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Wednesday, 19 March 2014 14:08

PENTATONE - A portrait of an audiophile record label.

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PentaTone Classics is a record Label that found the day of light in 2001. They are located in Baarn, about half an hour south-east of Amsterdam in Netherlands. Having been going through a rebranding process in 2013, they are now known as PENTATONE. As a Major supplier of audiophile recordings on multichannel SACDs, this is a record label of special interest.

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In an elegant looking building in classical style they are located together with the recording company Polyhymnia. This company has made all of PENTATONE` s recordings from the very beginning.

So we agreed to make a portrait interview with PENTATONE. To form the answers we got both one of the founders of PENTATONE - Dirk van Dijk, and also the man that controls the sound today - Jean-Marie Geijsen, Director & Balance engineer of Polyhymnia. Could you tell us shortly about the history of PENTATONE since the start in 2001?

Dirk van Dijk:Dirk van Dijk: Around the start of the new millennium, three music enthusiasts came together to launch a new music label that promised to redefine the way people listen to classical music.

Their vision was crystal clear: to offer an unrivalled classical music experience through superior audio technology.

The introduction of 5-channel surround sound which made this experience possible came at a time when classical music sales were suffering. But PENTATONE's founders were unwilling to compromise their vision, so convinced were they of the new technology that they launched their own label in 2001.

After a somewhat rocky start, the label quickly began adding talented artists to its roster. Now, 13 years later, PENTATONE enjoys a reputation for excellence, its catalogue comprising some of the very best that classical music has to offer.

For all their diversity, the artists featured on PENTATONE have one thing in common. They all put their heart and soul into the music, drawing on every last drop of creativity, skill, and determination to perfect their compositions.

PENTATONE exists to extract everything that went into creating these timeless classics and put it before the listener with a resolution and crispness not found anywhere else. We don’t dabble in technology for technology’s sake – we believe it’s the only way to truly appreciate these great works of art.

As we celebrate the first decade of PENTATONE and prepare for a changing of the guard, it is time to reflect on our achievements and look toward the future. What is the background for this name PENTATONE?

Dirk van Dijk: Penta = 5   Tone = Sound, so 5 channel sound Well, that gives a strong obligation for- and signals a dedication to surround sound. Were your productions multichannel SA-CDs from day one?

Dirk van Dijk: YES There are many “schools” when it comes to multichannel approach. From the radical setups from labels like 2L and TACET, to the rather conservative setups with only a tad of reflected sound from the surround channels. My impression is that PENTATONE is somewhere in between, with a focus close to the musicians, but still with a listening point at the audience-side of the front-back line. But I might be wrong.
What is your attitude regarding the multichannel mix, or maybe rather microphone setup. Or maybe both?

Jean-Marie Geijsen:Jean-Marie Geijsen:Jean-Marie Geijsen: Our philosophy has always been, either stereo or MCH, aiming for the most natural sound one can achieve without any effects. To achieve this in MCH we have worked on the development of a microphone surround set up for several years. The result is a 5 channel microphone array placed at the same position as the loudspeakers, using 5 identical microphones operated at identical levels. This way we achieve an evenly reproduction of the diffuse sound field of the hall, i.e. early reflections and reverb, during play back from all channels. Also all timing info will be a 1:1 reproduction of the reflection pattern in the hall.

For the direct sound, we place the main microphone array at a certain distance behind the conductor to achieve a precise and detailed pick up of the direct sound in relation to the hall response. To what degree does the surround-mix vary with the music and the recording venue, and what is your philosophy regarding this issue?

Jean-Marie Geijsen: The microphone set up as mentioned above is used independent of the hall acoustics, meaning, we always use the same microphone array. Only the distance from this array to the orchestra is changed to address the differences is hall acoustics. We mix always is stereo, since this is the most difficult version, and when done, we just pan the rear microphone channels to the rear channels to create the surround mx. The panning in the front is adjusted accordingly so we pan between Lfront and Center, and Center and Rfront. As a result the center speaker is as important as the Lfrt nd Rfrt speaker. Do you have the impression that multichannel SACDs are of high value among your costumers?

Dirk van Dijk: YES, for the ones who know the system for SA-CD. This group is small but becomes bigger every year Some few labels that earlier have produced multichannel SA-CDs, now tend to switch to one of the variants of BD-audio, and some even issue Blu-ray / SA-CD productions. What are your thoughts about this question – have you considered releasing audio-productions on Blu-ray, or do you think that SACD still is the perfect media for PENTATONE?

Dirk van Dijk: No, we will stick to SA-CD, which has the best quality. It is with our hybride SA-CD system also playable on normal CD players. Do you have a special musical philosophy or bias for your productions, besides focusing on classical music?

Dirk van Dijk: Not really. We have tried to record in first instance all the main classical works. There have been some rather dramatic changes in overall sales of music on CDs. What are your thoughts about the future of the music industry – will streaming eventually take over totally, or do you believe that physical records will survive, and maybe even get a renaissance?

Dirk van Dijk: We will make available within short all our products in high quality for download (also 5-channel) and streaming. Maybe this will be the future, we do not know for sure.

At the moment 90% is still physical product. We believe that for the coming years both systems will appear on the market.


Before this interview was published, the new webshop for downloads that Dirk van Dijk mentioned has already opened. You can read a news story about the webshop here:

We thank Dirk van Dijk and Jean-Marie Geijsen for their time and interesting information. And also a big thank to Rina Sitorus at PENTATONE for friendly and helpful coordination of this portrait interview.


Read more about PENTATONE here.

Read 2819 times Last modified on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 14:53
Karl Erik Sylthe

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