Jan 17, 2017

klonPerhaps 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 thumbnails will open a demo video!


THE UPDATED KLON: KLON KTR

Klon KTR

Klon KTR – $269, click image for video demo.

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.

HIGH END  “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.

JHS Klon 

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.

Wampler Tumnus

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!

Ceriatone CENTURA 

A well received Klon emulation that is also sold as an unassembled kit (for $25 less).

Piedmont Effects Aluminum Falcon
A faithful, quite affordable reproduction of the classic Klon Centaur circuit with a very similar look as well.

RYRA The Klone

“An exact, part for part, meticulously crafted replica of the infamous “transparent” overdrive pedal.”

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” WITH CHEAPER COMPONENTS (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.

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.”

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!

Chellee Ponyboy Overdrive

Klon Centaur based overdrive offering both a buffered clean boost with plenty of chime and a rich transparent overdrive for pushing your edge of breakup tones into singing lead. The voicing switch shifts the frequency range of the Treble control

IdiotBox Han-Taun Overdrive

An affordable emulation featuring – in the words of the maker – ” a bit more beef and tighter high end.”

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!

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.

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.”

J Rockett Rockaway Archer

$249 – A version of the popular Archer with six graphic EQ sliders instead of tone knob, developed by guitarist Steve Stevens. Each sliders controls 18dB of cut or boost at 6 different frequencies.

Foxpedal Kingdom V2

$229 – A Klone that attempts to enhance the original with higher voltage spread for more headroom, and two switches affecting the signal’s clipping.

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.

Rawkworks Light OD.

An evolution of the Klon circuit featuring a clean bass control and clipping toggle switch

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.

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.

Greenchild K818

Dual overdrive preamp with a Klon and Tube Screamer circuit in parallel.

Anasound Savage MkII

Inspired by the Klon Centaur, this pedal features a mahogany enclosure and several trimpots inside the case to control tone, OD bass, EQ and clipping.

LoneWolf FX Minotaur

A pedal inspired by the Klon but with some mods (more about it here).

OBSCURE KLONES 

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.

Monsterpiece Fuzz Stud Overdrive – $199

It looks like a generic pedal, but some expert say it’s one of the closest “Klones” out there.


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!

P.S. Did we forget something or posted incorrect information? Please post a comment and we’ll look into it!

Related Posts