2020 Review: Pedals

Rather than do a ‘best of’ style post, every year I’m going to do a rundown of what pedals I’m using, and why.

Previous posts in the series: [2019]


This year, I finally found a Klon klone that actually does the job: the Ceriatone Centura. Don’t waste your money on alteratives: if you want a Klon but can’t get an original, get the Centura.

I’ve also had a great year trying plenty of tweed-tone pedals. While some have disappointed, some have been great finds. That said, I’ve ended up coming full circle and settling on the Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive once again – just in its Custom version this time around.

One Klone To Rule Them All

Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of what a Klon does for me. I consistently find that it’s the boost / tone-shaping pedal that works best for me with my signal chain and my (lack of) playing style.

I prefer to use it in the classic ‘clean boost’ configuration: treble at 1 o’clock, volume at unity (so not actually boosting the input signal), and gain turned up just enough to warm the signal a little. It makes clean Strats sound full, and the exact same settings add clarity to most drive pedals and add a nice lift to lead tones without sounding nasally.

Unfortunately, in my experience, this classic ‘clean boost’ configuration is where you can hear the stark difference between a real Klon and just about every klone that’s out there. And I really do mean stark.

That’s not to say that the klones are bad pedals. They’re not. Some of these differences can actually be an advantage at times.

For example, I’d recommend the Wampler Tumnus with its extra bass if you’re someone who lives on the bridge pickup of a Telecaster. The JRAD Archer Clean can often provide even more clarity than a Klon if you’re running fat humbuckers into a drive pedal. (I probably use the Archer Clean as much as my Klon KTR, truth be told.)

But if you’ve previously tried a klone, and been left a bit baffled over why some folks really like what a Klon does, it has to be said: the klones simply sound different to the original. Except for one: the Ceriatone Centura.

Side by side, the Centura sounds identical to my Klon KTR, at least to my ears. If there’s a difference at any setting, I can’t hear it, and I can’t feel it either. Heck, it even comes in an original Klon Centaur-sized enclosure if that’s your thing. (It isn’t mine.)

Does this mean my journey through the world of klones is finally over? Not quite. There’s still a couple of notable ones – the Arc Effects Klone v2 and the Mythos Mjolnir – that I haven’t tried yet.

And I really would like to add an unmodded Electro Harmonix Soul Food to my collection too. I think it’s the most historically important of all the klones. Strangely, it’s not unusual to see them on the second-hand market for brand-new prices or even higher.

Maybe I’ll ask for one for my birthday present?

Mad Professor Does It Again

If anyone’s keeping count of the kind of pedal I write or tweet about the most, tweed-tone pedals will be right up there with klones. Although I grew up on the Marshall sound, these last few years I’ve settled on the tweed-tone as being my thing.

And it has been a great year for trying various tweed-tone pedals.

Part of what’s made it a great year is that I’ve had a lot of luck with just how many tweed-tone pedals have turned up on the second hand market. Once you discount all the Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short) clones, there aren’t that many tweed-tone pedals around, and nearly all of them are discontinued.

Three pedals from Lovepedal deserve a mention here: the Lovepedal Champ, the Lovepedal High-Power Tweed Twin (HPTT for short), and the Lovepedal 5e3 Deluxe. Each of these pedals offers a great alternative take on the tweed tone, and between them I feel spoiled for choice in the best way possible. I think that the 5e3 Deluxe, in particular, is going to be a firm favourite of mine for many years to come.

Then there’s the NABLA Custom Black Tweed. This is a special pedal. The only way I can describe it is that it feels like playing a real amp, in a way that other pedals just don’t. I’m sure that I’ll be saying a lot more about this pedal (and its even better cousin, the NABLA Custom 1987 v2) throughout 2021.

And yet, just as the year started with my Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive on the board, so the year’s ending that way too … just with a twist.

Earlier in the year, Mad Professor used the first months of the pandemic to launch a limited run of Custom pedals. These are factory-modded versions of some of their classic pedals. As soon as they were launched, I picked up the Mad Professor Big Tweedy Drive With Super Mod, which I really enjoyed.

Then, as 2020 was drawing to a close, I picked up their modded Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive With Fat Bee Mod on the second-hand market, and instantly fell in love with it. I’m boosting it with my Klon KTR and I’m utterly delighted with the results. The Fat Bee mod adds that weight that the stock SHOD doesn’t have, and it’s deeply satisfying to play with humbuckers.

Now, if only I could find a pedal that combines the sound of the modded SHOD with the feel of the Black Tweed. I think that would be my holy grail tweed-tone pedal. Until then, I’m going into 2021 with two fantastic choices.

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