There are a lot of great drive/boost units out there, but perhaps the most sought after is the Klon Centaur. Produced from 1994-2000, it was an overdrive pedal of sorts, but more accurately a clean boost that could amplify a guitar’s signal with a “charge pump” that doubled voltage to coax out the best warm, gritty, and harmonic overtones.
A precursor to today’s small-batch, handmade boutique pedals, only around 8,000 Centaurs were made and each was hand-wired with Germanium diodes by Bill Finnegan. These were high end, classy pedals that Finnegan even called a “Professional Overdrive.”
Today, original Centaurs are a Holy Grail, a gold standard in a gold chassis sought after by serious guitarists and collectors, and the prices reflect this. You’re lucky if you can find a used model for under $1,500. The good news, however, is that the Centaur has spawned a seemingly endless lineup of clones, tributes, and spinoffs, complete with their own variations of centaur graphics, golden colors, and even “professional overdrive” labels. Players with budgets as low as $115 can easily snag shoutouts to the original Centaurs, so keep reading to see if one of these Klon-klones is what you’re looking for!
Klon KTR Professional Overdrive (~$350)
Before we get into all the brands that are producing amazing Centaur clones, it’s worth pointing out that Klon itself is still producing the KTR, a pedal that Centaur inventor Bill Finnegan believes is equal in every way to the original. Although it’s no longer hand-wired and it comes in a smaller enclosure, the KTR stays true to its forebearer with the same Germanium diodes and simple Gain/Treble/Output knobs.
Finnegan has even inscribed some snarky commentary about the original onto these pedals’ chasses—the front features a not-so-subtle inscription, “Kindly remember: the ridiculous hype that offends so many is not of my making.” In response to modern pedals’ obsession with True Bypass, a side switch labels its True Bypass as “Almost always worse,” and Buffered Bypass as “Almost always better.” You’ll be making a statement as well as a sound with the KTR, but even this pedal is in hot demand, so you’ll need to pre-order yours.
Anasounds Savage MkII ($180)
French pedal boutique Anasounds has their own version of the Centaur, the Savage MkII, although they are quick to point out that this is not strictly a clone (nor a “klone,” we assume). Like the original Klons, this simple three-knob pedal can bounce from straight-ahead overdrive crunch to more subtle enhancement of your instrument and amplifier tones. It also uses the same Germanium diodes that gave the originals their distinct clipping.
The only major difference between the Savage’s controls and those of the Centaur is in the tone—original Klons used a treble boost, and the Savage has a more comprehensive “tone” knob.
Decibelics Golden Horse Professional Overdrive ($235)
Despite the name, Barcelona-based Decibelics’ Golden Horse is not clad in Centaur gold. But it is available in several other colors, and with striking gold knobs. Beyond aesthetics, many folks consider this pedal to be the most faithful klone of them all, or, in the words of Decibelics, an “exact sonic reproduction.”
How exact? It’s got the same Germanium diodes, the same charge pump, buffered bypass, and even the same combinations of resistors. Even better, the Golden Horse is in a mini-sized body. Unlike the original, this thing will not take up room on your board. It’s produced in very small batch runs as well, so you’ll need to pre-order yours.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food ($115)
Electro-Harmonix (EHX) produces an extensive line of affordable effects pedals, and their Soul Food is a recent addition to their lineup that draws directly off the Centaur, though without the Germanium components. In EHX’s own words, this is a “transparent” overdrive unit that adds grit, boost, and will allow your tone to stand out from the most warbled of bad mixes.
The Soul Food is stout, compact, and features the exact same tri-knob controls as the Centaur. As with the KTR, you can switch between True and Buffered Bypass, but EHX doesn’t tell you which is better or worse.
Fredric Effects King of Klone ($288)
Fredric Effects has produced a unique twist on the Klon by basically putting two overdrive units into the same pedal. Want to jump from clean boost to a screaming drive with nothing more than a couple foot taps? Want to stack two overdrives on each other? Want to exchange that Centaur for a pair of howling wolves? This is your pedal.
The King stays more true to the Centaur than many other clones, with buffered bypass and the charge pump that doubles voltage (though without the Germanium). For players looking to take the greatness of the original and double it (for less than the KTR), this pedal could be a game changer.
MXR Sugar Drive Mini ($119)
MXR/Dunlop does not explicitly state the Klon name in their description of the Sugar Drive; they just give a nod to the unique circuitry of a “rare overdrive pedal” with a “mythical reputation.” Whether they drop the name or not doesn’t change the fact that this pedal ranks up there with the EHX for affordable Klon tributes.
Like the Centaur, the Sugar Drive’s Gain knob doesn’t just increase drive, it literally blends the clean signal of your guitar into a gradually grittier mix, while also doubling the voltage for massive headroom. Like many other Centaur descendents, the Sugar Drive also gives you the option of switching between True and Buffered Bypass. If you can live without the gold chassis, this is the affordable Klone you’ve been looking for!
JHS Klone (~$500)
JHS excels at handmade boutique pedals, and many consider their Klone to have been hands-down the most accurate reproduction of the Centaur ever. Other than the slightly smaller size and the bow-and-arrow that some of the centaur engravings carry, it is virtually indistinguishable from the original.
Unfortunately, JHS agreed to halt production of this pedal when Klon began production of the KTR, so this pedal is its own kind of collector’s item. If you manage to find a used model, you’ll pay at least $500—much less than any classic Centaur, but more than the KTR.
Way Huge Smalls Conspiracy Theory Professional Overdrive Pedal ($130)
Another pedal that avoids dropping the Klon name (while retaining the “professional” title), the Conspiracy Theory is an excellent drive pedal in the tradition of the Centaur. It does not have the charging pump or Germanium diodes, and is true bypass. However, hit one power chord with it turned on, and you’ll be in love. It’s a great gritty drive or clean boost unit at an equally great price.
Pedal Monsters Klone ($150)
Pedal Monsters produced a Centaur clone that has amassed a huge following. As far as retaining the tone shaping, clean boost, and on-demand gain that the Klon was loved for, this thing nails it, right down to color and dimensions.
It is not a 100% accurate recreation. The Klone lacks the Germanium diodes and buffered bypass of the original. But if you want the core of the Centaur’s magic in a boutique package at a sub-$200 pricetag, this is the pedal for you. A $25 upgrade will get you a “soft switch,” which reduces the amount of popping that occurs when switching the unit on.
Wampler Tumnus ($150)
Like the Golden Horse, the Wampler Tumnus is a standard three-knob Klon clone in a mini chassis. Also like the original, it works well as a clean boost, a gritty stand-alone drive, and stacked with other gain pedals. Plus, it has that unmistakable tone that only comes from buffered bypass.
Beyond this, Wampler shies away from focusing on exact reproductions of the Centaur, or in their own words, they don’t worry about “magical unicorn tears or fairy poopdust.” You won’t find Germanium or doubled voltage in the Tumnus, but you will have a versatile pedal that will improve just about any effects board.
Based on your budget, you can pick up some variation of the legendary (or overhyped, depending on your view) Centaur tone.
- If you want a great Centaur tribute at an affordable price without worrying about exact components or features, go with the Conspiracy Theory or Pedal Monsters Klone.
- If you are looking for an affordable pedal with the option of retaining the tone of a buffered bypass, check out the Tumnus, Sugar Drive, or Soul Food.
- Is Germanium your thing? The Savage MkII is the only sub-$200 pedal to use those diodes. Or, drop a bit more cash and go with the Golden Horse, KTR, King of Klone, or the rare JHS Klone for Germanium AND a charge pump.