Fender Excelsior 13 Watt 1x15" Tube Combo Amp Reviews4.3/5.0 based on 26 customer reviews
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from United States
April 25, 2013Music Background:
Multi-Instrumentalist, Amateur Audio Engineer/Mixer
Huge tone, small price.I am absolutely blown away by this amp. For only $300 you get 13 all-tube watts and a 15 inch speaker. That alone would be enough to justify purchasing this amp but, as a bonus, you also get really fantastic tone and a fun, funky throw-back look.
I saw another review call the tone from this amp "raunchy" and that is the perfect word to describe it. It has a nice gritty character to the distortion that is just great for old school rock/blues.
Clean tones are not really this amp's forte but with some careful volume control on the amp and volume/tone control on the guitar, it's in there to be found (just don't expect traditional Fender cleans because you aren't going to find them).
Also, there is no real EQ section to speak of (only a bright switch) so you're somewhat limited in regards to tone but at this price who cares if it only does one sound? It does it so well I am positive you wouldn't want it to do anything else anyway.
I am shocked Fender is selling these at this price. Once word gets around about these, they'll be gone. Get one while you can if you want amazing, true tube overdrive for only slightly more than a boutique overdrive/distortion pedal.
from Claude, TX
April 20, 2013Music Background:
Hobbyist. Play in Church.
Get one while you can.This is a lot of amp for the money. While it does not have an EQ, or separate treble, middle, and bass knobs, it has great tone that can be shaped by the "Bright/Dark" switch, the volume control, and the controls on your guitar. It has a cool, raspy voice that starts clean and goes to overdrive with ease. I can't add much to what others have said here. It is a "boutique" amp for the price of a common amp. I saw a video of the NAMM show in Cali, and the Fender rep said they are only making a limited number of these before they move on to something else for their "Pawn Shop" series of amps. So... get one while they are still available.
from Murfreesboro, TN Usa
April 4, 2013Music Background:
Hobbyist and weekend warrior
Fender ExcelsiorWow! This old school amp cooks the blues baby! I own several tube amps. Some very expensive high brand name amps. This is a great little amp to practice on or gig with it you add some reverb and a good overdrive pedal to it. I was very impressed with the FAT tone you get with a '15 inch speaker. If your lokking for something a little different. This is your ticket! For $299. Every kid should start out with something like this. Its a real tube amp that will keep up with a band.
Sweet GA Brown
March 18, 2013Music Background:
recording engineer/ washed up punk rock legend turned Folk Rock cause I'm old and have responsibilities now
READ THIS REVIEW...I was going to ramble on and on like a lot of people do, but I won't. I will just leave you with this...I played 2 sets the other night at a smaller venue, the first set I played solo acoustic (Martin D15 w/Fishman rare earth neo pickup) through my Excelsior....it's a better acoustic amp than most "acoustic" amps...Then the second set I played bass with a blues trio (old Yamaha bass through a vintage big-muff fuzz pedal) Now tell me what other amp can pull that off for 300 bucks?? When/if this one ever dies, I'll buy another one. I love it.
Al B Blue
from Nipomo, Ca.
January 10, 2013Music Background:
Semi Pro Musician
Happy with the Amp..Great little amp. Would recommend it to my guitar playing friends
from elysburp, pa, usa
December 31, 2012Music Background:
full time muscian for to long
satisfied customerplugged straight in this amp is old school, i experimented with several different fx chains/pedals which it utilizes/takes extremely well & allows it to cover a lot of ground. besides the classic styles it can stretch out into metal & uber clean funk, country etc... with the right fx. mine is silent & i haven't had a single issue in 6 months of constant use. it's fine for smaller gigs or use it with a mic as a monitor for bigger venues. a no brainer for the $!
from Phoenix, AZ
July 16, 2012Music Background:
Get one while you canI gigged with a National/Valco amp in the late 50's and 60's. Believe me, this is as close as you can get to the old Valco amps. This amp sings.
from Central Coast California
June 26, 2012Music Background:
Should Be Five Times The PriceI saw this Fender offering at the winter NAMM show in Anaheim,CA. It is a beautifully styled amp. I thought that Fender was going to offer this as an expensive high end boutique amp. When I originally saw the price, I was shocked how inexpensive these are. I figured they cannot sound good, even though I heard them demoed at the show and I thought they sounded great. I was expecting to be disappointed when mine arrived. This amp sounds and plays much better than expected. I usually use my hand built amps for small gigs and for rehearsal. This amp has a unique tone and a very nice musical breakup. It does not appear to be a low end amp in any way. This is a real home run for me and I am not easily pleased with production type amps.
from United States
June 5, 2012Music Background:
Guitar Player 49 years
Retro Amp for us retro Guitar PlayersThis amp reminds me so much of my first tube amp back in the 60s. All that amp had was a tremolo effect too. I bought this amp because the sound is Fender clean to use with my Zoom G5 pedal which I can customize my sound with anyway. But with this amp by itself sounds great and looks old school! Its built well and is fairly light as compared to other combos. It has a lot of power for 13 watts and the 15" Speaker sure can handle the power! I will use this for gigging.
from Pineville, LA
June 1, 2012Music Background:
Praise & Worship Leader, life-long musician, owner and teacher @ Steve's Guitar Studio.
