[interview] Startouch: Tony Chostner

Here's FXDB's interview with Tony Chostner of Startouch:

How did Startouch start?

I'm a player first I started playing bass when I was 13.

Also though the years I used various effects, and ABY pedals and they sucked literally (tone too!). In 1981 I built a stereo junction box for my Rickenbacker 4001 stereo bass. TRS in Tip out mono and Ring out mono. Bridge p/u went to a Hi-watt 100w head, w/two 4x12 cabs, and my neck p/u went to a Sunn 2001 head to a JBL D120 15in, and a Sunn vega 18in folded horn. One note and I was hooked. I stared doing junction boxes for fellow musicians and some very crude ABY pedals also for friends. Nothing serious.

So though the years things change family, kids, and then in about 2000 I decided to go back to playing, and building pedals, and started researching and came up with Startouch and I was going to make a go of it. Easier said than done. But I had the passion again and was sick of working for someone else. And I was the only one involved.

At first I did everything on my own. Researched companies at the library that I could get “sample” parts from, LEDs, jacks, wire, push switches, battery snaps, enclosures, LED holders, foam for battery, screws, heat shrink the whole 9 yards. And then testing, testing testing. I’d go to music stores where I was known or not, asked to see their ABY pedals and open them up on the spot to take a look inside. Borrowed ABY pedals from friends to test, take apart to see what made them tick. No peers inspired me, but over time I surrounded myself (board of directors) if you will with people/players that were experts in their fields. Audio engineers, marketing, small business owners and would get pointers etc. Ended up doing my own blue prints for the enclosures, chassis, and bottom plate. And found a great sheet metal company that did a proto run of 10 units, then went about fitting/spec's the right parts (see above) and redoing the specs till every thing came together. First A/B pedal the ST-1. Stands for Startouch one switch. Born around 2000. Then on to learning about powder coating and silk-screening for the grapics, a whole new story. Which I'll go into more detail later in this interview. Passion and drive keep you going and still does!!! And then on to web presence. Another story in itself.

Where do the name and logo come from?

It took me a while to come up with the name. Basically my feelings (two) were every one wants to touch a star...

  • And using the Startouch pedals would improve your tonal possibilities.
  • And get you “one step closer” to musical success, which is printed on the pedals:

      "One Step Closer"
      It takes baby steps to achieve our dreams/success. One step at a time.

What sets Startouch apart from other builders?

Startouch pedals will not, impede, alter, or color your tone, or signal, in any way! Engineered for true tonal transparency Attention to detail is of the utmost importance to me at Startouch. Wired using OFC, oxygen free copper, hi-performance 18ga. primary wire. Prepped to the perfect fit at every connection, to ensure the best possible signal flow. Connections are made using hi grade solder. Wire insulation ends have heat shrink moldings. All parts are of the highest quality, and durability. The jacks have exceptional insertion/extraction force. Switches are super fast. Pure coin silver contacts. Switch in real time. Some switches that are not "fast" when making contact, can cause the dreaded pop. LEDs are super-brite, Red "A", and Yellow "B" standard on all units. No circuit boards, capacitors, or resisters, to ruin your tone. Units are double grounded, with 100% shielding to, eliminate, minimize RF noise, and ground hum. Outstanding customer service, solid technical support. At a value that is unsurpassed, or matched. Hand Made In The USA.

One of the big things for me was "LED view angle". you had to look straight down to see the LEDs, mine are designed to be seen from across the stage.

How do you start on a new pedal?

Back at the beginning to get my first A/B pedal from idea to market around a year. But that was no budgit (a little) It all comes down to money for prototypes , for sheet metal, parts, design.etc.

The more money the less time. The less money, more time..

A lot of custom orders are ideas, one of a kind that customers ask if I can build a unit that will fit their needs.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

The enclosures are contracted out (to my blueprints, specifications. Using 16ga. cold rolled steel.) as well as the powder coating and silk-screening. So when I get them, they are just empty enclosures ready for final assembly, which is all done in house.

Right now I run the whole show.

Hand wired point to point for superior signal transfer, using OFC (oxygen free copper) 18ga, hi-performance primary copper wire, all the other components are the highest standard.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Looks, first impression, are very important to me. I want my customers to go WOW, when they take the pedal out of the box for the first time.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a side compliment from a music store manager that said “Does it work as well as it looks”? I said let’s hook it up and “see”. That’s when I got my second account.

How important is parts selection?

That’s a no brainer. They are the heart and soul of all my pedals.

When I first started I contacted 36 (found some old notes) companies, from research at the library, I had no PC just fire in the belly. I got every single one of them to send free samples. LEDs, jacks 1/4in. female mono, and stereo, push switches, LED holders, wire, foam for battery compartment, enclosures, plastics bags bubble wrap, boxes, packaging materials. Rubber feet. Screws, they had to be machine thread, no sheet metal stripping screws for me. Battery snaps. Heat shrink tubing, diodes for the LED switching. You name it. I did it.

