The inspiration for the Horseman goes back to the ‘90s with a man named Bill Finnegan, the original designer of the now legendary Klon Centaur. The Centaur was developed over four years as a transparent overdrive – any number of articles written about the pedal talks about how it boosts the signal of the guitar without drastically changing its tone. Between 1994 and 2000, only about eight thousand units were produced. Since then the pedal, like its namesake has taken on mythical status, fetching prices of up to four to five thousand dollars. They’ve been seen at the feet of players like Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Perry, Keith Urban, Jason Isbell and John Mayer, to name just a few.
Since the price of an original Centaur puts it out of the range of most mortals, many companies have attempted to replicate its original sound without the gasp-inducing pricetag. This tends to be a major challenge in itself, due to the original circuit boards being covered in a black epoxy resin to keep its original components a mystery. Finnegan knew he was onto something and after years of research wasn’t about to give away his secrets easily.
Now comes the NUX Horseman- a none too subtle reference to the original unit if ever there was one. The Klon Centaur boasts a massive footprint by today’s standards, and NUX have managed to make its take on it even more viable by producing it in the increasingly popular mini pedal format – it literally fits in the palm of your hand. Without even plugging it in it can easily raise a certain amount of suspicion.
Plugged in, the Horseman is a simple affair – and there’s nothing wrong with that. It has an on/off switch and three control knobs – the holy trinity of Gain, Treble and Output. You don’t want to be fumbling around on a dimly lit stage with sweaty fingers dialling in a sound. For all its mystique this is a pedal that you want to keep simple. It should also be known that there are two models of Centaur – the Gold and Silver as they have become known. The Gold is more a clean boost, the Silver is closer to the sound of driving the front end of an amp into distortion. Those clever folks at NUX have managed to combine the two in one pedal. When held down, the on/off switch changes the mode from Silver to Gold, giving you a choice of characteristic. Whether you’re looking for a pure clean boost or a slightly rough around the edges overdrive, you’ll find yourself in safe hands here.
Due to the rarity of an original Klon, it’s quite impossible to compare the two effects properly, so the Horseman can only be judged on its own merits. Starting in Gold mode, with the Gain between 7 and 9 o’clock , the output at just past noon and the treble at around 11, the Horse Man is a sweet sounding boost with just the right kind of thickness added to your tone. Click to Silver mode and push the gain and it can be a monster. The versatility of this little wonder really is something.
If I had to choose, the Gold setting in clean post mode is where this pedal’s strength really lies. It’s one of those rare additions to your board that once you turn it on, you’ll want to leave it on. Obviously, the NUX Horseman is not an exact replica of the Centaur – but at this pricepoint, who can really complain?