Best Fender deal out there !Bang for the buck ... best tube amp award !! Just got this from Mark Stein my amazing SW sales rep. Opened the box, plugged in my strat and cranked it up. My 15 year old daughter immediately said "it has a round sound." and she was right ! Fat, round, full, warm tone. I flipped on the bright switch and there was the Fender sparkle. I cranked it up with my strat turned down, very clean ... cranked the guitar up ... nicely broken up blues tone. Plugged in my Ibanez hollow-body, cranked it up ... awesome sound and endless sustain, nice rich harmonics, punchy dynamics and very touch sensitive. I turned the Tremelo on (which is truly a Vibrato) and it is sweet n smooth. Gonna try some pedals with it this weekend and can't wait to gig with it. I give it five stars. Thank you Mark & Sweetwater !!
May 21, 2012Music Background:
Fender Excelsiorsounds really great. Made my Tele come to life. But the Taylor T-5 sounds better than it ever has. This is the first amp I have got that sounded great right out of the box without adding pedals. I have added a reverbe pedal and it really came to life then. Would give this amp a 9.5 as it is a little heavy but worth it.
from Alberta, Canada
May 20, 2012Music Background:
semi pro musician, sound engineer
A Retro Styled Amp That Delivers Unique Vintage VibeFirst off , I have to congratulate Fender on making an amp that doesn't try to sound like any other amp they make. The Excelsior recreates that unique vibe of many old amps that were traded by their owners after they bought their "proper" expensive amps. The combination of push-pull 6V6 tubes + huge speaker + small transformers = funky compression. The sound of Compressing 6V6 power tubes in the Excelsior allows it to go from smooth and polite sounding to angry and snarling in one twist of the volume knob. That is what made those old amps fun and the people that designed the Excelsior knew exactly what they were doing. The addition of bias tremelo and a simple tone circuit that doesn't get in the way is a plus for this design. The fact that the amp is beautiful and creates sounds that Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker would have appreciated makes this amp feel like a classic. The price point is amazing for an amp that might become somebody's weapon of choice on their next album. The only negative with the amp is the cheap tubes, particularly the preamp tubes that randomly get fizzy, make popping sounds and fade in and out. I put in some old Siemens preamp tubes and eliminated the nasty fizz and random noise and gained smoother breakup and compression. I feel like I stole the amp for the price Fender sells these for and I have to fight the impulse to buy a couple more. As a side note I took the amp to a very expensive vintage guitar shop and let the owner try it without telling him anything about it and and he thought I was delusional when I told him it was a new inexpensive Fender amp. He said "we could sell tons of these to go with our guitars" and looked sad to see it leave the store. That was quite a compliment considering he has a store full of classic gear.
