This particular post was triggered by a recent video I came across which compared the various Mini Klon/Klone style pedals (Not Nano!!!) doing the rounds at the moment. I see lots of posts about the Mini Mosky Golden Horse on Pedalboards of Doom these days - but there is only one proper Golden Horse - and that’s the Decibelics one - more of that later.
After viewing the Mini head-to-head comparisons I then flipped across to the Australian Super Fun guy’s Klon review from late 2017. In the interim we’ve obviously has a number of new additions - the EQD Westwood, Matthews Effects Architect V3, Mojo Hand FX Sacred Cow face-lift, MXR Sugar Drive and the Way Huge Conspiracy Theory to name just a few - all included here.
I set about getting all my current favourites and notables into the above visual, and I will freely admit - I'm very happy with the results! These are a mix of pedals which are direct replicas, inspired by, or just well within the ballpark of the original Klon Centaur - which is still fetching ridiculous prices on Reverb.com and Ebay - typically way in excess of £2,000 equivalent.
The question is largely about what sort of 'Klone' you are looking for and how close you need it to be to the original classic. To my mind the absolute best replicas these days are made by Guillem Vilademunt of Decibelics, Barcelona - and he produces the most richly detailed versions in Mini, Medium and original Large Size enclosures. The actual Klon circuit isn't that large - so I never understand the need for some individuals to have the biggest pedal possible. I myself prefer things typically in the compact domain, but am also a big fan of properly smart boutique Mini Pedals. I feel that only Decibelics can purport to be making Deluxe jewel-like pedals at the mini-enclosure size - the level of detail and refinement is simply an engineering marvel - and his pedals look as good on the inside as the do on the outside.
I actually have 7 of the listed pedals already - the aforementioned Decibelics Golden Horse Mini, The EHX Soul Food JHS Mod, Foxpedal Kingdom Combo V2 (with boost), Greer Lightspeed, Matthews Effects Artchitect V3 (with boost), and then the two Tumni in both Deluxe and Mini versions. There are another 3 here that have been on the wishlist for a while - and will likely be added to the collection some day soonish - the J Rockett Rockaway Archer (6-band EQ), Thorpy's Peacekeeper, and VFE's now permanently discontinued Merman (so Reverb.com stalking obviously).
The others listed here I all consider to be the best of what is available at those different enclosure sizes. My visual is limited to 22 pedals - and I feel each one justifies its place here. Check out my friends at Delicious Audio for a more extensive longlist of Klone Style Pedals. I tend to be slightly more selective in my approach.
Generally though I have listed here 2 large, 4 medium, 13 Compact and 3 Mini pedals which I believe best represent this genre. There are several others that just missed out - like Mythos Pedals' Mjolnir - but I had to draw the line somewhere, and each of those selected I felt offered something over those that I left out. That is not to say that there aren't at least a dozen more viable pedals in the same category - as this is one of the most popular of overdrive genres, and near enough every builder has had a version of this available at some stage.
I've already indicated in a previous post - which my likely favourites were in each category - while the compact enclosure space is very heavily contested and I have a new favourite candidate on any given day. For the larger sort of original size Klones if you have to have that - I would personally be looking at the Decibelics Big Vintage Clone, Ceriatone Centura or Nordvang Custom No.1. For compacts I like the feature-rich qualities of the Anasounds Savage, Foxpedal Kingdom Combo, J Rockett Rockaway, Matthews Architect V3, Thorpy Peacekeeper, VFE Merman and Tumnus Deluze - all of those are excellent, but sometimes you just want something simpler - hence the Lightspeed.
In the medium enclosure space - all the listed ones are superb - the Bondi Sick As, Klon KTR JHS Mod, ProAnalog Devices Manticore V2 and RYRA Klone - take your pick. While in the Mini space I have an enduring love for the Decibelics Golden Horse, above the Tumnus Mini, and have not felt the need to add the MXR to the collection yet.
