Lo-Fi and awesome. It is incredibly easy to achieve a funky, gritty, weird, lo-fi, 60's era sound out of this amp. All you need to do is have a guitar and a cable and it helps to have an opposable thumb (or two) to turn the volume and tremolo control. That's it, don't worry about bass, middle, treble, and gain controls. Just use the volume and the inputs to enter the tonal regions you want. The 15" speaker gives a whole different sound then a 12 speaker would to this amp. The Bright/Dark tone switch definitely adds some more tone shaping but it isn't the most dynamic way to dial in your bass and treble. This was one of the amps on display in the massive Fender and Gretsch room during NAMM 2012. It was being demonstrated by one of the Fender guitarists who was, to say the least, quite excellent at guitar. He channeled everything while giving me a great rundown of the amp, everything from CCR with heavy tremolo to a raucous sound propelled by The Black Keys and The White Stripes. It sounded just like what you would expect from a really cheap amp made 50 years ago with questionable parts, suspicious circuitry, and a speaker you would be scared to push as it could completely explode and set the amp on fire. It was great! I can personally see this being used for many studio recordings to get a funky sound without having to locate something from the past. Not to say this amp is so single purpose, you can definitely get a clean tube amp guitar sound by utilizing the volume on your guitar. It will not be as clean as a Fender Blackface but this is not intended to sound like every amp Fender has ever made. This is a whole new sound that will fit right in to the Pawn Shop series.

Overall Impression — 8
I am extremely impressed by this amp for a variety of reasons. I believe Fender did a great job with the design of this amp, mimicking 50-60's era funky looking amps that were commonly sold at the major department stores of the day. The fact that for $299 you get a 13 watt all tube amp with a 15" speaker and three different inputs to reach some unique tones is exceptional for this price point. I personally love the looks of this amp because it is so much different then what you get in this price range. The design of the combo almost has a look of "65amps" which isn't a bad thing. I think these will be a HOT ticket and definitely know that I will be picking one of these up most likely off of the used market one day for around $200usd. Even if I were to buy new at $299 that is a completely reasonable price for all the features that you get. You can achieve the sounds you would be getting out of a 1964 Silvertone amp but with the reliability of an amp made in the modern era. Enjoy your tone and happy pickin'. Feel free to contact me!

Reliability & Durability — 7
This amp seemed to be built pretty well. I am a little weary of the complete open back on the amp but I believe this will hold up to mild gigging fairly well. I do not envision this as a major touring amp for most but more of a home recording and studio type of an amp. You have a lot of different tonal options such as the three inputs and a 15" speaker. With that being said I think the reliability and durability will be fine for what the desired use is. These will become available at the very end of April so until we get some true feedback this category will remain at a 7.

Features — 9
For $299 you get yourself a ton of features considering this is a basic, throwback type of guitar amp. This fits right in with the Pawn Shop series and is completely off the wall, weird with much different looks, and carries a huge amount of swagger. - 13-Watts - Single 15" Special Design speaker - Bottom-loaded primary chassis and top-loaded control chassis for operating convenience and low noise - Powered by two 6V6 output tubes and two 12AX7 preamp tubes - Instrument, Microphone and Accordion inputs each with individually optimized circuitry - Tremolo circuit with speed control - Bright/dark tone switch (for treble or bass emphasis) - Volume control - 1/4" Internal speaker disconnect lets amp Drive an external speaker enclosure It's a tube amp at the end of the day. The really exciting and quirky part of this amp that sets it apart from almost all other amps that are currently being produced is the fact that it has a 15" speaker and three inputs: instrument, microphone, and accordion (each with different tonal capabilities).

19 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This sounds like it'll get that nice dirty blues sound that people shell out thousands for.
    THIS is the amp I'm waiting for. Can't wait to turn that up and blast some old Kinks and Flat Duo Jets tunes.
    I got one yesterday. There's very little clean headroom, and the amp is basically trashy; however, I really like it. It reminds me of an old '60 Magnatone a friend had. It isn't very loud--in fact it seems no louder than many 5 watt tube amps--and it isn't clean above 4, but it's loads of fun and really screams with an overdrive, unless you turn it up too high. Then it chokes and gags, but in a cool way. It's borderline for small gigs, but it might do the trick for a garage band in a small venue. Real Fender fans will probably hate it, but I like it way more than a Deluxe.
    Looks and sounds very interesting!! Might have to check it out!
    I am in the market for a smaller tube amp. Up until now I was sold on the Orange TT.. might wait for this though
    LeakyFlask wrote: Really intrigued by this, and the price is even more intriguing! Rather get something cheap and original than expensive and generic!
    +1 Totally want this.
    Really intrigued by this, and the price is even more intriguing! Rather get something cheap and original than expensive and generic!
    This thing looks pretty bitchin for only $300. If I had some spare cash I'd pick one up pronto.
    master wrote: THIS is the amp I'm waiting for. Can't wait to turn that up and blast some old Kinks and Flat Duo Jets tunes.
    Maybe you can tab some of those on Guitar Pro and post them while you're waiting for the amp to release...
    That looks cool. but doesn't the solid wood across the front of the speaker prevent air pressure (variation), the sound?
    Does anyone think this might work for electric piano? I'm wanting something fun for the Korg SV-1.
    Really looking forward to this amp. Exactly what Im looking- cheap, decent apartment practice amp. Wondering how well it takes pedals...