May 17, 2012Music Background:
40+ years player, recorder, gear maven
Fender ExcelsiorIf you're looking for an older 'rootsy' sound this is a GREAT amp. The 15" speaker has enough thump behind it to move air with authority thanks to the 13 watts of power. The high/low switch works well with the 3 input jacks to provide a wide ranging tonal palette. The tremolo has a good range of pulse to it and sounds pretty good left on at the minimum setting pretty much all of the time to get swampy just edge it up a tad it is really about the first 'effect' and it still works cool today. I've played it with a load of different guitars including various Tele's, Gibson's and homemade instruments with many boutique pups and they ALL sound excellent through it. This amp LOVES pedals, I have a small pedal board and they all articulate well especially the Boss FRV-1 '63 Fender Reverb which can and will rock your world. Slide guitar through this amp has a singing quality that is hard to deny, add in a harmonica to the mic jack with an old bullet mic and use it for harmonica and vocals makes it sound like you've stepped into an old juke joint. When paired with another amp that uses 2-12's you have a dynamic stereo rig covering the mids/highs with the 12's and the bottom range with that massive 15" speaker. I used that set-up with a guitar synthesizer at a jam recently and all of that tube goodness made the instrument representations really come to life...no more PA if I can help it anymore. I have not found anything to dislike about this amp but there is a LOT to like. If there are any concerns they are minimal and barely relevant but here they are...1) 13 watts doesn't sound like a lot on paper but this puppy moves some air it's probably not a good choice for a late night practice amp or apartments, yes you can turn it down..but that volume will mysteriously creep back up into eviction range before you know it. 2) I had ghost notes and with a strange rattle when leaning into the strings at anything above 9 o'clock on the volume. New pre-amp tubes solved that where V1 seemed to be the culprit, so you might be prepared to get a decent 12AX7 for there, I put a 12AT7 in V2 and the headroom increased a bit before distortion which is a personal preference. Maybe I just got bad/microphonic tubes. Like I said not any real big concerns I seem to do that to ALL of my tube amps as a matter of course. Is having a 'tone switch' a deal breaker? I haven't missed having the usual pots in the least. This amp has found a lasting place amongst my 'stuff' and I can honestly say it's going to get a regular workout. It looks much cooler in person than the pictures will lead you to believe as well. While you might not think to use one for Metal...because of how well it responds to pedals it might even be OK for that under the right tweaking. This amp is just THAT good. The only other thing that I might add is I'd love to get my hands on a Greta to use as a pre-amp into it, I suspect that is whey they were released together and also why the Greta has a tone control and the tube lay-out it has and the Excelsior has a tone switch and tremolo effect...just thinkin' out loud there. I think Fender has really come up with a winner in this amp. Portable/great sounding/cool looking and yes, LOUD. I have a new first among equals as it's been said.
from Tulsa, OK
May 1, 2012Music Background:
Design, value, and functionalityI purchased this amp because I wanted something like an older amp, but without the issues that usually have to be resolved to get a recordable, giggable piece of work out of 40 or 50 year old gear. I didn't know what to expect, to tell you the truth, but I liked that it had 6v6's and 15" speaker, and the dual chasis arrangement found in amps of yesteryear. Not many 15" combo's out there are being released right now.
Immediately upon opening the box (very well packed for shipping) I was struck by the impressive design. The pictures are enticing, but to have the real deal in front of you is damn exciting. It was heavy, and well constructed. The simplicity and layout are refreshing.
I plugged the telecaster in, had the volume at noon, used the Guitar input, Bright setting, and was surrounded by a clean that had grit, character, and shimmer. This is not a scooped EQ setting. As noted elsewhere, this is not a typical Fender amp. Even on the bright, which is very bright, you get a good dose of midrange with a tight low-end undertow. As the speaker gets worked more, the better everything is sounding. This speaker can handle a lot.
Pushing to the Dark setting, I had even more pronounced midrange, but the lows were still tight, and the amp still clean. More of an old, vintage vibe there. In fact the amp stayed clean until I was about 80% up the dial, which I really liked. Plugging into all three inputs, the character of the amp is still there, , but you get varying shifts of that essential character. Cranked all the way, this amp sounds fantastic. It can be a little much in a living room, but in large room, the amp is able to fill up a lot of space and is not harsh when pushed. Leveling off the telecaster volume and or tone control a notch allows a really sweet tone that is more fuzzy, not fizzy. All the way up it has a relatively noise free character, it does not buzz excessively at all, and the sound cleans up really nice under the Guitar controls. A Les Paul got the amp to break up quite a bit quicker; around 11:00 on the dial with low output humbuckers. This amp is loud! You can gig this thing, especially if you are in a small combo. Great for country, blues, jazz, and hard garage bands. But I was also able to get a great early Black Sabbath sound working with my Tele tone control!
The tremelo is nice and deep as you turn the dial, though it won't pulse super fast. The speaker and tubes are not bad, and I am finding that each guitar I use, whether a Teisco Spectrum, a Jagstang, or Kay archtop, I find a really interesting niche to explore. Harmonica and lap steel sound great, but have not had a chance to hear an accordian, yet. I can't express how much fun this amp is to play through. Sounds great up and down the dial. I hope Fender continues to explore their Pawnshop line, especially if they keep giving us quality offerings like this.
from Bolivar, Mo
April 22, 2012Music Background:
Avid gear freak and tone chaser
Quirky and retro at their best!I purchased this amp in the hopes of getting a decent, inexpensive tube amp. What I got was better than anything expected! The build quality is superb, and it's a stunning retro design. Sonically, I haven't found a tone that wasn't useable. That said, this isn't for everyone. Blues, rock, country, and most anything but -core or metal guitarists. The tremolo is swampy and organic, and the minimalist controls make it a joy for plug-in-and-play purists and the experimental. The speaker offers well defined tones, both clear and harmonically rich. The overdrive brings to mind a great vintage Bassman. I've payed more for amps, but have never been so pleased after paying so little. If stolen, would instantly repurchase it.
