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  • Approaching Sound by Stephan Mathieu | Schwebung Mastering

    Approaching Sound I have been fascinated with music and its reproduction since my early childhood and started collecting records when I was 8. At 10, I took up the drums; in 1990, I moved to Berlin, where I spent most of the decade as a drummer and had the chance to work extensively with some outstanding players and thinkers from the improvised and contemporary music scenes – including noise, electronic, jazz and experimental rock & pop musicians from around the world. Through countless collaborations, rehearsals, and performances on a near-daily basis, I became well acquainted with how the entire palette of instruments – from ancient to modern – sounds when playing right next to you and how different spaces will affect and alter the result. As an active musician and collaborator, I’ve encountered diverse perspectives on what good sound can mean to different people. The experience gathered during this period became formative for my current work and my general approach to sound and mastering. In 1997, I made a shift from being a percussionist to producing music with computers. I began work as an engineer and teacher in a traditional electronic music studio in France, the former CERM (Centre européen de recherche musicale) Metz, where I was able to set up an experimental analog lab around their vintage devices by ARP, Crumar, EMS, Moog, New England Digital and Roland, as well as a digital production studio featuring the latest ProTools 24-bit audio technology. There I started mastering in 1998 – without exactly knowing that’s what I did – by transferring DATs and reels with recordings made during their annual festival, cleaning, editing, and EQing them for archival purposes and as copies for the composers and performers. Around the same time, I began a long journey of learning more about how to listen critically, frequencies, and dynamics while regularly attending mastering sessions for my own material with my friend and mentor Henner Dondorf. In 2001, I became an associate professor for Sound and Digital Concepts at the University of Art and Design HBK Saar, where I was invited to establish two more ProTools-based production studios, and worked as a visiting professor for various international institutions for most of the decade. During my research into the roots of audio reproduction, I began collecting mechanical-acoustic gramophones and records from the first quarter of the 1900s. I remain fascinated with how they deliver sound in an archaic yet stunningly beautiful way. ​ ​ Recorded Sound as an Illusion When studying the reproduction of recorded acoustic events, there is no such thing as perfect sound. A recording will always be an illusion, a reflection of reality similar to photography or movies. Rather than perfect, such an image can only be as good as the recording and playback methods permit. Imagine an orchestral work you love performed in a concert space with fantastic acoustics. You will not get the same result from a pair of loudspeakers, no matter how good they may be. That said, listening to music at home has its own magic and can, without a doubt, be a fantastic experience in its own right. In fact, recorded sound can present a piece of music in a way it can’t be experienced in a live setting. A trick almost as old as the record industry itself – to work around the problems that will arise while trying to bring fidelity to people’s homes – is the production of a recording, with the use of equalization, compression, reverb, etc., paired with a skillful mix of the individual components that make up a complex audio event. Needless to say, this process has sparked a huge wave of creativity and led to an enormous amount of fantastic works spanning genres and production schools across the decades. ​ In purely acousmatic music, on the other hand, what we hear through a set of loudspeakers sometimes has no real-life counterpart at all. The sound aesthetics are solely defined by the composer – the loudspeaker itself becomes the instrument. Shaping Sound My monitoring setup follows the piece-of-wire concept, allowing me to hear what is actually there while listening to a client’s work. This means keeping the signal’s path between the source (my digital-to-analog converter) and target (my ears) short, transparent, and unimpaired by anything that might add color or character to the material. I love equipment you will not hear, which acts as a measuring tool and offers an uncluttered perspective on your work. The same goes for my room, which provides an accurate 35 square-meters listening environment to assess the quality of a mix before adding or subtracting color during the actual mastering process. At this initial listening stage, I strive to keep the tools out of the music’s way. For the shaping instance of the mastering process, I’m working with a hybrid setup: critical corrections are accomplished with a brief selection of cutting-edge plug-ins which allow for meticulous adjustments and to-the-point automations, while my hand-built mastering console offers the kind of 3-D depth and unique radiance that analog does best. ​ ​ Digital audio is a thing of beauty, and when done right, it can sound just as effortless, truthful and inviting as an analog medium. Taking this as a starting point, I see no difference in working on a recording of a string quartet or a recording of a vacuum cleaner. Each sound has its individual complexity: when handled well, it will show its character with precision and cogency. Hence, the question I most frequently ask myself while working on a master is: Does it sound better or merely different?