Then when I started getting them, went about researching all the major components, to learn about specs. LED brightness and specifications, as example, and 1/4in. female phone jacks, which are rated insertion/extraction force. Copper wire was one of the most important aspects at the beginning and still is. Hi-grade solder. 9 pin stereo 1/4 jacks, with nylon bushings, two circuit NO (normally open) for activating the power to the LEDs when a guitar plug is inserted, most important, "bypass" the two signals. (9v and guitar signal). Push switches I got dozens of them, and learning their specs, and what the contacts were made of and how “fast “ they switched. Enclosures ended up having my own manufactured to my own specs because I wanted my customers to have the best, good old USA steel. I could of went with the Hammond #1590 and saved myself a lot of time and effort. The ironic thing is my new effects pedals are going to be the Hammond type boxes.

And when all the researching, comparisons etc was done, it was on to pricing from the different vendors, and if I had to pay more for a particular part I wanted my customers to reap the benefits, but keep the price where, the best did not cost the most.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

All my units are challenging. What gives me a smile :)

When a customer takes the time to write an email about how pleased they are with their Startouch pedal. Here’s one from a customer from Turkey!

    I received the pedal today. This is the best ABY pedal I have ever used. Many thanks!

    Thank you very much for the reverse polarity adapter, too. I really appreciate it because my Pedal Power is center negative.

    With my best wishes,

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

Great question, I just did a custom pedal. One of my accounts, Wades Guitar Shop in Wisconsin, asked if I could do a build for a custom guitar that was wired full time stereo. What full time stereo means are the neck p/u and the bridge p/u are two separate signals using a stereo guitar cord with TRS plugs. Tip/Ring/ Sleeve. The Bridge p/u was wired to tip, and the Neck p/u was wired to ring, and sleeve is ground.

So the pedal was TRS in and A out, would be tip, and B out would be ring. Two separate signals, to two amps. Both outs, always on.

And then you push one of the switches and it reverses, cool concept and sounds killer. Then push a switch and sums the signals together, and now turns the pedal into an A/B pedal and switch the summed signals back and forth. Easy enough circuit wise, but the issue was the LEDs. You have to be able to “see” what’s what. They had some basic ideas, which would have worked, and saved me a bunch of time/labor, but in the long run I knew I had to make some changes. When you're playing live you have to see what’s engaged.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

That would be the ST-2 and ST2-DCIN these are A/B+Y pedals ,both take battery and the DCIN takes 9v from a power supply. I have the great reviews on these. They just do what they are supposed to do, with great performance all around.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

Anyone who needs an ABY pedal or a custom order dealing with guitar, bass or keyboard signals.

No Eric Claptons that I’m aware of. But, some notable artists that you might hear every day on TV for example, or at the movies.

  • Brian Reardon, great guy. Session player out of California. Played guitar first two seasons for the TV hit, King of Queens, tons of TV commercials. Guitar on TV show Entertainment Tonight. “9 to 5” Broadway play based on Dolly Parton’s movie of the same name.

  • Joe Payne, another great guy. Session player. Guitar chair #1 hit Broadway play, “Jersey Boys Broadway” won a bunch of Tony and Grammy awards. This guy is a phenomenal player.

  • A direct quote From Jamie Glaser taken from a review he did on Startouch on H-C:
"I would say I am one of the luckiest musicians on the planet. Ive played with everyone from Bryan Adams to the greatest jazz bands like Jean Luc Ponty, Manhattan Transfer, Chick Corea. Chances are you've heard my guitar stuff, cause I had the good fortune of being the guitarist on shows like Seinfeld, Married With children and TONS more."
  • Greg from the band Lime House Lizzy, the Metalica of the UK.

  • Ralph Smith with Bonne Rayette.

  • The Cure.

  • Chris from The Decemberist out of Oregon.

  • OH, New guitar player for the new Tom Jones tour, Which I thought was kind of cool. The younger folks won't know who he is.

Thats just a sampling. I wish I had keep better track. The point being, Broadway shows are million dollar productions and the guitarists have to have the best gear available.

I Had an order some years ago, don’t remember the customers name (great guy) But I do remember his company’s name. Riot Pictures located in Los Angles, California. I had to call, and the secretary answers “Riot Pictures” and I ask to speak to so and so. And she says, “he’s in a very important meeting, can I ask who’s calling?” And I say “Tony from Startouch”.
5 seconds later this voice gets on the phone and says “Toneee how’s it going? Cups phone and says “take 5 everybody” And goes on to say he has a gig coming up that weekend and heard about the Startouch ABY pedal (ST-2) and wanted to try it out. And he would give me a call after the gig to let me know how things went. Riot Pictures it turns out does post production audio work for Deadwood and Desperate Housewives. Very successful TV shows and also major motion pictures. So I’m thinking if anybody knows audio quality it’s this guy, and I hope he likes the pedal. So he calls and says that when he opened the box and saw the pedal he didn’t know if he should step on it or frame it. Said the gig went great and it was the best ABY pedal he ever used. His brother ordered one the next day.

So I was responsible for stopping a major motion picture production meeting dead in its tracks. How cool is that? Little ‘ol me.

What does the future of Startouch look like?

Current state of Startouch is on solid ground but just like everyone else I have to adapt to the struggling economy of 2011.

My goals are to now get more brick and mortar accounts.

Future is branching out as mentioned, to make standard effects pedals, but tricked out, chorus, distortion pedals as examples. And a lot of positive customer feedback on this. Let us know!!! Type comments.

Are you working on any new products?

I'm doing prototypes for chorus, distortion and reverb. Hopefully by the end of 2011, early 2012.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Also check out Effects Database's social media accounts: