Best Listening Bars in Melbourne

Updated June 1st, 2023

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Listening bars, or jazz kissatens, started in Japan in the 1950s. The country was struggling post-war, and few people could afford luxuries like record-players and vinyl. Kissatens became a place for audiophiles to listen to the latest American music – sometimes in reverential silence.

Though Japan’s economy has recovered, its listening bars remain treasured destinations for music purists. The same way a cinema’s big screen, plush seats and surround sound outdo most home settings, listening bars feature high-end speakers and amps (often vintage), talented DJs (almost always playing vinyl) and a room designed specifically for good acoustics.

Waxflower kicked off Melbourne’s listening bar scene in 2021 and laid down a slightly different blueprint that others have followed – one where conversation and wine bar-style food and drink are just as important as the tunes. “Ah,” you say, “isn’t that just a regular bar?” Kind of – the lines are definitely blurrier in Melbourne, where lots of bars have record-players and decent speakers.

Our take is that you know a listening bar when you step into one. And all these fit the bill. Happy listening.

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  • Blending elements of Melbourne cafe, European wine bar and Tokyo-style “listening bar”, this buzzing spot hosts vinyl-only DJs five nights a week, with no cover charges. It’s one of the best places in town to hear recorded music, courtesy of sound-treated walls and Pitt & Giblin speakers.

  • Her's first-floor bar is dedicated to vinyl, premium spirits and sparkling wines. Inspired by Japanese and European record bars, it's where you'll hear DJ-curated soundtracks nightly, from the 3000-strong vinyl collection.

  • This boisterous bar’s $80,000 sound system features a vintage Luxman amp and several Klipsch speakers. Add absurdly good value house wines ($10–$12), and an unusual canteen-style window that passes drinks right onto the footpath, and you have a real party, even if there’s no room to dance.