Hi-Fi Bars Are Back – Here’s Where To Listen In

Hi-Fi Bars Are Back – Here’s Where To Listen In

Listening bars are returning to cities around the world. Here’s everything you need to know about the trend – and the hi-fi-equipped spots to check out in Berlin, Brooklyn and beyond

does this sound for a night out? Low-lit ambience, the clink
of ice cubes swaying in a highball, murmurations softened by bar
interiors designed to mimic a recording studio, and a trembling
jazz track rolling through Bowers & Wilkins 1976 speakers as a
clean, smooth sound. Listening bars – a concept that developed in
Japan during the post-war years, when cash-strapped jazz lovers
wanted to listen to the latest record drop on a communal sound
system – are back, and they’re better than ever.

Want to dive into more bar culture?

Whether it’s a reluctance to return to the dance floor
post-pandemic or simply the next step in a worldwide reappreciation
of LPs, a raft of sophisticated drinking dens are popping up
globally. And while you’ll find serious audiophiles cooing over
sound systems (Bowers & Wilkins 1976 speakers! Tannoy Little
Gold Monitors! Eight-channel amplifiers!), those with no knowledge
of tube amp technicalities can take a table at these hangouts, too.
It’s an elegant approach to an evening on the tiles – one that
feels more like a visit to a friend’s living room than a sweaty
slog on the dance floor – as venues switch on the speakers and drop
the needle in cities worldwide, pairing first-class cocktails with
sounds as diverse as Afrobeat, indie and jazz.

Eavesdrop bar, Brooklyn, NYC
Cocktail, Eavesdrop, Brooklyn NYC

Eavesdrop, Brooklyn

It’s not just vinyls in the lights anymore, either; these
high-level sound systems are also being used for intimate acoustic
sessions, and by DJs bringing along their ample record collections.
Where Tokyo’s traditional listening bars could simply be a room
with a turntable, some stereo speakers and a barman, today’s breed
of hi-fi hangout is fitted with audio-enhancing interiors, vintage
tech for optimal sound, and positively encourages a conversational
ambience – it’s as much about the experience as the music.

Ready to have a listen? Here are 10 of our favourites.

The best listening bars in London and beyond

Stereo, Covent Garden, London
Stereo, Covent Garden, London

Stereo, London

Bar Track

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

An OG. Tokyo’s listening bars are the blueprint for the trend
and Bar Track, in the city’s Shibuya district, is a scene
favourite. This spot straddles the gap between an old-school
salaryman haunt and a hipster hangout for Sennheiser HD 800-wearing
vinyl-philes. Here, amid a hazy cloud of cigarette smoke (it’s
still legal to smoke indoors in Japan), a DJ is on hand to pick the
perfect jazz tracks for the perfectly assembled sound system and
you’ll find highballs at the bar. Just be warned: unlike their
western iterations, there’s a no talking rule at most Tokyo spots.
Prepare to be shushed if you’re whispering.

3 Chome-24-9 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0011,
+81 3 5466 8871


Covent Garden, London

What was once Covent Garden’s stalwart live music venue
Roadhouse (where the likes of Adele and Jeff Buckley cut their
teeth) has been reimagined as moody Stereo, a 40-seater restaurant
and music bar where an early-evening house band gives way to DJ
sets as midnight approaches. Cocktails are adventurous – think a
vodka and cumin muddle – while the food menu is a riff on 80s New
York kitsch: snack on devilled eggs, shrimp cocktails topped with
trout roe, and five-cheese macaroni, as well as NY-inspired pies
for dessert.

35 The Piazza, London WC2E 8BE
+44 20 3146 9637

Record, Eavesdrop bar, Brooklyn, NYC
Eavesdrop bar, Brooklyn, NYC

Eavesdrop, Brooklyn

Tokyo Music Bar

Mexico City, Mexico

Founded by Edo Kobayashi, this speakeasy spot brings the best of
the Japanese capital’s bar scene to Mexico City. Take a (gold)
stool at the speaker-bookended bar and you’ll be swilling sake and
sipping Japanese whiskeys as you listen to the bar’s vast
collection of vinyl records playing through the hi-fi sound system.
The cocktail menu is crafted from typical Tokyo ingredients, with
drinks served in glassware made by Japanese craftsmen. The toilets
are by Toto, and – in true Tokyo fashion – the analogue audio
experience is invitation-only, so we’d call ahead before dropping

Río Pánuco 132, Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City 06500,
+52 56 3035 4220


Brooklyn, NYC, US

The inspiration behind this Manhattan Avenue bar? The
co-founders’ living room. Dan Wissinger and Danny Taylor wanted to
replicate the experience of having a friend over and turning up the
tunes while still conversing in a hospitality setting. The result
is Eavesdrop, a high-end aural experience. Illuminated by a halo of
warm light, the vinyl decks at this late-night Greenpoint
neighbourhood listening bar act as an altar – just switch candles
for vast yellow speakers, and the holy wine for viciously bold
cocktails such as absinthe-spiked vodka cranberries. The speakers
here are custom-built, while interiors – with izakaya-style wooden
panelling – are designed in the same way recording studios are,
creating a space made for sound. Everything has been meticulously
arranged to make the music sing – from exact speaker placement to
the hum the dishwasher makes.

