I will preface this article by bringing to your notice that if you want to read the very best overview of Klon pedals currently available, then take a look at Paolo De Gregorio’s piece on ’pedals.thedelimagazine.com’ a really impressive and comprehensive feature. For my purposes, I’m not really interested in covering absolutely everything, just those parts that appeal to me as a musician and pedal aficionado.
I first got on the Klon trail as such when I acquired a standard EHX Soul Food - I was not aware at the time that it was a Klon-style pedal, I had not really properly screened / trialled it, just read lots of good reviews, and as its price was relatively low, it did not seem to be too much of a gamble. To me though it sounded a bit thin and unsubstantial - so I upgraded to the JHS ’Meat & 3’ modded version, which greatly improved on the tonal characteristic with its modifications, but still sounded somewhat unbalanced to me - as if the bass, middle and treble frequencies were somehow not properly blended.
I then came across the original mini Wampler Tumnus, which I still love to this day - it has a wonderfully even tone, with significant additions to the lower end, and a really balanced profile of frequencies - it pretty much sounds wonderful however you set it, and at all levels of gain. In coming across and researching the Tumnus, I finally became aware of the larger ’Klon’ category of natural / organic / transparent sounding overdrives which were supposed to preserve the tone of your guitar and amp and just add natural and uncoloured overdrive.
So then back to the 12 pedals featured above and the very original hand-made Bill Finnegan Klon Centaurs of the 90’s (1994+). There are several currently available on Reverb.com and retailing at around £1,500 to £2,000 - and still seem to be very much in-demand by those sorts of vintage collectors. For my needs though these are rather overpriced and really quite over-sized for what they offer. Bill Finnegan now offers the more mass-produced Klon KTR which is less than half the size of the original, but supposedly contains exactly the same basic circuitry and components. If I really wanted an original-style Klon I would get the KTR - but in its JHS modded version - which delivers a couple of extra voicing options.
The Bondi Effects ’Sick As’, Pro Analog Devices ’Manticore’ and RYRA ’Klone’ all sound excellent too - with the former two giving you additional voicing options over the original - they are all still rather too large for my liking though - and rather - I have designs on all the other compact pedals featured here.
Alas Foxpedal has gone out of business*, but I have three of their excellent pedals already, and I fully intend to get the Kingdom Combo V2 before stock runs out on that - so that is most likely my next acquisition, even though the Tumnus Deluxe and J Rockett Rockaway Archer are already high priority on my wishlist. (* - seems this was a 6 month hiatus only - Foxpedal is back).
The Greer Amps Lightspeed is strictly speaking the odd one out here, as it’s not really a Klon clone, but I find it’s tonal profile overlaps sufficiently and suitably enough for it to be considered here, and it does sound truly wonderful. The Keeley Oxblood sounds wonderful too in both its original and Germanium flavours, and I have long been debating as to whether I might prefer that over the Tumnus Deluxe, but in the end the Tumnus has won me over - I list both varieties of Tumnus here, as the original Tumnus is one of my all-time favourite overdrives and if space is tight - it’s a wonderful option here.
I currently have 2 of those listed, and am likely to acquire 5 more over the next couple of years, with the Foxpedal Kingdom Combo V2 and Tumnus Deluxe as the next 2 likely purchases.
Originals listed first, then alphabetical.
The original Klon Centaur is one of the most hyped pedals of all time one way or another, and it does sound pretty great, but is large and currently unnecessarily expensive. Originally hand-made by Bill Finnegan, who now outsources the manufacture for the newer more compact Klon KTR. There are several head-to-head tests online, and most support the notion that the newer smaller KTR is pretty much indistinguishable from the original Centaur - so if you really want the original flavour - do yourself a favour and go for the KTR - which also has an additional true / buffered bypass toggle over the original. For me personally I like the slightly more affected / coloured Klon clones with enhancements to the frequency profile, particularly in the low-end.
Bill Finnegan's more compact and easier-to manufacture version of Klon - with additional true bypass toggle over the original's default buffered only bypass. To all intents and purposes this is the same circuit and components as the original and according to most experts online sounds the same as the original. JHS do a neat voicing mod, but you need to buy your KTS separately and then send it to JHS along with an additional $55 for the mod - which gives you two additional toggles for a few more voicing options. If I really had to have an original-style Klon then I would go for the KTR - with the JHS mods, but I like so many of the compact Klon clones, that I don't feel it necessary to own the originals - the Tumnus Deluxe gives me a tone perfectly suited to my preferences - along with full 3-band EQ and an additional high gain boost toggle.
This diminutive Australian pedal-maker run by Jon and Anna Ashley has just 3 pedals to its range, all are excellent - the larger enclosure 'Sick As OD' and compact 'Breakers OD' and then the '2026 Compressor'. The 'Sick As' splits the tone into separate Bass and Treble dials, and it adds a toggle switch to control the amount of headroom and character of the drive. It gives this pedal a number of tone-sculpting advantages over the originals, and sounds really excellent. You get slightly more options for £50 less than the KTR - but this is still a relatively large pedal.
I have both the original (£76) and JHS modded versions - of which I prefer the latter. The JHS version greatly improves the tonal profile and adds in some much needed low-end, but it still does not sound nearly as good as a Wampler Tumnus to my ears - the Tumnus being my favourite current Klon style pedal.
