Fender Excelsior: guts and build

Splattle101

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I picked up a Fender Excelsior amp a few months ago and I'd like to share some thoughts on the build quality.

This is the back of the amp, as bought. It's not minty by any stretch, and the postman dropped it and bent the OT. Cosmetic damage only.
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There are some nice touches on the hardware side of things. The bolts fastening the upper chassis are counter sunk machine screws with cup washers so they don't cut the tolex. They also engage with captive nuts inside the chassis.
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The theme of captive nuts continued with the small fasteners holding the cover plate on the chassis. You can see them in the next pic, along with the usual flimsy one sided Fender PCB.
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Flimsy or not, the PCB is easy to get at and it doesn't have any components mounted on it that the user has to touch in the course of using the amp. By that I mean the pots, switches and jacks are all mounted on the chassis, not the main PCB. Huzzah!
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They even used star washers on the input jacks. Wonders never bloody cease! The valve bases are also chassis mounted, with fly leads connecting them to the board.
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The same story's repeated in the bottom chassis.
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Not pictured are the vents in the PCB under the power resistors that simulate recto sag. These resistors are also elevated about 1.5 cm above the board anyway. Why can Fender not do this in the Hotrod & Blues Deluxe amps??!!

So, it's actually very well built for what it is. The common failure modes of most mass produced Fenders are either absent or - in the case of the input jacks - won't necessitate the removal of the entire main board to fix a pissant broken solder joint.

Oh, and it sounds pretty good, too.

I wish more cheap amps were made like this.
 

smk506

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Cool write up! When those came out I thought they looked really cool. It’s nice to see a major manufacturer deviate from their norm a bit.
 

Splattle101

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Cool write up! When those came out I thought they looked really cool. It’s nice to see a major manufacturer deviate from their norm a bit.
I thought they hit it out of the park with the aesthetics.

It doesn't sound exactly as I expected, but it's dead easy to dial in a good sound, particularly with pedals. The preamp has a flatter load line and cooler bias than the usual Fender setup. Not bad, just different, but from the reviews at the time I think a lot of people had difficulty with that. That said, if the stock circuit offends, the fix is simple: replace two resistors.

On a more important note, it would benefit from a better speaker. The stock 15" is good. It's nice and lo-fi (for a guitar amp, that's a compliment) and it sounds big in the room, even at low vol. But I'm sure there are better drivers out there that would make this box sing.
 

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