  • Contact + Info | Schwebung Mastering

    Please check the following topics first for my rates, how to prepare your mixes for mastering, and some points that ensure smooth collaboration: Services + Rates Preparing your Mix Collaboration Terms ​ ​ Contact Let’s discuss your project ​ ​ Upload If you're ready to book a session, download the order sheet from the link below, fill in your details, and forward it to me in a zipped folder with your final mixes through my WeTransfer channel. Download Order Sheet (PDF) Upload ZIP to While sometimes referred to as black art, in reality, mastering is a process based on knowledge, technical and communication skills, a deep dedication to sound, and carefully selected tools set up in a perfectly tuned listening environment.

  • Schwebung Mastering | Schwebung Mastering

    My recent mastering projects include music by Abrahams, Ambarchi, Avenaim / Áine O’Dwyer / Aisha Burns / Akifumi Nakajima / Ákos Rózmann / Alessandro Cortini / Andrew Poppy / Anthony Pateras / Atrás Del Cosmos / Belong / “Blue” Gene Tyranny / Carl Stone / Catherine Christer Hennix / Charlemagne Palestine / Charles Curtis / Claire Rousay / Costin Miereanu / Dialect / Don Cherry / Éliane Radigue / Elodie Lauten / Félicia Atkinson / Fennesz / 7038634357 / Graham Lambkin / Grouper / James Rushford / Jefre Cantu–Ledesma / John McGuire / Jules Reidy / Kali Malone / Kamilya Jourban / KMRU / Laurie Spiegel / Lisa Lerkenfeldt / Lubomyr Melnyk / Morton Feldman / Pete Namlook & Geir Jenssen / Rafael Anton Irisarri / Rafael Toral / Raum / Richard Landry / Ripatti / R.N.A Organism / Robert Ashley / Robert Haigh / Rolf Gehlhaar / Stephen O'Malley / Tashi Wada / Terry Jennings / The Caretaker / The Shadow Ring / Tolerance / Tujiko Noriko / Vladislav Delay / Woo / Yoshi Wada / Youmna Saba and many more artists running the gamut of modern recorded music. ​

  • Services + Rates | Schwebung Mastering

    An overview of services and the rates for having your material mastered by me as of January 2024. Please take the numbers as a guideline and contact me for your individual quote. All prices are in Euro and subject to 19% VAT for clients in Germany, and for EU clients without registered VAT ID. Returning clients receive a 10% discount on album rates. Please also read my payment terms . ​ ​ Stereo Mastering Album and EP € 14 per minute of audio ​ Single and 7" Single € 80 per track with up to 5 minutes duration ​ Radio edits and instrumentals are 50% if they are delivered with the album mixes. All revisions are included. If you submit a new mix for an already mastered track, this is billed as a new track. ​ A master comes as a sequenced playlist with adjusted gain relations, dedicated fades, and spacing between tracks to guarantee the correct flow of your work from any format. ​ ​ Your master includes the formats you are planning to release, i.e. - Apple Digital Master (ADM) for digital distribution - DDP Image for CD manufacture - Cassette Master - Vinyl Premaster for your cutting engineer, please see below for exceptions. ​ I have worked in pro audio for 30 years and maintain a close relationship with some of the best vinyl cutting engineers, pressing plants, CD manufacturers, and printers in the business. I'm happy to help you find partners that suit your project and requirements best. ​ ​ Vinyl Premaster I usually master with vinyl in mind because what works for this format also sounds best for the ear. If your mixes are phase coherent , your master for digital distribution will also work for vinyl. In this case, I include a dedicated folder with a vinyl premaster for your cutting engineer free of charge. ​ The cost of a dedicated vinyl premaster will vary based on the specific work required. ​ ​ Restoration I will remove the occasional clicks and bursts from your audio as part of the mastering process. If your material requires elaborate spectral repair of glitches, distortion, and other unwanted events baked into your recordings, the following rates apply: € 100 per hour / billed per 15 minutes ​ ​ Last-minute / Rush Service For all the Spotify streaming stars I offer a rush service for € 120 per single with a minimum lead time of 12 hours before your deadline to receive your final mix. ​ ​ Attended Mastering You are welcome to attend your session for an album at no additional cost in my studio in Bonn, Germany. To keep this practical, you will have to deliver your mix in advance for pre-mastering so that we can focus on fine-tuning during your visit. I only have two attended dates available every month, please contact me well in advance. ​ ​ ​ Additional Services ​ Mixing I will take on specific mixing projects, especially electroacoustic and chamber music projects in the broadest sense. Whatever those terms suggest to you, contact me if you are interested in having your project mixed by me. ​ Media Transfer I can transfer your historical 33 /45 /78 rpm records and cassette tapes using a high-end playback chain and converters. For the transfer of records, I'm using an EMT 938 turntable, fully refurbished by Hans Fabritius, with a range of correct styli for your stereo, mono, or normal groove 78 rpm media. For cassettes, I use a fully serviced Studer A721 tape deck. Flat transfer uploaded as 24/96k .WAV € 150 per hour / 1 hour minimum, then billed per 15 minutes For the transfer of your 1/4, 1/2, and 1-inch reels I'm collaborating with specialists in Europe, North America, and Asia.

