In this research, excitation strategies for a salient-pole wound rotor synchronous machine are explored using a magnetic equivalent circuit model that includes core loss. It is shown that the excitation obtained is considerably different than would be obtained using traditional qd-based models. However, through evaluation of the resulting ‘optimal’ excitation, a relatively straightforward field-oriented type control is developed that is consistent with a desire for efficiency yet control simplicity. Validation is achieved through hardware experiment. The usefulness/applicability of the simplified control to variable speed applications is then considered.