Klon vs. Screamer Test:
The Results Are In!

As promised, the correct answers to the Klon vs. Screamer blind listening test posted exactly a week ago:

klon_zombie

Example 1: medium gain, medium tone

Pedal A = BYOC clone
Pedal B = Klon Centaur

Example 2: high gain, medium tone

Pedal A = BYOC clone
Pedal B = Klon Centaur

Example 3: low gain, medium tone

Pedal A = Klon Centaur
Pedal B = BYOC clone

Example 4: medium gain, bright tone

Pedal A = Klon Centaur
Pedal B = BYOC clone

Example 5: medium gain, dark tone

Pedal A = Klon Centaur
Pedal B =BYOC clone

And the winners are…

<crickets>

Um…no one submitted a perfect 10/10 score.

Most contestants got four or six correct. A half-dozen — Oinkus, Paulo Matos, MotorGoblin, Jackson, Philip Edwards, and few others, maybe — scored eight out of ten. They probably perceived a difference but tripped on a subtler setting. Likewise, anyone who scored two out of ten probably has sharp ears, but just didn’t know which sound was which. And at least one contestant scored a zero — which probably means he has the best ears of all.

Anyone who scored over six or below four did better than I could. It would be total guesswork for me.

I worried at one point that some might interpret the contest as an attack on the Klon. (Why would anyone think that? All I did was link to a video depicting Hitler as a “Klon Dong.”) But as I shrieked in comments:

While I am poking fun at the absurdities of the marketplace, I love the Klon and have the utmost respect for its creator, Bill Finnegan. The Klon is undeniably derived from the Screamer, but it’s packed with innovative design details. It’s played a role in my music-making for a long time. IMHO it’s the most visually attractive guitar effect ever made, and you won’t find many others that feel so much like a frickin’ instrument. And of course, Finnegan is in no way responsible for the silly stuff people have said and written pro and con the pedal. And he’s definitely not responsible for EBay stupidity.

If you’re out there, Bill: Thanks for your passion and commitment to quality. :beer:

I still love my Klon and it’s not for sale — though at these prices, it’s tempting!

Bear brought up a key point about the beauty of the Klon:

In the reveal stage I’ll be interested to find out how much use of the special-sauce switching and tweaking available on the BYOC was necessary to get the tone match. Just for the three knob simplicity I would likely tip towards building a klone. But if the BYOC was used just like a three-knob slime-green vintage screamer that would really rattle people in a fun way.

Totally, man! The Klon, like a Matchless amp, is one of those rare pieces of gear that’s literally incapable of a bad sound. That means its designer spent untold hours identifying the optimal range and sweep for every control, and then deliberately restricted their ranges. Hey, we all love user choice! But no one ever says, “That crappy Klon/Matchless/LA-2A/1176/Fairchild/Pultec only does one sound” (Man, did I retrace those steps when I started making stompboxes! I thought I wanted 97 knobs. Now my favorites have one knob. Or none.)

The Klon embodies that aesthetic. Yes, I could more or less match its tones with the clone, but it demanded some fiddling. (And yeah, I did use those extra BYOC settings. You couldn’t get that close with a conventional Screamer.) You truly can’t get a bad sound out of the Klon — but it’s easy to get one out of most screamers!

That BYOC guy is good!

That BYOC guy is good!

But the Overdrive 2 (the BYOC clone) is, like all of Keith Vonderhulls’s designs, a knockout. I love how he faithfully recreates vintage circuits while adding all the bitchin’ options! You can choose between three EQ curves and three diode settings (silicon, LED, and none). There’s a discrete clean boost stage. You also get a choice of op amps: a 4558 as in the original, and my fave for almost any op amp circuit, the OPA2134.

So the pedals in this quiz used different op amps (the Klon has an TL072), different diodes (the Klon’s are germanium), different voltages (the Klon runs at 18v), different everything!

As DavidRavenMoon noted in comments:

The screamer has the clipping diodes in the feedback loop of the first op amp after the buffer, so the gain stage clips. Then it has a shaping stage which has the tone control where it rolls off top end.