  • Collaboration Terms | Schwebung Mastering

    Some guidelines to help make our collaboration effective, easy, and worthwhile for both sides. Please rewiew the following info, which also includes the fine print. Booking To inquire about a mastering session, contact me and let me know the scope and schedule of your project, the formats requested for your release, and any notes and suggestions you may have. Your inquiry will remain non-committing until we agree to work on your music and set a date for the mastering session. File Transfer I exclusively use WeTransfer for file exchanges. Feel free to send your mixes any time, also if you’re looking for no-obligation feedback. If possible, don’t send links through other platforms, especially not if they require a login. I’m not a Dropbox user and don’t have a Google account. ​ Please make sure to properly name and ZIP your files before uploading them. ​ Your final masters will be archived on my WeTransfer server and can be accessed at any time with the download link you will receive from me. Payment From new clients, I’m asking for advance payment of the agreed fee. I will invoice your in time before the mastering session begins. Returning clients will receive a 10% discount on the list price for mastering an album, and I will invoice you once the master has been approved. Payment within two days after billing is appreciated. ​ Payments can be made by bank transfer. Wise is an excellent solution for international bank transfers, secure, easy to set up and low-cost. Please ensure that your payment covers all fees so the billed amount will arrive in my account. I try to avoid Paypal whenever possible. If this is the only payment method available to you, I will invoice you, including transaction fees, through the platform. Collaboration While working on your master, you can always reach me by email. Please ensure you have the time to check the files I will forward to you. To work efficiently, it is helpful to receive your feedback within 24hrs. If you need longer to evaluate the prints I’ve sent, let me know so I can re-schedule your project until you’re ready. In this case, I will invoice you at this point. The turnaround time for a set of files for approval of an album-length project is around two days once a session has started. The delivery of the production master depends on the flow of communication. Evaluating and Confirming your Master You must double-check the approved final master before sending it to a pressing plant or releasing your work into the digital realm. By the time you receive the master files, I will have checked them thoroughly and assume they are 100% good. Please listen again carefully anyway. When it comes to tips on evaluating your master, Justin Perkins has put together this brilliant advice for The ProAudioFiles. ​ Please do not alter your final masters, i.e., fade adjustments and other edits, volume automation, or sample rate conversion. I’m happy to take care of this, even if a project has been signed off on already. I won’t take credit or responsibility for a master altered by a different studio or passed through another DAW. ​ Thanks for reading, Stephan

  • New Page | Schwebung Mastering

    Check back soon Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.

  • Studio | Schwebung Mastering

    My tools combine cutting-edge digital and the best historical valve and transformer technology. My digital /analog /digital loop is kept short and minimal to provide maximum accuracy. Digital tools allow for meticulous corrections and to-the-point automation, while my hand-built mastering console offers the kind of 3-D depth that analog does best. Room I’m working from a 35 m² room with acoustics realized in association with Fraunhofer Institut Bonn Monitoring Horn-loaded PA system with 15" woofers and coaxial compression drivers AVM monoblocks Audeze LCD-X Mastering Console hand-built by Knif Audio, Terry Audio , and Vacuvox Enso MKIII cabling by Habst Kabelmanufaktur , Berlin Power by PS Audio Conversion Merging Technologies Digital Workstations Wavelab Spectralayers ProTools Digital Tools Cedar Audio MAAT Digital Tone Projects

  • Selected Work | Schwebung Mastering

    Some of my mastering and production credits Blank Forms / Commmons / Dais Records / Editions Mego / Grönland Records / Hands In The Dark / History Always Favours The Winners / Ideologic Organ / Kranky / La Scie Dorée / Mesh-Key / Metaphon / Mexican Summer / Moikai / Omen Wapta / Palto Flats / Past Inside The Present / Important Records / INA GRM / Room40 / RVNG Intl. / Sacred Bones / Saltern / Secretly Canadian / Sferic / Shelter Press / Silent State Recordings / Supreme / The Trilogy Tapes / Tonal Union / Touch / Two Acorns / Unseen Worlds / Western Vinyl / Yellowelectric, and many other labels, brands, festivals, and institutions. Please visit BuyMusicClub for Bandcamp links Contact Notes BuyMusicClub Discogs MMXV – MMXXIV Imprint Wada Sanzō ​Design by Cabina