September 3, 2012Music Background:
Sound Engineer, Musician
wowThis little guy (actually not so little, I was surprised by how heavy and big it was!) can give you all the classic fender tone you could want. Smaller wattage tube amps are actually much more efficient and practical in band and live settings (most places I've played will just PA your amp anyways) and the excelsior is no exception. The low volume settings gives you plenty of clean headroom, while the upper echelons can give you everything from warm crunch to soaring blues gain. The tube biased tremolo is smooth and versatile, unlike some cheesy digital emulations you see in pedal form. This amp exudes old school 50 and 60s warmth, and with such simplistic tonal control you can with easily dial into your preferred fender sound. The overall tone is bright and heady, but the low end is so full and tasty that you can easily carve fantastic jazz tone by dialing back some of the upper treble frequencies. All in all, this stylish and inexpensive combo can bring the inner tone head out in any guitar player. A MUST BUY
Michael S. Kinser
from Portland, In.
July 11, 2012Music Background:
Classic Fender Tone/ Atypical Fender "Look"I heard the early buzz on this amp online. When I first saw it looked like something right out of the fifties. More Gibson/ Gretsch/ Supro look to my way of thinking. But definately sounds like a Fender. I bought it for (1) the 6v6 power tubes(love that tube !) and (2) the 15 inch speaker. Stock is sounds like a 6v6 powered Fender, a Deluxe comes to mind with a little more beef to the low end. Has a killer bias style tremolo. Does the John Fogerty "swamp thang" well. Guitar, Mic and Accordian inputs, differences are very sutble but useful. At 13 watts you can crank it an get a nice grind going works well with my Vodoo Labs Sparkle Drive. I like this amp alot, gonna see heavy rotation when I track guitar. These things are hotter than a drunken sailor on shore leave so get one while you can! Highly recommened.
May 3, 2012
Amazing...I couldn't be happier!! I applaud Fender for offering such a unique design at such an affordable price point! Stop splitting hairs and just plug in! This thing is a blast and sounds great! Thank you, Sweetwater, for offering a decent stock of these right out of the chute and for great service...as always!
from Eau Claire, WI
April 30, 2012Music Background:
pretty cool, but not exactly a "Fender"I love this amp, but it's not very "Fendery." For me, that's a plus, but not everyone will agree. It sounds roughly like an old Silvertone or Magnatone, but with more gain. It gets fuzzy really quickly. The voicing is excellent, so the lack of tone controls is not a problem. The volume is questionable--about like a loud 5 watt amp--so you might not feel comfortable gigging with it. However, if you want a great old-school sound, this might work for you. As I said, I love it.
from Placerville, CA
November 30, 2012Music Background:
pro player, producer
If you can't get good tone out of this.....maybe the amp isn't the issue????There are a lot of people who play guitar, and then there are guitar players. I am the latter. I can get tone out of an unplugged electric. This amp does exactly what its supposed to do. Great tone and the shortest distance between your guitar and ears. I do not need a boutique high dollar amp to sound like me. I dialed up a nice clean tone through the guitar input, Les Paul 50's Tribute gold top with humbuckings, tone switch on bright, pickup selector center. I gigged with it, blew minds, anx everyone at the club wanted to see it up close.
from NYC! N.Y.
August 31, 2012Music Background:
full gigging musician
With small mods, this amp is amazing!ok, playing for almost 30 years so I have seen it all as far as amps go. Bottomline: You are not getting a Mesa Boogie but for $300 bucks plus mods, you CANNOT go wrong! The honest review is as follows...out of the box you get a good tone when you dial in your guitar. The tone control of 'bright and dark' is almost useless otherwise. For 13watts, this amp sounds mightier than the specs but probably not fanastic unless mic'ed for a gig. Never the less, installing a single tone knob would run about a hundred bucks. Keep this one clean by installing new JJ 6V6's with Tong Sol 12ay7's and this amp sings. The circuitry is modern and vintage so the new tubes keep that vibe the amp was made for, just a crisper, cleaner sound. Some have changed the speaker but in my opinion, it changes the amps soul. A great distortion pedal like a MXR vintage'78 with a good boss Fender reverb pedal makes this the absolute best bang for your buck. I added a FX Loop for some added pedals to really make it stage ready. With the much needed mods, the price goes to just under $500. Still, a relative bargain for an amp with JJ Tubes & Tong Sol reissue Tubes, FX Loop, and tone control that is gig ready! Great job Fender!
