It seems as though we are always on the search for the ultimate overdriven tone as guitarists. Sometimes we may find it in a particular tube amp, others may dig a particular pedal, and sometimes there emerges an indisputable hero. The Klon Centaur designed by Bill Finnegan may be one of those indisputable heroes. Let me tell you why that might be the case.
This pedal was designed with one goal in mind, to be the ultimate overdrive pedal. The idea behind it is to provide a transparent and dynamically responsive overdrive that plays to the quality of your guitar and amp. Rather than the pedal providing “the sound”, you are feeding a signal with just the right shape and force to make your amp and guitar provide “the sound”. This has become known as transparent overdrive. Other builders and enthusiasts have tried to clone the Klon, but considering the price these things go for on eBay it’s doubtful that they have succeeded to the standards of most Klon appreciators. The proof that this pedal is all that it cracks up to be lies in the fact that many heavy hitters have this pedal in common. The Treble knob is there to boost or cut treble in your tone. People have said that the boost is not typical of any other pedal and adds the “Klon” sparkle. At noon, the Treble knob allows for clean boosting with no effect on your tone.
So what makes the Klon tick? Why is it so highly coveted? Those that swear by it are typically the type of people that don’t like guitar pedals at all. It takes a good guitar and amp combo and helps it achieve the best overdrive tone you can imagine out of the two. It’s almost as if the addition of the Klon creates its own amp channel. You’ve got the clean channel, the drive channel, and then the Klon channel. If you love the capability of your guitar and amp and the different tones you can achieve then the Klon takes this even further than you could have imagined in a pleasurable way. It sweetens and enhances an already good thing essentially. What it doesn’t do is provide the sound on its own. You can’t expect to have a poor amp tone and poor guitar and magically save the day with the Klon. It is for this reason that some folks hear it or spend their life savings on one only to feel that it is lack luster or over-hyped. The thing that makes the Klon different is that the Gain knob is a two-way control that mixes clean back in with the drive. It is still a pretty mysterious control to this day that makes many a builder scratch their head.
The Klon Centaur was discontinued in 2009 but was reissued as the Klon KTR in 2012 as a lower cost alternative to the original. Bill Finnegan pulled the KTR after the initial run because of proposed quality control issues. The website currently states that he is working with a big manufacturer to bring it back; this time to the masses. Interestingly enough it looks like Electro-Harmonix have recently released a Klon Centaur clone called the Soul Food. It clearly states on their website that this is the sole intention of the Soul Food listing all the same features as the original Centaur, yet selling for less than $70. I’d say it’s worth the risk financially to give it a try if you ever wanted the real thing. Behold the legend of the Klon Centaur. –Gus Green