Perhaps the most legendary (and expensive…) guitar pedal of all times, the Klon Centaur was one of the first boutique stompboxes, and proved that an overdrive could be much more than just distortion. Created by Bostonian Bill Finnegan in 1994, the pedal and its innovative circuit (which uses an IC MAX1044 voltage converter and two germanium diodes) changed how overdrives interact with a player’s rig, and how they are perceived overall.
A quick online search for an original unit today (January 2017) gives us prices ranging from $2,500 to $3k+!
No wonder many manufacturers have been trying to recreate that sound at a lower cost! If you are in the market for a Klon or a faithful recreation, this is your definitive guide.
THE ORIGINAL: THE KLON CENTAUR
With an initial price tag of $225 (hefty for 1994), The Centaur provided transparent, glassy mojo, while adding pleasing harmonic content to whatever signal chain was lucky enough to go through it. It could be used as a supplement, or as the focal point of a rig, and many famous players loved it as a clean boost and many others as an “amp-in-a-box.” The point being, it excelled at everything.
Within a few years, the pedal gained legendary status, also because of Klon’s dedication to customer service, and to hand-wiring every unit that left their shop. Finnegan stopped building the original model in 2009 – at that point he had hand wired 5,400 of them. (You can find a more comprehensive history of the Klon here.)
Clicking on the gallery’ images will open the pedal’s video.
THE UPDATED KLON: KLON KTR
The original Centaur took up a beastly amount of pedalboard space, and the KTR (manufactured by Klon’s inventor Bill Finnegan himself, but contracted out to make it compatible with mass production) features a smaller footprint. A toggle was added to switch between true or buffered bypass. Some say it doesn’t compare to the original, but considering it was built by Finnegan himself, the KTR is the closer to the Centaur a pedal can get, according to its creator, who – by the way – thinks it sounds exactly the same.
POPULAR “KLONES” ABOVE $150
While an original Centaur can fetch a king’s ransom on the used market, there are a variety of much more affordable options that try to stay true to the original design.
This list, in a perfect but less playful world, would be named “Clones of the Klon Centaur.” Needless to say, we aren’t the first ones to exploit this play on words linked to the manufacturer name’s similarity with the word “clone.”
ARC Effects Klone
This is the pedal that coined the term “Klone” (as in “clone of the Klon,” get it?). The Arc Effects’ stompbox is a recreation that replicates all components from the original design, at around… 10% of the cost or so!
J Rockett Archer
J Rockett went to painstaking lengths to design their take on the Centaur, appropriately named the Archer. One of the few recreations that includes the Klon “secret sauce”, the Archer uses the same NOS germanium diodes that Finnegan used in the original.
A point-for-point rendition, but extremely hard to find and very sought after. Used only, and good luck snatching one. They fetch upwards of $600 on the used market. The good news is that JHS offers an EHX Soul Food mod that is readily available and widely praised.
Rimrock Effects Mythical Overdrive
One of the designs that most closely resembles the original Centaur, this unit uses only the highest-quality components.
The smallest Klone around. A faithful re-imagining of the original design in miniature shape – which makes it unique, at about 1/4th the size of the original!
Stigtronics – Tone Vitamin
Quite affordable and small, the Tone Vitamin is hand built and can be personalized in color. Stigtronics doesn’t get much press but their klone gets flattering reviews on musicians’ forums.
MORE AFFORDABLE “KLONES” (Under $150)
For those who are not too obsessive about components and circuit recreation, there’s no need to break the bank to get “a” Klon” sound.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
The Soul Food is the epitome of the “Klone revolution.” Great-sounding, waaay under $100, and readily-available, it is pound-for-pound one of the most popular Centaur-style pedals. A switchable buffer/true-bypass feature solidifies it as a contender against the others. The overall sound is said to be a little thinner, but it works well stacked with other overdrives.
Tone Bakery – Creme Brulee
One of the more affordable options on this list, the Crème Brulee isn’t a point-for-point recreation, but it comes damn close, and gets great reviews at our Stompbox Exhibits!
Pedal Monsters – Klone
This offering is a solid affordable choice, hand built by a Washington DC, passionate company that presents itself as the “Robin Hood of the pedal world.”
KLON EVOLUTIONS (AND SOME PRETENDERS)
Of course, perfection doesn’t exist in the realm of audio engineering, and even a successful circuit like the one of the Klon has been the object of reinterpretation and attempted improvements. A couple of manufacturers, ironically and mischievously, even used its popularity to promote completely different circuits!
MojoHandFX Sacred Cow
A Klone with two twists: an ironic one (the legendary Centaur image is replaced by the culinary icon of a cow), and a tonal one, thanks to the added flexibility of the appropriately named “Fatty/Lean” Toggle, with the former adding a touch of extra girth, very useful for quieter pickups. Like the original, it convert the signal internally to 18v.
Keeley Ox Blood
Here’s a description coming directly from Robert Keeley in this page’s comment section, after we mistakenly listed this pedal in the Klones category: “The Oxblood is not a Klone or a mod of one. We designed it on Instagram over a three day period where you can see our schematic and circuit develop. The design goal was to use a voltage doubler, a clean blend path, a different style clipping, offer much more gain, and more EQ possibilities. I did however want it to be confused as a Klone, so I’ve always marketed it as Not A Klon.”
Bondi Effects Sick As Overdrive
Inspired by the Klon, this pedal features a toggle switch that controls the amount of headroom and character of the drive, and an extra Bass knob for added versatility. Both EQ knobs allow 15dB of boost or cut.
Matthews Effects The Architect
An evolution of the Klon that adds flexibility with a three-way clipping toggle and a full 3-band active EQ.
Soulsonic FX – Illuminated Overdrive
Not liking to be considered a “Klone,” the Illuminated Overdrive includes a nice added features: a 3 way toggle switch lets you select the type of clipping.
Pelican Noiseworks Pelitaur
Perfectly camouflaged as a Klone, this is actually a double fuzz. Don’t miss the manufacturer’s criptic introduction to the pedal, aimed at confusing and then surprising the Klone seeker.
Dual overdrive preamp with a Klon and Tube Screamer circuit in parallel.
LoneWolf FX Minotaur
A pedal inspired by the Klon but with some mods (more about it here).
The world of “Kloners” is ripe with more or less successful attempts and experiments by emerging manufacturers. Here’s a list of some of the less popular or discontinued models.
Tone Monk – Phoenix
A highly sought-after Klone that has been off of the market for quite a while.
Dan Zink – Minotaur
A Klon emulation but in a smaller enclosure. 9v DC, buffered output just like the original.
Ham Fist – Fancy Lad
Hard to find, but reputable Klone.
Yellowcake Pedals – Blackbox
The Blackbox’s unique features are the knobs on the top side of the enclosure.
Matthews Effects Klone
True to the original except for being true bypass, now discontinued.
SHOOTOUT VIDEOS AND OTHER LINKS
If the pedal demos we linked to in the galleries above weren’t enough to sway you one way or another, there are a series of videos where the various Klon inspired pedals get compared directly through shootouts: we’ve embedded here some of them to better inform your choice.
And if you are wondering how different the Klon sounds compared to another legendarily influential pedal, the Ibanez Tube Screamer, you may want to check this video out:
There are dozens of musicians’ forums about Klones, rather than pasting them all here we’ll just defer to Google… they are pretty good at it!