The Centaur starts off with an input buffer/splitter and then goes to a gain stage (with no clipping), and also past the gain stage. it has a dual ganged gain control. As you change the gain it mixes the amount of signal that either goes through the gain and then clipping parts, or past that as a clean signal from the input buffer. Clipping is by parallel diodes between the signal and ground, and not in the feedback loop as in the TS. Then it’s to another op amp to mix the signals and roll off some top end. After the gain clipping/mixer, it goes to a treble booster circuit built around yet another op amp, and then to the output.

Just looking at the two schematics shows that it is in no way derived from a Tube Screamer!

But all over drive circuits are amazingly similar. Look at a Distortion +, or a Rat, Big Muff, or what ever, and you see similarities in the gain and clipping stages. So it’s not hard to get different pedals to sound alike on certain settings.

He’s right And I may have overstated the notion that the Klon is derived from the Screamer.

But let’s face it: Most of us can’t tell them apart.

Moral? PIck one!

Here’s mine: For cool guitar sounds, some things matter and some things don’t. But we kind of suck at knowing which things are which.

:ban:

Opaque cats love transparent overdrive!

Opaque cats love transparent overdrive!

29 comments to Klon vs. Screamer Test:
The Results Are In!

  • mat

    Wow… fantastic video! Unfortunately I only got around to guessing the first two examples and for both I had them the wrong way around! I thought ‘B’ (Klon) was the BYOC clone as, to my ears, it sounded a bit more brittle / piercing while ‘A’ sounded rounder and less sharp. Great to be able to compare pedals on an even playing field!

  • Oinkus

    Thought I might luck out and win on my birthday geez. Was a hard listen and I pretty much just went with the opposite of what I thought like George does in a Seinfeld episode.Never touched a Klon but I have a TS9. I will chime in and say I REALLY like my new Lovepedal Kalamazoo ,it has a good range of sounds throughout the entire range.Great contest really , I think the reamping leveled the playing field completely.

  • Shizmab Abaye

    I have a black kitty. She loves “Fuzz Central”.

  • Tom Mulhern

    Hey, Joe! Great A/B comparison. I tried and gave up. My problem is that I like all fuzzes; it’s just a matter of finding the right application (and there’s always bass guitar).

    I’ve worked with 4558s, NE5534s, and TL072s. Is the pinout of the OPA2034 the same as these, or would I have to do a bit of rewiring in order to drop one into an existing circuit?

    Thanks!

  • Oh man, so close.. It’s so easy to hear the difference now.. I mean now that I know the right answers :D

  • bear

    Hah! I scored worse than a coin flip. And that’s from hearing real differences and trying to use Joe’s earlier Klon demo as a baseline for the circuit’s character. (I was especially trying to hone in on the bass character of the Klon.) I didn’t think to establish a baseline on the OD2, though that might be hard to do given all the variables in play. In my experience adjustable bass response does a lot more to alter a drive pedal’s character than a treble control. It adds versatility, though the pedal may now lack a consistent fingerprint.

    My takeaway is that I’m no longer in any hurry to DIY a Klon. Good but not necessarily the sounds I’m after and I could probably get myself too close to tell with pedals I already have.

  • Now I don’t feel so bad about failing to make any decision on the demos. I had no baseline experience with the pedals to even start with and tended to agree with most of the other posters – had ‘em backwards from the get-go. ;) Mostly I took away the idea that I’d rather have a Fiendmaster over either of ‘em.

  • NicPic

    I forgot to submit My answers (LOL)…Too much stuff goin on around here…but a cool deal none the less…

  • Paul Honeycutt

    I got the last one right (#5). I guess I’m just used to Tube Screamers.

  • Paul Boutin

    I kept waiting for someone to post that this exercise misses the whole point, because a reamp test ignores the FEEL you get from the interaction between your pickups and the pedal. Yeah, I read too much TGP.

  • Hey – 8 out of 10!!! Pleased I got that many :)
    I love the TS, love the fat honk it gives. It’s killer for playing with a band as it boosts the most important frequencies of the guitar. I could hear a hint of honk on clips which helped – still want to build a Klone at some point though (although I’m totally tripping on my Bosstone at the moment!)
    Thanks for organising this, Joe, much appreciated ;)

  • Colm Kelly

    Which one of these pedals do you get the most use out of, Joe?

    • joe

      What do you mean? They’re identical!

