One surprising result of the vinyl renaissance has been the emergence of listening lounges: swanky showrooms, town houses and cafes that exist solely for the purpose of allowing music fans to hear records with the highest-quality sound possible. “My biggest demographic is 20 to 34-year-olds,” says Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy, who has hosted Classic Album Sundays in London and around the world since 2010. “They want to learn about the records, but the biggest draw is the sound,” she explains of millennials who mostly have experienced music through MP3s and cheap earbuds rather than tube amplifiers and belt-driven turntables. Los Angeles DJ Zach Cowie, a fixture at the new Flora Chang lounge, which boasts Audio Note’s Jinro Shochu amplifier and Klipschorn loudspeakers, says, “All you have to do is hear this shit and you’ll never go back. If you never heard sound like this before, it’ll destroy your mind.”
World of Mcintosh, Soho, New York
The Setup: A former Con Ed substation is now a five-floor, 12,000-square-foot town house that showcases McIntosh’s equipment (like a pair of MC452 and MC275 amplifiers) in dreamy settings that include a heated indoor pool, a living room and a rooftop terrace. “It’s a sensory experience,” says marketing manager David Mascioni.
The Cost: $25,000 for a private event. worldofmcintosh.com
Spiritland, King’s Cross, London
The Setup: A pair of 7-foot bespoke speakers, custom-built by Nottingham, England-based Living Voice and valued at mid-six figures, sets the soundstage at London’s newest audio haven. “They give a 3D quality to the listening experience,” says Spiritland founder Paul Noble, who opened the 2,200-square-foot space in September.
The Cost: A night of private listening runs 20,000 pounds ($24,400). spiritland.com
Flora Chang, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles
The Setup: Starting this month, the 2,700-square-foot space will host everything from private dinner parties to Classic Album Sundays for the public. “The room is so wide and deep that 30 people can close their eyes and get lost in the stereo image,” says owner Miguel Nelson.
The Cost: Rentals start at $2,500 plus site manager, audio-manager fee and cleaning-crew fees. florachangs.com
Brilliant Corners, Dalston, London
The Setup: Six days a week, this bar/cafe shows off its kick-ass audio system (complete with four Klipschorn and two Klipsch Heresy speakers) by spinning an eclectic mix of vinyl. “It’s like a dinner party that turns into a house party,” says co-owner Aneesh Patel. Among its visitors: Ghostface Killah and James Murphy.
The Cost: Private listening parties are priced upon request. brilliantcornerslondon.co.uk