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Like anything with a lengthy history, some specific guitar pedals have become legendary, often driving high prices on the market. Despite there being a huge market for guitar pedals, certain models continue to hold such status.
Part of the good thing about the growing market is that manufacturers are producing clones of these legends. You’ll find the following pedals to be excellent solutions where obtaining the original is unrealistic.
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Wampler Tumnus Deluxe – Best Overall
There is perhaps no fabled and legendary pedal with a greater reputation than the Klon Centaur. This pedal has become all of the hype in the guitar community over the last decade, fetching absurd prices.
Most people cannot justify spending the necessary funds for an actual Klon Centaur. However, the Wampler Tumnus Deluxe (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is an excellent alternative to getting that transparent boost.
If you’re familiar with other overdrives, using the Tumnus Deluxe will be straightforward. The pedal provides plenty of knobs for adjusting and fine-tuning, with customizable parameters for:
- Volume level
- 3-band EQ (each band has its own knob)
Having an in-depth 3-band EQ as opposed to a general “Tone” knob provides so much more control. However, if you should find that the Tumnus Deluxe is lacking, Wampler has packed in an additional feature.
A convenient 2-way switch has been installed just above the status indicator light. This switch engages either the pedal’s “Normal” mode or a “Hot” mode with additional gain in the circuit.
Like most standard pedals, the Tumnus Deluxe uses a 9V DC power supply, which is not included. If you wanted, you could run the pedal from a 9V battery or 9V battery adapter power supply.
The pedal itself is pretty solid, with a frame that should endure the rigors of the road. It also supports both true-bypass and buffered bypass operations.
What’s So Special About The Wampler Tumnus Deluxe?
To understand why the Tumnus Deluxe is so excellent, it’s best to understand what the Klon Centaur is known for. Aside from its astronomical price, the Centaur is treasured and sought after for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that the Centaur has an unbelievable amount of headroom, which affects how it distorts. Many people feel it provides just a subtle hint of grit at exactly the right levels, thus remaining fairly clean.
And, for the most part, the Centaur does seem to be the choice for those who utilize a cleaner tone. When playing at high volumes, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain that pure cleanness on the edge of overdriven breakup.
Is the Centaur worth the near (and sometimes beyond) price tag of $10,000? Some people think it’s a bunch of baloney and feel that there isn’t much of a perceptible difference in tone.
While I’ve only heard the Klon while at a Phish concert, I’m not certain it makes much of a difference. At least, not to the point that something like the Tumnus Deluxe can’t stand in its place.
For the price, the Tumnus Deluxe is cheaper and provides much of the same clean boost drive as the Centaur. Wampler’s additional “Hot” circuit is great for those who want to use it like an actual overdrive.
If you’re set on dropping a bag of cash for the Centaur, you’d be wise to check this out first. For those who can’t compare the pedals in person, the Tumnus Deluxe will be more than practical for any occasion.
Maybe the only gripe to be made here is that the Tumnus Deluxe doesn’t replicate a similar aesthetic. Which, really, is okay, since the Tumnus Deluxe is more of a replica clone plus some originality.
There are definitely more onboard controls on this pedal than on the original Centaur. Any clean-tone player would do themselves a disservice to overlook this pedal when seeking out an overdrive.
JHS Bonsai – Best Premium
Overdrive is perhaps the one effect that guitarists are extremely nitpicky about. But everybody knows that a guitarist’s overdrive tone can either make or break an entire performance.
One of the most impactful overdrive pedals in the history of overdrive pedals is the Ibanez Tube Screamer. The JHS Bonsai (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) manages to pack in a number of different versions into one pedal.
This is so special because it uses all-analog circuitry that is consistent with the original designs. When the dial is turned to select a mode, the pedal operates as it was built in its original housing.
The Bonsai definitely isn’t like other overdrives that offer only 1 or 2 modes. 9 flavors of overdrive are provided here, some of which are outside of the Tube Screamer family.
As far as Tube Screamer models featured, the Bonsai includes:
- Metal Screamer
- Keeley Mod+
- JHS Strong Mod
Beyond that, the Bonsai features the Boss OD1 and the Polish-made EXAR OD1. You’re sure to find something you like on this pedal.
Aside from the mode dial, the Bonsai has fairly standard overdrive controls, with knobs for Volume, Drive, and Tone.
