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The Klon Centaur, in case you don’t know, is one of the most expensive (it can cost about as much as a high-end guitar amp) and famous guitar pedals of all time.
That’s because this is the pedal that changed how people thought about overdrive.
To me, the Centaur has a warm, pure tone that allows your guitar’s unique characteristics to shine through – unlike some pedals that seem to color or bypass your guitar or amp's tone completely.
This, coupled with the fact that only 8,000 units were made, has something to do with its $3,000+ price tag.
Now, there are plenty of overdrive pedals on the market, and you certainly don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to obtain one.
But if you’re looking for a pedal that sounds authentic to the Centaur, you might have a bigger task on your hands.
The good news is that there are many options. So, let’s have a look.
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Best Klon Centaur Clones
The Centaur is quite possibly one of the most influential guitar pedals of all time.
That being the case, there are plenty of “copies” and “clones” out there, closely emulating the design, circuitry and features of the original.
We’ll be looking at a couple of Klon-inspired pedals later on, but first, let’s look at the best clones available.
Wampler Tumnus V2 Overdrive & Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
Wampler has a strong reputation among users of overdrive and distortion pedals.
The Tumnus, as with the Archer, resembles the Centaur in several ways (three knobs, color, etc.), with the main difference being its size. Nice to know it should fit even on a crowded pedalboard.
And, again, Wampler is not shy about pointing out that this is effectively a Centaur clone.
Wampler effectively considers this a “dirty boost” that can be used in tandem with other overdrive or distortion units.
Because it isn’t true bypass, it can also be used as a buffer.
Having listened to how the pedal sounds myself, I must agree with Wampler – this isn’t an overdrive as much as it is a dirty boost. Honestly, it doesn’t do enough for my tastes.
But you can get some good gritty tones with the gain all the way up.
The Wampler is worth a look, at least, and you may also want to check out the Tumnus Deluxe, which allows you to tweak all your frequencies (Bass, Mids and Treble).
Many customers are satisfied with the Wampler, but again, not surprisingly, there are some who feel it’s nothing special.
If you’re curious, however, I would say it’s still worth a look.
J. Rockett Audio Designs Tour Series Archer Overdrive And Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
The J. Rockett Audio Designs Archer overdrive pedal is effectively a “clone” of the Centaur.
The pedal’s design might be a little different than the original, but the trademark three-knob design (Output, Gain, Treble) remains intact.
And, it is authentic in other ways as well, using the same NOS germanium diodes that made the Centaur famous.
J. Rockett has chosen to market this pedal as a clean boost as opposed to an overdrive pedal, presumably to separate it from the droves of other options available.
It’s a nice sounding pedal, and contrary to manufacturer claims, you can dial in a fair bit of dirt with it.
Does it sound as good as the Centaur? Certainly not to my ears. I find it colors the tone of the guitar quite a bit.
Of course, you wouldn’t be spending as much on the Archer as you would be on the Centaur. Not even close.
And, I think the Archer has its own charm too.
Most customers are quite happy with their purchase but not surprisingly, some guitarists weren’t able to get their desired tone out of this unit.
The attractive J. Rockett Audio Designs pedal is nevertheless worth a look if you’re in the market for a Centaur alternative.
RYRA Klone Overdrive Pedal
Again, you can tell from the design that RYRA was deliberate in their attempt to create a faithful recreation of the Centaur with the Klone.
Some even call it an exact replica of the original.
I feel the Klone genuinely adds something to your tone and you can start with a clean or already dirty sound.
Unlike some of the other “clones” out there, this one doesn’t sound lifeless. It can add to your tone without coloring it too much.
I’ll leave it to you to decide whether it sounds like the Centaur. But I will say this – this is a genuinely great sounding pedal.
Customer reviews are similarly sanguine though some say quality assurance just isn’t there.
But I’m a fan of how the RYRA sounds. You should have a look for yourself.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion/Fuzz/Overdrive Pedal
At first glance, you might not assume the Soul Food is a Centaur clone. When I first saw it in stores, I assumed it was a phaser, flanger or auto wah (based on the name can you blame me?).
But a closer look reveals the same three-knob design in a more compact package.
The pedal sounds near identical to the Centaur while offering more treble (some would even say it’s a bit harsh sounding).
Soul Food promises a responsive transparent overdrive, boosted power rails for extended headroom and definition, compact and rugged design and selectable true bypass or buffered bypass modes.
