The Klon for Less: Best Affordable Centaur Clones

No matter how big and diversified the pedal market gets, there's a crop of effects that will seemingly never stop topping players' holy-grail lists. Inarguably, Bill Finnegan's original Klon Centaur is one of those pedals.

On the used market today, original Klon Centaur units (both Horsie and Non-Horsie versions) fetch anywhere from four to eight thousand dollars. Obviously, a price point like that pushes these transparent overdrives into unobtainable territory for those of us not rocking with that much cash to spend on a collector-grade splurge.

Luckily, the sea of pedal builders, imitators, and iterators has only gotten deeper since the Centaur's mid-'90s release, and there are a lot of readily available effects out now that can get you close to the Centaur sound at a fraction of its cost.

While much has been made of the original 1N34A germanium diodes in giving the Centaur its coveted sound, the truth of it is that a whole recipe makes a meal—not a single ingredient. A lot of the pedals considered below don't feature guts identical to the Klon, but their resulting sound can get close enough to fool you at prices too good not to try.

Wampler Tumnus & Tumnus Deluxe

Wampler Tumnus
Wampler Tumnus Deluxe

Both the original Tumnus and Tumnus Deluxe from Wampler are two pedals that have to be included on any list of Klon clones worth buying. The original Tumnus features a simple three-knob interface for controlling its finely tuned transparent overdrive circuit, which (like its inspiration) is capable of classic tweed-like break-up.

The Tumnus Deluxe, meanwhile, is Brian Wampler's personal take on the Centaur circuit and sees the addition of active bass and mids controls, along with a normal/hot switch for adding more gain to the circuit. This would be a great pedal for players that want the Centaur tone with even more tone-tweaking possibility. At the time of this writing, an original Tumnus can be had for right around $100 while the Deluxe hovers around $150.

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Overdrive

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

The first large-scale attempt at mass-producing a Centaur clone, the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food first hit the scene in the mid-2010s and quickly became a big hit. Though packed with silicon diodes instead of germanium, the Soul Food does use a TL072 op-amp and dual-gang gain control which gets it close to the Centaur sound.

Huge headroom, excellent breakup, and stellar harmonics are only a few reasons to give the Soul Food a try. This pedal can also take you into more full-on saturated distortion territory if you push it hard enough. Best of all, the Soul Food retails for right around $100 brand-new these days, and the used market is ripe with better deals.

J. Rockett Audio Archer & Archer Ikon

J. Rockett Audio Archer Overdrive
J. Rockett Archer Ikon

Another pair of sibling pedals worth including on this list are the Archer and Archer Ikon from J. Rockett Audio. JRAD actually worked with Bill Finnegan on the Klon KTR—the 2012 follow-up to the Centaur—so it would be hard to find a builder or brand that's gotten more intimate with the actual inner workings of the original.

Both pedals are very faithful recreations of the original Centaur—in the Archer's case—and the later golden Klon Centaurs—in the case of the Ikon—which players believe has slightly different tone than the original. There's a reason that these pedals—although two of the more expensive clones—are easy recommendations, and that's clear the second you plug in.

MXR M294 Sugar Drive & Tone City Bad Horse

MXR Sugar Drive
Tone City Bad Horse

The MXR Sugar Drive is another refreshingly small-footprint Klon clone that doesn't immediately brand itself as such. It's a true bypass setup, although there is a switch on the side. And the charge pump switch that boosts the voltage to 18V can offer a super natural-sounding overdrive with lots of extra headroom. This little pedal retails brand-new around $120 at the time of this writing, but used specimens can be found for less than $100.

Similarly small, the Tone City Bad Horse is another no-frills Klon clone. It's even more affordable than the MXR Sugar Drive (at around $50 brand-new), and will give you the taste of the Klon circuit for a wallet-friendly price.

Ryra The Klone

Ryra The Klone is one of the most faithful recreations of the Centaur circuit that also shares the handmade, small operation ethos of the original. While still more compact than the original, this is a larger pedal than other offerings on the list and is more expensive. It also lacks extra features and tone-tweaking options, which makes it an excellent choice for players who want to get really close to the original without spending the big bucks.

Mosky Audio Golden Horse & Silver Horse

Mosky Audio Golden Horse
Mosky Audio Silver Horse

Players who really need to pinch their pennies should check out the Mosky Audio Golden Horse. This mini clone is the least expensive pedal on this list, retailing for $50 or less brand-new. While it's definitely a no-frills transparent overdrive, the Golden Horse does feature germanium diodes and hits the core sound of the Centaur pretty well.

One difference to note is that it is a true bypass pedal (rather than the buffered bypass of the original Centaur) which could contribute to how it plays with other effects in the mix of a larger pedalboard.

Keeley Oxblood Overdrive

Keeley Oxblood Overdrive

The Keeley Oxblood shares many of the same tonal qualities of the original Klon Centaur, but offers more tone-shaping options similar to the Wampler Tumnus Deluxe. Some of these added features include a Phat switch for adjusting the bass response and a clipping switch for choosing between the pedal's two circuits.

The "mythical" circuit features lower gain with more dynamic response and is based on the diodes used in the Centaur while the "magical" circuit gives you a more compressed, high-gain sound. This is a great option for players who want to do double-duty with a Klon-style overdrive and a heavier blues rock pedal.

Honorable Mention: Way Huge Conspiracy Theory

Keeley Oxblood Overdrive

The Way Huge Conspiracy Theory is similar in size to the J. Rockett Archer but is even lighter as it's made of aluminum. It's a mid-priced pedal at around $130 brand-new and is a fairly faithful recreation of the mythical Klon circuit, capable of rich harmonics and smooth, transparent overdrive. You won't get too many added features with this circuit, but it will give you the vibe and tone that you're looking for in a lightweight and pedalboard-friendly enclosure.

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