The 4 Best Klon Centaur Clones – Pedal Reviews 2016

best klon centaur clone, klon centaur pedal

Photo by Scott Wyngarden / CC BY

When the Klon Centaur was released in 1994, it became the first “transparent” overdrive pedal available on the market. Finally, guitarists had a pedal that could give you more out of your set-up without adding its own quirks or color to the sound. The design was revolutionary when it first came out, with each individual pedal built and tested by hand by the designer, Bill Finnegan, putting these early Centaur pedals at a price point few players could afford—and putting those who could shell out the money on a months-long waiting list to get their hands on one.

In the twenty plus years since, other companies have taken Finnegan’s original design and made their own transparent overdrive pedals, giving today’s guitarists more affordable options to choose from. If you’re a newcomer to the transparent overdrive pedal and aren’t sure what brand will suit your needs, any of the pedals below will give your sound the added boost you’re looking for. They’re the best Klon Centaur clones on the market.

Crème Brulee overdrive Tone Bakery Boost Pedal


In terms of responsiveness and sound, the Crème Brulee stays faithful to the Klon pedal that was its inspiration—and looks a little bit like it, too, with the same simple interface and rugged, utilitarian casing. It also has the same subtle crunch at low-gain settings that was so prized in the original Centaurs.

At higher levels, you’ll find it has the same wide open overdrive as the Klon but with more presence and character when you push the gain, giving you raunchy blues or even punk colors, depending on how you shape the tone. If you’re looking for the modern equivalent of the original Klon Centaur pedal, the Tone Bakery Crème Brulee delivers with style.

J Rockett Audio Designs Archer Tour Series Overdrive and Boost Pedal


Don’t let the price-tag put you off of checking this one out. The Archer is essentially two pedals in one, giving you both a medium-gain overdrive and a clean boost pedal in one compact and sturdy package. When Bill Finnegan stopped making the original Centaur pedal, his plans to create a mass-producible version—rather than the hand-wired models he made—ended up in the hands of J Rockett Audio, and served as the design basis for this Archer pedal.

With the gain control off, you get the open tone of the original Klon. The more you turn it up, the more grit you’ll get in balance to the clean overdrive—a lot of tone colors to play with for one pedal. This should be on anyone’s list of the best Klon Centaur clones.

JHS Electro-Harmonix Soul Food “Meat & 3” Mod


At less than half the cost of the original Centaurs, the Soul Food is an excellent value that accurately re-creates the overall feel and tone of that much-revered pedal but enhances the circuitry to give you more headroom and better definition.

While the Soul Food is an excellent pedal in its own right, the mod added by JHS gives you an extra three-way clipping toggle and bass contour knob to shape your tone just like you could on the original. Of course, it also still has the drive and treble controls standard on all Soul Food pedals, along with a switchable true or buffered bypass. It’s among the best Klon Centaur clones period.

Wampler Tumnus Overdrive


Wampler is quieter about being a Klon clone than some of the other models on the market, but this pedal is a faithful reproduction of the Centaur sound—packed into a compact casing that’s less than half the size of the original Klon pedal. Like the original, it has a buffered bypass and a simple three-knob interface. Turning up the gain can take you from a crystal clear boost to a smooth singing tone to a crunchy overdrive, all while bringing out the best of your amp’s tone. Alone, it adds richness to your sound, but it also works great stacked with other fuzz or distortion pedals for a truly unique overdrive.

The Legendary Klon Centaur

The Klon Centaur pedal was a pricey and rare pedal even when it was first introduced in the 1990s. Buying one would set you back around $225—roughly equivalent to the $400-$500 you’d spend to get a new one now. Vintage Centaurs from the early ‘90s can be hard to come by, and often end up costing over $1,000. This is largely why so many companies have decided to clone the famed pedal even though the original craftsman, Bill Finnegan, is still making Centaurs, though it’s a smaller pedal than the original design.

The idea behind the Klon Centaur pedal that made it so revolutionary was that it simply boosted the overdrive produced by your amp, rather than adding its own overdrive sound. The pedal is “transparent” in the sense that you hear through it to the pure sound of your amp beneath. This makes it different from other pedals in your rack that add new colors to your sound that become part of the overall signal. A transparent overdrive is more like a tone-shaping tool for your amp, giving you more control over the balance of distortion to volume. It’s this quality of the Centaur that clones like the ones above aim to emulate.

A transparent overdrive is the right pedal for you if you love the sound of your natural amp but want to access its high-gain tones without having to crank the volume. They’re especially beloved by guitarists who use vintage tube amps because of how well they enhance the warmth and smooth fuzz these amps are known for. Going the clone route has at least one practical benefit over tracking down an original—it saves you a lot of space on your pedal rack. The original Centaur is a beast of the pedal, but modern clones like the Soul Food (see full specs) and the Tumnus (see full specs) have a sleeker profile, making them more convenient.

Considering how well the four models above stay true to the intent and tone of the original Centaur, you’d be well-served adding any of them to your pedal arsenal. The main difference of note you’ll see between the best Klon Centaur clones and the original, though, is the nature of the bypass. While the original Centaur had a buffered bypass, some clones use a true bypass instead—a minor change, but one to watch out for if you like the unique sound the buffered bypass offers you. Beyond this, it’s a matter of choosing which pedal gives you the right tone-shaping options to let you bring out the best sound your amp can produce.

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