Warm Audio Centavo Professional Overdrive Pedal: What is it?
Most clones of the Klon Centaur overdrive pedal are just content with replicating its sound, and okay, maybe introducing some aesthetic references to the original Bill Finnegan design by way of a gold enclosure or mythological nomenclature and accompanying illustration.
And then you have Warm Audio’s Centavo, or the Centavo Professional Overdrive Pedal, to give it its Sunday name. File this under dead ringer, a Klon klone so persuasive that you might have to ensure the pedal for megabucks or keep it locked down for security reasons. You never can be too careful, not when the originals are selling for close to seven ground on Reverb.com.
From the large custom-cast “Champagne” enclosure to the oxblood Gain, Tone and Output dials, it’s spookily accurate. It’s heavy, too, weighing in at 2 lbs. And yes, we get some mythology on the cover with a centaur in silhouette, armed with a bow and arrow.
There are some concessions to the past two decades of klone evolution. The addition of a Mod switch on the rear of the unit – a feature requested of the original by none other than Jeff Beck – offers players a normal mode and one in which the low-end is extended to give your tone a bit more width and muscle. You can also now run the pedal off a standard 9V DC pedalboard power supply or a battery.
Also, Warm Audio hasn’t gummed the insides up with black goop. After all this time, what would be the point? The secrets of a Klon circuit schematic have been widely shared. The secret, such as it is, has long fermented into myth, and thus it is the job of pedals such as this to remind us what the sound is all about, and that first and foremost, this is simply an overdrive that with a particular set of characteristics.
For many guitarists, the Klon Centaur is an always-on pedal; its high-quality buffer and dynamic grit offer a missing link between guitar and amp, adding sparkle, and a little hair on the signal. Others might deploy it as a clean boost, or an overdriven lead sound that cuts through the mix. Those who own the original might be tempted to use it as a status symbol, too. But is there any status to be conferred on such players when the smart money would suggest any one of the copycats could adequately do the job?
Warm Audio Centavo Professional Overdrive Pedal: Performance and verdict
That is the first question we have to ask of the Centavo, for any klone. The build of this is impressive, solid, premium, also potentially causing stress issues for player’s whose pedalboards are already crowded. This is no compact pedal. If it helps – and it does – the jacks are located on the top of the unit.
Helpfully, Warm Audio offers some suggested settings which not only offer a good place to start off but remind us that even something talked about as a “transparent overdrive” can perform a number of roles. As mentioned above, it is a very effective clean boost, but also at unity gain it is the archetypical tone-sweetener with a very hard-working Tone dial that is eminently capable of dialling in bite or rolling off treble to suit your guitar.
But when there’s all this fuss about an overdrive, it’s got to be the drive that sells it. You’ll find the Centavo, like the originals, to have quite a bit of headroom, but once the Gain dial is past noon and it starts to break up in earnest, the magic starts to come to life. Guitar is a midrange instrument and as with so many gear quandaries, the solution to better tone, or finding your tone is what you do with your mids. The gussying up of your midrange was a key selling point for the original and is here too.
• Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
Klones don't get much more cost-effective than this ever-popular little drive pedal. But despite its modest price tag, this has found itself on any number of high-profile player's pedalboards. And if you pick up one with the JHS mod you have a three-way 'Meat' bass contour to do the job of the Centavo's Mod switch.
• J Rockett Archer
As a clean boost into a decent valve amp, a booster for other pedals or a low-gain overdrive, the Archer offers a remarkably amp-like experience that adds width and fatness to any kind of guitar. Archer is a great-sounding overdrive-boost that's simple, highly practical and solidly built.
The Mod switch comes in very handy for giving wiry single-coil tones a bit of width but it’s hardly Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The effect is subtle enough without changing Centavo’s character.
That said, the Centavo can get quite bestial too if you’re of the mind to crank it. Using a Strat with high-powered humbuckers, a cranked Centavo can give power chords a wounded bear quality, a lot of teeth, and a bit of fur. The level of poke on a Tele’s bridge pickup can bring a tear to the eye. All of which can come in handy in the mix.
There is an argument to be made that the better your rig, the better a Klon-style drive works – in other words, taking the term “transparent overdrive” literally – and there is something in that. Hearing this is a little like watching your favourite movie on 4K Blu-ray for the first time. There are details that you hadn’t noticed before.
Some drives are heavy on the compression and hugely forgiving. Not this. The Centavo rewards careful playing. The dynamic range is like a John Ford movie, all wide open spaces. Maybe that’s why the Klon and descendants such as the Centavo are called ‘Professional Overdrives’, that they are for those with some experience under their belt.
Would the Centavo be a great first overdrive pedal? We’d be tempted to say not, not when there are so many more all-purpose – and cheaper – alternatives to give beginners a taste of what it’s like to play an overdriven electric guitar, and to learn all the muting that comes with it. But for those players with some notes under their belt, looking for that secret sauce in their signal chain, the Centavo is a beast of exquisite charms. Leave the vintage Klons to the one per cent.
MusicRadar verdict: The Centavo does the Klon things that it promises to do and does them at a price that makes the vintage market look preposterous. There are many alternatives, of course, but from the enclosure to the sounds, to the practical option of the Mod switch, the Centavo is a convincing doppelgänger.
Warm Audio Centavo Professional Overdrive Pedal: The web says
"One thing I remember very clearly about working with the Centaur circuit is that the more you turn up the Gain, getting into the zone where the pedal itself is generating distortion rather than the amp, the less special I think it becomes. And that is exactly the same for me with the Centavo, which perhaps attests to a level of authenticity in the circuit. It is still unusually ‘fast’ and articulate"
Sound On Sound
"Hitting a slightly overdriven amp as a lead boost, the Klon’s hard clipping voice is pretty much unsurpassable. Broader and more direct than a Tube Screamer or a simple clean boost, the high-headroom Klon has less compression than many may expect, but an accurate playing style is rewarded with a beautifully dynamic and colossal sounding lead tone."
"For me, at least, the tastiest function, just as on the original, is when it’s used as a near-clean or just slightly dirty boost. Even at unity gain it sounds excellent, which is apparent just as soon as you turn it off. If the Centavo had a photo filter equivalent, it would be one that illuminates everything with golden-hour light. Everything you hear is essentially the same – just somehow more magical."
Warm Audio Centavo Professional Overdrive Pedal: Hands-on demos
Warm Audio Centavo Professional Overdrive Pedal: Specifications
- TYPE: Overdrive pedal
- ORIGIN: USA
- CONTROLS: Gain, Treble, Output, Mod switch,
- FEATURES: TL072 Op Amps, Vintage-Style Diodes, And Charge-Pump Voltage Regulator, top-mounted jacks
- BYPASS: Buffered
- POWER: 9V DC power supply, 9V battery
- CONTACT: Warm Audio