When I start the review on this faux-vintage amp, I started to think a bit about vintage wines. The color, the flavor, and the feel. The Pawn Shop series Excelsior guitar amp from FMIC is definitely an amp that needs to be savored. The look of the amp is 50’s retro cool, Fender removed all traces of their world-renowned brand and started from the floor up on this amp.
The brown vinyl covered amp has a wicker style brown grill in the shape of the letter “E”. The Fender logo as I said is nowhere to be found it is replaced with a gold throw back badge featuring cross swords. The Excelsior has top loaded electronics with large knobs for easy reach. This is where the Excelsior starts to get funky.
The amp has just two knobs volume and tremolo; it also has a bright dark tone switch. Once you open your mind to the concept – the lack of controls is not limiting it is actually liberating. By controlling my tone with my guitar’s electronics and picking techniques, I found myself immersed into a different world.
With the volume, around 11 or 12o’clock the amp starts to break up nicely. The amp has two classic 12AX7 preamp tubes and is powered by two 6V6 output tubes. With the aforementioned configuration, the 13 watt Excelsior is a sonic monster. This little baby is loud!
As it starts to break up you will start to hear what sounds like to me the sought after Supra 1624T Dual Tone sound make famous by Jimmy Page and Albert Lee. With the tremolo dialed in, I could not help myself from playing a couple of Bo Diddley songs. The tremolo in this amp is great. It sounds as good; if not better than rotary simulators and tremolo boxes, that retail for hundreds.
The big difference between the Excelsior and most guitar amps on the market is the Excelsior is boasting a 15 inch 8-ohm speaker. The speaker is very full and round sounding. I loved the fullness when playing jazz with my single coils or bouncing around on my acoustic.
I put this amp through a grueling month long test playing everything from country to hard rock and it always delivered. The only thing I didn’t do with this amp is plug a stomp box into it. I have plenty of classic treble boosters and overdrives from the 60’s that would pair nicely with this amp. However, I never found the need to modify the Excelsior’s tone.
If I needed a bit of dirt I turned the amp up a bit, where I needed modulation I used the tremolo. The versatility of the Excelsior comes from its simplicity.
So who could benefit from this amp? The answer is everybody. The street price is only $299 which is incredibly inexpensive for a tube amp. This puts the Excelsior in the price range for a novice. Gigging blues and jazz guys will absolutely fall in love with this amps classic styling’s and golden warm tones.
You rockers will really benefit from this baby seeing the Excelsior has great rock tones out of the box. If you need a bit more bite, I am sure for you metal heads and shredders can get the 15 inch speaker to bark a bit with your stompbox of choice.
This is also a great amp for studio engineers and studio musicians. The amp breaks up at studio friendly volumes and has an external speaker jack to allow you to play with a variety of cabinets. The three unique inputs also give you a variety of options.
For the price of a stompbox, the Excelsior gives you a huge range of sounds, options and fuels the imagination. I can’t express how much I love this amp.