Plus, the Bonsai is housed in a signature green color, which is quite unmistakable in its homage.
Why Is The JHS Bonsai Worth Anyone’s Time?
The first thing you might notice when you check out the JHS Bonsai is its price. This pedal is a little over twice the cost of an actual TS9, so how is this worth anyone’s time?
Well, it doesn't take a genius to quickly see the kind of value the Bonsai provides for its price. If you were to pay full price for each of the pedal modes offered, the pedal would be a fortune.
And really, the Bonsai might be a bit much for some guitarists to pay, especially beginners. But, for somebody who is serious about crafting their tone, the Bonsai is worth trying out.
For one price, you’re given the opportunity to try 9 different overdrive types, each with its own unique characteristics. This kind of accessibility just isn’t as common as you would think it should be.
The Bonsai is sort of a history lesson in the evolution of the overdrive pedal from the 1970s until now. This means that you’ll get to tap into the sounds of any era, which is perfect for studio use.
JHS is pretty low-key regarding the kind of feats they accomplished with this pedal. The only digital component in the pedal itself is connected to the dial.
When the dial is turned, the digital component sends out communication to the circuit board. Like a train conductor and a rail yard worker, the tracks of the circuit are adjusted accordingly to the mode.
So, when you’re on the OD1 mode, you’re running the same circuit as the original 1970s Boss OD1. The same goes for every mode offered on this pedal.
When you look at it like that, it becomes painstakingly obvious that the Bonsai provides more than you bargained for. Anyone interested in Tube Screamer overdrives should have this pedal at the top of their list.
The only thing that would improve this is if it had multiple channels, with each switch having a programmable type. You could access your preferred OD tone without having to turn a dial, but it would take up more space.
JHS 3 Series Harmonic Tremolo – Best Budget
Tremolo is one of those effects that tend to get overlooked by the average guitarist. However, it’s also one of those pedals that can feel like the missing link that you’ve always been searching for.
You might think it’s odd that a tremolo is featured here, as you might not recall a signature tremolo pedal. Well, the JHS 3 Series Harmonic Tremolo (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) actually takes inspiration from early Fender amplifiers.
If you’ve tried a regular run-of-the-mill tremolo pedal in the past, you might have been underwhelmed. The effect is rather basic, and it isn’t always appropriate to have the effect engaged.
However, when applied appropriately, nothing compares to the motion that tremolo brings to tone. The 3 Series Harmonic Tremolo takes it one step further and allows the effect to be used more subtly.
If you’ve ever played out of a Fender amplifier with a Vibrato channel, you know that it oozes character. This Tremolo pedal from JHS replicates the effect of this Vibrato channel with the flip of a switch.
All of the sudden, you’ll realize the subtle differences that exist between them and why it’s called a “harmonic” tremolo. The pedal almost doubles the signal, with one half being dry and the other being affected by tremolo.
This pedal is extremely straightforward to use, providing just 3 different control parameters:
Like the other models in the 3 Series, the Harmonic Tremolo has an extremely clean and sanitary-looking white housing.
Why Is The JHS 3 Series Harmonic Tremolo Worth Consideration?
How often do you come across a pedal that is inexpensive and requires little setup time? Yet, when you go to use it, you end up finding more uses for it than you initially thought?
That’s the sort of pedal that the 3 Series Harmonic Tremolo is. You start out thinking maybe you’ll only use it a little, and before you know it, it’s in almost everything.
While JHS did not sponsor this, my personal opinion of this pedal has been extremely high since its release. It’s quickly become one of my favorite pedals on my pedalboard.
I use it in a band rooted in the sounds of classic rock and the golden oldies. As such, it’s precisely what I’ve been looking for to achieve that vintage vibe I could never quite find.
When things are getting more psychedelic, I might adjust the rate and depth accordingly. For something with a vintage funk flair, I might turn the rate up and the depth a little lower.
Heck, I’ve even found a use for this during songs inspired by vintage country guitar riffs of the past. The Harmonic mode is just subtle enough to provide just a hint of tasty warble.
If you’re a fan of Pops Staples and his tremolo-induced guitar playing, this pedal is your ticket to those sounds. You’ll be able to achieve those classic soul sounds without any issues.