I know I said it sounds a lot like the Klon but here’s a more in-depth analysis of its sound:
First, it offers more than just a clean boost. It can dirty up your tone nicely for crunch rhythm parts.
And, if you’re looking for a bit of a signal boost with a tiny bit of crunch, you can achieve that too.
It also allows your guitar’s tone to come through in spades, another important characteristic of the Centaur.
Is it entirely transparent or uncolored? No, I wouldn’t say so.
But overall, it’s a nice, versatile pedal that doesn’t cost too much.
Although it is marketed as a distortion/fuzz/overdrive pedal, if you know anything about the Centaur, you know that this pedal isn’t going to give you metal mayhem.
The best way to use it is in tandem with your amp’s overdrive.
Many customers are satisfied with the Electro-Harmonix. Some prefer other overdrive pedals, and that’s hardly surprising, but it can stand in as a Centaur replacement.
MXR Sugar Drive M294 Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal
The simplicity of the MXR Sugar Drive compact guitar pedal certainly seems to allude to the Klon Centaur, especially its three-knob design.
This pedal allows for a wide range of tones, blends in your clean signal to maintain your guitar’s personality and offers a clear and transparent performance. Sound familiar?
The Sugar Drive offers everything from a transparent boost to smooth saturation. The charge pump also increases headroom, allowing your sound to open naturally.
It also has a selectable output buffer with status LED.
And, of course, we can’t ignore that this pedal is also economical.
I must say I’m impressed with this little pedal’s tone and it does what it says it does.
It offers a great crunch sound and it works quite well in high gain territory too.
I can’t say much bad about this pedal, though it may not sound exactly like the Centaur.
Overall, customers are happy with this pedal and you won’t find much negative out there.
I would recommend having a listen to some of the MXR demos out there.
NUX NOD-1 HORSEMAN Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal
NUX has been making a bit of a splash in the affordable guitar gear category as of late.
You can tell by the name and the design that the compact NUX NOD-1 HORSEMAN is clearly emulating the famous Centaur Klon.
This pedal comes with two working modes. Gold mode mimics the original Centaur tone, while the Silver mode gives you access to an extended gain range.
It also has a true bypass and buffer bypass modes depending on which you prefer.
I find the NOD-1 HORSEMAN offers a range of tones. As with the Centaur, it’s nice and warm, which is a plus.
The high gain sounds great and there’s a good amount of cut too.
Surprising, but the NUX is a great sounding pedal for the price.
Mosky Golden Horse Overdrive Effect Pedal
Based on the Klon Centaur (isn’t it obvious?), the Mosky Golden Horse is a true bypass footswitch with a LED light indicator and durable full metal shell.
Also available in Silver, this pedal is an incredibly affordable Centaur clone, making it quite tempting for buyers.
But how does it sound?
Well, for one thing, this pedal sounds brighter than the original, and it has quite a bit more gain too. And, the gain just doesn’t sound as nice.
Many customers seem to love it though some say it produces too much noise.
The Mosky is not bad. And, if you’re on a budget, it would be a fun toy to play around with. Just don’t expect it to give you the legendary “brown sound”.
Best Klon Ceantaur Alternatives
The world of Klon clones doesn’t begin and end at pedals that bear a resemblance to the original. There are plenty of Centaur-inspired overdrive pedals.
And, in some cases, they offer a little more than you originally got with the Centaur.
The Klon Centaur was “perfect” in its own right, but some people want more gain. Some want more control over other frequencies. Some want a more colored tone.
And, good news, you can find exactly that.
So, here are a couple of good Centaur alternatives that have a lot to offer.
Bondi Effects Sick As Overdrive
The Bondi Effects Sick As Overdrive is a transparent, organic and responsive overdrive pedal for clean boost all the way to medium crunch.
This pedal will bring out the natural sound of your amp, so if you’re already happy with how your amp sounds, you’ll love this pedal.
I personally love how this overdrive sounds. It’s warm, crunchy, smooth and punchy too.
Of course, it can also clean up if you need it to.
You won’t necessarily find it for cheap, but then again, you won’t have to shell out a king’s random to get one, like you would with the Klon.
Customers rave about the pedal, so it might just make a great addition to your pedalboard.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should certainly have a look at the Bondi Effects.
Matthews Effects The Architect V3 Foundational Overdrive/Boost Pedal
The six-knob Matthews Effects The Architect is built with high-grade components. It comes with top-mounted jacks, a robust design and a fully active three-band EQ.
