Inside Fender's Excelsior

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Billm, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Billm

    Billm Member

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    I just put up a page with pictures inside both chassis. I like the Excelsior; it's a cool amp with some very usable tones and I think it will benefit from mods. It's well made; good value for the money.

    http://billmaudio.com/wp/?page_id=1203
     
  2. budglo58

    budglo58 Member

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    Great pics Bill .Looks like a well built amp. How does she sound?
     
  3. straightblues

    straightblues Member

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    Thanks for the review. I am very interested in the amp. Are they being shipped yet? How did you end up with one?
     
  4. Webfoot

    Webfoot Supporting Member

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    Curious if it has more mids then a DRRI or is always a scooped sound.
     
  5. Billm

    Billm Member

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    They're being shipped now. The tone is very straightforward, like you'd expect from a "1950s" amp. It's midrangey, but not honky. Bass response is somewhat restrained. I found the mic and accordion inputs to be mostly useless for guitar. Amps like the Blues Junior and Princeton Reverb have more tonal complexity, more harmonic content. I wouldn't call the Excelsior tone classic Fender. It's neither tweed nor blackface.

    It gets pretty darn loud before it breaks up.

    You get woman tone by rolling back the tone on your guitar, turning up the volume, and throwing the tone switch to "dark." The contrast between bright and dark is large. It cries for a middle position or a real tone control. Expect to see one as a mod.

    The tremolo is deep and throbby. It goes nice and slow, but I wish it would go faster for shimmer effects. When tremolo is active, the tone is very full; you don't miss reverb. It would be nice to have at other times, though.
     
  6. '58Bassman

    '58Bassman Member

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    Well, if they're trying to depart from tradition, they seem to have done it pretty well. The amps it's "modeled after" were funky, weird, oddly constructed and I'm amazed by the number I have seen that never used any kind of tag or turret board. Soldering the parts right onto the tube sockets, switches and terminal strips looks like a disorganized mess in a lot of the ones I've seen. My Oahu looks more organized than some- at least it has a heavy wire that passes through the middle and attaches to the shell, used as a ground buss.
     
  7. jadams71

    jadams71 Member

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    I am interested to see what more things this amp will be capable of in the hands of someone like Billm.
     
  8. Billm

    Billm Member

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    I've had a little more bench time with the Excelsior. Mine now has a tone control. [​IMG]

    It's strictly one-knob, tweed style, and uses the Excelsior's stock bright and dark as its upper and lower limits. Tone is very progressive through the range and the middle is bright, but well supported by the bass notes. Single-knob is the right way to go for this amp. A TMB stack steals too much power.

    Installation is easy enough; the biggest challenge, as I mentioned above, is to replace the Bright/Dark switch in an aesthetically pleasing way. The control I'm using has a pull-up switch, which could conceivably be used as a full-on Raw control, but I haven't tried that yet.

    I've also been experimenting with master volume controls to see if there's usable crunch tone at bedroom levels. I'm not real pleased with the tone. The correct answer for this amp may be "pedal." I've got more parts arriving next week; the experiments continue.

    The 15-inch speaker, as you would suspect, contributes to the distinctive tone. But a Swamp Thang is noticeably louder and goes just as deep. It's rounder and smoother, too. I don't know anyone who has a stock of 15-inch speakers that I can test with, but clearly, different speakers will affect the tone of this amp strongly.

    Fender has this thing biased hot -- it's idling at 12+ watts per tube. With cathode bias, there's not much you can do about that, other than change the cathode resistor. JJ 6V6s sound noticeably better. The bigger plates can handle the high idle dissipation better, too.

    And of course, the TO20 output transformer gives it rounder, fuller tone.

    The experiments continue.
     
  9. Billm

    Billm Member

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    It turns out that raw tone, with no voicing, is painfully bright, not particularly useful except for maybe peeling paint. Not an option.

    I also slightly overstated the hotness of the bias. It's running a shade under 12 watts per tube.
     
  10. matchless

    matchless Silver Supporting Member

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    this is how marshall should have made the 1 watt series-
     
  11. JStizz

    JStizz Member

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    so far, what are your recommended mods?

    tone knob to replace the dark/bright switch? different tubes? both? others?
     
  12. Nonvintage

    Nonvintage Member

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    What 6V6's come with the amp and what are the preamp tubes? I haven't heard or have seen one but I like the idea of a single tone control rather than a hi lo switch.
     
  13. Billm

    Billm Member

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    I shot a video with my single-knob tone control mod and before-and-after comparison of the Legend 1518 speaker.

    The speaker really improves the tone quality while retaining vintage tone. I love it!

    I'm pretty happy with the tone control, too. I'll be making some more circuit mods to the amp, but my goal is to preserve its essential, raw nature, not to make it sound like anything else.

    http://billmaudio.com/wp/?page_id=1203

    Although I did the testing with the stock tubes, I prefer JJ 6V6s. The larger plates give the amp a fuller, more open/effortless sound.
     
  14. whaiyun

    whaiyun Member

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    Cool! I'd love to use the Excelsior as a mod-practice amp :D Keep working on it!
     
  15. tcaron

    tcaron Member

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    I've been gigging with this amp for the last three weeks. I did repalce the tubes with JJ 6v6s but I really didn't need to. I'm not convinced that I need the tone mod either.
    I am able to tweek the tone with pedals on my board. All I need to do now is set the volume on the amp to around 10:00. I need a clean amp and this does it. My Zendrive delivers the OD for me, not the amp. I have a Carr Rambler and its been sitting in the basement the last three weeks.

    I may replace the speaker with the 1518 but making the amp heavier may not be a good tradeoff.

    All I can say is to get one or at least try it! Do not give up on it after a quick guitar store test. These are nice little amps. The 15" speaker is great.

    Tom C
     
  16. jimmyg

    jimmyg Member

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    is there a easy way to add a preamp bypass switch? would like the ability to use the amp clean at higher volumes
    thanks
     
  17. IM4Tone

    IM4Tone Member

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    Have you replaced the speaker w/ the Legend 1518? LOTS more clean volume at a sensitivity of 103.4 db!
     
  18. Figaro

    Figaro Supporting Member

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    I just discovered you can set the Excelsior's 2 way tone switch in the middle to get a 3rd tone sound. Give it a try! This is great because the dark setting is too dark and the bright setting is too bright. I would love to find a 3 way switch that would replace the 2 way for easy 3-tone adjustments.
     
  19. SBax

    SBax Member

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    Didn't know you could do that. Sorta like running an old strat with the pickup in the in-between position.

    I replaced the switch with the pot. Usually, it's at 11 o'clock. I also replace the knobs so all three match.

    [​IMG]


    I also got some old alnico 15" speakers to try. Date code 1960.

    [​IMG]
     
  20. IM4Tone

    IM4Tone Member

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    If going to the trouble of replacing the switch, it's the same effort and very minimal cost to just put in a 500k ohm pot and get continuous variability. Very simple for even the least skilled person.
     

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