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Living a high-tech dream

Teenager finds his career path in Audio Dynamics

When Ryan Atkinson dropped out of high school a couple of years ago, it wasn’t for lack of ambition. Today, Atkinson, 19, is a partner in a small business in Steamboat Springs. He dreams of expanding his new enterprise to embrace the high-tech home electronics products he expects will someday transform the way consumers manage their households. For now, Audio Dynamics is focused on custom installations of electronics — stereos, DVD players, satellite radio and security systems — in vehicles.

Atkinson, his father, Richard, and Morgan Riddell are partners in the new company at 2464 Downhill Drive in Yampa Valley Business Park. The company is doing good business in its single garage bay and adjoining sales room, retailing and installing car stereos. Riddell, who owns another company devoted to sound systems for live concerts, Pro Audio, said Audio Dynamics is the only car stereo installer in Steamboat devoted solely to that specialty.

“Because it’s the only thing we do, we have a broad range of products,” Riddell said. In his other business, he is the production manager for the sound system that powers the free concert series in Steamboat and installed a new sound system for Strings in the Mountains. He recently returned from managing the main stage sound system at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver.

Riddell said his primary contribution to Audio Dynamics is his knowledge of business practices. Ryan Atkinson and employee David Burke are doing the installation work.

Ryan Atkinson dropped out of Steamboat Springs High School three-quarters of the way through his junior year, he said, because it wasn’t a good fit for him. He tried a private school in California but didn’t warm to the “boot camp” atmosphere and returned to Steamboat where he enrolled in English and sculpture classes at Colorado Mountain College.

During his first four months out of high school, Atkinson went to work at an automotive business, and his thinking about his future began to crystallize. He scored high on a technology aptitude test and passed his high school equivalency exam.

“I decided I was going to go to school for technology,” Atkinson said.

He enrolled in a school in Toronto, Canada, where he studied for eight weeks to become a “mobile electronics certified professional.”

Atkinson found himself immersed in everything from the basic physics and principles of electricity, to the proper way to install sound, security, satellite

and DVD systems.

“They teach not just how to hook it up, but what’s going on when it’s working right,” Atkinson said.

Audio Dynamics sells stereo decks by Clarion, Kenwood, Panasonic and JVC.

A basic “head system” not including speakers can be installed for $180. That system will play a radio and CDs. For another $100, Riddell said, customers can get a mid-range Clarion or JVC that is compatible with satellite radio and MP3 players.

“We’re trying to be cost-competitive with Denver,” Riddell said. Add in the advantage of being able to go to a local shop for after-purchase warranty service, and he thinks the advantages of buying in the valley are clear.

High-end car audio systems begin at about $600 and easily can climb to $2,000.

Audio Dynamics will install new equipment that was purchased elsewhere for a slightly higher labor charge. The business is not interested in working with used equipment. However, it will de-install its systems from leased vehicles, for example, that are about to be returned to the dealer.

Atkinson says he loves a well-designed sound system but that he also is interested in security systems and expanding from car security systems to home systems.

His vehicle has been equipped with a new feature that allows a friend waiting to meet him by his car in the parking lot to rap on the windshield to get his attention — it works if he’s not in the vehicle.”

“If they knock on the window, it sends a message to my pager,” Atkinson said. He also can install systems that will alert car owners if an unauthorized person opens a door or even the hood and specify which one.

Audio Dynamics is off U.S. Highway 40 at Downhill Drive near NAPA Auto Parts. Turn right and continue north to the entrance to Yampa Valley Business Park, immediately opposite the entrance to West End Village.

Audio Dynamics can be reached at 879-3338.

— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


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