Among famous pieces of vintage gear, the Klon Centaur is arguably the most sought after. Examples of this classic overdrive pedal can easily fetch prices above $2000. Yes, you read that right. A vintage Klon Centaur will probably run you more than your first car.
Among the pedals that have attempted to imitate the Klon Centaur, the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food has definitely been making the most waves in guitar playing circles. But the question is, how good is it?
So when a piece of gear exists that is unattainable for large portions of the population, whether through being expensive or being a victim of manufactured scarcity, imitators spring up like wild fire. Some of these pedals are great buys, and are simply trying to provide a lower priced alternative to a well known piece of gear. And on the other hand, some are little more than cynical cash grabs attempting to capitalize on those who don’t have the means to attain a genuine example of whatever gear they’re imitating.
So, which is the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food? I feel very comfortable saying that the Soul Food is definitely the former as opposed to the latter. Like all of Electro-Harmonix’s pedals the Soul Food is objectively a high quality piece of gear. The build quality is very solid, and the selectable true byass/buffered bypass mode is an interesting addition.
As far as cost is concerned, the Soul Food generally runs for around $80. While that may be a bit steep compared to other overdrive pedals on the market, in my opinion the quality construction and great tone of the Soul Food more than justify the cost.
Considering that the Soul Food is intended to be used as a clean-ish boost as opposed to a full on distortion pedal, describing its sound is a bit complicated. Generally, boost pedals give you more of what you already have, highlighting every aspect of the sonic profile of your rig. That’s not to say that they don’t color your tone at all (because they do), but generally the difference is pretty minimal.
However, if you choose to use the Soul Food as more of a distortion pedal you should have a pretty easy time pulling out usable levels of grit. In my own experience with the pedal, as well the general consensus online, the gain on the pedal has enough flexibility to be used for everything from the subtle overdrive of vintage country as well as the more gritty tones of Chicago-era blues.
Because tone is so subjective, I can only describe the Soul Food based on my own personal experiences. So while your experience should be similar, keep in mind that your gear or playing style may interact differently to the pedal than mine did.
I found that the pedal had a very consistent frequency response regardless of what amp and guitar I used in conjunction with it. With the tone control placed in a neutral position, I couldn’t really pick out any frequency that was boosted or cut in any noticeable way. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the tone control had a pretty wide range of use without being overly touchy.
I also found that the pedal was surprisingly dynamic when paired with a decent tube amp. I’ve found that most overdrive/distortion pedals tend to be a bit compressive, limiting the quieter end of your dynamic range. And while your experiences may vary, I didn’t notice this effect while I was using the Soul Food. My signal cleaned up or distorted significantly based on my pick attack, and I was able to get a pretty wide selection of different levels of frequency response based on the pick I used and where I struck the strings.
What I Think:
I think the problem that a lot of pedals that attempt to emulate the Klon Centaur have is that they can’t measure up to the idea of the Klon Centaur, regardless of how good they are on their own merit. Considering that most guitar players will never actually own a real Centaur, all we have to go on is conjecture.
As musicians, we (myself included) like to pretend that the only thing standing in our way to the perfect tone is the next piece of gear. So when a pedal, or a guitar, or even an amplifier is unable to magically transform our tone we all feel a bit cheated. Our heroes use this gear, and if they use it to get a great tone we should be able to do it too, right?
Well, no. Our heroes are great guitar players who’ve spent thousands of hours perfecting their technique and their overall abilities as a musician. They sound the way they do because they’re amazing players using great gear, not great players using amazing gear.
So, is the Soul Food as good as the Klon? Who knows? I’ve never played a Klon. And considering that the general consensus is that there are around 8000-ish legitimate examples of the Klon floating around, odds are most of you haven’t either.
But I have used a Soul Food. In fact, it’s actually one of the few pedals that has a consistent place on my pedal board. The build quality of the pedal is great, and I think the sound I get out of it is great as well. And at the end of the day, nothing matters to me beyond that.
So how did you feel about our review? If you have any experiences or opinions concerning the Electoro-Harmonix Soul Food, feel free to share them in the comment section below!