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(Credit: Far Out / Blaz Erzetic / Clay Banks / Goh Rhy Yan)

Music

The 10 best audiophile bars around the world

@SamWKemp

Audiophile bars – or listening bars if you prefer – have their origins in Japan following the Second World War. Back then, the novelty of combining high-quality sound systems and low-level lighting with cafe culture began as an exercise in mindfulness, the mantra of which was “talk less, listen more”. But in recent years, the concept has been adopted by industrious music heads all over the world, and today you can find audiophile bars everywhere from London to India.

Back in 2019, when the craze was just beginning to kick off, Colleen Murphy, a DJ and producer, was interviewed by Nohsheen Iqbal about the surging popularity of audiophile Bars: “I think it’s part of a larger movement, like slow food and mindfulness,” Murphy began, explaining how listening bars have become especially popular amongst young people, many of whom, she says, have never experienced listening to music on the high-end sound systems that make places like London’s Brilliant Corners such an important spot for music lovers.

“It’s like only eating McDonald’s all your life and then going to Le Gavroche for the first time and being ‘Oh, food can taste like this?’ It’s kind of hard to keep going back because you’re very used to it, it’s convenient – and fast food still has its place in the world,” Murphy notes.

Whatever the reason, audiophile bars are more popular than ever. Despite taking a significant hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are choosing to spend their evenings in places like New York’s Public Records and Dublin’s Hang Dai than ever before, savouring the opportunity to relax with friends over drinks, food, and great music. Below, you can find a comprehensive list of the ten best audiophile bars around the world.

The 10 best audiophile bars around the world:

Potato Head, Hong Kong

Equipped with a vintage sound system with all the clarity and punch of a modern Hi-Fi, Potato Head is one of Hong Kong’s hidden gems. From Laidback listening sessions in the ‘Music Room’ to tropical house beats in the Eksotika Bar, there’s something for everyone.

This dynamic space was designed by none other than Sou Fujimoto and offers a selection of dishes inspired by the cuisine of the Indonesian archipelago, as well as bespoke cocktails. Potato Head also runs a creative village in Bali and a rooftop bar in Singapore, each offering something utterly unique.

Location: 100 Third St, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong.
Website: Potato Head.

In Sheep’s Clothing, Los Angeles

The original mantra of Japan’s post-war listening bars echoes throughout this LA bar, where guests are encouraged to keep their conversations low and avoid taking photographs.

This musical oasis, hidden inside Lupetti Pizzeria, in LA’s Arts District in a meticulously designed wood-panelled listening lounge with the ambience of a spa retreat, making it the perfect place to sit back, relax, and enjoy a glass of wine or Japanese whisky while listening to a selection of records curated by Zach Cowie, the music supervisor behind Master of None. In Sheep’s Clothing was forced to close its doors during the pandemic, but it looks set to re-open in the near future.

Location: 710 E 4th Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90013, United States.
Website: In Sheeps Clothing.

Brilliant Corners, London

Like In Sheep’s Clothing, London’s Brilliant Corners, located in Dalston, draws inspiration from the Japanese listening bar culture. Serving a selection of dishes inspired by th nation’s Izakayas – small pubs serving cooked snacks, much like Venice’s Bacari.

Brilliant Corners, founded by Aneesh Patel and his brother Amit, is rivalled only by Spiritland in Kings Cross. For me though, Brilliant Corners takes the lead purely for the fact that it hosts Classic Album Sundays, a regular record club helmed by Colleen Murphy. It was also the first listening bar to open in London, sparking a trend that has seen similar establishments pop up all over the country.

Location: 470 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4AE.
Website: Brilliant Corners.

Audioteca, Naples

Audioteca is a beautifully furnished audiophile bar with bare-brick walls, ornate chandeliers and intimate tables, making it the perfect place to enjoy a drink, a bite to eat, and to soak up the electric atmosphere of one of the most beautiful city’s in all of Italy. Here, you will find residents and guest DJs spinning a selection of vinyl records on Audioteca’s state-of-the-art decks.

