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Q&A with Martijn Mensink of Dutch & Dutch

Did your interest in the high end come from the music side or the electronics side? 

Definitely the music side. As a kid I went through my parents’ collection and I fell in love with bands such as Queen, Pink Floyd, and the Beatles. My interest in audio really kicked off in my early teens when I listened to my next-door neighbor’s high-end system. Experiencing your favorite music on a system like that for the first time…just wow! I then knew I wanted this for myself.

What was your first high-end system?

After a couple of years of gradually upgrading my system, I realized that speakers make the biggest difference. When I started building my own, both the quality of my system and my understanding of audio skyrocketed. As a teenager and during university I really nerded out and developed lots of different types of speakers, experimenting with everything. All this experimentation at some point culminated in an active system in a dedicated, acoustically optimized room. It was enormous and hideous, but it definitely sounded high end!

What education did you receive?

Besides all the hours spent on building speakers and learning about audio, I studied physics, and I somehow managed to attain degrees in business administration and strategy. 

When did audio develop from a hobby to a career? 

While at university I had a part time job at a high-end hi-fi store. Besides the stuff I built myself, I got to try lots of different factory-made gear. Around that time I started my first audio company with two friends. We were inexperienced and underfunded, but we managed to develop an incredible, highly innovative prototype system. When we were ready to start production, the production company we’d partnered with took all our savings, right before going bankrupt.

In the middle of all that, my girlfriend and I moved in together and I had to give up my high-end system and dedicated room. In the new home I tried several good speakers and added some discrete acoustic treatments, but it seemed impossible to get great sound in my not so great room. But then it hit me: What if instead of fighting the room, you embraced it? This led me to develop a prototype of what was to become the 8c. And then a great opportunity presented itself. A friend of mine introduced me to a couple of guys who wanted to start an audio company. They had funding and a wide range of expertise, and they were looking for somebody with fresh ideas and business acumen to complete their team. My first company had just failed, so obviously it was me they were looking for!

What differentiates high-end audio from other forms of audio? 

For some people high-end is about gear that’s really well-made. For others it’s about expensive stuff for the elite. For me high-end audio is about pushing the boundaries to bring about the best musical experience possible. High-end audio will never be cheap, but I believe in making it attainable. 

How would you describe the Dutch & Dutch company philosophy? 

Dutch & Dutch is not like traditional hi-fi companies. We originated from the Delft University of Technology and almost half of the team are software developers. We value openness and a free exchange of ideas, and we like to stick with science. In the office there’s a laid-back, optimistic atmosphere, but when push comes to shove everybody’s ready to do his or her part. We want to disrupt the high-end industry by doing things differently and developing landmark products that our customers love. A dream this big means that along the way you’ll make mistakes. We’ve taken on challenges that took more time than we anticipated, experienced all sorts of growth pains, and come to accept that mistakes are par for the course. What you do is learn from them and keep trying to become better. I’m really proud of how much Dutch & Dutch has grown as a team and of what we’ve achieved so far. We’ve laid the groundwork, and we’re now ready for the big leagues. 

Audiophiles have been reluctant to embrace active/DSP loudspeakers. Is that  changing? And if so, why? 

With the maturation of DSP technology and modern features such as streaming, active has become a no-brainer. In mainstream audio active/DSP is already the de facto standard, and in recent years it’s been replacing traditional high-end systems and attracting new customers. 

What are the challenges confronting the high end in the next few years? 

More music is consumed today than ever before. What is high-end doing to stay relevant? Dutch & Dutch is founded upon that change. The gap between high-end and mainstream audio has widened and we’re bridging that gap with relevant innovations.

Outside of audio, what do you do for fun?

Music plays a large part in my life, both listening and making. Besides that, I like to stay in shape, sharpen my wits, and spend time with friends and family.


By Neil Gader


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