The above is a mixture of all sizes and all degrees of feature-richness and complexity - do note that the Anasounds Savage harbours a lot of internal switches and trim-pots to further tweak that pedal - I've asked Alex to do a model which externalises more of those features - as hands-on tweakablity is essential for a tone-tweaker like me!
In any case - if you are looking for a Clear, Organic, Natural, Neutral, Transparent, Translucent, Unadulterated Low Gain Overdrive - then something from the above selection should surely meet your needs!
Pedals are listed in alphabetical order by brand as usual:
On the surface the Savage looks like a straightforward simple 3-knob Klone, but it's what inside that counts! In this case we have 2 additional trim-pots - Voicing and Light/LED, alongside 3 x 2-way Switches - Treble Boost, OD_Bass Boost and Germanium/Silicon Clipping. I would really prefer to have access to those elements - particularly the clipping switch - perhaps there will be a custom edition with those features - similar to the Crankled Bitoun Fuzz - we hope! In any case a really versatile Klon with a number of hidden abilities.
The Sick As is very well received medium enclosure take on the Klon - where the Tone dial has been split out into Bass and Treble - and you get a 2-way gain switch for slightly more or slightly less gain on-tap. Sound-wise it's really close to the original - just with a touch more versatility.
The lowest cost option in this listing - American-made, and with tone split out to Bass and Treble, as well as a 2-way Modern/Vintage voicing switch - so in some ways not too dissimilar in execution to the Sick As above - just in a more compact enclosure. I'm not scything these sound exactly he same - there are of course slight variances with all these pedals - and apart from those which are specifically references as replicase - everything else can be taken as more of an inspired-by or evolved-from!
I initially had the Ceriatone Centura down here as I recently watched Chris Buck's That Pedal Show episode where he includes it on his new pedalboard. However, if you don't have £2K plus lying around spare for an original big-size Klon, then the nearest thing to my ears are Guillem's large-size exact replica. My practical approach means that I would never go for this size of enclosure for a single-voiced overdrive, that said - the Decibelics Big Vintage Klone does have an internal Germanium/Silicon clipping switch if you want to mix things up slightly - otherwise the circuits are near enough identical in component use and frequency output profile!
Even though this pedal is currently on hiatus from my pedal-chain I have an enduring soft-spot for it, and my all time-favourite Klon-style pedal to-date. I've said it many times before - but the attention to detail here and build are Fabergé quality and everything looks, feels and sounds fantastic. The way the ranges of the dials are tuned in and how easy the pedal is to tweak and ramp-up - it's just an extraordinary technological achievement which puts every other mini pedal to shame!
Jamie Stillman may be a touch late to this game - but people buy EQD pedals because of Jamie's specific 'Ear' and personal take on a genre or trope - much the same way others buy everything by Brian Wampler, Mike Piera or Robert Keeley say - EQD certainly has a loyal following. This pedal is rather a 'in the ballpark of' than directly inspired by the Klon. It is very much a natural sounding overdrive this time with Baxandall EQ over just the typical tone dial. When you buy a specific pedal - it's not just about the core tone and timbre of the pedal - also how the control ranges are dialled in - and how easy it is to discover sweetspots and change things up. I admire Jamie for his immense coordination every time he releases a pedal - although the degree of fawning of each release seem somewhat hyperbolic at times. No doubting though that these are quality devices, I just often have alternative preferences - certainly worthy of consideration though.
The original EHX Soul Food was one of my earliest pedals in my second bout of guitar - and I in part acquired it because of the early hype. Yet I found the original somewhat 'thin' sounding and much prefer the later introduced JHS Mod edition with additional clipping modes and a bass contour dial which helped fill out those frequencies I felt were missing from the original. This is still a fairly neutral pedal as such - with not that significant amount of range onboard even though the overall profile is much improved. It's a pretty decent proposition at this level, and a big improvement on the unadulterated Soul Food.