  • Preparing Your Mix | Schwebung Mastering

    Some points to consider while preparing your mixes for mastering. Please review them carefully as they can make all the difference while working towards a great-sounding master. Feel free to contact me with your questions at any time, I’m happy to help. Last things first Always send the final version of your mix, the version you are happy with and which you want to have mastered. Take your time to get things right. Your master can only be as good as your mix allows. Bit Depth and Sample Rate Ideally, you will work on your project from start to finish in WAV format with a bit depth of 32 or 24-Bit and a fixed sample rate of 96kHz and deliver your mix in this native format. ​ Please do not up or down-sample your audio; always stick to the native sample rate of your session. Sample Rate Conversion can easily mess things up when not done right. If your session is 16/44.1k, that’s fine. Dynamics Don’t add dynamic processing such as limiting, compression, or finalizing to the master bus only to get your mix loud. Loudness is best addressed during the mastering stage. While dynamic processing makes sense when used for aesthetic reasons, heavy limiting and compression can seal off your material when applied to the master bus. As a result, there will be little room left for good mastering. In addition to this clean version of your mix, you can send your reference mix, including master bus processing, to give me an idea of what you are looking for. Bear in mind – an unmastered mix doesn’t need to compete with mastered material. Mono compatibility and Phase issues Mono compatibility of your mix is crucial when working on a vinyl release. Out–of–phase content interferes with mono compatibility and can not be cut to vinyl without being adjusted first. This is ideally accomplished in the mix, not while mastering from a stereo file. Keeping audio in phase also makes a difference for digital formats. Many listeners will stream their music on small Bluetooth speakers or mono gear, where excessive stereo information will be gone. As a result, your mix may disintegrate and sound very different from your intention. If the stereo image of your mix relies mainly on widening effects, chances are that they cause phase issues. While out–of–phase audio can sound impressive initially, the result is kind of a cheap trick. Audio has better, more natural tonality and stereo separation if the signal stays in phase. You can get a much safer, wide and detailed stereo image by adequately distributing the elements in your mix using their panorama settings. Please check your mix frequently to see whether the audio stays in phase and if fundamental elements will be gone once the signal is mono’ed. A reliable and easy-to-use freeware tool for checking mono compatibility and phase coherency is the 2BusControl plugin by MAAT, which will ideally sit last on your stereo bus all the time. If the correlation meter swings to the left /out–of–phase, go through the individual tracks in your session by soloing them to find those which cause the issue and rework them until your mix sounds right without affecting the phase. I will get better results during the mastering stage without having to turn your mix upside down to make it fit. Dither Always dither your audio while rendering a process that involves automation (gain, panning) and plugins. Don’t be afraid of dithering tacks multiple times in case they will go through several processing stages. Dither averts a range of low-level mess that will compromise your sound in the big picture. My favorite dither tool is LINPro , also by MAAT. Insert LINpro last on your stereo bus – or 2nd-last, before 2BusControl, mentioned above –, select preset B, and forget! Headroom As long as your mix won’t hit 0dB – without having to use a limiter to prevent digital clipping – everything is good. There is no need to keep several dB of headroom before mastering. Mixing your tracks with a healthy dose of gain will help you take full advantage of the digital format. Just make sure that your audio never goes into clipping. File names Please name your files [artist name] 01, [artist name] 02… for digital formats and CD, and [artist name] A1, [artist name] A2… for vinyl or cassette, and add the track titles only to your order sheet. We will stick to this convention during the mastering process. Titles and other tags are added to the DDP image and other formats once you’ve approved the master.

  • About | Schwebung Mastering

    Welcome to Schwebung Mastering, an independent studio operated by Stephan Mathieu, specializing in preparing audio for analog and digital products, streaming media, and the restoration of archival material. I’m operating Schwebung Mastering from the HICOG Estate heritage site in Bonn, Germany, collaborating with artists and labels running the gamut of modern recorded music. Most of my clients have chosen to work with me due to their appreciation of my artistic sensitivity to sound. I have a background as a musician and producer working in electroacoustics. You can read more about my approach to mastering here . Please browse this site for everything you need to know if you want to work with me on your project. Stephan

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