Klon Centaur versions


Aestheticaly, the enclosure design changed a bit around the production time. Lets do a bit of "klonology" (chronology, get it ?! OK, I'm out...)
Klon Centaur versions
Gold and silver klons were produced at the same time, however the silver Klon was introduced in the early 2000s, and the graphics changed a bit with time. Three graphics can be considered: no centaur, big centaur with "open tail", and small centaur with closed tail. There were 5 different colors: 4 different gold colors (that you can see on the picture above), and the bare polished aluminium color (aka "silver" centaur). Around 8000 Klon centaurs were made between 1994 and 2009 according to Bill Finnegan (1.5 Klon centaur a day!). All those Klon worth today more than 12.000.000 euros!

First, there are no differences between gold and silver centaurs. The circuit and component values are exactly the same. Hearable differences should be really low and due to component's tolerances (Bill Finnegan used carbon film resistors with a 5% tolerance,  capacitors with 20% tolerance, so you can expect some slight variations from units to units)

Concerning the electronics, contrary to many other guitar pedal lines (Big Muff...), no big changes happened over time. The first version produced in 1994 lacked the resistor at the beginning of the circuit (R1), had no ground plane, and missed the R11 resistor. All these changes were processed in 1995. The 15k R11 resistor was added to have a bit more low-mids response. However, if you try to remove, the changes are incredibely subtle...
    “The fact is, under the hood they’re all basically the same. In 1995 I made three small changes: I added a resistor to give the circuit some protection against a static charge delivered to its input—a change that has no sonic effect. I also had the circuit board redesigned with a ground plane for better grounding—again, no sonic effect except the potential for a little less hum. And I added a resistor to give the circuit a very small amount of additional low-mid response—I wanted it to have a little more roundness when used with, say, a Strat into a Super Reverb. I made no other changes.”   - Bill Finnegan, Premier Guitar interview -
Another change noticed by Manticore FX is that another resistor was added at some point at the end of the circuit. It is R28, a 100k resistor that is present just before the switch. I do not really know its role, if you have any ideas...

The KTR version was issued in 2012. It basically has the exact same circuit as the Klon centaur, and the same diodes for clipping, but it was intented for mass production. It uses surface mounted devices (SMD), so the production could be automatized (the KTR is not handmade, but made by robots), so Bill Finnegan could focus on control quality. The price tag is still high though, especially for a mass produced device. The four years during which the Klon was discontinued has been the Klones golden age, and a lot of klon clones were issued during these years. Even today, as the KTR is quite expensive and big, there is still a lot of room for klones, and some builders find their way there (Rockett for instance), making Bill Finnegan a bit angry. Indeed, it is a bit smaller than previous versions, but uses 1590BB enclosure. Bill spent a lot of time testing different SMD components to make it sound exactly like the original Centaurs units. He also avoided to use electrolytic capacitors, and kept the tolerances of the components low, in order to have similar sounding units.

Bill Finnegan was aked whether he would try to make another pedal, but obviously he has some issue with kloners all around (especially with Rockett):
    "If any new product I come out with will be ripped off immediately after its release, and if unscrupulous people will again be making money off of my work, and if on top of that Klon’s reputation and my own personal reputation will be at risk every time someone decides to put out his own version of one of my designs, then where is my incentive to release anything new at all? Over the past few years, I’ve talked with a number of other pedal designers about this stuff—good people who design their own circuits, and whose circuits have also been ripped off—and we all agree there is now an enormous disincentive for any of us to create and release new products." - Bill Finnegan, Premier Guitar interview -
Maybe next Klon product will be a numerical SMD pedal (not klonable!). Obviously, the Klon case introduced the ethical problem about cloning pedal in the DIY and guitar pedal afficionados community. As there is almost no legal protection to clone circuits, the only barrier is ethics. I think it is an interesting debate to have. I am currently writing an article about that, including some pedal patents and reflexions about cloning.

There it is, this is the end of this post! You know all you need to know about the Klon Centaur! Do not hesitate to ask questions by posting a comment!

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To go further
2009 document produced in 2009 by Martin Chittum from freestompboxes.org
Aion electronics building guide, well helpful and with a lot of informations about the Klon Centaur.
Refractor project page by Aion Electronics.
"Klown" Centaur page of the Revolution Deux website.
"Sunking" project from madbean pedals, another Klon clone with a bigger PCB for 1590BB enclosures.
Modded "Klown" centaur of the Revolution Deux website.
Website with pictures of Klon centaur, classified by serials
Manticore fx : lots of informations about the Klon
History of the Klon Centaur on Premier Guitar, with a Bill Finnegan interview.
Klone science on madbean pedal: frequency response plots of different klon clones

1 Comment

I think the original is always going to hold a minimum standard with those that appreciate that level of tinkering/tweaking electronics vs any of the clones that come out. If the innovator thinks his own pedal is nothing special, how innovative is the pedal circuit ? But rather, Finnegan strikes me as a bit of an OCD perfectionist in that regard, he tweaked his own circuit for a Strat into a Super Reverb amp. So the Klon pedal circuit really is amp specific as to results, as well as the differences in the tolerances of any of the individual components as they accumulate. I mean virtually anyone would have to bench test each component and compensate for those differences to eliminate variability from pedal to pedal. Kind of like a tube bias adjustment for tube tolerance as differences in manufacturing any batch process ? His incentive is to make the best pedal as affordably as possible and let the consumer decide what they can buy. I mean when you see Beck, Tremonti, Mayer & others as original Klon users, they appreciate Finnegan's work. The rest of us a Klone will be fine, so Finnegan's market is going to be those top N artists. He should make more than enough money from that market segment. It's like anything Leo Fender or Les Paul ever assembled, those are stage & studio pieces, you'll never hear a Mosky on stage. Then again the EHX Big Muff Pi was a budget piece of gear in it's day too. Take Billy Corgan interviews, he was looking for the cheapest Big Muff Pi Op amp version that he made famous for the Siamese Dream sound. Once Smashing Pumpkins went viral, even he couldn't get one on the cheap.