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Celebrating The King of Klone, Master of Organic Tone - Guillem Vilademunt of Decibelics, Barcelona

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I received the full set of Decibelics gut shots a little late for inclusion in my recent piece on ’Interior Pedal and Circuit Design / Art’. So I then had the option of appending these as an addendum to that article, or evolving them into more of a solo feature. And as there are some other significant specifics I wish to convey in relation to this particular trio of pedals - I decided upon the latter.

 

More fortuitously still - Guillem has within the week released an insightful video of one of his Golden Horse pedal builds (as below) - which amply shows off the full delicacy and refined hands-on nature of that build. All this has come about through years of studying and deciphering a variety of Klon Centaurs and wholly reconstructing them to the finest level of detail - matching each and every component and tolerance of those original pedals.

 

Guillem by training and day-job is an Automotive Electronics Engineer who specialises in high-performance electrics, electronics and diagnostics - for instance repairing, modifying and enhancing the ECU / Engine Management Systems for racing cars in particular. He has access to tools, equipment, and processes that are typically outside the spectrum of what most pedal builders and traditional audio engineers have access to. The slightly familiar Golden Horse logo is derived from Guillem’s work on that specific make of car! In fact the prancing horse motif can be found on 3 of my favourite things - Decibelics, Ferraris and R&S Records!

 

Of course Guillem’s full size ’Vintage Klone’ came first - for those for whom big is always better. I personally have never seen the point in overly large enclosure sizes - and always felt that Bill Finnegan’s original Klon Centaur was quite a bit larger than it needed to be. But for those who want an exacting and precise blow-by-blow replica of the original at that size and in identical looking enclosure - then there is that Big Vintage Klone version for you at €360/£341/$421 - a considerable saving over the Reverb.com second-hand varieties going for between £2,000 and £2,700 equivalent currently. Note that the Big Vintage Klone is the only one of the three which comes with internal battery connector / compartment.

PT 2

The second Klone variety to emerge here was the diminutive Golden Horse variety - using the exact same number of components as the full-size version, albeit some of the capacitors obviously needed to be of a slightly smaller format - but the quality, part values and tolerances remain identical.

 

This is the version that I came across at the start of 2018 - and which wholly changed my perception and appreciation for the Klon format. Before that time I was a big fan of the Wampler Tumnus and Tumnus Deluxe, and had other varieties besides that in my collection and pedal-chain. But when I encountered the Golden Horse there was just something really special about that pedal which immediately connected and resonated with me.

 

When you get your hands on one you realise it's nothing like your typical mini pedal - everything about it feels more robust, more refined and more polished. The movement of the potentiometers, the feel and click of the various connector jacks - and when you open the pedal up you are presented with one of the marvels of pedal miniaturisation where you see the full complement of Klon components laid out in neat Through-Hole component rows.

PT 3

I have always held up the Golden Horse as the high watermark of mini pedals - yet I still read articles to this date where various ignoramuses are disparaging about the quality and output of mini pedals. It's about time those cave-dwellers got acquainted with the Golden Horse.

 

Upon my first encounter I was just totally blown away by it compared with my mainstay Wampler Tumnus duo. All three of those Golden Horse control pots are calibrated in the most elegant fashion - and while you don't get the low-frequency-enhanced take of the Tumnus - you somehow get a far more dynamic range and more 3D / expansive tonality - which really has a surprising range for just those three dials. There is plenty of volume, gain and tone-shaping on tap and I don't think I have ever came close to maxing out any of those values.

 

The tone can be elegant and smooth or slightly punchier and more cutting - it just sounds amazingly well-balanced and even-handed. It is well known that I like lots of knobs and switches, but my favourite Klone of all time is this diminutive 3-knob version - a mini masterpiece for sure. I really don't understand why more people haven't latched onto this yet. I did a piece on my 22 favourite Klones a while back, and included the Decibelics Big Vintage and Mini Golden Horse varieties in that overview.

 

The Golden Horse currently comes in 7 different colurways - standard black, white, azure blue, amethyst purple, fired red, hammered blue and hammered copper - some are more difficult to get hold of than others - they tend to be built overall in batches of 50 to 100 nowadays - which is a considerable increase on the numbers before I started getting involved - obviously the majority made are the standard black edition. Prices vary from €225/£213/$263 for standard to €248/£235/$290 for the more custom colours and textured finishes.

The third of the trio to be completed was the in-between 'Little Big Klone' variety which is roughly half the footprint of the original, and marries up well in format to the newer Klon KTR, while its contents are exactly the same pretty much as the Big Vintage Klone.

 

Both the Big Vintage and Little Big Klone have two internal switches - one for Clipping (Germanium or Silicon/LED) and Enhanced Bass - while the smaller Little Big Klone version uses mini dip-switches for that function versus the toggle-switches of the larger. The Golden Horse by contrast has neither of those two switches - there just isn't enough space!

 

There still seems to be significant demand for the bigger Klone varieties for some bizarre reason - while I personally would not bother looking beyond the Golden Horse - that one is wholly perfect as it is. I think it's fascinating to see the physical manifestation of the engineering challenge in how you organise the circuitboard to make the best of those components in the different enclosure formats. So in the Big Vintage Klone you see the big yellow capacitors laying flat, while in the Little Big Klone those capacitors are arranged vertically, and in the Golden Horse a slightly smaller variety of vertically arranged capacitor needed to be used.

 

There is some delight for me in comparing the three different circuits and playing the game of hunting down the different components and figuring out how and why they ended up in such different positions. This is one of the most extreme formats of 3D puzzling - in trying to figure out what can go where, and what works best overall and longer-term - as there are usually multiple approaches, but not all will yield the same quality of results.

 

The Little Big Klone also has an in-between price of €260/£246/$304.

I thought I should leave you with Alberto Barrero's exceptionally fine demo which was instrumental in bringing me to Decibelics in the first place. Ever since I acquired one it has sort of been my mission to spread the word and bring more attention to this pedal. There is so much irrational snobbery in the pedal community - and most of it is born out of wilful ignorance and superstition - with some degree of community bullying. I am delighted each time someone of note discovers the Golden Horse and amends their ways - and changes their perception of the format.

 

Note that as mentioned - the Golden Horse is available in a variety of beautiful and textured colourways - where my favourite to date is the picture hammered copper custom variety. Guillem has also just recently introduced a silver enclosure Big Vintage Klone. For me and for this pedal type - the colour gold will always be the most immediately associative for me - I automatically thing 'Golden' when someone says Klon or Klone, and then I think 'Golden Horse' a split second later.

 

This is really a public service announcement to ensure you guys aren't missing out! If you're in anyway interested in the Klon Centaur legend and its legendary tones - then you deserve to have the best. And for me that is the Mini Golden Horse in Hammered Copper!

 

You are best off ordering your Decibelics Klones direct from Guillem's Decibelics Site.

Bonus Round! - Joe Perkins Golden Horse Review

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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