First Impressions: Tone City Bad Horse Overdrive Pedal

I recently picked up Tone City’s Bad Horse off the second-hand market.

Is this the budget-friendly Klon klone for the masses, or (like the EHX Soul Food) is it going to be a case of you really do get what you pay for. Read on to find out.

What Did You Buy?

I bought a Tone City Bad Horse overdrive pedal. I got it second hand for a reasonable price.

At the time of writing this blog post, Andertons are selling this as “the legendary Klon tone without the huge price tag”:

This image captures what Andertons themselves are saying about the Tone City Bad Horse.

"TONE CITY BAD HORSE OVERDRIVE PEDAL" is the headline, all in capitals.

Below that is the tag that I'll be discussing in this blog post: "The legendary Klon tone without the huge price tag"

Below the tag line, there's a notice assuring us that they have "10+ in stock".

One thing I like about Andertons is that their stock notices are amongst the most accurate in the business.
Screenshot from the Andertons website, Fri 28th Oct around 4:45pm

Tone City themselves … do not. Here’s what they say about it:

  • Bad Horse is an overdrive pedal.
  • It has an extremely wide range gain from clean boost to cream overdrive, and even to hard rock. 
  • Benefit from the clean-drive mix circuit and the germinated diode, it can keep very clear timbre and is full of harmonics when it is at high gain. 
  • When you setting it as clean boost, it can persist  the character of your guitar and amplifier.
  • If you are looking for an overdrive pedal which can clearly maximize retaining the equipments’ own characteristics, this little pedal will be the best choice.
  • Turn up the gain knob, you can get a crème overdrive.
  • If you like blues, it also would be a very good choice.

Why Did You Buy It?

I collect Klon klones.

My collection started out as me wanting a backup for my Klon KTR (because that pedal is irreplaceable for all practical purposes). Eventually I found one: the Ceriatone Centura.

Along the way, I learned to enjoy the differences that these klones have, and the unique options they give me. And that’s I why picked up the Bad Horse: to find out what it can do for me.

Is It The Budget-Friendly Klone We’re All After?

I don’t think so, no.

In the classic Klon clean boost setup, the Bad Horse simply doesn’t work for me.

  • Many klones get the low-end wrong (mostly, they cut too much; some add too much). To my ears, the Bad Horse is one of the better klones on this front.
  • The mids sounds kinda right? It’s hard to be sure, because …
  • The problem is with the top-end of the tone. There isn’t any. It’s like the pedal just shelves off a lot of the high-end that goes into the presence.

I’ve looked inside the pedal. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of trim pot to adjust the presence at all.

Turning up the treble control doesn’t bring those frequencies back; and I think it starts to sound harsh once the treble is cranked up around 3 o’clock or so.

It’s a shame, really. There’s a lot to like about this pedal. It seems well-made, and feels far more robust than some of the American-made boutique offerings out there. I haven’t had any problems with noise either.

True Bypass The Problem?

I can’t help but wonder if the problem is (at least in part) down to the fact that this pedal doesn’t include the Klon’s buffer.

The more I explore different klones, the more I’m concluding that the Klon’s buffer is an important part of its tone – at least in the clean boost role. Many (most?) klones leave it out, and go the true bypass route instead.

Hopefully someone out there who knows a lot more than me can tell us more in the comments below.

Final Thoughts

Sadly, life away from pedals is incredibly busy atm (the joys of working two jobs). I don’t have time to explore what this pedal can do right now. I’ll try and come back to that when things are a little less hectic.

All I can say is that the example I have does not deliver the legendary tone of the Klon. It can’t do the classic clean boost role.

I’m still keeping it, though, because it might just make for a nice boost into a cranked amp, or even work out as a primary overdrive pedal.

One Reply to “First Impressions: Tone City Bad Horse Overdrive Pedal”

  1. I built a klon clone w/ a board from several years ago, and thankfully that slated my Klon thirst enough that I have been spared going down this rabbit hole :):)

    BTW just found your page. Love you content. It is incredibly useful. Thank you!

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