This is creator Rick Matthews’ take on the legendary Klon circuitry. Of course, as you can see, it offers more options for shaping your sound.
It comes with separate boost and overdrive modes and three clipping modes so you can pair the pedal with your guitar/amp combination with precision.
Now for the important part – how it sounds.
Honestly, I don’t have anything bad to say about it. The pedal sounds great.
You can use it however you want, as a clean boost, as a dirty crunch, or even to add something to your already dirty tone.
All things considered its price is reasonable. The Matthews Effects is another winner.
What Should I Look For In A Klon Centaur Clone?
I know what I like but I can’t necessarily tell you what you should look for in a “Klone”.
There’s a reason you were attracted to the sound of the Centaur in the first place and you would know, better than anyone else, how you want your overdrive pedal to function and sound.
Maybe you want it to work and sound exactly like the original. Maybe you don't mind a bit of variance.
As you can see from the products featured here, most if not all Klon clones feature the same three-knob design, some with additional functionality for further tonal molding and shaping.
If you're reading this, I can say with some certainty that you’re probably a tone freak (like me), and you experiment endlessly with a variety of gear until you’re satisfied.
So, when and where possible, renting pedals and trying them out is wisdom.
As you're trying to achieve your ideal tone, one tip I can give you is that it’s not just about how your guitar sounds when you plug it into a specific pedal or amp but also how it sounds in the mix with other instruments.
It’s so easy to get caught up in your own tone without understanding how drums, bass, keyboards and other instruments can affect it.
What’s right for one song isn’t always right for another, and how you dial in your tone to emphasize the right frequencies is also going to vary.
But yes, tone is important. So, to that end, you should invest in a clone that sounds great to you.
If you’re looking for a bit of instant gratification, you can always go cheaper, but in this instance, you basically get what you pay for.
Many Centaur users say they would like even more control over their tone, which is why some makers have added the ability to shape other frequencies.
So, while it’s not about extra features per se, if you’d like to be able to alter your tone further, this can be a nice function.
Pedal size seems to be another concern many guitarists have, and fortunately most clones are more compact than the original Centaur, leaving you with ample room on your pedalboard for more effects.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s all you need to think about when buying a Klon clone. Have fun experimenting!
Are There Other Options Available?
In this guide, I’ve barely scratched the surface of Klon Centaur clones. That should tell how much of a revelation the pedal originally was.
In short, there is no way to cover them all. But here are a few more that are worth looking at if you’re still not sure which one to go with:
- Klon KTR. That’s right – it’s still possible to obtain great-sounding Klon pedals made by Centaur inventor Bill Finnegan. The KTR was designed specifically for mass production, and depending on who you ask, it is an inferior pedal to the original. Perhaps the Centaur will never be topped, but this is a good place to look.
- ARC Effects Klone V2. This is a faithful recreation of the original Centaur, part for part. The upgraded V2 comes with the much requested DIP switch. And, of course, it’s smaller than the original, making it easy to haul around. I love the sound of this pedal.
- Stigtronics Tone Vitamin. The hand-wired Tone Vitamin may not get much press, but it is a great pedal. From what I can tell, it does color your tone a bit, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound awesome.
- Rimrock Effects Mythical Overdrive. I know everyone and their dog claims to have the “perfect” Klon copy, but here’s yet another option worth considering. Rimrock Effects gives you the option of upgrading to OA126 NOS Telefunken germanium diodes for even more germanium goodness. It sounds great to my ears, although it also seems to offer quite a bit of treble even on lower settings.
And, that’s still just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of “Klones” available if you go looking for them.
Of course, if you broadened your search to overdrive pedals, you would find even more options, and depending on what you’re looking for (i.e. not a clean boost), you might want to keep looking.
9 Best Klon Centaur Clones Reviewed, Final Thoughts
Hunting for pedals can be a lot of fun. Too much fun, even.
If you’ve got time to spare, go ahead. Check out all the options available, read the reviews and watch the video demos. You’re sure to come across something you like.
And, I can’t emphasize this enough – it’s more important to find something you like and can work with versus something someone else told you was great.
For instance, I get that a lot of pros use Dumble amplifiers. But there are plenty of other pros using different amps.
Similarly, you don’t have to use an effect pedal just because someone else likes it. Use what helps make you uniquely you.