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Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by El Tele Lobo, May 27, 2019.
can you give me a dist+/od250 with a buffer, clean blend, and tone control running at 18 volts?
from Vintage Guitar 1995
Product Review: The Centaur Professional Overdrive
By Ken Fischer
As we all know, a new distortion or overdrive box hits the market at the rate
of one every two-and-a-half hours. The Centaur Overdrive is one of the latest such
units to be introduced. This one, however, is the result of several musicians and
technical people working over four years to design and produce just one product.
The people at Klon, the makers of the Centaur, have been sending me prototypes
during that time, so the unit is not a stranger to me. They finally, after years
of tweaking, placed a production unit in my hands for evaluation.
Construction and Layout:
The Centaur is housed in a custom sand-cast solid aluminum casing. This casing
immediately sets it apart from the "project box" construction typical of most of
the low-production distortion and overdrive boxes on the market. The folks at Klon
give several reasons for going this rather expensive route. One is that it allows
them to make the box about as rugged as you can get. Another is that custom casting
lets them design for the best possible layout, including a sloping top panel that
makes it very easy to step on the footswitch while making it hard to step on the
top-mounted controls by mistake. Also, the custom casting gives a professional
appearance. The Centaur also has a very effective battery holder cast as part of
the casing. The casting is not painted, but has a gold-toned anodized finish instead,
which cannot chip, crack, or peel. The graphics are silk-screened onto the casing in
oxblood red, and oxblood red knobs complete the classic look. Inside this casting are
top-notch components, including a Carling D.P.D.T. [double-pole/double-throw] footswitch
and "real deal" controls, not the Taiwan junk that's popping up everywhere.
The circuit components reside on high-quality printed circuit boards. The boards
are epoxy-coated on both sides. The reasons Klon gives for the epoxy coatings are to
keep the circuit from being copied by hobbyists, and to seal the components from any
kind of possible damage. This means a complete circuit board exchange is the only way
to repair a unit if it has had a parts failure. Klon runs these units through extensive
tests before shipping, and reports a zero failure rate. I don't like sealed circuits
myself, as many products outlast the companies that made them, but I understand their
position on the subject.
The Centaur is very straightforward in its layout. The back of the unit contains
the input and output jacks and a 9-volt input jack for a wall-wart. The top panel has
Gain, Treble, and Output controls, plus an "overdrive on" LED indicator. The top also
is home for the footswitch, of course.
The Centaur Under Test:
The Centaur is an overdrive rather than a distortion box. I've covered that ground
before, but for any new Vintage Guitar readers who want to know how I define the two -
a distortion box is a unit that is capable of providing all the distortion you require
with no help at all from your amplifier. An overdrive box, while capable of a modest
amount of distortion, is used mainly to help your amplifier create its own distortion.
For example, a Pro-Co Rat is a distortion box, and an Ibanez Tube Screamer is an over-
drive unit. The Centaur is not a massive hard-clip distortion unit, but rather an over-
drive that will help your tube amplifier create its own distortion. With the Gain way up,
the Centaur will create some MODEST amounts of distortion on its own, which is useful for
harmonic enhancement. The guys at Klon state that it has enough distortion to be used as
a distortion box on its own. In fact, I was told that it has "considerable distortion
with the Gain turned up." I don't agree. What it can do is hit the first gain stage [in
your amp] hard enough to clip it. Since in most amps a volume control follows the first
gain stage, you can clip that stage and your volume control acts as a master volume.
Used in this manner, the Centaur has a good amount of distortion, but it's part Centaur
and partly the amplifier, and not stand-alone distortion from the Centaur. The Hot Cake
Overdrive I've talked about in the past has noticeably more distortion than the Centaur.
Even with the amount of distortion in a Hot Cake, I put two Cakes in series when I want
serious amounts of stand-alone distortion.
That item out of the way, this is what a Centaur will do. First, it has a tone-neutral
clean-boost setting. That is, it can boost your guitar's signal cleanly with no change in
its tonal balance. If you like the tone of your guitar and amp just the way they are, but
wish for more of the same, pumped up and more muscular, then the Centaur rates an A+ grade.
Klon says that some jazz players are even using their box on the clean-boost setting
to beef up their signals. I could see that, with one caveat. The Centaur is not quiet. It
makes more noise than a Hot Cake, Tube Screamer, and even my NKT-275 (the original ones!)
Fuzz Face. People who use boxes with noise-reduction circuits may find it kind of a throw-
back to older days in this regard, but the folks at Klon wanted performance first, and
that's what this overdrive is all about. I don't find the noise level objectionable. The
folks at Klon rate the noise as minor. I'd rate it moderate by today's standards.
For my testing I used a variety of guitars and amps. The Centaur worked well with
Strats, Teles, Les Pauls - both the Jr. and adult versions. For amps I used Fender, Vox,
Marshall, my Kendrick 2112, and my trusty Peavey. Tjhe Centaur didn't find a combination
it didn't like, except for a 900-series Marshall. The Centaur doesn't do the '90's metal
sound, but that's another magazine's main thing - VG readers will most likely not care.
The Centaur can't beat a Boss or Marshall box in that arena.
