The Klon Centaur is one of the most infamous guitar pedals ever made. It is regarded as on of the best low-gain drive pedals in existence and has a reputation as a somewhat ‘secret sauce’ piece of equipment. Unlike a lot of overdrives, the focus of its design is on transparency, offering a very open and touch-sensitive sound.
The Centaur is an overdrive pedal for guitars, designed by Bill Finnegan in the early 1990s. Production ran from 1994 until 2000 and with only around 8,000 units ever being produced, it is somewhat rare – one of the contributing factors to the enormous hype that surrounds the pedal. Within the guitar playing community, the Centaur is subject to both fervent reverence and contentious debate regarding its sound and monetary value.
The concept of the Centaur was to create a design that could drive the front end of a tube amp but without some of the tonal characteristics of the ever-popular circuit. Inherent in the design is the distinctive cutting of low end and compression of transients. In developing the Centaur, Finnegan sought to create something that left the full range signal more intact. The result was a complex circuit design that incorporated very specific parts. The Centaurs were all built by hand, one at a time, by Finnegan alone. This eventually became unsustainable and production was discontinued. Finnegan has since released an updated version of the pedal called the KTS, designed to be sonically identical but able to be built more efficiently in larger quantities.
Perhaps the most common description of the Centaur’s sound is ‘transparent’. With the gain setting at zero, germanium diodes used for clipping are inactive and the pedal is simply a clean boost via the output control, allowing the user to generate distortion from the amp alone. As the gain is increased, the pedal begins to add its own clipping, resulting in a mild, dynamic overdrive with a smooth top end.
As is the case with many pedals of such acclaim, attempted clones and embellishments on the design are abundant, though Finnegan asserts that the original remains untouchable, citing the very particular component selection and build methods. Given that these pedals are rarely found for less than $1,000, it seems many players agree.
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