Introducing two new editions to Fender’s Pawnshop range, the Fender Excelsior and the Fender Greta; both as wonderfully unique, retro and strange as the other. The idea behind this range began in 2011 with Fender reproducing prototype designs from the ’60s and ’70s that were considered too ‘out there’ so failed to make it into production, and by appearance alone we can see why! So they left the factory and went straight into pawnshops hence the name of the range. We’ll have a look at two my favourites released at NAMM, the Excelsior and the Greta.
My personal favourite out of the two is the Greta, simply because it just looks so cool! It takes retro-cool to a whole new level and is so unique and distinctive its no wonder it failed to make it into production. It is constructed with a wooden front and back and finished in bright red and contrasting metal top and sides. The ‘Table Top’ amp has a 4” custom design speaker, which is driven by a 2 watt all valve amplifier that is constructed of a 12AX7 per-amp valve, and a 12AT7 output. It has a ¼” jack instrument input, a separate ¼” jack speaker output for an external speaker connection. They have even gone modern with a mini jack input, which allows iPod and MP3 connectivity so you can jam along. On the front is a single tone control next to the master volume; the vintage charm is completed with a golden ‘Greta’ badge and VU meter. Now you might be sat there thinking, ‘yes that all sounds great but its too small to be a quality amp’ and frankly you’d be wrong, but I would be lying if I told you I didn’t think the same. If you don’t believe me, have a listen for yourself.
Now the Excelsior, equally as vintage and distinctive as the Greta but is larger and is practice amp sized. On first glance it is obvious what look Fender were going for with a vinyl cover and ‘E’ shaped grille and, like the Greta, is finished with a golden logo. You can almost see them side-by-side in a Pawnshop, two diamonds in the rough. The Excelsior has a 15” custom design driver, two 6V6 tubes and two 12AXL tubes. It features a tremolo with speed control; treble/bass tone switch and an output for an external cabinet. Perhaps its biggest selling point is its separate microphone, instrument and accordion input. This may not seem important to most people, but to blues harmonica players this is a very unique selling point.
Now the excelsior looks seriously retro and I don’t think it will be to everyone’s taste but it’s a piece of Fender history and I think it looks really cool. With Fender describing as being able to produce tones from ‘refined’ to ‘raucous’ but its useless trying to describe how good an amp sounds, the only effective way is to listen to it yourself.
Fender really have gone above and beyond with the Pawnshop range, you can just tell the amount of effort they have put into creating them. Granted they’re aimed at a pretty specific audience, but they certainly have everyone in there licking their lips. Both amps just seem different to other mass produced amplifiers that I have used. They both seem to have character that you usually only find with custom instruments. Fender; you’ve done us proud!