When the doors of the new SWT Mastering studio open in the fall of 2017, it will be the first dedicated high-end analogue audio mastering service in Romania. Located at a somewhat unexpected location – A luxurious villa on the outskirts of rural Ludus, Mures county – the new business aims to serve all musical genres of the Romanian entertainment industry.
Dutch born studio owner and mastering engineer, Herman van der Veen, has used his more than 25 years of experience in audio engineering, broadcasting and web services to create SWT Mastering. Over the years he has gathered an eclectic collection of vintage analogue processors and combined it with state of the art analogue and digital equipment, to create a world-class audio mastering set up. “What we’re trying to accomplish is to become the go-to-mastering-studio for producers and musicians that want to bring their work to the highest possible level. Our claim: we define and shape your track’s clarity, focus, density and dimension – to create distinction that sets it apart from anything else.” Mr. van der Veen explains.
SWT Mastering has been in the planning for more than 2 years and is now in the final phase of construction. “Right now we’re installing the sound treatment in the critical listening room, after which the equipment will be installed. Since this is a complex and time consuming process, we hope to be ready by the end of August.” he says enthusiastically.
The new studio will operate as an online and offline business. Mr. van der Veen explains the differences between these two variants. “Online means that the clients upload their music to a server and, after we’ve performed the mastering in our studio, receive the processed material back as a downloadable package. This is a fast process, completed within a few days, or even 24 hours in case of great urgency. Offline means that clients book a live session and are in the studio during the mastering process. Such a studio session can be a true VIP experience that includes catering, drinks and access to the extensive gardens and many terraces, a relaxing but yet productive day. Whatever collaboration model the client chooses, working with SWT Mastering has to be an experience that they will not soon forget.”
Could you explain what mastering exactly means? “Mastering is not that easy to explain, but I’ll try. The advancement of digital recording and mixing equipment has made it possible for anyone to make a music recording in whatever conditions. Great for the creative process, bad for sound quality. When mixing a recording on loudspeakers that are, at best, semi-professional – in a room that has no noteworthy acoustical treatment – the engineer simply does not receive the correct audible information that he or she would need to decide how to balance instruments in the mix or detect problem frequencies. These problems manifest themselves, for example, in the lower frequencies, often creating a muddy low-end with no distinction between the kick drum and bass guitar. In our critical listening room we can analyze the produced work in great detail and find the problems, and resolve them. Next to this ‘bug fixing’, we also have a variation of compressors, equalizers and processors that can be used to give a certain color to a track or raise its perceived loudness, or enhance the dynamics. Not long ago, everyone in the industry was trying to make their tracks as loud as could be. The so called loudness war, was mostly related to making music louder than that of the competition when played on the radio. Now, in the era of iTunes and Spotify, making it crazy loud does not work anymore. At SWT Mastering we have the precision tools to test our work against the different codecs used by the various streaming services. That way we make sure that music mastered by us sounds at its best, no matter how it is distributed and what device it is played on. As you can imagine, there’s much more to mastering – but I’ll keep that knowledge to myself if you don’t mind.”
…when you visit the studio, you’re actually visiting my home as a guest…
Why did you choose to begin a Mastering Studio in Romania? “For me Romania was not that strange of a choice. I’ve moved from The Netherlands to Romania in 2003 – to start a software development company in Targu Mures. I got to know this area because of my girlfriend’s family living here. After running a software business here for more than 15 years, I’ve decided it was time for a change. I wanted to do something again that I’m really passionate about. Ever since I’ve started as a junior sound engineer at the local TV station at the age of 14, sound technology has been a part of my personal and professional life.” And why Ludus – wouldn’t it make more sense to be in Bucharest? “Yes, you are right in regards to Bucharest being in the center of everything. But for me its simple – I find the slower pace of life in Transylvania very appealing. If you ask me, that less stress style of life is in line with the highly personal character of this new business – when you visit the studio, you’re actually visiting my home as a guest. For the online part of the business, it doesn’t really matter where we are located. For the live sessions it is indeed a bit trickier. But with daily flights between Bucharest and Cluj Napoca, distance disappears. And just look around you, why move away from this?”.