A biologically-inspired neural coding scheme for the early auditory system is outlined. The cochlea response is simulated with a passive gammatone filterbank. The output of each bandpass filter is spike-encoded using a zero-crossing based method over a range of sensitivity levels. The scheme is inspired by the highly parallellised nature of the auditory nerve innervation within the cochlea. A key aspect of early auditory processing is simulated, namely that of onset detection, using leaky integrate-and-fire neuron models. Finally, a time-domain neural network (the echo state network) is used to tackle the what task of auditory perception using the output of the onset detection neurons alone. A set of interim results are presented.