I was really sad to see Todd Billow's company disappear at the tail end of last year - there was no announcement or anything - just all of a sudden the website disappeared alongside all social media channels. I already have 3 of Todd's pedals - The City V2, Defector and Wrath - and love how all of them sound and work. I am a particular fan of the 2-switch combination within the compact pedal format - a la Chase Bliss Audio. Anyway, the Kingdom Combo V2 is another one of those 2-footswitch compact pedals which includes separate Ebenezer Clean Boost Channel - with a variety of tone sculpting dials, clipping toggle switch and drive / boost order switch. Even though I lean towards a Tumnus primary preference, I cannot afford to let this one slip by - there's limited stock available, and I want to snap one up before they all go - so this will most likely be my next acquisition followed by the Tumnus Deluxe, which will likely though be my preferred option. (I could not find any V2 compact enclosure demos on YouTube, so the above demo features the original V1 medium-sized enclosure!).
This is another one of my favourite Klon-style pedals, has been on my wishlist for a while, and was set to be my mini Tumnus replacement until the Tumnus Deluxe unexpectedly materialised. I have featured this pedal several times before, and I will most definitely be acquiring this Steve Stevens signature pedal at some stage, although it is now in the queue behind the Foxpedal Kingdom Combo and Wampler Tumnus Deluxe. With its 6 EQ sliders - it gives you a tonne of tone-shaping options. I still fancy the Tumnus Deluxe with its additional gain toggle and 3-band EQ may give me more of what I like. I will have both eventually though.
I saw and heard this on the fairly recent That Pedal Show Klon edition, where the original version of this sounded really amazing. I was having difficulty deciding on a preference between this and the Tumnus Deluxe, but decided that since I so love the mini Tumnus already, that it's best and most apt replacement should be the Deluxe version. The Keeley though is pretty much its equal and offers much the same tone-sculpting abilities although in a slightly different format - versus the more standard route of 3-band EQ. I still love the sound of the Oxblood and will need to decide at some stage whether to acquire original or Germanium flavour.
This I also heard on a fairly recent That Pedal Show, and have heard Peter Honoré play his several times on the Andertons channel. It has sounded excellent on all occasions, and although not exactly a Klon clone, its tonal profile overlaps significantly and makes it a really supreme natural / organic / transparent overdrive in the Klon mould. This pedal has at least 3 higher priority 'Klons' ahead of it on the wishlist (Kingdom Combo, Tumnus Deluxe and Rockaway Archer), and it kind of vies with the Keeley Oxblood as the next choice after that - each pedal really offers something slightly different and has appeal in that area - not to say that I really need to possess 7 Klon clones, 8 really if I include my TC Electronic MojoMojo!
Another pedal which I've caught a few times on That Pedal Show - it sounds amazing, but is rather large. Possibly the 'Sick As' gives you more tone-sculpting control although the Manticore has its own options for that cleverly built into how its dials work. Still too large for my chain though - would properly consider if they 'compacted' it!
Many pedal / Klon aficionados are adamant that this is the best proper Klon clone currently available, and very reasonably priced too - comes in several different colourways. If I was considering a pedal at this size, I would still more likely go with the Klon KTR - although this one does shave off a significant amount of that one's asking price. No special features here though - just the standard original 3 dial layout.
My current mainstay 'Klon' type favourite and one of my most used and long-time all-time favourite overdrives too. Sounds wonderful at all volumes and gain stages, and rounds out the original Klon tonal profile to give it slightly more oomph and a more even overall profile. I love this pedal and will keep it as a backup for when I get the Tumnus Deluxe. I've included the mini here as it's a fantastic pedal in its own right, and has to be one of the best, if not the best mini overdrive!
This pedal really surprised a lot of us at the tail end of last year. I was all set to get a J Rockett Rockaway Archer, but then Foxpedal folded and Wampler sprung this surprise on us - you can easily replicate the defaults of the smaller mini Tumnus, but now have a full 3-band EQ and a boosted gain switch - to give you more high-gain tones - the perfect upgrade in every way as far as I am concerned. In theory this is at the top of my currently acquisition / wishlist, but because of Foxpedal's demise - I will want to get the Kindom Combo V2 before it runs out of stock and is forever no more...
Within the world of the Pedal aficionado there still seems to be a lot of snobbery and pretentiousness. There definitely seems to be a type of fairly wealthy middle-class collector for whom only vintage originals will do - which has fuelled the whole Klon price inflation thing - I understand 8,000 units of the originals were made, and science tells us that the Klon KTR is pretty much identical - so go figure.
For me personally I'm not a tone snob, and I'm not really trying to recapture exactly some original tone type - I just like a flavour of it, and very much my own flavour profile preference. The same is true of pretty much all pedals - some individuals unfairly malign perfectly fine pedals because they don't fit their exact criteria or tonal preferences.
We all have our own peculiarities and idiosyncrasies - and my requirement for combination of tone, dynamics, form-factor and versatility would most definitely be disputed by others. I personally believe that the above selection of 12 gives you a compact overview of some of the best options available for those seeking this type of sound - whether you are a purist or a modernist.