Listening bars, thoughts about them?

Dear Naim forum users,

I’ve recently heard of listening bars, I didn’t even know they existed. The concept seems to be interesting, especially for people who enjoy Hi-Fi systems and good music. However I was wondering if anybody here has ever been to one and what are his thoughts about it.

Thank you very much in advance!

Some examples around the globe:


These are a still a ‘thing’?

I remember hearing about such (including seeing one of those photos, I think) at least a couple of years ago. Thought they’d passed on.

There’s a coffee bar near me (unlike me, it’s in a trendy part of town) called Beans and Music or vice versa…I’d always thought they meant actual performers, but perhaps it’s one of these bars.

I should pop in and see.

Wax and Beans, Bury?
Vinyl Coffee, Kettering?
There’s a few places like that dotted around the uk.

The first picture is Spiritland, Kings Cross.

I’ve been there a couple of times. Thankfully it didn’t look at all like the photo. With what appears to be somewhat brutal like a school dinners situation.

It was all exotic carpets, bean bags and comfy blankets (strictly no children) the times I went.:innocent:
Really helps to know the right time and who’s hosting.


Been to Nam and 33 with friends. Profoundly disappointing experiences both. Having a good system in a poor room with lots people talking and drinking is no more a great experience than a pub with a cheap jukebox.

More generally I found the conceit fairly offensive. Only vinyl can reproduce the audiophile experience. I em t think so.

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@steviebee some bars do have performers, other not. The concept can be differen from a place to another.

This surely makes a difference

@mikehughescq a poor room and lots of noise won’t help without a doubt. I suppose some bars might be more conventionals, others more strict with rules so things could change a lot. Surely I wouldn’t compare the listening bar experience to your own listening session at home. However, if well managed, it could be an interesting approach. I’ve never been to one, so I can’t judge.

Interesting subject - and something I’ve never heard of before, though I had heard of a bar in London where they had Tannoy Westminster Royals for their sound system. If done well I imagine they’d be good - but cram in too many people, raise noise levels too far, and I guess there’d be little distinction from an average music pub - fun but no real listening…

If there’s too much noise, it can’t be fun for sure (otherwise there would be no difference with a conventional pub). As far as I’ve understood, some places seem to be quiet (especially in Japan) and people are able to enjoy the sound system.

Sounds like a great idea, although it has a limited clientele possibly, so may not be a great money earning business. Anyone know of one in the North West (ish) area?

I’ve never heard of them and aren’t aware of any in Aus. Not sure I’d be interested as people talking sht above the music would drive me nuts. How do the work, is it just like a bar/pub with an upmarket sound system?

Ultimately it’s an idea with a degree of pomposity attached and assumptions which repeatedly go unchallenged. Apparently vinyl is the only way people ever listen to albums all the way through and there is some unspecified advantage to doing that with a bunch of strangers.

Weird really as I listened to albums all the way through on vinyl; carried on doing with that with CD and continue to do so with streaming. If I want to listen to music with strangers then by necessity that’s called a gig.

The reality of the concept is that the original idea of sitting down in silence in a pleasant environment os a good one. The idea has however been inevitably subject to mimicry and, like the Manchester ones, they often miss the whole point.

When you step back from it the idea of booking to go listen to something you own anyway has more than a whiff of ludicrousness about it.

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To be fair, Spiritland also has a pretty top flight digital set up, with DCS DACs I seem to recall when I walked past their equipment racks. Nevertheless, with most people in the bar taking absolutely no interest in the music played, and indeed making every effort to make themselves heard above the massive speakers, it was a pretty disappointing experience. I do like the concept, but in practice fashion and commercial priorities seem to to rather work against it.

I’m not sure they are a great business, they are a niche from the start and that doesn’t help. As they need to survive, I understand that they try to find compromises. This should be done without destrying the real concept. However they could help people to expand their music taste and get more interested in Hi-Fi (of course a listening bar is not like your own Hi-Fi system at home). Generally speaking I see a very low music culture (at least in my country) and the first problem of all is that people are not aware of other genres, they mostly listen to poor quality pop using bad earphones (nothing against pop if it’s good, but it’s just a little part of music). So how can you expect them to be interested in jazz for instance? Or Hi-Fi systems? I think some listening bars have separated listening rooms for group listening sessions or single listening sessions (there are isolated booths in a listening bar in Barcelona for instance).

I found a video on youtube about this listening bar, it’s called " The Rise of Listening Bars: Barcelona | Resident Advisor x Asahi Super Dry"

I bet there have been a few punch ups to bag to the sweet spot. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


I was just going to say that but you beat me to it. Give me a real jazz club anytime :grinning:


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