First Look: Warm Audio Warmdrive and Centavo Overdrive Pedals
Budget versions of Zen-Drive und Klon Centaur worth it?
Warm Audio is known for creating budget versions of legendary studio gear at a very good quality. Many of their microphones, pre-amps, and studio gear don’t just sound good, they also look the part. The company is now releasing two overdrive pedals: Warm Audio Warmdrive and Centavo. Each pedal comes after a very well-known and popular effect pedal already out there. We were able to get a first look ahead of the release.
Originally published on Gearnews.de by Claudius Grieger.
Warm Audio Warmdrive
The Warm Audio Warmdrive is most certainly a replica of the legendary Zen-Drive. This overdrive pedal is known for its musicality, but it does have one disadvantage: The original version from Lovepedal/Hermida goes for 270 Euros, which isn’t exactly cheap. There are older editions that reach even crazier prices. The Zen-Drive is thought of as a Dumble in a Box pedal which makes some guitarists hold it to be the holy grail of overdrives. I had been using the original for a couple of years in combination with my Jazzmaster so I was excited to compare the Warm Audio Warmdrive to my memory of the Zen-Drive. Therefore, I can’t vouch for complete objectivity, but that isn’t what music is about.
The Warmdrive looks so much like the original, it could be mistaken for it. The aluminum plate on top with the typical knobs and the Ying-Yang symbol. The differences lay in the detail. The Ying-Yang symbol is not black and white, but orange and white and it’s inverted. Also, the LED has no colored frame around it. And, of course, there is a different product and company name printed underneath the footswitch.
The knobs don’t just look the same, they all have the same parameters as the original: Volume, Gain, Tone, and Voice. These should be self-explanatory. But in case, you are wondering, Tone is for shaping the high frequencies and Voice changes the mids.
The pedal runs in mono. Unfortunately, the power jack is on the right side of it, very close to the input jack, just like the original. I assume Warm Audio made this design choice to avoid humming (short paths), but for my personal taste, this positioning is unfortunate as I have laid out the power supply cabling on my board towards the backs of the pedals. The angled plug from the daisy-chained power cable gets in the way with a jack in this position.
I plugged the pedal in – and could immediately hear why it is so popular among guitarists. It sounds just as good with Humbuckers, as it does with “pearly” Single-Coils. The Warmdrive isn’t in-your-face, it never sounds harsh and brings enough distortion to compensate for a weak pickup output. In addition, the distortion’s structure is stable and works equally well for rhythm and for solo guitar, but also does not mush palm mutes. I would just love to keep it on my board.
However, there is significant noise during bypass when combining it with Humbuckers. The original did not have this flaw. Also, depending on your preferences, the Warmdrive can sound a bit muffled with some pickups. Even when turning Tone and Voice up to 11, they just don’t reach the same treble boost as the Centavo does.
Still, I highly recommend the Warmdrive. No wonder that the Zen-Drive (and the Warmdrive with it) is so popular, its sound almost always works.
Warm Audio Centavo
Let’s talk a closer look at the second pedal, the Centavo. If you couldn’t already tell by its optics, it is a clone of the Klon Centaur. The effect pedal that is so popular that its very first unit ever built is selling for more than 500.000 Euros. It turned out to be a joke from JHS founder Josh Scott, but still.
The Centaur is heralded by many to be one of the best overdrives on the market. It brings a very present sound, and its treble knob makes it especially useful for giving more punch to muffled Humbuckers, worn-out speakers, or tubes at their breaking point. But it works equally well with single-coils if you set it up correctly. The Centaur’s distortion can be described as moderate.
Design and Specs
It’s easy to mix up the Warm Audio Centavo with the Klon Centaur as they both come in a golden case. However, the pictured centaur on the Centavo is holding a bow, not a sword, as is the case with many clones. Besides that, Centaur and Centavo look almost identical. The Centavo adds an additional mod switch on top, however, that ever so slightly changes the character of the distortion. When engaging it, low frequencies of the input signal are lowered so palm mutes sound cleaner.
That makes the Centavo a bit more flexible even when the difference in sound between the two switch positions is rather small. But if you’re looking for an option to slightly change the pedal’s sound, this will certainly help you. For my rather thin-sounding Jazzmaster single-coils, it does not really make a difference.
This is a really well-made Klon Centaur clone. It does not just look good and feel expensive all around, the Centavo sounds just like what I would expect from an overdrive pedal with a treble boost. With very little additional gain, you go from a (pretty loud!) fast clean-boost to a bit of dirt to long overdrives that neither sound too compressed nor too scratchy.
To my personal taste, the sound gets a little too upfront and glassy on my Jazzmaster. I can hardly tone it down with the treble knob without it sounding muffled. But in combination with my Big Muff, this is one the best “teams” in terms of sound I can think of. It gives my Dirty Little Secret a run for its money.
It gets even better when combining the Centavo with Humbuckers. I used it with my Cobain Jaguar and a Pedal Baby and was able to push the guitar’s sound to the forefront without it sounding overly harsh. However, the gain knob goes to bypass at 9 o’clock already and it is a bit fiddly. If you miss it by a millimeter, the mix goes down the drain. So, make sure to fix it with gaffer tape once you found the sweet spot. But this also means that you can significantly boost weak tube amps without worsening the sound.
Conclusion on Warm Audio Warmdrive and Centavo
Warm Audio Warmdrive and Centavo are both excellent pedal effects. While I don’t have the originals to provide a direct comparison, I would still say both pedals see eye-to-eye with their originals. They both fit in a variety of setups and bring a lot of sound to the table. I would not go so far as to claim that they could replace the Zen-Drive and the Centaur, but that does not matter to me in this review. I either like them, or I don’t.
If I had to decide between the two, I would go for the Warmdrive. It’s more flexible and at least in part can get me the sound of the Centavo as well. It’s also a bit smaller. On the other side, the Warmdrive does not bring the same hype as the Centavo with its golden case. If there is one thing, I did not particularly enjoy, it is the Warmdrive noise floor.
Price and Availability
Warm Audio Warmdrive and Centavo cost less than their respective originals. The Warm Audio Warmdrive goes for 179.00 Euros and the Warm Audio Centavo costs 209.00 Euros.
To me, there is nothing wrong with these clones of the two legendary effects pedals. They even bring the optics. And that’s a seldom seen site when it comes to the Centaur, pardon, Centavo.
More on Warm Audio Warmdrive and Centavo
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- The Warm Audio Pedals: Claudius Grieger
- Warm Audio Warmdrive: Claudius Grieger
- Warmdrive's jacks: Claudius Grieger
- The Centavo: Claudius Grieger
- Three knobs and a footswitch: Claudius Grieger
- The back of the Centavo: Claudius Grieger
- The Warmdrive is significantly smaller: Claudius Grieger
- The boxes of the two pedals: Claudius Grieger
- Warmdrive: Claudius Grieger
- Centavo: Claudius Grieger