A shiver still runs up, down and around your spine when you enter into the sacred space that is Studio 2, Abbey Road, NW8. Beginning with Cliff Richard (wait, come back), who recorded the first European rock'n'roll single (Move It) here in 1958,and moving on to The Beatles and beyond, so much music history is enshrined in this small space.
Tonight it's another bunch of mop-tops – Cavan 's finest, The Strypes, who are banging it out after the main event: a panel discussion on the new role of audio in music. Talking heads include an Abbey Road producer and various high-end music techies who have slide shows, bar charts and Venn diagrams, all of which show the importance of the audio experience for today'slisteners.
Journalist Miranda Sawyer kicks it off by observing that upon recently compiling a DJ set, she noticed that tracks by contemporary artists were distorted and turned to mush when the volume was pressed right up. However, older Michael Jackson 1980s tracks retained their pristine quality even when the volume was pressed up to 11. Such is the curse of compression.
Most fans now listen to music on their smartphone, computer or tablet. None of these devices offers an optimum audio experience. The convenience of carrying around thousands of songs has overridden any concerns about sound quality – yet further evidence of music being devalued.
But big changes are taking place. It’s now routine to throw out the crappy in-box headphones that come with your device and instead join the “premium” audio revolution. To use a food analogy, it’s like ditching the supermarket sliced pan for artisan wholemeal.
But the reason for this move to premium listening devices (the “celebrity headphone” is an expensive purchase) is not a sudden interest in response rate, fidelity and hertz. Like so much today, the change is down to audio becoming a fashion accessory.
In a US lawsuit being taken by Beats against Yamaha, Beats argue that it came up with the wildly successful idea of the headphone as a fashion accessory (pointing out that people wear them around their neck as they would a designer scarf) and that the new Yamaha product is trading off that consumer goodwill.
Many celebrities (from A- to Z-list) are now hawking a range of headphones. From New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow to "Snooki" from TV's Jersey Shore to seemingly half the musicians on the planet, the scramble is on to become a viable Beats rival.
Someone suggests an Abbey Road premium headphone would mop up the demographic left in the cold by Beats: as with skinny jeans, once you’re over 35 you’re just going to look a bit pathetic with Beats around your neck.
That’s why there’s a lot of interest in the new Motörheadphöne, as endorsed by Lemmy. Cleverly, the Motörheadphöne emphasises mid-range sound: it’s Lemmy’s opinion that anything other than hip-hop sounds “terrible” on Beats. But what, Lemmy, distinguishes your celeb headphones from all the others out there?
“They’ve got Motörhead written on them,” he says.