New England Hi-Fi - Maine

A Legend Is Born
Derek Burt

Derek R. Burt opened New England Music Company, now known as New England Hi Fi, for business in audio equipment sales back in July 1965, with a simple effective philosophy. That being value for the dollar, backed up by guarantee, and in store service. Derek was already working in high fidelity equipment sales at the time, and he had a vision, and wanted his own store to do it his way, the right way. Derek's passion was music, being a highly regarded classical trumpet player, thus the store name. However, when customers asked him where the musical instruments were upon entering his new store, and seeing none, Derek had a very logical answer. "The music comes out of the speakers I sell, and will play any type of music you prefer." Derek also often said that more people listen to music, than play musical instruments. A man with a vision indeed.

Showroom That first store was located on Center Street in Portland, Maine, with a premiere product line up led by the new 1965 KLH line. That original Henry Kloss Hi Fi product line (the K in KHL, is for Kloss) consisted of three models. The model 11, model 14, and the model 20. Each set folded out with a pair of KLH speakers, an amp and radio in the suitcase like box, and a Garrard turntable built into thes same box. Derek himself hand delivered and set up countless KLH sets all over Maine. It's said that someone from outside an area can see what needs are missing from an area more easily than the natives who are accustomed to the local landscape, and sleep walk through it each day. Derek originally immigrated to Canada from England while still in the British Royal Air Force, and from Canada moved to Portland Maine. Derek's fresh perspective saw what was missing in Portland, specifically high quality high fidelity reproduction equipment, and he was determined to fill that void. Dual turntables, Dynaco amplifiers, and then in '67 McIntosh amplifiers, preamps, and tuners were added to his line up of brands. For a while, he even did add some musical instruments to his floor space, and the expanded line up, with more employees needed, required more room.

Showroom In 1972, Derek moved to upper Congress Street, into what was once a large A&P grocery store. By then he had an expanded line of products, including the highly regarded Advent speakers, and an expanded staff, including in store service technicians that New England Hi Fi is still famous for. A custom installation department was added for the more complex equipment offered, such as the stylish Bang and Olufsen early remote controlled set ups, utilizing ultrasonic photo cell technology. Remote controlled electronic gear so common now, was new and unique in the seventies. It wasn't until the early eighties that the more effective I.R. (infrared) remote technology was introduced.
Derek's lines expanded to include little known names at the time, some of which have faded, and some come to front burner, such as Onkyo ( front burner), Yamaha ( faded), Harmon Kardon ( with the first home stereo receiver), Klipsch horn loaded speakers, Genesis speakers of New Hampshire, with their inverted dome tweeters ( long gone), and the original Boston Acoustics, back before that once venerable company lost their way.
New England Hi Fi had many firsts in Maine, including the first in home CRT video projectors available to the public, from brand name Advent, the first video receivers, from the now defunct brand name Jensen, and then in 1983 the first compact disc players from Sony, when Sony introduced the model CDP 101.

Outside Congress Ave.In the heady late sixties, and early seventies, Derek saw that other cities in Maine he visited were lacking an outlet for quality audio and video gear, so again he had a vision, and expanded. Lewiston had Andy Keniston heading up a branch store (Andy now is the principal owner of New England Hi Fi itself). Derek also opened branch stores in Augusta, Bangor, and Waterville. Much later, in the nineties, he even gave a brief try at the New Hampshire territory, with a branch in North Hampton. However, times change, but the New England Hi Fi philosophy for quality does not. Derek saw that consolidation toward the South Portland Mall area with ample parking, and good security, was the way to go. However, Mr. Burt did not want to rent, and he certainly wouldn't allow New England Hi Fi to become a plastic plated Mall clone, so he moved beyond the Mall, before anyone else, with another first. Derek bought a piece of speculative land in Scarborough, which at the time in 1983, looked useless and unproductive to most people, but that vision thing again, paid off in spades. New England Hi Fi was re-built into a stunning new sales and service facility, located on 424 Payne road, and became the first of the Round Wood specialty stores.

The new spacious store was a perfect fit, and the sound and video rooms were designed to act as normal rooms in a home, within a village centre motif, with plenty of space for New England Hi Fi's sales staff to do what they do best, listen to their customers needs, and provide audio video solutions. The Sony Trinitron tube TVs in time morphed into the thin flat panel LCD models sold today. VCRs were outdated by Laser disc, that in turn made way for the DVD players, that evolved into the Blu-Ray players with on line streaming capability now so popular.

McIntosh displaySome of New England Hi Fi's speaker, and electronics brand names change. When one no longer supplies a good value for the dollar they're relegated to the dustbin of history. The store changes with the times, but New England Hi Fi's eye for quality never changes, so if an old name brand name is swallowed up by a mega corporation that cranks out cheap imitations of their original products, they unceremoniously get the boot. In other words, the names may change, but the philosophy at New England Hi Fi is consistent.
In 2001 Derek decided that it was time to retire from the business he built from scratch thirty six years before, and long time employee Andy Keniston, already acting as manager, took over the day to day operations, making the business even more successful. Andy expanded on the original theme of value for the dollar, with emphasis on listening to a customers questions, and asking questions that lead customers to the audio and video equipment that fill their needs for a home audio video system, with high definition beyond the wildest imaginings of the early days of a simple turntable with a couple speakers. The fact is though, if a striped down basic set up with incredible sound reproduction is what one is looking for, New England Hi Fi can still make that happen.

New England  HiFiSo from the complex to the sweet and simple, New England Hi Fi will guide in the expertise of audio and video sales and service, and lead the way in the future, just as in 1965. New England Hi Fi's custom install department, full in store service, and knowledgeable sales staff shows the old saying is still true. The more things change, the more they stay the same. A quantum leap in digital technology has taken place since Derek sold those first KLH sets, to the new incredible high definition wide screen TVs, and surround sound systems sold by New England Hi Fi today. None the less, that original core philosophy still stands. Value for the dollar, backed up by guarantee, and service.