Hi everyone, it’s Brian here with World Music Supply, and today I want to talk to you guys about some cool new amps that are part of Fenders Pawnshop line of equipment. The Pawnshop line up until now has been filled with quirky Fender guitars built to feel old, but made with a modern sensibility, and these amplifiers are no exception. Thus far, the Pawnshop line of amps has only two models, the Excelsior and the Greta. Let’s start first with the Greta.
The Greta is designed to function and feel like an old tube desk radio, which is what many guitarists of yesteryear had to deal with before they could buy a “real” amplifier, and as such, the tones generated from this small 2 Watt amplifier is similar to what you tend to hear on many old Classic rock hits from that same era. The Greta does look really cool though, with its speedometer style volume meter, its gold fabric covered speaker, and its bright red vintage table top radio style cabinet.
Sitting down with the Greta and putting it through its paces it’s quickly apparent that the controls to this amp are as simple as simple can get. You have a volume, a tone knob, and a speaker, past that you can plug the amplifier into the front end of another amplifier to use as a pre-amp, or run it into a cabinet to use the Greta as a head. While this makes the guitar a little more versatile, at the end of the day you get a few really amazing tones, and a cool little red amp. I tested the Greta through all of its respective speaker outputs, by itself, through a Randall RT412CX, and as a Preamp for a Fender Frontman.
By itself the Greta is a cool little table radio, and its speaking voice reflects this. Through its 4” speaker, at lower volumes, you get a clean-ish tone which has that classic sparkle that fender is known for, and as you ramp up the volume you get a very C.C.R style “swampy” overdrive. You really need some low output pickups to get a “true” clean tone from the Greta, but as long as the volume is low, you still get a nice, warm clean sound, with the slightest hint of growl behind it. However through its internal speaker, my favorite part was running my MP3 player through the Greta, as the tubes warmed everything up, and really made the music so much more, well…musical.
using the Greta as an amp head into a Randall RT412CX I was impressed by two things, that an amp like this can actually run a 4 x 12 cabinet, and second by the tonal difference between its internal speaker, and when running as a head. By itself, the Greta has a very “swampy” character, with a growl that I really can only link to the tones made famous by the likes of John Fogerty, but when you run it through a cabinet, it suddenly has a very AC/DC style sound, with far more punch and range than it does by itself. This is all to be expected, but the grand difference in good, usable tones was not, and I was frankly impressed. At low settings you get a nice big clean sound, with the slightest impression of the overdriven character of the amp in the background, and as you crank the amp the 5 o’ clock or so, you start to get some real Angus Young style bark. Taking it all the way to ten results in some big, heavily saturated distortion at a semi-low volume, which for those of us who record in our homes, rather than million dollar studios, good tones at low volumes is a definite plus.
The Greta can also be used as a Pre-amp, and for my test, I ran the Greta as a pre-amp into a Fender Frontman 2 x 12, which is a brighter sounding amplifier to begin with, I picked this amp as I have always loved its Fender tone, but I’ve never been a fan of the solid state tone. The Greta did a few things for the Frontman, first of which was warm everything up, this was nice as I could set the Greta on its lowest possible setting, just to add some tube warmth and let the Frontman handle all of the volume duty. This setup proved to be very useable, and did a good job of “faking” a big tube amp, which is something that I’ve always liked, having the tone and analog warmth of Tubes, and the reliability and road worthiness of a solid state amp. This combo really was a match made in heaven.
The Greta is a great addition to the Fender line of amplifiers, and a fantastic addition to the pawnshop line of equipment. For its ability to perfectly emulate the tones of yesteryear, the Greta gets a 9 out of 10, as even though its tones and looks are perfect, it certainly isn’t a high gain, heavy metal amplifier, and it therefore won’t suit the tastes of every guitarists, even though it will perfectly suit most of them.
Next up in this review is the Excelsior amplifier, a cool little 13 Watt Combo with a 15” special design speaker, and like the Greta it’s designed to be filled with all the same weird, quirky energy that has made Fenders Pawnshop line of equipment so exciting. Just like the Greta it bears no Fender name badge, just the name Excelsior, and a big E shaped cloth covering on the front to help echo the vintage vibe. the Excelsior only gets weirder and weirder when you come to find its three inputs, for Guitar, Mic, and Accordion…yes, that’s right, Accordion.
Each channel is designed specifically to complement that specific instrument, and by that I mean it is patterned after vintage amplifiers for that purpose. The guitar amplifier features wiring that is patterned after a vintage combo amp, and features everything from country clean tones with big snappy twang, to big roaring blues rock crunch. The Mic channel seems to be patterned after similar amplifiers, but with a bit cleaner mid range, as it seems to have been designed for use with harmonica mics more than vocal microphones. This means that the Mic channel features slightly scooped mids that help give the mic channel an extra little grind when it’s overdriven. I even went as far as to get an A/B box and toggle between these two channels to help figure out the difference, and it really is just a slightly scooped out midrange, which allows the amp to sound more “full range” than normal.
The accordion amp seemed to take a lot more to distort than the other channels, and had a much brighter sound to it than the other channels, which was nice when you consider that this amp is only 13 Watts and will spend most of its life at least slightly distorted. The last neat little feature about the Excelsior is the Tremolo feature, which is very, very musical. It adds a nice soft oscillation to your tone, and its speed knob never allows it to get too intense to where it’s a buzz saw, or a stutter, just a soft musical warble. Overall I loved the Excelsior, and if I had the extra cash lying around I would have snatched one up in a heart beat. For its ability to have so many sounds in one little box, and for its retro cold-war styling, the Excelsior lands a respectable 9 out of 10, and it doesn’t score that last point for the same reason as its sister, while it is a great classic sounding amp, there just isn’t enough gain on tap for many guitarists wanting a more modern sounding amplifier.
So there you have it, some very respectable amps, with a pedigree from one of the most beloved Amp manufacturers on the planet, with a vibe and a tone that is half a century overdue. These amps are sure to be a hit with lovers of low watt amps everywhere, and you can get them and many more Fender amplifiers right now at Worldmusicsupply.com!