2010s Fender Pawn Shop Excelsior 13w 1x15" Tube Amp

I bought a brand new Excelsior back in 2013. These are great amps and they're modeled specifically after late '50s low-watt, weirdo Chicago amps -- like National/Valco/Supro varieties and things like this oddly-similar Sano which also has a 15" speaker. The sound is full, clean, bright, and clear -- though there's a bright on/off switch so you can cream it up a bit if you're not a high-end nut like myself.

It's also ridiculously loud for its size and wattage and I would swap in low-value 12AY7 or 12AU7 tubes in the preamp to bring down the volume for in-the-house playing. This also cleans it up a bit when cranked, though, so your mileage may vary. I was using mine as a pedal-steel-style clean/clear amp with a reverb pedal in front of it at the time. When cranked, though, it gets really ballsy and aggressive in a garage-rock sort-of way near the end of the dial.

The tremolo/vibrato circuit is mellow and relaxed and very old-school. It might be the coolest feature after the 15" speaker setup. Said speaker sounds really good, too, after it's broken-in like this one is. It's got a lot more velvet and warmth than the unit I was using because it's seen a lot of play.

The current tubes seem to be the original Chinese set but I've replaced the V1 preamp slot with a Groove Tubes 12AX7 that's a bit smoother and tighter than the original. I tried fancier power and V2 tubes but didn't notice any extra ground gained. I think these actually sound better.

Anyhow, I got this one in trade and it's clearly been played a lot and it looks like it got pulled out of light rain at one point because the chassis shows water staining as if it was at a show and got pulled into a van and left at night before a wipe-down. I popped the chassis and looked inside -- everything is clean and working as it should and I didn't have any trouble with it when I first powered it up.

There are scuffs, nicks, and dings here and there throughout and I pulled-off the broken Excelsior logo/medallion on the front because it was looking a bit tacky. I also removed the "cage" around the power tubes but could reinstall it if desired -- it will come with the amp regardless. I like swapping tubes from time to time and so I found it a little annoying to have the power tubes enclosed. I shortened the speaker's cable, too, so it wasn't flopping-around in the back.

So -- to make it short -- these are getting rarer, very fun, lots of value for their price point, and they look amazing on stage. Everyone thinks these are '50s units from the front if they're not in the know.


Dave in CO said…
So Jake, I've always wondered: Doesn't all the stuff in front of the speaker (those little arms) screw up the sound??
McComber said…
Uh oh. It has tremelo. Now I'm interested in purchasing.
Jake Wildwood said…
Dave: not particularly -- it mellows it juuuuust slightly.

McC: mmmmmh trem.