674 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NYC 11222,

Interiors, Mu, Dalston, London, UK
Saketini, Mu, Dalston, London

Mu, Dalston | Photo credit: Dan Preston / Charlie


Dalston, London

The team behind London’s first nu-listening bar, Brilliant
Corners, opened this Dalston address in 2022 as a bar, restaurant
and live music venue. A diverse music programme curates a
Tuesday-to-Sunday line-up of Afrobeat artists, jazz musicians and
Cuban conjuntos, while the restaurant puts a robata charcoal grill
to good use, with teriyaki chicken and yuzu-infused scallops
accompanying cocktails of the likes of saketinis, matcha coladas
and jasmine old fashioneds.

432-434 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4AA
+44 7209 4187


Paris, France

This Rue Saint-Sébastien wine joint has become a late-night hit
for the French culinary crowd, thanks to its wood-fired food
offering of blistering spinach calzones, duck heart skewers doused
in salsa verde and fried chicken sandwiches, served until 11pm. The
music, though, continues until two, when the bar operates a “good
vibes only” code, cranking up its beautiful midcentury speakers and
spinning records from restaurateur Fabien Lombardi’s personal vinyl
collection (displayed behind the bar).

25 Rue Saint-Sébastien, 75011 Paris, France
+33 1 43 55 68 20

Interior, Bar Shiru, Oakland, California, USA
Speaker, Bar Shiru, Oakland, California, USA

Bar Shiru, Oakland | Photo credit: Daniel Gahr


Denver, Colorado, US

Less is more at this oil lamp-lit Denver outpost of the hi-fi
bar trend: the Santa Fe Drive address is a records-only listening
spot that serves minimal intervention wines in a pared-back,
patina-kissed space. The turntables sit behind a pale wood bar, so
those on the decks can match the music to the mood of patrons
ordering. Vinyls are either original pressings or AAA remastered
buys to ensure the best sound quality filtering through the various
speakers in the room, which were themselves sourced from as far
afield as China, Australia and Germany.

1029 Santa Fe Dr, Denver, CO 80204, US
+1 720 751 8163

Bar Shiru

Oakland, California, US

This hi-fi listening bar in the Bay Area is the purest iteration
of the Japanese kissa to land Stateside, a vinyl-lined industrial
space that centres the music as the focal point of a night. You’ll
hear mostly soul, jazz and groove playing on the sound system, and
differing zones are serviced by their own speakers, separated by
warm-hued wooden screens and oversized images of legendary jazz
artists printed on acoustic fabrics. Records are played in their
entirety, and the bar menu offers a trio of Japanese drinks –
whisky, craft beers and sakes – plus cocktails.

1611 Telegraph Ave #100, Oakland, CA 94612,
+1 510 920 0299

Interior, Equipement Room, Hotel Magdalena, Austin, Texas, USA
Josh LaRue, Breakaway Records, Interior, Equipement Room, Hotel Magdalena, Austin, Texas, USA

Equipment Room, Hotel Magdalena

Austin, Texas, US

The subterranean space beneath Austin’s Hotel Magdalena (on the
perfectly named Music Lane) has just been transformed into a hi-fi
bar. The Equipment Room is a joint venture between James Moody,
owner of the city’s Mohawk music venue, and the duo behind local
vinyl shop Breakaway Records. Decked out as a 70s drinking den,
complete with shag rugs, raw denim touches and old Austin gig
posters on the walls, the bar holds a curated collection of over
1,200 LPs that highlights and celebrates Texan music, while the bar
menu playfully riffs on the vinyl theme, offering an “A-Side” of
classic cocktails and a “B-Side” of signature drinks.

1101 Music Ln, Austin, Texas 78704, US
+1 512 867 5309


Berlin, Germany

No DJs here; this Berlin wine bar is the closest you’ll get to a
classic Japanese kissa, with just a turntable, speakers and jazz
vinyls providing the soundtrack to your night. Vintage 70s Bowers
& Wilkins speakers play full A- and B-sides of records plucked
from owners Bénédict and Martina’s small – but good – collection,
which encompasses blues, soul and funk, as well as jazz. At the
bar, you’ll find Deutschland wines and classic cocktails, including
the obligatory highballs. Patrons can only sit for a maximum of two
hours (it’s that dinky) and groups must be of four or smaller.

Rhinowerstr 3, 10437 Berlin, Germany

A vivid blue dining space

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