Magic. Enchantment. These are all attributes of this mystical pedal which emerged between 1990 and 1994. It was one of the first boutique overdrive pedals and is still envied by purists and collectors all over the world.
What's the Big Deal?
For starters, only 8,000 units were built between 1994 and 2000. The pedal was developed by Bill Finnegan and was later released in 2012. This magical pedal was adored by guitarists for its clear, uncolored tone of the boost signal, and it was characterized as being a "transparent" overdrive because of these traits. Given its limited supply and popularity, original units today cost around $3,000.
Hard to Believe
When you look at the core of the KLON Centaur, it is your typical overdrive pedal with three controls - gain, treble, and output. But, if you open it up, it is something entirely different. It uses a dual-ganged pot for distortion generating part of the circuit. Finnegan once said the second pot "optimizes the circuit's overall tonal response for whatever the main gain stage is generating in the way of level and distortion.”
As mentioned earlier, the pedal was re-released in 2012 by Finnegan as was sold as the "KTR." The biggest difference between the two pedals was that it used surface mount technology as compared to through-hole technology making it easier for mass production. It also diminished quality control and the end result was an inferior pedal. The technical changes weren't incredibility signicant but big enough for those who want the purist sound.
Who Demands this Sound?
Here is a short list of some of the Centaur's biggest fans and players: Jeff Beck, John Mayer, Mark Tremonti, Nels Cline, Stone Gossard, and Nick Valensi. Here's a direct quote from Nels Clin about the Centaur:
“I've written about it before. It's an amp in a box. No more worries in the world of AMP DU JOUR about overdrive tone. It will always be OK. The Centaur will take care of it. Consumers: It's worth the wait to get one. I've had this thing for years now. What did I ever do without it?"
Inspiration for Today
The KLON Centaur has gone on to inspire many of today's boutique guitar effects companies and their product lines. "Klones" include the same lineage are Wampler's Tumnus, Mythos Pedal's Mjolnir, Electro-Harmonix's Soul Food, and Rockett Audio Design's Archer.
Call it magical. Call it enchanting. Call it mystical. The KLON Centaur is an amazing overdrive which has proven itself multiple times in diverse situations. We prefer to simply call it legendary.
Photo credit: https://www.electrosmash.com/klon-centaur-analysis