Fabled for its tone yet untouchable on the used market, the Klon Centaur holds an important place in the effect pedal pantheon. Due to this lofty position, the Centaur has inspired an army of clones. In fact, in Dan & Mick’s early days when TPS was an almost garage band project, the duo undertook a Klon clone shootout to explore which renditions came closest to the original’s iconic tone. As both gents reflected in this week’s episode, the Ryra remains a top contender for nailing the feel and flavor of the original.
But what if you’re in the market for a Klon-esque stompbox that captures the original’s tone but also builds on it in new overdrive or EQ directions? This week, Dan & Mick curated a full board of pedals that do just that. While all the stompboxes played in the episode have a Klon-inspired circuit at heart, this blog will focus on what’s new in a set of oh-so-transparent drive pedals built by Brian Wampler and Robert Keeley.
Phattening Up the Klon Sound: Keeley’s Oxblood Hits the EQ and High Gain Just Right
Dan & Mick’s experience with the Oxblood was entirely a real-time first impression. As Mick lead in, “This is new to me. I haven’t actually heard the Oxblood, which is kind of shameful to admit.” So how does it match up to the Centaur yet sound all its own?
As Dan observed, the Oxblood is undoubtedly in the Klon camp but has a few added features that channel its Keeley heritage. “It has a couple of clipping diodes, which are going to change the bottom end contour.” With a “phat” switch—akin to the Keeley circuit hack for the Boss Blues Driver mod—the pedal inherits a broader basis in the low frequency to beef up the sound. The “clip” switch also allows for trimming of the overdrive sound. In addition to these switchable functions, Mick remarked at the power of the pedal’s tone control knob. With a twist, the sound went from brownish-haze to bright and cutting, yet all the while retained the gain structure you’d expect from the ranks of the clone army.
Since it was impossible to resist the urge of a little A/B testing with the Klon Centaur, Dan & Mick dialed a tight comparison. As Mick reflected, “that’s a pretty good Klon impression…it certainly has that headroom characteristic. You’re able to retain that high end, but it’s a bit thicker in the lower-mids…that’s really playable!” The Oxblood stayed clean when you wanted it to but also loaded on gain without losing definition. Mick continued, “For me, that is a defining characteristic of the Klon sound.” For Dan, the verdict was simple: “I’m really impressed, that sounds amazing…A lot of people love the Klon for that low gain sound but struggle with it for higher gain settings. You would struggle to get higher gain sounds [like the Oxblood] that defined and clear with the original [Centaur.]”
Wampler’s Tumnus is the smallest of Klon-inspired pedals out there. But this tiny footprint shouldn’t fool you—it’s big on sound! In fact, as Dan confessed, the Tumnus is his top-pick out of any small format pedal. Not bad for a box that’s taking on a sound of an original pedal roughly four times its size.
Under the fingers, the Deluxe version felt much the same as the small format original pedal. The Deluxe, however, steps up the game of its little brother. Most visibly, you’ll find full-range EQ sculpting options on board. Three knobs get the job done for dialing in a sound that either sits calmly in the mix or barks out ahead of the rest. A mid-pedal switch for “normal” and “hot” also added fresh textures for gain development.
In a way, these innovations both add new character and inch closer still to the Centaur. After a little A/B tinkering Mick commented, “The Tumnus Deluxe does something the regular Tumnus simply couldn’t and that’s sound more like a Klon with the bass turned down and the mids pushed.”. In this way, it brilliantly does more while confidently doing less. When it came to gain, the Wampler pedals had a similar functionality to that of the Oxblood in that both moved on from the Klon-type sound into a space for higher gain that is curated, articulate, and rich in the low-end.
If your safari for that elusive Klon-esque vibe is yet to bag the tone you’re looking for, head over to Riff City and check out these and other pedals that set their sights on the transparent sound of the Centaur.
TPS Episode Rig Rundown:
Guitars: Dan: Fender Custom Shop 1963 Telecaster, Gibson Custom 1958 Les Paul Standard. Mick: Fender 60s Reverse Headstock Stratocaster, Paul Reed Smith DGT.
Amps: Fender Super Reverb (reissue), Victory Sherriff 22 with 2×12 cabinet (Celestion G12H Anniversary speakers).