Growing Up With Hi-Fi

“When I turned 13, I was allowed to ride my green Schwinn banana bike to the coolest place in Maryland — our local hi-fi shop,” reminisces Craig Abplanalp, President of Definitive Audio.

Between soccer and band practice, Craig rode back and forth to the local hi-fi shop several times a week. After two years of trying to soak as much as he could in the world of high-end audio, the shop’s manager gave Craig a choice: either never come back or take a job in the warehouse. That began Craig’s career in hi-fi at the early age of 16. It didn’t take long to graduate from the warehouse to sales floor and start selling iconic brands like Mark Levinson.

Recreating The Perfect Sound

Craig’s interest in the technical reproduction of music continued to deepen. He wanted to learn more about creating systems that were accurate and created an authentic musical sound.

The opportunity presented itself in his 20’s when Craig began working with his mentor Peter McGrath in Miami, Florida. Peter was a well-respected recording engineer with a passion for live music. Peter not only owned a hi-fi shop where you where you could experience many of the best high-performance systems in the industry – but he was also a recording engineer for Harmonia Mundi and the official archivist for the Miami New World Symphony and Florida Philharmonic Orchestra.

“This part of my life was one of the biggest periods of learning,” says Craig. “I got regular exposure to the art of reproducing music in its truest form. Peter and I would attend a live event, record it, and go back to the showroom and listen to that very same recording on multiple systems. It was an incredible experience.”

The care Peter demonstrated as he set up for these recordings was remarkable. He would walk the hall and use his voice to find the best place for the microphone to capture the best overall sound. He considered the soundstage and the acoustical space of the venue. Then Peter would position the musicians in the exact spot for their instrument to energizing the whole room.

After the performance, Peter would invite people like James Judd, Director of Florida Philharmonic or the lead vocalist to the showroom. Together, they would listen to the recording on multiple systems to determine what sounded most like the live performance.

During this time technology was evolving providing us with a chance for experimentation. Craig explains, “We would take the feed from same microphone feed and make an analog master and digital master. This gave us a unique opportunity to compare early digital technology to the mature analog recording. It was fascinating.”

A Time of Change

After losing his home to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Craig and his wife were ready for a change. They took a trip to Seattle and quickly fell in love with our natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Craig was determined to find a company where performance, aesthetics and a culture of excellence was not only supported but celebrated. Through a close friend, Craig was introduced to Definitive Audio just as they announced their plans for a second showroom in Bellevue, Washington.

Opening a new showroom was quite the adventure. It began with the transformation of a former Men’s store into a state-of-the-art showroom. Once construction was complete, the showroom opened in 1993.

“I believe timing is everything, and mine could not have been better,” says Craig. “I was thrilled to become Showroom Manager of this beautiful new Eastside showroom.”

Craig began by finding the right people to staff the showroom. He looked for employees who would fit the Definitive culture and have a passion for the products they were selling.

Many of the salespeople back then (and today) own some combination of the systems we sell.  They have a passion for helping customers choose a well-designed system with an upgrade path, so their investment doesn’t become obsolete as technology continues to evolve over time.

Customers also had the opportunity to experience the latest in technology through the Home Theater Experience Event, which took place annually in the Bellevue Showroom from 1993 to 2013. This non-sales event would attract between 500 and 800 guests over a two-day period and became a gold-standard nationwide. Many exciting technologies debuted at Definitive for the Greater Seattle community. The spirit of the Home Theater Experience inspired our annual Music Matters event in Seattle.

“The things that that drew me to the business 25-years ago continue to do so today,” says Craig. “Even as we expand into areas like custom integration and lighting control, it all comes together to further enhance the enjoyment of music and movies in the home.”

Come celebrate 25-years at our Bellevue Showroom with us! Bring your favorite music or movie by and experience what a performance home entertainment system feels like.