Compulsive Audio is located in Sparta, a small town in the NW region of NJ. I started the company when I was laid off from my computer consulting job in the summer of 2009. The decision to start a boutique guitar effects business sort of just happened organically.
At an early age, I was bitten by the electronics bug when a cousin introduced me to a Heathkit electronic kit. At the age of 12, I got my Novice Amateur Radio license and built most of my radio equipment myself. Music has always been an important part of my life as well. I played the trumpet from fifth grade all the way to the end of high school. Playing guitar didn't come until later in my adult life.
My wife Laura gave me guitar lessons as a gift one-day and I have grown to love the instrument. I got into building guitar effects when I was searching for a loop switch for my pedal board to allow me to mix and match my effects chain. I quickly found that what I wanted was not available in the price range I could afford. So, with a little research and my electronics background, I set out to make one myself.
When my guitar instructor at CRP Music saw what I had built, he asked me if I was interested in building effects that they could sell in the store. After that, I started looking at building other types of pedals.
For overdrive and distortion effects, my approach is pretty simple. I look at what makes a particular amp sound the way it does - tone stacks, Class A mode etc. Then I take those ideas and design a stomp box that can emulate the tone I am looking for. A lot of what I do is trial and error, sometimes using nothing more than my ears to tweak a design.
My production process is all by hand. Many of my effects are built on stripboard. One of the keys to the sound of my effects, however, is the use of very high quality electronic parts, silver solder and mil spec wire. I believe that you can hear the difference, and I take this approach to my guitar pedal modifications. I currently can mod most Boss effects and actually change their characteristics in good ways.
When I first started building, all of my work was done in the family room. That quickly changed as my wife did not like picking up the small pieces of wire I had left laying around. I moved my production process to the garage, where it still exists today.
Most of my pedal enclosures I have powder coated by Pedal Parts Plus, though I do have a few signature pedals like the Jimi Octave Fuzz that my son James helps to paint. These take longer to create, but the paint jobs are really cool. Screen printed designs are in the works as well.
I don't have any big artists using my effects yet, but I hope to change that. Currently, this is still a part-time business with big aspirations. During the day I work on software, and at night I burn the midnight oil building effects, coming up with ideas, posting to Twitter, Facebook, and my blog.
Right now I am working on an analog compressor pedal and several modulation effects like an autowah called the Psychedelic Funk Machine and a chorus pedal called the Heavenly Chorus. I just recently released a vintage fuzz pedal built with NOS parts and a Marshall Plexi overdrive pedal called the Tone Oracle.
My guitar effects are currently available online at compulsiveaudio.com
(and yes, I do all of my own web design and programming) and at CRP Music in Rockaway, NJ. With any luck, I plan to expand my retail presence next year.