The core tone on this seems to be slightly darker than the original source, and I find some of the controls and switches take a little while to get used to - but a little perseverance gets you pretty amazing results. The two toggle switches are soft and hard clipping switches - with the soft labelled OD, and the hard labelled CLIP. You then have classic Tone, Level and Gain, while the Boost here is a little like that on the Thorpy Dane - as you have a Boost Contour / Focus control as well as Boost Level. NOTE that video is of older Kingdom Combo version, there are no demos of the newer model available yet.
I've mentioned several times before that this was Pete Honoré's favourite overdrive before Thorpy made him his signature The Dane pedal. This is another 'in the ballpark of' definitely not intending to be a like for like replacement of the original version, but to provide you similar openness and dynamics in a refined low-gain sort of manner. I have both the Greer Lightspeed and Southland pedals - which supposedly have the same core DNA, but obviously somewhat different default voicings and timbres. Most of the time I like to have 3-Band EQ at my disposal with one or two additional voicing or clipping dials, but I also quite like keeping things simple on occasion - particularly when the pedal is masterfully dialled-in - which is the case with the Lightspeed. As things stand I am more likely to reach for my Decibelics Golden Horse when I just want a simple 3-knob experience, but the Lightspeed gets a decent innings every now and again too.
JRAD / J Rockett is particularly well-known for its many versions of Archer pedal - which were some of the first original compact Klone pedals and still retain an enormous following to this day. The regular archers are just 3-knob varieties, but this Steve Stevens signature pedal splits out that tone dial into 6-Band EQ which provides you with an enormous degree of refined tone-shaping. I've had my eye on this one and Mark Lettieri's similar version of The Dude (Dumble ODS) The Melody Overdrive for quite some time. There's no doubt that I will add this to the collection at some stage, but it will likely come after the addition of the Thorpy Peacekeeper and VFE Merman.
I believe Bill Finnegan is once more taking commissions for full-size original spec Klon Centaurs - which is kind of understandable considering that those are going for well in excess of £2K currently on the second-hand market. After he brought the Klon Centaur manufacture to a halt the first time around - probably because of the time-consuming nature of the build and various inefficiencies at the time, he launched a more compact medium-enclosure Klon KTR which though was supposed to retain all the same key components and values, but be built in a more efficient manner - using more pre-fabricated circuitry / circuitboards etc. Yet players always felt that the originals had something special over and above the KTR replicas which kind of led to the JHS Mod of said pedal - that alas is now also discontinued, but I've seen these pedals pop up on Reverb.com very occasionally. JHS Shamrock mod gave you 2 additional switches - a 3-way gain switch for more 'beef' (low end), and a 2-way Punch switch for more 'oomph' (boost even). If I wanted some form of Bill Finnegan original this is probably the version I would seek out. I may snap one up in any case if I come across the right specimen on Reverb.com and I'm in the right sort of mood!
This is actually my most recent addition to my own Klon/Klone arsenal - having continually kept forgetting that the Matthews Architect was a Klone - I often mistook it for a TS808 derivative for some reason. In any case - with the recent fanfare of the Matthews Effects face-lift and range re-launch - this was the pedal that really caught my attention. 3-Band EQ, and with different clipping on both the Overdrive and Boost elements - a very formidable and feature-rich pedal - let down somewhat by the huge output drop when you switch to Germanium mode. I would have tried to have done some circuit magic there - either lowering the output of the other modes with resistors, or trying to boost up the germanium stage with further gain-components. It's a great sounding pedal nevertheless obviously with huge amounts of range on-tap - someone really needs to sort out the volume loss on the Germanium mode - otherwise it just becomes unusable in most switching scenarios.
This has supposedly just had a face-lift in time for the recent Summer NAMM - unless the descriptive text harks back to an earlier time. But most dealers are still showing off the previous iteration - so this is relatively recent move. I initially had the Mythos Pedals Mjolnir here, but was exposed to the demo of this one - and took it in preference here as it also has additional Fat/Lean voicing switch. Otherwise just another beautifully harmonically expressive Klone-style overdrive which a lot of players seem to like, but it remains still relatively unnoticed for some reason.
