Brussels-based mastering and sound restoration facility EQuuS is celebrating chart success after three albums that were mastered on its extensive SADiE systems all featured in the Belgium Top 10 in the same week.
Founded in 1994 by audio restoration expert Marc Doutrepont, EQuuS expanded in 1997 when engineer Pieter De Wagter joined the company and set up a mastering facility. EQuuS also has a production studio for freelance producers and a copy studio.
The facility's chart success centres on the album Entity by Oscar & The Wolf; Racine Carr©e by Electronic dance artist Stromae and Thank You All! by Vaya Con Dios. De Wagter, who mastered all three projects, says he is particularly delighted to be a part of Stromae and Oscar & The Wolf's success.
"I only mastered the singles taken from the Vaya Con Dios album, but with Stromae and Oscar and the Wolf I mastered their entire albums as I have worked with them both since their very first releases," he says. "It was particularly pleasing that they wanted to do the mastering here because in a small country like Belgium, the biggest challenge is persuading artists not to take their recording and mastering abroad."
De Wagter says that Stromae was determined to keep all the production for his album in Brussels, despite money being no object thanks to the success he had enjoyed with his previous album, Cheese.
"We both decided the mastering should reflect his artistic ambitions, whilst keeping it fairly commercial, so the final sound isn't as compressed and loud as many of the other acts in the charts," De Wagter says. "But that hasn't stopped him from selling millions of copies around the world. The same goes for Oscar & The Wolf, although on a smaller scale."
Although artist-only albums are an important part of EQuuS' mastering workload, the majority of the projects it handles are compilations. This, says De Wagter, is simply a reflection of the Belgium music scene where compilations are big business.
"Compilations accounts for at least 50% of our output, and on a weekly basis we master 60% of the compilation Top 20 in Belgium," he says. "Our clients come from many different places and include major companies like Universal Music Belgium/France and Warner Music Belgium, plus independent labels like Play It Again Sam, N.E.W.S. Records and Black Hole Recordings, and, of course, lots of independent or unsigned artists."
Working with such a high level of compilation albums means that EQuuS needs its equipment to be both reliable and efficient. To this end it has invested heavily in Prism Sound/SADiE equipment and now has three SADiE 5 turnkey systems and one SADiE 6 system.
"SADiE is a fantastic editing tool and to this day it remains the easiest and best system when it comes to preparing audio masters," De Wagter says. "My clients are always deeply impressed by the speed and accuracy of the editing on a SADiE. Efficiency, reliability and sound quality are essential requirements for a mastering system, and in the 20-plus years I've been using SADiE, it has never let me down."
De Wagter adds that with the multitude of different formats mastering facilities are now asked to deliver, SADiE's new WAV Master tool has become one of EQuuS' most used applications.
"To put it simply, I couldn't do without it," he says.