Abbey Road is one of the most famous recording studios in the world. Steeped in rich musical heritage, it is the place where The Beatles recorded much of their discography, where Pink Floyd recorded Dark Side Of The Moon, where Radiohead, Oasis and Kate Bush made well-known albums.
In Studio Two at Abbey Road last week, I found myself at a discussion centered around the sacrifice of sound quality in the MP3 age. Here, those revered artists spent many hours toiling in the minutiae of their sound surrounded by thousands of pounds worth of recording equipment only for many fans to listen to those recordings on cheap €10 headphones via low quality MP3s.
MP3, the common digital music format is 'lossy'. That means a typical MP3 holds around 15pc to 25pc of the actual audio information from the recording process. But our human ears can't perceive the degradation in sound in the same way that we can perceive low quality in a video file so it's not an issue for most on a surface level.
According to a study conducted by neuroscientist Dr Poppy Crum of Dolby, people who have spent a significant amount of time listening to MP3s actually prefer MP3s to listening to a CD or a format which has all of the information. Many of us are happy with lower quality for the sake of convenience, but there are signs that things are changing.
While Neil Young was derided in the press for presenting Pono, his high-quality music format, as if it was some sort of old man fever dream, the move to the cloud and on-demand streaming means that many of us have access to 320kbps HQ recordings of tracks right now on Deezer and Spotify. Apple introduced the Mastered For iTunes format which encodes the recordings in a higher-than-CD quality at the studio source.
Meanwhile, those Cavan boys, The Strypes, have gone right back to the source and are recording their debut album on analogue two-inch tape. Because quality really never goes out of style.