This pedal is about a year and a half old now - having been first launched at the 2018 Winter NAMM. It is the 3rd rated of the Mini Klones as far as I'm concerned - after the Decibelics and Tumnus Mini - but it does have a useful buffer button to cover that feature from the original. Actually a really great sounding Klone and for many this will be just the thing. I though have a couple of preferences in this area which means I am unlikely to get this one any time soon.
The only product by Danish, Copenhagen company started back in 2014 by one H. Nordvang. All pedals are hand-built by the owner/proprietor from the very finest components available - it's not an exact circuit replication, but is very much based on the Klone pedal. In addition to Gain, Volume and Tone knobs, the pedal features 3 additional option switches - Clipping, LF Drive and EQ which combine to give you additional voicings and range over the original source version. This is the most expensive of those listed on this page, and I can't say if the builder has the pedigree or provenance to justify fully the higher level of pricing - but you certainly get additional features for your credits here. The enclosure size is rather large though - which would preclude it being a viable option for my own pedal-chain - perhaps H. Nordvang can miniaturise somewhat at some stage. It seems also that a number of builders use the size to justify the price to a degree, which I'm not sure is the case here - but generally the larger the enclosure size, the bigger the ticket price!
I've long been a fan of Scotty Smith, and pretty much everything he puts his hands to sounds magic. I have his Mark IV Vintage Fuzz which is a long-term favourite of mine. Nowadays he collaborates with John Cusack of Cusack Music - who I believe build these V2 pedals for him. They've been featured a lot on That Pedal Show and always sound amazing. This time around the V2 has 2 additional knobs to the normal 3 - with the control dials being Level, Treble, Savage, Gain and Drive with Savage targeting lower frequencies, and Drive giving you more range to the Gain. I've frequently picked this out as my favourite of the medium enclosure clones - although I prefer the form factor of the KTR Klon - and feel this one would be better served really with the footswitch on the right hand side of the facia - so you can easily deploy it vertically like that KTR.
This is another well-loved medium enclosure Klone variety - very suitably named of course. This about as faithful a replica as you can get - with the typical Gain, Treble and Output controls. There are subtle differences to the original, but very few typically have the luxury to compare them head-to-head - and both sound stellar in a band-mix - so it's as much about how much you personally like this particular tonality as to how close it is to the original - all these pedal preferences are about your own particular appreciation on the genre - just like I like certain Dumble style pedals over others - even though many of those may be considered more authentic and closer to the originals in one way or another.
I've often chided Adrian in a somewhat teasing manner - in how obtuse some of his pedal descriptions can be on his site. He very deliberately does not want to box himself in and limit his appeal, or otherwise make promises which not all players may readily agree too - and as such his exceptional drive pedals - Peacekeeper, Gunshot and Warthog are often misunderstood and misplaced by some including myself. It's a total over-simplification to say that the Peacekeeper is essentially a Klone, the Gunshot essentially a Plexi and the Warthog a Rat - as those are rather just near matches and don't really convey the incredible range of tones and gain each has onboard. There is a significant overlap between each in terms of the bottom and top ranges of the gain scales - but with its 5 knobs - the Peacekeeper is more than likely the most tweakable of Thorpy's pedals. I've been meaning to add this to my collection for a while, but keep on being sucked down the Fuzz rabbit hole - which has kept me full-on fascinated for the best part of these last two years - and I still haven't quite yet satisfied my curiosity in that area - but am getting closer every day.
eter Rutter has definitely hung up his guns for good now - as he's cleared out the VonRutter Family Effects studio pretty much entirely of pedals now - selling of the remaining circuit boards and putting his very final final pedals on sale on Reverb.com. I've long been a fan of his 6-knob, 3-large, 3-small dial pedals and have managed to collect 5 to date - including versions of the Alpha Dog, Distortion3, Dragon Hound (Vomit Hound), Fiery Red Horse Fuzz, and Woodchipper Octave Fuzz. There's at least a couple more here I'd like to track down - including this Merman - ideally as pictured, alongside a Blues King and or a Fuzz Duo. The Merman's 6 controls are Drive, Treble and Level, and then Compression, Warmth and Bottom End. It's another lovely rich and warm Klone style pedal which I really don't especially need to have, but really want to round out both by Klone and VFE pedal collections!
