The recent arrival of the V2 ProAnalog Devices Manticore was the catalyst for this series of articles. Where I select my own personal favourite pick for each of the key enclosure sizes. Anyone who has ever assembled a pedalboard or pedal-chain will know that you need to make some hard decisions along the way - based on exactly what you can fit in. Hence I give you options right along the scale from Mini, to Compact, Medium and Large.
Usually you get increased functionality and feature set with an increase in size - more footswitches, toggle-switches and dials typically, yet not always. I frequently find it hard to justify larger pedals unless they are offering dual-channel functionality with say dual or triple footswitches and multiple voicing or effects.
I’ve written a few articles about Klon / Klone style pedals - big and small, and these are my favourites of those. The first listed the mini Decibelics Golden Horse is currently pride of place in my chain, having ousted the compact Wampler Tumnus Deluxe which has significantly more range, but I’m kind of in love with the core tone and tonal sweep of the more diminutive Golden Horse.
For larger pedals we have the still Bill Finnegan originated Klon KTR, here in its JHS Shamrock Mod iteration, and the new ProAnalog Devices Manticore V2 with added ’Savage’ dial. I am a big fan of JHS modifications which give you the core default tonality in tact, but then typically add a few voicing options on top - in this instance you get additional 3-way gain switch which allows you to add more gain into the circuit, you also have a Punch switch which acts as a sort of boost for more saturation / frequency enhancement.
I’m not entirely sure that Manticore needs to be as large as it is, but it seems that some players are still reassured by the girth of a pedal. I see no point in mentioning the original Klon Centaur as this is still fetching silly prices of £3K or more on Reverb.com. I truly feel that the above quartet features the best of what is currently available, and that you should be happy with any of those, even though there are minor differences in frequency content and range.
JHS is frequently the brunt of sever criticism, but I will pretty much buy all of Josh’s modified versions over the originals - as I want more range and versatility than the stock model offers. Many stock models have limited amounts of output volume and gain, and might lack certain tone-sculpting elements which are essential for range and versatility. It’s not that I dislike the core default pedal I just want ’more’ of it.
Pedals are listed in order of size and depicted in approximate relative proportion:
My current Klone of choice, this ousted the Tumnus Deluxe from pride of place, and even though it has less range and gain overall it still has plenty enough on tap for my purposes. Despite its diminutive size it contains all of the same high quality ingredients as the original, just really smartly compacted into this mini enclosure. It is an engineering and sonic delight from pretty much every angle and it kind of bucks my typical trend where I largely have a preference for compact pedals with 3-band EQs and dual footswitches! Guillem Vilademunt has done such an exceptional job with this pedal and I heartily recommend that all should try it out as well as gaze admiringly at the superb engineering of the internals in particular.
When this came out as an update / upgrade to the existing mini Tumnus, I though this the be all and end all of Klone pedals - such was its range - a huge amount of tone sculpting helped along by an extended range of gain. I had already had and loved the original Tumnus for a while so this was an obvious upgrade for me and probably would have seen me good if I had not encountered the Golden Horse above - which although it does not have the range of this larger multi-knobbed virtuoso still manages to wring an incredible range of tones out of such a tiny enclosure. But then again my new iPhone has as much memory and functionality pretty much as my Mac Power Book - so there is nothing wrong with mini sized devices. There is also nothing wrong with this Deluxe Tumnus which of course I still retain for the rotation.
As stated in the intro, I love JHS Mods and I don't see it worthwhile buying the ludicrously expensive original Klon Centaur when Bill Finnegan has arranged this significantly more compact replacement. It has the prerequisite 3 dials with a buffer switch on the side edge which significantly enhances the tone. The now discontinued JHS Shamrock mod gave you 2 additional switches - a 3-way gain switch for more beef, and a 2-way Punch switch for more oomph (boost even). Most lab tests yield negligible differences in sound between this and the Klon Centaur original - so you may as well buy the other Bill Finnegan original. I just prefer a little more flexibility and versatility which is why I would look out for an existing example of the modded pedal on Reverb.com - they do crop up very occasionally.
Scotty Smith is a legendary pedal maker with a very finely tuned ear for tone - and he has excelled over the years in particular making exceptional sounding fuzzes - of which I have the quite superb MKIV Vintage in my collection. This is his very formidable recreation / enhancement of the Klon circuit now with added low-end frequency control via new 'Savage' dial. There is really clever interplay too in particular between the Gain and Drive dials which shape the input and output of the pedal. It's for sure a fine sounding pedal of this type and if you have plenty of pedalboard real-estate it will do some incredible things for you. I would much rather jump on one of these rather than the over-priced Klon originals if you are after the same sort of form factor. For the number of dials etc. though for my own preferences I would much rather see this pedal in a much more compact enclosure - more like the Klon KTR!.
So I have provided you here with a pedal for every occasion - each smartly engineered and offering terrific tones. You not only have a choice of size, but ultimately in core functionality as well, and it has to be said too that all these pedals have their own take on the original Klon Centaur, with only the KTR being devised to exactly replicate it (actually - the Golden Horse too is intended as an identical replica in circuit at least). The others here offer refinements to the frequency profile - more low-end, more or less mids, and more even highs.
The Tumnus and Manticore with their 5 dials offer the most versatility, while quite obviously the mini Golden Horse is the simplest of these to run. I have a number of Klon type pedals already and am not really in a hurry to add any more, but I may grab a JHS-modded KTR if I ever see one on Reverb.com at the right price.
All of these pedals are of the very highest quality and you should not be disappointed with any of them.