Pawn Shop Special Excelsior review by Fender

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.1 (30 votes)
Fender: Pawn Shop Special Excelsior

Price paid: € 190

Purchased from: Used from online seller

Sound — 9
Along with the Excelsior I'm using the Italia Mondial Classic, Telecaster Classic Player Baja and a Partscaster with van Wilde Keystones so I had a chance to try them all out. The Excelsior (or at least mine) does make a little noise, even on low volumes, though this isn't just the Excelsiors' fault because the level of noise differs between guitars (the telecaster buzzes like crazy). Which is a shame because the tone is beautiful. Though it does make you work for it. Finding the tonal G-spot is a hard task with the Bright/Dark switch, because it gives you two completely different and opposite tones: 1. Very aggressive and treble heavy - starts to break up early 2. Low and almost hollow sounding - more headroom So finding something tonally incredible (which this amp is very capable of doing) is a very rewarding process, as it relies on bright/dark, pick attack, guitar and amp volume and the guitar (tone) like any normal tube amp, yet this sounds VERY different from a normal Fender amp. I myself play a combination of most sub-genres of blues to garage rock: examples are The White Stripes, Band Of Skulls, Robert Johnson, The Black Keys, Hanni El Khatib, DeWolff and Triggerfinger. And this thing just fits like a glove! I do support it with a bunch of pedals giving me more tonal options and really just creating my own individual sound using a Big Muff Pi w/ Tone Wicker, Micro POG, Dallas Rangemaster Clone, Boss RRV-10 supported with a true bypass looper, GLX CS100 and a Cry Baby. I'm also very delighted that this amp can get very loud and still remain tonally great, if not better. I played on it with full volume last week and it's the first time in 5 years that I have heard a complaint about my amp being to loud (coming from the neighbors from across the street). So for me it's perfect, for other genres I'm not really sure, but I would figure that it would also be a great option for (just giving some examples): folk, alternative, country, probably even jazz but don't expect the Excelsior in the backline of Meshuggah anytime soon.

Overall Impression — 9
So to sum it all up: this amp blows me away everytime I turn it on. Even the noise I get is acceptable and it almost feels like it's supposed to make it. I feel that I'm falling in love with this amp and I'm going to have a great time figuring out more about her everytime I use her. In my seven years of playing I have seldomly been more pleased with my own tone than the day I turned the Excelsior on, and the hour that followed. I'm also a fan of the exterior of the amp, reminding me of the old delta blues players like Son House, Leadbelly and Robert Johnson, which is a good thing. So to recap: great little amp with a very surprising amount of power behind it, makes you work for your tone but totally worth it, great amount of headroom and all that for a stunningly low price. I strongly recommend to try it out!

Reliability & Durability — 8
I haven't used it live for a gig though it has had a few miles behind it driving it up and down to recording sessions and this thing doesn't show a single scratch. I am planning on using it for a gig soon, the only dilemma I'm really facing is trying to buy an extension cabinet or a mic for the 15" speaker, because it is a medium sized venue. I also haven't had any problems with it, though it is over a year old. I'm pretty sure that it will stand it's ground during a gig so until then this is just guess work.

Features — 9
I had been butchering peoples ears with an old Peavey Centurion Mark III for a very long time when playing live. So I decided to buy an all-tube amp that would be able to give me unique and raunchy sounds without selling my soul. Enter the Fender Excelsior! A 13w amp, 1x15" Special Design speaker, along with a volume knob, a tremolo knob, three (!) inputs (Guitar, Microphone and Accordion) and a Bright/Dark switch. The great thing is though that it has a speaker output jack, giving you even more power (and along that different tone). It actually does what it sets out to do, and for the price I paid there isn't anything to complain about in terms of features. Though there has been some (understandable) criticism regarding the bright/dark switch - though it doesn't really bother me - and it would've been nice if there was a footswtich input for the tremolo. I still have to repeat that I'm not in a position to criticize especially regarding the price. Specifications: - Speakers - Two 6V6 output tubes - Two 12AX7 preamp tubes - GTR, Microphone, and Accordion inputs - Volume control - Tremolo with speed control - Treble/Bass tone switch - 1/4 speaker plug may be disconnected to use with an ext. cab. - Weight: 33lbs/15kg

1 comment sorted by best / new / date

    This "40's Gibson amp" sounding thing is one of the most original things to come up in the world of amplification in a long time. It sets out to be more than just an amp, this thing's got a ****in' soul. And as with everything that's got a soul; everyone might not like it, but if you do like it you tend to love it. The Excelsior is a very unexpected thing to enter the world, especially from Fender, considering the quality, the price and the very un-Fender mojo. But, man, in the words of Carlos Santana: "Man, that little thing really Boogies!" / John Sijbren Leonard