Powers House of Sound, which opened in 1997, is the product of Herb Powers' three decades of experience in mastering, including stints as an engineer at Frankford/Wayne Mastering and Hit Factory Mastering (where he also served as chief engineer for nine years). During that time, Powers built up a formidable clientele that in many instances dates back to his work as a DJ in several pioneering Manhattan dance clubs. It was there that he laid the foundation for a mastering philosophy that aims to make records "sound as good as they can in the real world, on the kinds of playback systems that people actually use, not only what you see in the audiophile magazines," Powers says. Powers' clients include Lauryn Hill, TLC, Mase, Puff Daddy, Babyface, Jay Z, Usher, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, Mary J. Blige, Brian McKnight, Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Toni Braxton, Notorious BIG, Kirk Franklin and Vanessa Williams.
Powers' mastering suite is equipped with a custom Neve DTC console modified with Prism equalization. Monitoring is via custom Richard Alderson Acoustics speakers and B&W speakers. A production/editing suite is equipped with a Sonic Solutions workstation, which is run by second mastering engineer Dave Kutch, who uses both JBL L7 monitors and a pair of near-field speakers of his own design. The mastering room was designed by Frank Commentale and Herb Powers.
While Powers has an extensive discography in R&B, hip hop, rap and urban, he stresses that he masters for the music, not for the genres, citing work on numerous film soundtracks-including Men In Black, Dangerous Minds, South Park, Soul Food, How Stella Got Her Groove Back-and the growing stream of independent rock records that are coming in to the facility
"I have done a lot of work in R&B, which I happen to love," he says. "But what you want to achieve as a mastering engineer is to make whatever the music is sound the way it's supposed to, to both the artist and to the listener, which is why I put so much emphasis on mastering for the real world." As an example, he notes that his experience in dance clubs has taught him not to overemphasize lower frequencies on dance tracks. "What you have to understand is that clubs tend to boost bass frequencies to start with," he explains. "What you need to do in mastering for that kind of music is to make the bottom end as clear and definitive as possible, not louder. The club takes care of that."
The design of the facility combines mahogany and cherry wood paneling alternating with absorptive materials to create a comfortable and sonically accurate environment. "You're going to spend some intense and serious time in the mastering suite, and it's going to have a major effect on your record," he says. "You want to be comfortable, and we want you to be comfortable, too."