And really, that’s part of why this pedal is so excellent. It’s inexpensive and does what it’s supposed to, and is actually usable, with 2 different modes of tremolo sounds.
At the end of the day, you can’t really ask for too much more than that. This is the sound of the vintage Fender amplifier Vibrato in one small, inexpensive guitar pedal package.
What To Look For When Buying A Guitar Pedal Clone
Because the pedal market is so huge, you’ll find that a good percentage of it actually consists of pedal clones. This can make it a little difficult for anybody, especially when similar pedals have vastly different price tags.
You don’t necessarily need to know the differences between chipsets made in the early 1980s and the late 1990s. Letting the following information guide you will help make the process easier and much less stressful.
Type Of Pedal Being Cloned
Now, the obvious thing to consider before anything else is what the clone is actually attempting to reproduce. Along with that, consider what exactly it is that makes you think you want such a pedal.
Is it because the pedal has such a legendary status throughout history, being used by your favorite guitarists? Or, perhaps you aren’t exactly sure and more or less want to figure out what the hype is about.
Well, each of those camps needs to consider the degree to which they hope to use such a pedal. Giving yourself a clear definition of this now will help dictate what you should be looking for.
Clones exist of just about anything you could think of, including:
More often than not, it seems to be the overdrive, distortion, and fuzz pedals that are cloned more frequently. People seek out these tones based on the minutest details, some of which are barely perceptible.
Once you’ve figured out the kind of pedal you’re looking for, gather data on different manufacturers. This will give you a narrow focus to be able to weigh each option’s advantages and disadvantages more efficiently.
Sound & Features
After you’ve collected a number of potential prospects, take the time to try each of them out in a store. This is the only way to really hear how each pedal sounds.
And, even though multiple clones exist replicating one particular thing, they can sound different. Plus, many manufacturers choose to use the original purely as inspiration, while others build and expand while offering original circuitry.
There is no right or wrong choice to make. The correct thing to do is to choose what fits your music and playing style the best.
Do be aware that, if you play in a band, a pedal might not sound the same in that context. The setting makes all the difference, so approach solo and group sessions with this understanding and expectation.
Overall Build Quality
You’re going to want to make sure you get your money’s worth when buying a clone. Hold manufacturers accountable for the durability of their designs and workmanship.
If you buy locally from a friend, try to make sure they covered their bases when building the pedal. Nothing is more annoying than having a noisy switch or things becoming loose for no reason.
A pedal that’s poorly made will quickly find its way not being used. In turn, this results in a general waste of money.
Give some consideration to the pedal’s size, especially if you have a pedalboard. You might opt for a mini-size to save space if the sound and onboard controls aren’t compromised from the original.
Clones are designed to provide availability of something scarce at a lower price. But, sometimes, even the clones can be ridiculously expensive.
Take your time to research whether something that is $80 can’t achieve what you need compared to the $500 option. Don’t be afraid to purchase used pedals if you want to make the most economical choice.
Best Brands For Clone Guitar Pedals
There is no shortage of pedal manufacturers in today’s industry. That’s precisely why it’s wise to be aware of some of the industry’s leading brands.
The following brands are some of the most reputable in today’s modern market atmosphere. After trying their products, you might find yourself sharing similar sentiments about these companies.
If you’ve watched guitar YouTube, you know that Josh Scott, from JHS, is a bonafide guitar pedal nut. He has perhaps one of the largest collections of original pedals, many of which still have the original box.
Because of this affinity, it’s fair to assume that JHS is fairly loyal to the original inspiration of their clones. Spending just an hour on their YouTube channel will give you an in-depth guitar pedal history lesson.
Wampler was started in 2007 and helped to completely revolutionize the pedal industry into what it is today. The company helped to prove that “boutique” manufacturers could provide features that the corporate big-box manufacturers couldn’t.
Wampler has designed pedals for some of the biggest names in the music business. They make a wide range of original designs as well as vintage-inspired and faithful clone pedals.
Top Clone Guitar Pedals, Final Thoughts
Take your time to test the waters as shopping for a clone pedal can quickly become a gargantuan task. If you provide a little patience, you’ll end up with something truly ideal for your tastes and preferences.
The average listener won’t be able to tell the difference between a clone and the original. Therein lies the beauty of having access to so many clone pedals.
Unfortunately, the average person likely won’t know or care, either. But at least you’ll sound good!
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