Klon vs Tubescreamer vs Zendrive: Differences

In the world of overdrive guitar pedals, there is an overwhelming amount of options to choose from. 

When it comes to purchasing an overdrive pedal, the hunt comes down to a few things: the brand, price range, the durability, and how well it blends with not only distorted tones but also clean tones. 

Though that is only a small checklist, it still makes it increasingly difficult to pin down which overdrive pedal is the best for you. 

The main differences between the Tubescreamer, the Zendrive, and the Klon Centaur are their pricing, and that both the Tubescreamer and the Zendrive act more as overdrives, shaping the tone with their own character, while the Klon Centaur is a more transparent pedal, almost working as a booster.

We are going to break down 3 of the most well-known overdrive pedals and discuss their history, models, features, who uses them, and most importantly, how they sound. 

This includes the Klon Centaur, Tubescreamer, and the Zendrive. 

Klon Centaur main features

The Klon Centaur pedal was launched in 1994 by Bill Finnegan, an American engineer. It was often known as the most expensive overdrive pedal as it would take 14 weeks to manufacture a single pedal. 

The purpose behind this pedal was to be able to recreate a distorted sound that you would typically hear from a guitar amp rather than a pedal, to achieve a sound that gave the impression there was no overdrive pedal in the signal chain. 

However, it was discontinued in 2008 and was redesigned as the Klon KTR. It has influenced many attempts many other engineers to build clones of the Klon Centaur as it was such a distinct pedal and got discontinued so early. 

The Andertons guitar website even has a section dedicated to Klon-style overdrive pedals where many of said clones were listed. 

Big guitarist names that used the original Klon Centaur includes John Mayer, Joe Perry, and Jeff Beck. 

This pedal was an incredibly high standard in the guitar industry so it is no surprise that it was a must-have for these big names. 


Here is a link to Music Is Win’s review of the pedal to show whether the price of $5000 for an original Klon Centaur is worth it: 

Tubescreamer main features

Unlike the Klon Centaur, the Tubescreamer made by Ibanez is a much more affordable guitar pedal. 

That does not mean it is not worth looking into. This pedal is the most, if not one of the most popular overdrive pedals in the world. 

Not only are there multiple models available, but digital simulations of them can also be found on modelers such as the Line 6 Helix, Kemper Profiler, and Quad Cortex. 

Its typical features include overdrive, tone, and level. Overdrive tends to refer to the amount of distortion and how much the player wants to push this pedal into the signal chain. 

Tone controls the overall EQ of the pedal while the level adjusts output but could also add little gain. 

The Tubescreamer models include: 

  • TS808Reissue of the original 
  • TS9 – arguably brighter than TS808 
  • TSMINI – smaller version of TS808 
  • TS808DX – comes with a clean boost 
  • TS808HWB – comes with a true bypass 
  • TS9DX – comes with options for higher gain (hot and turbo modes

The Tubescreamer has been used by plenty of huge guitarist names including Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kirk Hammet, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Gark Clark Jr. 

Here is a video of the Andertons team doing a blindfold challenge on 8 different Tubescreamer models. 

Zendrive main features

The Zendrive pedal was originally made by Alfonso Hermida but only a small amount which puts this pedal in such high demand. Now, they are being made by Lovepedal.

This pedal was well known for its ability to create a tube amp tone with flawless accuracy and its incredible attention to detail when it comes to how it reacts to the guitar in terms of sensitivity. 

However, it is fairly expensive compared to the Tubescreamer but not as expensive as the Klon Centaur as it only takes on average 2 weeks to build. 

This overdrive pedal may not be as popular as the others but it has still been used by incredible guitar players including Robben Ford and Larry Carlton.

Here is a video from Guitar Interactive Magazine reviewing the Lovepedal Hermida Audio Zendrive and showing some tone samples. 

Main differences between the Klon Centaur, Tubescreamers, and the Zendrive

Tone 

The main difference between these overdrive pedals has to be tone. 

The Tubescreamer and the Zendrive similarly add noticeable changes in EQ when they are activated and depending on how much drive, tone, or level is added to the signal chain, those EQ changes can be dramatic. 

However, the Klon Centaur is more of a transparent overdrive pedal that keeps the pure guitar tone in the mix and has a fairly flat EQ compared to the Tubescreamer and Zendrive which makes this pedal act as more of a boost pedal than an overdrive pedal. 

Price

A big difference between these pedals and usually the decider of which to buy is price. 

An original Klon Centaur goes up past $5000 easily and can be difficult to find for a fair price. 

Whereas the various tubescreamer models are averaging between $120-150 and the Zendrive is $240. Big steps in price between the pedals but at the end of the day, it is always what is best sonically for you as a guitar player. 

Models 

The Tubescreamer seems to be superior in terms of available models as there is only one Klon Centaur and one Zendrive while there are over nearly a dozen various models of the Tubescreamer. 

However, though the Klon Centaur is difficult to get hold of given its price, there are many cloned models of it manufactured by many other engineers and are available at a much more affordable price compared to the original. 

Ease of Use 

This is where the Tubescreamer, Klon Centaur, and Zendrive are the most similar. They are all incredibly simple and easy to use. 

They often have very similar parameter options that tend to include some sort of drive, tone/voice, and level/output, though depending on the pedal and brand, the names may vary. 

Each parameter is self-explanatory and given that there are usually only 3 or 4 available knobs to control, all these overdrive pedals are easy to use whether the guitar player is a professional, amateur, or beginner. 

Which one should you get?

If you are struggling with deciding which one to get, I will help you break it down into a few simple options depending on the situation to better fit your needs. 

  • If you have the money and want the best there is, the Klon Centaur is for you. It has an incredibly high price but it is something that will last you a lifetime and delivers incredible results. 
  • If you are on a low budget but still want something of professional industry standard, the Tubescreamer is for you. Depending on your budget, the cheapest option is probably the TSMINI which is the smallest size but sounds similar enough to the 808. But if you are willing to spend a little more, I would highly recommend the TS808 or the TS9DX for more tonal options. 
  • If you are passionate about capturing a tone that really brings out the guitar playing and maintains the natural sensitivity, the Zendrive is likely the one for you. It is more expensive than the Tubescreamer but has a softer drive with less dramatic EQ changes and is more detail-oriented.