Hi-fi recommendations for a small cocktail bar

Jan 23, 2022
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Hi everyone, my first post on the forums. This place seems full of extremely knowledgeable people, so keen to get some suggestions here.

I've been dreaming of opening up a small, Japanese-style jazz/listening/cocktail bar here in the Netherlands. And when I say small, I mean 6–8 bar seats and nothing more. Dimly lit walls lined with equal amounts of 180g vinyl and quality bottles — a man can dream :giggle:

I'm curious, if you were to share my dream for a minute, what setup you would get that you would deem perfect for the job, without spending more than you could justify.

As for criteria:
  • Preferably Japanese brands, but not a requirement.
  • I would love the turntable to match the amp, so they look like a single unit when stacked. I guess that's a preference inspired my stepdad's towering Pioneer hi-fi stack back in the 90s haha.
  • The speakers should be bookshelf models, so if this dream never comes to fruition, I can still enjoy them at home.
  • The sound needs to be opinionated; fatty and round. Not crisp and dry. I don't care about reference speakers.
Some inspiration:
(Links deleted by moderation - they are not relevant.)
 
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Gray

Well-known member
  • Preferably Japanese brands, but not a requirement.
  • I would love the turntable to match the amp, so they look like a single unit when stacked. I guess that's a preference inspired my stepdad's towering Pioneer hi-fi stack back in the 90s haha.
Welcome Oscar.
Assuming you want quality.....the last thing you want to be doing is stacking a TT on anything other than a vibration-free surface (and certainly not directly on top of any amp).
You'll need to choose based on listening to get the sound you're after as it's very much a personal thing. For example, I avoid an 'opinionated' sound like the plague.
Crisp and dry suits me fine.....get the point about personal taste?
Buy a TT with a built-in phono preamp and you wouldn't even need a standalone amp - you could output straight to powered / active speakers - then you would just need to think about access to the volume control - if on the speakers etc. etc.......
State how much you've got to spend on the entire setup, then you might get some suggestions.
 
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Jan 23, 2022
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Hi Gray, thanks for taking the time to respond. You raise some points I hadn't considered yet, and it just goes to show I'm still a noob when it comes to hi-fi :)

Happy to ditch the idea of stacking. I do prefer an amp in the equation however, so I can connect a CD player later. A Marantz PM8006 + ND8006 for some network functionality seem great on paper.

As for opinionated: in reviews I often hear about speakers not being "neutral", which to me is fine as long as their sound is particularly suited for jazz ballads. So let me nuance the criterium by saying they don't need to be opinionated, but if they are, they need to lean towards a fuller/warmer sound.

Let’s say the budget is € 5000 for TT, amp and speakers. That said, also curious what you would choose without a budget.

The mods removed the videos I added to my original post for not being relevant, but I think the first video was relevant because it gives an impression of the space I'm looking to fill (small) and the level of noise/chatter you could expect (low).
 

Gray

Well-known member
...Let’s say the budget is € 5000 for TT, amp and speakers.
Well that's certainly enough to get you some real quality Oscar.
And, I think PM8006 would be an excellent amp choice - not least because Marantz integrated amps have very good inbuilt phono preamps. I'm pretty sure it would meet your sound quality requirements better than many other brands....clarity without harshness, no undue dryness.

As for turntables and the all-important (in terms of sound signature) cartridge, take your choice.
I've owned a Thorens TD160S for years, but having played about with some classic SL1200 disco decks, I think I'd be looking at one of these two if I was buying today:
To me, they look great and you can bet they'd be durable and reliable.
Notable differences being the supplied cartridges and lack of preamp in the 100.
Of course, you wouldn't need the preamp - and the fact that the cheaper 100 is only available in black might not bother you either.

The cartridge supplied with the SL-100 can be 'upgraded' by fitting a different stylus to the universal main body.
This may be worth a read for you. Take the sound quality descriptions with a pinch of salt, as they will be much more subtle than 'night and day':
I use the VM-95E version, which I consider to be top value (people think nothing of spending 10 - 15 times what I paid).
The removeable headshell would make experimenting with different cart brands easy - compared to decks where the headshell is a fixed part of the arm.

