The Klon Centaur is a guitar overdrive pedal developed by Bill Finnegan between 1990 and 1994. The pedals were made manually by Finnegan. The Centaur is characterized as a "transparent" overdrive, meaning it adds gain to the signal without significantly altering the tone of the guitar.
About 8,000 units were built between 1994 and 2000. Guitarists praised the clear, uncolored tone of the boosted signal. The circuit had unique characteristics, most noticeably the use of an IC MAX1044 voltage converter. The voltage converter drives 18 volts to the operational amplifier which is the core of the circuit; at this voltage the response of the amplifier is different than at 9 volt, since its slew rate depends on the voltage supply. The higher the voltage supply, the higher the order of harmonics, the operational amplifier will generate, and the more "metallic" the sound.
Depending on the settings of the control knobs, the pedal can act mostly as a clean boost, adding mostly volume and minimal coloring to the sound. This can be used to drive the input valve stage of the amplifier to use the characteristic distortion sound of an overdriven guitar amp. Alternatively (or additionally) the controls can be set to distort the sound signal in the pedal, where two germanium diodes can perform waveform clipping (see clipping (audio)). The "gain" knob is a double potentiometer (a "dual-ganged gain pot"), which controls bass and middle frequencies. Other knobs are treble and volume.
The circuit boards of Centaurs are notably "gooped", or covered with black epoxy resin in order to make it harder for imitators to replicate it.
After manufacture was discontinued, original units have been spotted at upwards of $3000.00 USD and were considered rare collector's items. A number of pedal manufacturers have since come out with much more affordable products, some of which come very close to the characteristics of the Centaur. Still, the original Centaur is often used as a standard to compare new overdrive pedal designs.
In 2014, Finnegan sold the same effect under the name "KTR". The KTR features the same circuit, but uses surface-mount technology to make the pedal smaller than the original, and to make it compatible with mass production. The germanium diodes at the heart of the sound-shaping circuit, however, are still the same as in the original pedal. Screen printed on the front of the KTR are the words "kindly remember that the ridiculous hype that offends so many is not of my making", in response to the cult following garnered by the original Centaur.
Among the guitarists who use the Klon Centaur are Jeff Beck, as well as Warren Haynes, Britt Daniel (Spoon), Nick Valensi (The Strokes; CRX) John Mayer and Adam Hann (The 1975). Nels Cline of Wilco once said, describing his Klon "...It's an amp in a box. No more worries in the world of 'amp du jour' about overdrive tone. It will be OK. The Centaur will take care of it..." Thaddeus Hogarth, a guitar professor at Berklee College of Music, describes the tone of the Klon as "dynamic...[it] works in combination with your guitar sound..."
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- Jeff Beck
- Andy Summers
- Keith Urban
- John Mayer
- Black Francis
- Peter Frampton
- Warren Haynes
- Mike McCready
- Stone Gossard
- Nels Cline
- Lee Ranaldo
- James Hetfield
- Britt Daniel
- Joe Bonamassa
- Joe Perry
- Trey Anastasio
- Philip Sayce
- Nick Valensi
- Jason Isbell
- Mike Ness
- Josh Klinghoffer
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