Interview: Andy Mitchell from Spiritland Headphone Bar, London
Based in London's iconic Mayfair district, Spiritland Headphone Bar is a different kind of audio store: customers sample some of the finest headphones available (including the RHA T20i, MA750 Wireless and CL750) alongside amplifiers, high-resolution audio and whisky. We asked Andy Mitchell, Spiritland's manager, more about it:
Hi Andy, great to meet you! The Spiritland Headphone Bar is known as a hub for high-end audio technology. What influences your decision when selecting products for the store?
The owners of Spiritland wanted to create a place where audiophiles could come in and audition a selection of the best headphones available. To that end, we chose a small selection of high end headphones.
To give our customers the best possible auditioning experience, we have a great audiophile playback system with hi-res files (WAV, FLAC, DSD), a superb DCS DAC, and some great headphone amps that are transparent and powerful. The boutique itself is quite small, it’s acoustically treated, and it looks visually inviting with a dark wood panelled rear display wall to show off our headphones.
An integral part of high end audio technology is the idea of a "deep listening experience"; the difference between just hearing music and actually listening to it. What do you believe is most crucial to achieving such an experience?
The great thing about high-end gear is that it is designed to enable the listener to hear music as it was intended. Low distortion, smoothness and clarity are all desirable properties that the designers of this wonderful gear have been able to achieve. So whether you’re sitting at home or on the move, you have a better chance of achieving that lovely immersive experience, enabling you to “escape” for a while.
London is steeped in a rich musical history and hosts a vibrant music scene. What do you feel attracts such passion and talent to the city?
During the 60s, a good proportion the legendary bands that shaped the future of rock music were from the London area, and there was an explosion of creativity throughout the arts and cultural movements that has had a lasting effect. That era certainly continues to resonate in modern culture, and I think that fans want to come and physically experience the legacy of that era in their own way.
As well as being the manager of The Spiritland Headphone Bar you are also an accomplished musician. How does your experience as a musician affect your opinion on the audio industry and your choice in audio technology?
Well, even though I work in an audiophile setting, which is very much at the luxury end of the market, I’ve always championed the “bedroom musician on a budget" approach. We are so fortunate in this era to have access to gear that performs extremely well. I know it's important to listen objectively to whatever gear one is using, and not be swayed by marketing or social effects. It also definitely helps to have at least some technical understanding about the gear being used, and its design goals.
You were lead vocals, harmonica and acoustic guitar for the iconic London band The Yardbirds. What was it like to have this torch passed to you?
I was very proud to be part of that legacy. The Yardbirds always had a revolving cast of band members - the particular lineup that I was part of managed to inject some of that raw energy they were known for in the sixties.
Can you suggest us a playlist that you think says something about you and your inspirations? Songs that you like to listen to as you work; artists you’re proud of working with, or tracks with a bit of a story about them.
This is where it gets difficult! I’ve always been a fan of progressive rock, so inevitably I have to include some of that in the list… Here’s a random selection of stuff I’ve listened to far too much:
Find out more about Spiritland on their website.