The Centaur, used as an all-out overdrive, is big, fat, and warm. This thing has tons
of bottom, and a Strat on the neck pickup retains its full throaty sound. The distortion
it provides is part of the note, rather than a distorted buzz added over it. The Centaur
seems to become part of your amplifier's tube circuits and doesn't feel or sound like you
are using an outboard device. The Treble control reaches down into the mids and extends
up into the higher frequencies as it moves through its range. This gives many useful tones,
as opposed to just being a simple tone control. The Centaur is refined, but packs a real
wallop when called on to do so. It's a blues/fusion machine, but can really rock out too.
I know you're going to ask me how it compares to a Hot Cake. They're different. The
Centaur is smoother, more refined, while the Hot Cake has more "trash in its sound. The
Cake, and I'm talking favorite (I have three originals and one of the later versions, my
favorite being one of the originals), has a bit more note separation in chords and a more
aggressive nasty rock sound, but does have some trashiness in it that gives it a raw
quality I also like. I really like them both. The Centaur does the Texas tones better than
anything. At $239 including shipping [now $279 plus shipping] the Centaur isn't cheap, but
on the other hand, the Centaur sounds better than the less expensive overdrives I've tried.
Klon is a small limited-production company, and once the word is out on this box, production
will not be able to keep up with demand. Klon offers a 48-hour money-back trial period; if
if you don't like the Centaur after using for two days you may return it for a refund. If
you're looking for a natural-sounding overdrive unit, you've got to try this one.
That's just the thing though... it is basically a 250. The buffer and pump are certainly unique features to the Klon, but their usefulness is clearly esoteric. Billy F didn't like the stuff that was available at the time and created a super-duper version of an MXR/DOD pedal. The fact that it has become mythical is exactly why I called the whole industry out for being somewhat silly.
Call me silly will ya! That's it...I'm walkin'!
A KTR is $269 from the dealers. In fact Humbucker Music usually has them in stock. I really don't find that expensive. It's about what I paid for my Klon Centaur.
Sure the build is different. Doesn't matter to me. Sounds the same.
What I find silly are the cloners who plead for people to buy their Klon clone with the claims that it sounds as good or better than the original. So what? Is that it? That's the best they can do? Copy someone else's pedal?
I also find the people who discredit Bill without knowing the full story of the Klon silly. They appear to just want someone to hate so they picked him. Like the people who go after Joe Bonamassa or Howard Dumble or Don Felder, etc.
It's like an obsession for some. That's silly.
I don't really care about the back story of Bill or Dumble. I care about the circuit - the circuit is the tone. If there is some unique engineering in it, that designer should be applauded. That said, there is nothing wrong with copying a circuit as long as credit is given where it is due. Although, you would be in an ethical landslide if you are copying a pedal like the Hot Cake or Timmy when it is just about the only thing that the designer makes. The Klon was out of production for a long time and the cloners filled the void. If you want to support Bill, go for it. His pedal is out there again. That said, there are a lot of other pedals out there that do the Klon thing and variants of the Klon thing. The Klon itself is not that far off from a 250 tonally, but it does have other bells and whistles. Is there some unique engineering? Maybe - but whether or not it is useful depends on the player. A 250 with more headroom and a buffer is what Bill wanted for his amp, but other players are happy with a 250 stock.
Joe Bonamassa is a knob though.
There are new KTRs available for $269 shipped.
Sure, if you want a Klon from the designer, it is there. That said, the KTR is a bonkers box. The switch is on the top right of the box and the knobs angle towards where you step. I have big feet and I would have preferred a more normal layout - also, the dumb quote needs to go. There are a lot of options out there now. Get whichever one works for you.
yeah, no -- you've got it sideways. turn it 90 degrees and the switch is right where you want it, the knobs are out of the way and the in/out and power jacks are in the back, where they ought to be. that stupid quote is leading you astray!
Slightly off the thread here, but...the EHX Soul Food is not a Klon clone, although most folks make that conclusion from the EHX marketing bs that the SF was "inspired" by the KC. What the h*ll does that mean? And, I agree with a previous post that it is crap.
Ok, so no more tweed amp klones....after all Leo was there first...
No more partscasters....after all Leo was there first....
You want a KTR buy one, you're a free man living( in a STILL free country ).....
But, please, no need for a pithy excuse to buy something YOU WANT!
This is all so silly......
LOL. Yeah, it took me a while to figure it out, also.
It means that EHX was able to take liberties with about a dozen of the component values in the SF, vs. the KC, at least in a very early unit that someone bothered to analyze. It's almost odd that EHX doesn't seem to care about getting some pedals correct, even when it's their own offering. Case in point - the NYC RI Big Muff - they've routinely made parts substitutions that don't match anything from the older Big Muffs that the NYC RI is supposed to be a reissue of.
EHX has some neat stuff, and then they have some real stinkers, too. I have to admit that I wasn't even mildly curious about trying a SF. That said, I have a Silver Pony that someone gave me a few years back, and with my rig, and for what I play, it's mostly underwhelming (I get more use from a mildly modded SD-1).
I wouldn't worry so much about the originality in design of the pedal you're buying unless you're also going to mind the originality of the music you'll play with it. There, too, you're into intellectual property, and even if it isn't prosecutable you'd better mind your ethical manners. So keep those musical ideas non-derivative, for consistency's sake.
I'd still buy the Mythical Overdrive and save $100.
Just a second, I think I've got that can of worms over here somewhere... There it is!
Now if I can only find the opener... And... There ya go!
A volume knob!