For Audioteca’s co-founder, Luca Esposito, a brilliant listening experience was absolutely essential. “The sound system is designed with clarity and depth in mind,” Esposito began, describing the bar’s bespoke Hi-Fi system. “A pair of three-way columns in Finnish birch connect to a tube amplifier specifically designed for the project. The unique element is the presence of two scoop bins [and] a rear-loaded horn loudspeaker dedicated solely to low frequencies.”

Location: Via P. Togliatti 70c – S. Giorgio a Cremano, Napoli, Italy.
Website: Audioteca.

Hang Dai, Dublin

There are few restaurants in Dublin that received the level of hype of Hang Dai. Originally conceived to “shake up authentic-contemporary Chinese cuisine” and create an institution in Dublin’s restaurant landscape, Hang Dai combines “art, design and fun”, offering a refreshing take on dishes such as Beijing duck and astonishingly flavoursome cocktails, including the Hang Dai Sour.

But Hang Dai’s main point of attraction is the building itself, which, with its neon-lit restaurant, ‘golden bar’, and extraordinary sound system – which somehow fins its way into the bathroom – makes it by far the most otherworldly dining experience in Dublin.

Location: 20 Camden Street Lower, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin, D02 T275, Ireland.
Website:
Hang Dai.

Public Records, New York City

The brainchild of Brooklynite musicians Francis Harris, Shane Davis, and VanderWal, Public Records opened its doors towards the tail end of 2019. This gorgeous space offers three unique rooms: a cosy performance space known as The Sound Room, a hi-fi record bar, and a vegan café-come-record store.

As well as creating one of the most revered bespoke sound systems on the scene, Public Records worked with Arup, an acoustic engineering company that works on opera houses around the world, to make their Sound Room one of the most immersive places to watch live music in New York.

Location: 233 Butler St, Brooklyn, NY 11217, United States.
Website
Public Records.

Rhinoçéros, Berlin

Rhinoçéros is just bout as minimalist a listening bar as you can get, featuring one turntable, two speakers, and a selection of jazz records to knock your socks off. The Berlinese establishment takes things back to basic, offering the same kind of laid-back charm that made Japan’s original jazz Kissa so special.

Emphasising the intimacy of old-fashioned speakeasy’s, Rhinoçéros contains a secret music room equipped with a beautiful pair of wooden Bowers & Wilkins speakers from 1976 and a Micro-Seiki Turntable from ’81. The whole atmosphere of this place seems designed to stimulate intimacy, so if you’re looking for good wine, good jazz, and good conversation, look no further.

Location:  Rhinower Str. 3, 10437 Berlin, Germany.
Website
: Rhinoçéros.

For The Record, Goa

For The Record, India’s first audiophile bar is the brainchild of audio engineer and architect, Buland Shukla who also runs Audiophile Goa, an audio retail store. I suppose that explains why FTR is home to such as such a phenomenal Hi-Fi System.

As well as hosting intimate gigs and book launches, FTR also offers a selection of Indian spirits and cocktails. Oh, and it has an insanely extensive record collection. Not to mention the fact that it’s situated in Goa, one of the most beautiful spots in southern India.

Location: Jukebox, H no 49, nr. Maruti Temple, Fontainhas (quarter), Mala, Panaji, Goa 403001, India.
Website: For The Record.

Romano, Tel Aviv

From the historic Romano House, comes this beautiful listening lounge and restaurant. Equipped with a vintage sound system, innumerable plants, and rustic wooden interiors, Romano is one of the cosiest spots for a drink in Tel Aviv.

Romano, founded by the Teder crew and Eyal Shani & Shahar Segal, also offers some of the best food in the city, with a menu based on seasonal, fresh and local vegetables, fish and seafood. As a result, the menu changes every day, as does the lineup of local and international DJ’s who spin records well into the early hours.

Location: בית רומנו, Derech Jaffa 9, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel.
Website: Romano.

Fiel Discos, São Paulo

This spacious joint in Brazil’s São Paulo began life as an online vinyl store but quickly evolved into a physical shop and haven for the city’s audiophiles.

The listening bar was set up to promote the “sacred ritual of listening to music in an analogue way” and specialises in everything from dub to classic rock. Fiel Discos serves a menu of simple food and very strong drinks, all to the benefit of the music. After all, guests of this particular establishment understand that music comes before all else.

Location: Av. São Luís – República, São Paulo – SP, 01046-001.
Website: Fiel Discos.