This was for a time the champion of the compact enclosure Klones to a degree, but the competition is particularly hot at the moment - even within my own subset collection. This improves on the Tumnus Mini in every way with full 3-Band EQ, as well as additional Gain toggle-switch witch switches between Hot (More Gain) and Regular (Standard Tumnus Mini) Modes. The Brian Wanpler take on the Klone has more low-end frequencies in the mix which gives the Tumnus a little more body than most of the other replicas. Since I got the Decibelics Golden Horse though pretty much all my Klones and low gain transparent drives have taken the backseat for a while.
This was my second Klone pedal after my 2 Soul Foods and I instantly and immediately preferred this take on the genre. I was introduced to it in a That Pedal Show episode, and for some reason it was the Mini Tumnus that most appealed to me tone-wise of all those options covered. This pedal remained on the board probably for the longest time before being rotated out for various other compact-sized Klones like the Tumnus Deluxe, Kingdom Combo V2, Lightspeed and Architect of course - with all of them eventually ousted again by the Decibelics Golden Horse!
This is the most recently release of the above pictured pedals - obviously the Dunlop family of pedals already had the MXR Sugar Drive out at Winter NAMM 2018, but Jeorge Tripps evidently felt that a compact version was also desirable - and launched the Conspiracy Theory just about a month or so ago under the Way Huge Brand. It's in the recent Smalls compact enclosure, but otherwise just features the standard Output, Treble and Gain knobs - so nothing particularly new or different there, but obviously made with Jeorge Tripps' superior ears - meaning another pretty nuanced take on the original.
So you have 22 different varieties here ranging from $119 (£96) to £373, 3 to 8 controls, and right through the different sizes of enclosure from tiny to pretty large. If you are genuinely looking for a Klone and don't have or can't afford the original, then I would be very surprised if you can't find what you're looking for here.
As I've said many times before - there is no one pedal overall 'Best' per say - although there may be one or two here which are best for you - in terms of being better suited to your own preferences and needs. I have several varieties of each tone family type and each of those pedals has its own personality for me - it's own soul and character and will encourage and inspire slightly different styles of playing. I rarely tend to approach these things with one very specific laser-focused sound in mind. I have some ballpark ideas of where I'd like to be at, but then I go where my ears and other senses and influences take me.
Of the 7 direct and indirect Klones I already have I still like them all individually, and still rotate most of them into the pedal-chain fairly regularly to remind myself of what initially appealed, and to spark off different inspirations. I like all my existing varieties and am still looking to supplement them further with the ThorpyFX Peacekeeper, VFE Merman and J Rockett Archer. For the Merman the blue enclosure varieties come with lots of different knob types - and I will probably have to buy the specific white knobs which for me fit the best with the Trident motif of the pedal - namely the DM-1400 style variety!
All of the pedals listed here are 'keepers' - meaning that if you're just dipping your tones into Klone territory you might wish to try the much cheaper Tone City Bad Horse or Mosky Gold/Silver Horse pedals - but those can somewhat lack the richness and subtleties of those included here in this listing. Different players will have very different criteria - and there are probably 3 or 4 suitably matched pedals to those. I don't think you would be dissatisfied with any of the above - providing of course you are looking for a Klone style variety!
Know that as always there is no substitute for trials and experimentation - take a few for a test-drive and see what suits your rig and playing styles the best - happy hunting!