Chewing Out a Home in the Signal Path
The Camponotus Drive from Finland’s Ant Craft makes a bold statement before it’s even plugged in and engaged—the pride in craftsmanship reflects boldly from the acid-etched faceplate. Like the species it is named after, the Camponotus nests inside a beautiful hollowed-out wooden structure that supersedes any rickety old stash box from the days of pedal yore. With a presentation like this, the tonal expectation is set high and sure enough, the sonic detail is as pretty as the package.
Starting on the Crunch side, with the Volume, Frequency and Gain set straight up, engaging the true bypass switch gives a subtle injection of clarity and heft to a clean signal. Turning the Frequency dial slightly can help camouflage the boost to blend in with the preamp section of just about any amp and edging up the gain brings a subtle hairy sparkle to the mix—almost like a Timmy or Hot Cake would in boost settings. At higher gain settings in the Crunch mode, my ears start to register JTM 45-style overtone break up, which is great for touch sensitive crunch conducting. This is truly an amp-like and dynamic pedal that brings subtleties to the surface.
Warm and Wooly to Brash and Biting
Flicking over to the Drive side brings out the beast in the circuit. This is where transparency gives way to the character of the Camponotus itself. While remaining amp-like and touch sensitive, there is a beautiful chiming kerrang that is ever-present throughout the gain range.
If I had to translate it in tube-talk, I would describe the gain structure as a British EL-84 power section being driven hard into sweet bubbling harmonic eruption. Chords ring out loud and proud, with the initial pick-to-string contact intact for precise rhythm dictation in higher frequency settings. Rolling back the Frequency control (or indeed the guitar’s tone control) yields a Paul Kossoff-style creamy lead palette for one to smear into beautiful sustained solo bends. Upping the ant-e on the gain control takes us from Vox-y overdrive into full-on, preamp-dimed Marshall JMP territory. This makes me want to sling my Mosrite low and down stroke down the Road to Ruin—which is the ultimate in guitar “Psycho Therapy.”
What we like: The ability to go from transparent boost, to Brit-bite and then all-out classic rock crunch-and-sear, ensures that the Camponotus can adapt to any rig and prove useful in a variety of situations. Add to this the stacking prospects with other drive pedals in the signal chain and we got ourselves a real master of many trades. The classy wooden box and plush pedal bag only add to the top shelf experience.
Concerns: This pedal is boutique in every sense of the word and the price reflects it (all though there are plenty more expensive overdrives out there.) As of now, I think the only way to get involved with the Componotus stateside is to order it directly from the shop in Helsinki. However, I am sure some USA dealers will pop up in the near future. Some will think that yet another overdrive isn’t an exciting prospect, but this pedal is so much more than that. For those in the market for something versatile, special and beautiful, the Camponotus Drive could easily chew its way into the signal path and masticate lesser drive pedals with mandibles of pure tone. Keep those antennae up and receive the emissions of a stellar stompbox.