You'd have a nice bit of budget left for some decent 'bookshelf' speakers. This is where the choice gets very subjective - with the greatest influence on your overall sound.
No speaker will sound its best on a bookshelf. Ideally they'd be on their own stands, with plenty of space around them - but the video suggested that wouldn't be possible.
But at least keep them away from room corners - and go for sealed (unported) or front ported models as rear ports can ruin the sound when speakers are positioned close to walls.

Good luck with your plan..... either way you'll be left with a good home system.
 
Jan 23, 2022
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Gray, thanks so much again for your time and consideration. Apart from performance, the Marantz units click with me aesthetically, too. As does the SL-100C by the way! I was aware of the iconic SL-1200 but hadn't seen the 100 before. Seems to fit the bill perfectly, not in the last place because it's such an established Japanese brand.

As for speakers: I completely understand that's a very subjective topic. If you have some Japanese brands I could consider, however, I'd be keen to hear. Most of the stuff I come across is either British, German or Scandi.

Thanks again!
 

Gray

Well-known member
As for speakers: I completely understand that's a very subjective topic. If you have some Japanese brands I could consider, however, I'd be keen to hear. Most of the stuff I come across is either British, German or Scandi.
Apart from the legendary (and too big for you) Yamaha NS-1000, I can't think of a notable Japanese speaker.
I've only ever bought from (and worked for) English speaker brands, so I might be biased - but you could do a lot worse.
Have a look at the little Spendor S3/5R, or the version 2, no longer available new as far as I know, but it will give you an idea of the sort of design that could be suitable.
Note that many modern designs might be too deep for your purpose.
 

rainsoothe

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Apr 30, 2012
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Hi. First of all, try to audition if you can, and let your ears decide.
That being said, Gray's suggestions are great, imo. I'd just add that, were it my money, I'd defo upgrade the cartridge on any of those 2 turntables (I'd go for a Nagaoka MP150, or else an Audio Technica VM95ML or Goldring 1042 - but Nagaoka my go-to).

Other speakers to consider would be Guru Junior, if they have to be on a wall - but yes, Spendors (especially sealed ones) seem like the perfect fit for what you're looking for.

However, much as I like the look of Marantz, I'd look at a Naim Nait XS3 if going with Spendors. Or whatever Rega you can afford. The XS3 and all Regas have in-built phono preamps, so you would be covered in the vynil department.

Which leaves the streaming side. I cannot emphasize how important the user interface is when it comes to streaming. And imo nothing comes even close to what Bluesound offer for the price. Sometimes I wanna throw my 3 times the price of bluesound streaming Naim preamp out the window, that's how annoying the app can get - and it's not even one of the very bad ones, just needs restarting a lot. You could keep things even cheaper, and hide a small Yamaha WXAD10 in a cupboard. App isn't as slick as a Bluesound Node's, but it's way cheaper.

Do give Naim a try, though. Also, Hegel H120 is well worth looking into (no phono pre in that one, though).
 

AJM1981

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Mar 26, 2021
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Perhaps the Sony Sscs5 3 way bookshelf speaker.



If it can be anything non Japanese and more "fun", these JBL's can be a candidate




Keep one thing in mind. Hi-fi as a hobby or audio for a studio is something in which audio has priority over everything. The idea of having a coffee or wine and purely listening to something. When I would go for that I would have a different mindset in choices than when supplying a cocktail bar at which people enjoy by socializing and having a conversation comes absolutely first and audio is purely atmospheric.

You might think about tuning down the midrange heavily since human voices are covering that area of frequencies and not doing it might result in customers being disturbed that the music is too loud while in reality they mean it has too much presence.

Since music comes second, any amp that drives the speakers and gives you the options you are looking for, would do it. :)
 
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