August 9, 2012Music Background:
20 years' active gigging
It's all you, baby...no where to hideThose who've dismissed this amp as "useless", "nothing there," "disappointing," are just hiding out. This is not a "modelling" amp, not a tool to disguise your shortcomings. If you haven't found a "usable" tone, maybe you're looking in the wrong place. There's no hiding here.
Not just a matter of twirling some knobs or pulling up some presets. There's not even a tone "control" here. Those little knobs on your guitar? That's what they're for! those tubes inside? PUSH 'EM! That's what they're there for!
Like actual old pawnshop tube amps, the best approach here is to simply crank the volume knob on the amp and use your guitar to dial in a sound. Fender got it right. Not for everyone, but if you can't find an amazing sound here, you're spoiled rotten, and aren't bringing much to the table in first place. Back to the woodshed. Not loud enough? Mic it.
It's SUPPOSED to work this way, that's the whole purpose of this design. Instead of worrying about finding NOS replacement parts for a 60-year old amp, you're getting a well-made (albeit simple) amp that will last at least another 60.
I love this amp. Not a one-trick pony. I've had it 2 weeks now. New powerful, sweet, nasty, subtle surprising tones every day, Even better as the speaker breaks in. This amp rewards experimentation, and highlights and interacts with your OWN playing. Disappointed? Look within, my son (or daughter). Or buy a Line 6 computer modelling amp.
from Union, KY
March 19, 2013Music Background:
A nice enclosure to hang parts in!Its a good place to start. It is more suitable for vintage soulful leads, I cannot get decent distortion in light amounts. Its too much or not enough for rhythm on its lower clean levels. On the Higher side of the volume knob you get a a fizzy speaker breakup that just did not work for rock. I modded this thing up and put Tung Sol 12AX7's and JJ 6V6's in it, while it helped with the low end being to big and sloppy, it didn't help the syrupy sound of the overdrive...recorded like a turd. So I put a 12" in it. So for about another hundred bucks over cost you can have something way more versatile. If something is vintage that is great but it must compete, not be a novelty...it must stand and fight in a modern world for its place.
from Raleigh, NC
May 18, 2012Music Background:
EhhhThe fender excelsior is an alright amp, nothing special. If you don't have a tube amp, and perhaps want something that's a step up from your practice amp, this may do the trick, but it's not going to impress anyone who's already got a nice tube amp. It's only $300, and your getting what you pay for, which is not alot. It's constructed well, the lack of a tone nob isn't quirky it's annoying, and I find the top screw of the cage that contains the power tubes to be irritating to access. I don't have a screw driver with a really thin handle, nor do I have one that is the perfect length so the handle is beyond the cage but not hitting the speaker, so that is a pain. If you want a quirky piece of gear to show your friends this is okay, but if you want a serious amp look elsewhere.
May 2, 2012Music Background:
ExcelsiorFolks, before you buy into the hoopla, or fall in love with GMD's Youtube vides of this amp, be forewarned: it is OK....at best. I have onwed a plethora of amps in this camp, vintage....a few hand built variants, along with bigger amps, and get the whole "lo-fi" thing, and what it should/could be. The amp is by no means horrible, but it also by no means great, or even good for that matter. What it is: an amp that even when hit with low output single coils, compresses in a very artificial, stiff way (due to the lack of a tube rectifier vs the resistors they out in to emulate this effect), and a spitty/splatty drive characteristic that is far from throaty despite the 15" driver. The amp could have been great, but somehow, Fender missed the mark. Looks great, is built well, but let's face it, it is the tone that counts. The amp just lacks any kind of punch and when it does roll over, the tone is either too dark, or so bright it will give you a haircut. It desperately needs a tone knob. I had high hopes that maybe...just maybe, Fender would have given us a useable, nifty, $299 amp...sort of a "fluke" amp, if you will. NOT What they gave us is a low-fi, rather ugly sounding amp that harkens to many no-namers from the late 60's. The "better" amps, such as: Supro, Magnatone, Valco,...a few others are in a different zip code. The fluke.....did not show up to the party.
May 3, 2012Music Background:
Been playing fenders for over 40 years
THE ONLY THING YOU GET IS A BRAND NAMEIf you are looking for a decent amp with decent tone than keep looking. This amp lacks anything close to a useable tone. It is what I consider a "gimmick" Don't waste your money on this amp. The bright is WAY too bright and there isn't a useable sound in this thing. Charging any more for this than $299 would be a crime. It isn't even worth that. There are so many other beter amps with a hundred or so of this price that this is just a waste of money. The speaker just amplifies the lack of any real tone thta could be useable. What a waste