“I’ve played some new Gibson and Fenders that really nail it”: Joe Perry says guitar making is as good now as it was in the golden era – and explains why you don’t need to spend $7000+ on a vintage Klon

Joe Perry onstage with Aerosmith blind his hybrid S-style with Telecaster headstock
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Joe Perry does not want for vintage electric guitars. Over the years, the Aerosmith guitarist has amassed a healthy collection of gear. But that doesn’t mean he has stopped keeping up with new releases, and in an era when the vintage market is running so hot that prices are beyond many players’ reach, he has some good news for all us: guitar making is as good now as it was in the golden era.

Speaking with Total Guitar, Perry argued that not only that Gibson and Fender were making new models that were the equal of their sought-after vintage counterparts, but the smaller boutique companies were holding their own, too. 

And he had some sage advice for anyone who has saved up silly money and considered spending thousands on a genuine Klon Centaur overdrive pedal – try the alternatives instead. You might save a lot of money.

“There are some pedals that, for example, if you’re dealing with a Klon, it would be tough to decide between them during a blindfold test,” Perry said. “So think again if you need to spend a whole bunch of money on an original Klon to get that sound. There’s some affordable stuff out there that can do the same thing.”

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Okay, you might save a lot of money. With prices for an original Klon Centaur Professional Overdrive now pushing well north of 7,000 bucks, the Warm Audio Centavo Professional Overdrive is a far more sensible purchase at £199/$179 – not to mention it looks pretty similar if that matters to you. 

In the same price bracket, the J Rocket Archer could do the job and with a smaller footprint on your pedalboard. And when it comes to Klon-alikes, the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food is ridiculously good value at £79 new – and ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke loves it. No, he “really loves it,” telling MusicRadar in 2021 that is a mainstay on his ‘board.

“What I love about that pedal is that it doesn’t change the sound of the amp, it just gives you a little more sustain,” he said. “Maybe a little more saturation.”

Perry, likewise, is a fan of EHX, telling Total Guitar that Mike Matthews’ pedal brand “has come out with a ton of great stuff”.

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But if it is a guitar you want, Perry says you’re in luck, because it turns out that they do make ‘em like they used to.

“Big legacy companies like Gibson and Fender are now starting to make guitars that are as good as the ones they made back when they were first invented,” he says. “I’ve played some new Gibson and Fenders that really nail it. And the boutique companies, money aside, have hit the nail on the head and are making great instruments, too.”

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The conversation with Perry encompasses the Aerosmith’s entire career, from first meeting Steven Tyler – and having to clean up a food fight – to going on to form one of US rock’s greatest institutions, and how he looks upon their legacy as they prepare for their upcoming dates on their Peace Out farewell tour.

But Perry also left us food for thought when it comes to modding guitars, with a recommendation of a lesser-celebrated electric guitar pickup from Seymour Duncan that might just be worth auditioning if you’re looking to soup-up your six-string.

“I’ve got this great set of Seymour Duncan pickups that can switch back and forth between single-coil and P-90 sound,” he says. “They’re great, and I’m surprised you don’t see them talked about more in guitar magazines.”

Seymour Duncan P-Rails

(Image credit: Seymour Duncan)

Perry doesn’t mention them by name but that will surely be the Seymour Duncan P-Rails, a humbucker with switchable classic P-90 and single-coil modes. In 2022, Seymour Duncan launched the complementary Triple Shot mounting rings, which discretely incorporated a three-way switch for choosing between the P-Rails’ humbucking, P-90 and Strat-style single-coil modes.

Maybe Perry has a point. We talk about vintage reproductions, artist signature winds and specialised options for high-output pickups, but maybe this is the do-it-all aftermarket pickup we’ve been needing all along.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.