I want to talk briefly about my own experience with the Klon Centaur. The introduction of the Klon back in the early to mid ′90s is arguably one of the most significant milestones in the world of overdrive pedals.
Many moons ago, back in the early ′90s, the maker of the pedal, Bill Finnegan, came to my house with one of the original Klon prototypes. We sat and I jammed with the pedal through the amps I was using back then. I had a couple of Seymour Duncan convertible 100 amps. Yes, very, very heavy, and very, very loud. The Convertibles were ambitious amps that were a little ahead of their time. They had interchangeable tube modules that would, in effect, allow you to create a new amp within a couple of minutes of re-configuring of the order in which they were placed. One of the two channels was a dedicated overdrive channel.
Back in the late ′80s and early ′90s, the OD tones we chased were loud and saturated, humbucker-driven. I will admit, back then, I was not ready to spend the $225 for an OD pedal when I thought I already had the killer tones of the day. In retrospect, of course, my tone was actually nowhere near as great as I thought, and Bill was way ahead of the curve with his vision for the pedal and the market for boutique pedals.
Since then, the Klon Centaur has become the industry standard for quality overdrive and can be found on the boards of most of the pros whose tones we know and love. More than 8,000 Klons in different incarnations have all been hand made and tested by Bill and are out there in the world, making great music. In addition, there are many, many clones of his original design (Klon clones!) that are being made on smaller levels by other builders. Those clones range in the $100-$200 price range and some have even developed a reputation.
I recently re-visited the Klon Centaur experience. If you can find one, the originals are cost-prohibitive ranging anywhere from $800-$1,500 on eBay, but usually going for around the $1,000 price range. Bill still makes a newer, smaller version called a KTR, available for around $385 to $500, depending on where you look. For my quest for tone, I went full circle: I found an old one, original gold casing early build. So, how does it sound? Pretty amazing actually…
The more I grow into who I am as a player, the less I use in the way of OD saturation. In short, my idea of an OD pedal has become: “the correct amount and shape of signal that you put into an amp to make the AMP give you the OD.” The end result is OD that does not get lost in the mix when you kick it in. (Have you ever tried to kick your OD pedal in at the high point in the solo only to find that the tones get lost in the drums and the B-3 pads?) I lean toward pedals that give me the shape and size signal that I can push into the amp that makes the best use of the 45w that I am using. Clean boosts work well in this regard for the signal level, but they sound bright and gnarly when engaged. Compensating with the tone controls of the amp alleviates this problem, but then when disengaged, the clean boosts leave your amp sounding dark and scooped.
So, the Klon Centaur, in my opinion, represents one of the best signals with which you can push your amp into heavenly overdrive. In effect, this pedal is not just a pedal that creates a sound that you amplify, but a dynamic tool that works in combination with your guitar sound, guitar level, amp sound, amp level, and the relationships between your master volume and volume (should you have that option on your amp).
I did a lot of geeking with the Klon, trying it at different levels with different settings of all signal-related volumes in the chain and the results where quite remarkable. So now it has become a staple on my go-to board with my Strat. I wish I had listened to Bill back in the early ′90s: I could have saved myself a lot of money and a couple of (amp-lifting-related) bulging discs in my back! As far as OD goes, a (light) 50w amp, with a Klon Centaur and I am a happy camper!
Here is a demo vid with Bill comparing all of his versions of this legendary pedal. Happy Klonning!