      Just kidding! If I could only have one, it would be the Klon for its simplicity, but the Overdrive 2 is perfectly awesome, and I’ve got it on one of my pedalboards right now. But overall, I’ve really migrated away from this sort of distortion sound — I’m really more into the barking immediacy of the pre-IC distortions, and usually the simpler the circuit, the better it sounds to me. Rangemasters rule. :)

  • One answer correct here… To the question of which pedal to choose, if you have them both, would be the Klon for its simplicity. But if you don’t have none and need one, the price difference is ridiculous!

  • Oinkus

    Crazy world, the cheapest Klon on ebay is $1025 (2700 for a special one with 2 boards fully populated) and cheapest copy is $135.

  • SAUNA

    I just did the test. My results were PERFECT:

    Ex1: A = Klone
    B = BYOC
    Ex2: A = Klone
    B = BYOC
    Ex3: A = BYOC
    B = Klone
    Ex4: A = BYOC
    B = Klone
    Ex5: A = BYOC
    B = Klone

    … But backwards. Never heard a Klone or the BYOC Overdrive 2 so I just settled a starting point and go from there. I can really hear the differences.

    If you ask me which one I liked better I would say the BYOC. Why?, in this particular test with this setup and guitar I liked that bit more dynamic “colored” tone of the BYOC, whereas the Klone sounded with a bit “less motion”. Maybe that doesn’t make any sense to anyone.

    • joe

      Well, as I’ve said before, getting a perfect WRONG score takes as much skill as a perfect correct score. You clearly managed to perceive a difference (which is almost certainly more than I could do). You just didn’t know which was which.

      • SAUNA

        I just got out curiosity and went google and did some research of the Klon design. Gain stage structure is different and fairly more complex (in desing) than a tube screamer. But yes, they could be made to sound pretty close.

        BUT, I’m suspecting a key factor in the Klon design is not exactly the gain stage, It could be the BUFFER. It’s often an overlooked part of the design but at the end is a very important one. I haven’t go in depth with that but for a glimpse I would say that the Klone buffer looks better than the TS buffer.

        I’ll have to find some more schematics to compare, maybe the one I got isn’t that accurate thou. Still, the Klon price is just a proof of how the world has gone, it’s like a “Team Fortress 2 earbuds” for guitar players.

        • SAUNA

          Ooopss, didn’t read the DavidRavenMoon comment about the circuit. Pretty good insight. Was more complex than I thought. The dual gang pot and mixed gain is pretty unusual for a simple “overdrive effect”.

  • Oinkus

    Still mad I didn’t win :( Now I will whine about wanting a Klon too …..Heck I can’t even manage a clone.You know I am beyond jealous Joe (of your Centaur) but the truth of the matter is it was a hard frikkin test and there is very little difference in the two choices.

  • bear

    On a lark the other day I got out my Ibanez TS-5 ‘screamer and my MXR Bad Ass Overdrive, a tricked out ‘screamer family pedal not that unlike the BYOC. I rarely use either, so I can’t even say what compelled me to do this. Last time I had done the comparison I preferred the MXR hands down. This time the TS-5 was doing more for me.

    I think I was probably using a different amp last time (ZT Lunchbox vs. the Vox Pathfinder 15R with the LED mod) so that could be a factor. Still, I was a bit surprised at the reversal. This is the sort of reason I stopped selling or flipping stuff I’ve gotten — at some time it will usually find its place.

    • joe

      I still want to try that Pathfinder mod! I have one of those (great little super-cheap practice amp!). I’m also kind curious about some of the mods for various low-cost tube practice amps.

  • Every time you’re out, they keep pulling you back in, Joe:
    http://www.ehx.com/blog/watch-a-preview-of-the-new-ehx-soul-food
    Promise of a Centaur workalike, if not a full Klone, for under $70.

    They would be foolish not to try to get you to do another go at A-B testing. So the question is whether you’d be foolish enough to take up such an offer.

    • joe

      Well, it’s plausible — no reason why someone couldn’t copy the circuit and make it on the cheap. Kind of hard to tell what’s going on based on the video demo, though.

  • Oinkus

    Seen more then few pedals a/b with a Klon and getting similar sounds. Just because you can dial in a sound that is almost the same on 2 different pedals in a video is not a very good example of how similar they are? It is just showing how we matched the sounds at one specific point in all the variables.Still not a bad sounding stompbox at all. I keep looking at the $150 Klones on ebay every once in awhile. :stupid:

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