This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Klon Centaur. In 1994 Bill Finnegan, following years of painstaking research and development, released on an unsuspecting world what would become the first "transparent" overdrive pedal. The Centaur, an elegant and deceptively simple looking pedal, was notable for the way it worked with whatever amp it was put in front of, giving the user more from the tone they already had, rather than imposing its own quirks and unnatural equalization curves on the amp in question. In those days, this was a positively revolutionary concept. Prior to the Klon's invention, the only pedal that came close to having similar capabilities was the Ibanez Tube Screamer, which exhibited a relatively natural sounding overdrive tone, but was hampered by unpleasant compression, meager low-end, and a distinct, honky protuberance in the midrange. Finnegan's design solved all of these problems, and word of mouth about his remarkable pedal spread quickly.
Unfortunately, due to the custom nature of the Centaur's enclosure and components, and the fact that Mr. Finnegan was building and testing each one by hand in his tiny Boston apartment, the price for the first Centaurs was 225 dollars (an absurd amount of money for a guitar pedal in 1994) and the waiting list was several months or more. Despite this, the profit margins were slim, and Finnegan was beginning to crack under the pressure of rabid consumer demand for his labor-intensive masterpiece, and thusly the Klon Centaur, in its original form, was discontinued in 2009.
Of course, these days, there is no shortage of "transparent" overdrives on the market, many of them directly or indirectly inspired by the pioneering example of the Klon Centaur. And, since the end of its manufacturing run, the Centaur, despite its notoriously gooped circuit board, has been thoroughly reverse engineered, with a healthy micro industry developing around building so-called "klones." This little industry has been bolstered not only by the finite number of original Centaurs, but also by their outrageous value on the used market, with early, desirable "gold horsey" versions selling for over 2000 dollars. Some of the lesser klones bear questionable sonic resemblance to the original, but many are quite well done and require neither a lengthy wait time, nor parting with any valuable internal organs, to purchase. What follows is a fistful of the more reputable klones on the market today, for those guitarists who wish to taste a little of the Klon magic, but without taking out a fourth mortgage on their manufactured home:
JHS Klon Replica: The JHS Klon Replica is, perhaps, the best known of the klones, and the most controversial. It does an excellent job of replicating the Centaur's characteristics, and in a blind A-B test would be indistinguishable to most listeners. It is also one of the few that have attracted the attention of Bill Finnegan himself, with Finnegan contacting JHS directly regarding their pedal, and releasing several statements on popular forums regarding his opinion of JHS and their work. Reportedly, an agreement was reached that JHS would discontinue their klone once Klon released their new Centaur reboot, the Klon KTR. JHS has adhered to this agreement and discontinued the Klon Replica in 2012. Used JHS Klones can be had on eBay for 300–400 dollars.