The Klon Centaur has become one of the most legendary pedals of all time. You can find originals going for over $2,500. That’s a lot of scratch for a guitar pedal. There are a few reasons for its inflated status.
For one, it’s a great-sounding pedal. But that said, it’s not the Holy Grail. Nothing is the Holy Grail. There are so many factors that lead to great tone. First and foremost is situation.
Sounds are program-specific. Meaning certain guitars and amps aren’t appropriate for certain gigs/sessions.
So before you think the Klon will solve all of your issues, know that it won’t. But for certain applications, it’s a magnificent tool.
Association with fame
One reason the Klon is so famous is that well-known players have used it. Jeff Beck used one, as did a few other famous players.
The illusion with gear is that if you buy the same gear as your idols, you can sound like them. There’s only a partial truth to this. Using similar gear can get you the flavor, but it’s not a wormhole to someone’s musical sensibility. But this doesn’t stop people from buying into the voodoo of gear.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very into tone and all of the tools to augment it. I even made an in-depth series about the nuance of guitar tone. But I believe gear influences your sound—it doesn’t make it.
People began flocking to the Klon thinking it was the missing link to guitar tone. They still do, as you can tell by its price.
Like a Tube Screamer or Tone Bender or Fuzz Face, the Klon is a flavor. A very tasty flavor! But not a solution for everyone.
The price is right
Fortunately, for those who don’t have $2,500 to spend on an original Klon, J Rockett makes its own great version. They call it the Archer Ikon. There are a few things right off the bat that make the Archer Ikon more practical than an original Klon.
It’s in a much smaller casing (the original Klon was rather large). The Archer Ikon is very compact. All of the jacks are top-mounted and it takes a traditional 9-volt power jack.
This is a welcome addition, as the original Klon has reversed polarity. You have to be careful using a power supply or you could fry the Klon. I’ve actually seen this happen. You want to see a grown adult cry over a piece of gear? Plug in the wrong power to an original Klon Centaur.
The Archer Ikon can also be powered by a 9-volt battery. My only complaint is battery access. You have to unscrew the bottom of the pedal, and the screws are tiny, which makes it very difficult to change on a gig. They’re kinda like eyeglass screws.
Maybe this was a decision to maximize space. It’s not practical. But it’s pretty much the only flaw I can find in the pedal.
I’m a fan of the Archer Ikon. Its midrange (and the Klon’s) is voiced higher than the Tube Screamer’s. Klon circuits tend to lumped into the Tube Screamer category. But they’re quite different, in my opinion. I did a comparison in my video tutorial series on guitar tone.
A Tube Screamer tends to be more compressed and abundant in lower mids. A Klon shines in the higher mids and isn’t quite as compressed.
Archer Ikon in use
Because of the differences in their natural frequency curves, Klon copies have different applications, in my mind.
There are certain qualities about the Archer Ikon that I think make it stand out from other Klon copies. There is an excitement to the Archer Ikon. It has the most subtle hint of treble booster. I’m not saying it sounds like a treble booster. I’m saying it has a hint of that elevated punch treble boosters can have.
This is a missing element in many copies such as the Electro Harmonix Soul Food. To my ears, that pedal doesn’t resemble a Klon or sound flattering. Ouch, I know—I just said it. But, someone had to. People want to believe the Soul Food sounds just like a Klon because of its price. Call it whatever you want. But it ain’t no Klon!
The Archer Ikon allows you to boost with a healthy amount of dB (decibals), which is my favorite way (and the original intention of the Klon). I’ll use my Archer Ikon in a tube amp that is pushed fairly hard. The Archer Ikon induces more saturation and adds some edge to the tone.
It also tends to focus the tone on flabby amps. Klon pedals in general attenuate the low end. You’re not going to get a big ol’ bassy tone from a Klon-style pedal.
This can work to your advantage on amps that get flabby when pushed. I use the Archer Ikon with a Tweed Champ in some sessions. Not only does it give me a little boost of presence, but it focuses my tone.
You can indeed use the Klon as an overdrive if you must. I’m not the tone police. Go ahead and experiment! It can sound good. But the magic that people often refer to with the Klon has to do with pushing an already overdriven tube amp.
I really like the Archer Ikon with slide guitar. It can really bring out the whine. It especially pairs well with a glass, ceramic, or porcelain slide. It seems to center the guitar and glues the vast frequency differences together.
One issue slide guitar players may notice when plugging into an amp is that there’s a lot of separation between the bass and treble frequencies. This sometimes results in the high strings sounding a little piercing and the low strings getting lost.
The Archer Ikon can bridge this gap. I often don’t even use that much gain from it. As I’ve already mentioned, I tend to use the Archer Ikon as a boost or a preamp. It’s like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The guitar is the bread, the amp is the peanut butter—and the Archer Ikon is the jam!