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Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Good design, good tunes and good bar service are perhaps the three most important factors in a top class bar concept – something of which the owners of MiNiBAR, the newest venue on Amsterdam’s famous Prinsengracht canal, are obviously fully aware.

Quality design and music are delivered with the understated confidence found throughout the city’s higher end bars and eateries, but when it comes to bar service, the team behind MiNiBAR have taken a brilliantly novel approach: you simply help yourself.

The concept is so simple that the owners  - a trio of Dutch friends with backgrounds in bar culture, design and the music industry - were surprised that it hadn’t been done before. No waiting, no trying to catch the barman’s eye; in the words of the owners, the experience is “more like inviting your friends to hang out in a hip hotel room than standing in line waiting for a drink at a regular bar.” Patrons check in with the concierge, and are given a key to one of 45 fridges from which they are free to serve themselves for the duration of their visit. A credit card or ID card left at the front desk is reclaimed after the tab is paid.MiNiBAR’s interior has been designed by Amsterdam-based architectural trailblazers, Concrete, whose credits include the supperclubs in Holland (mondo*dr issue 14.4), San Francisco (issue 16.2) and Rome (issue 13.3), and the hi-concept Clinic in Singapore (issue 17.2). It is arguably their deft touch and attention to detail that has turned what was already a smart concept in to an instant classic.

The venue has the long, thin footprint of most traditional Dutch buildings. Its façade has been redesigned with four-metre high wood and glass folding door panels to recreate the look and feel of the old woodwork shop which occupied the building in the 1960s. Set 1.5m behind this facade is a clear glass wall, creating a sheltered space for smokers – who also get a stylish refurbished 60’s cigarette vending machine to play with.
Inside, a concrete concierge/reception area gives way to the cosier oak and leather of the main bar. The wall of custom-made minibars extends the length of the room – with each bank of fridges angled slightly towards the entrance so that their appeal is plainly visible to passers-by outside. This same angle (7º) is echoed throughout the room, with tables, chairs and even the glass façade all following the same line.

As well as the glow from the minibars themselves, addition illumination is provided by Tom Dixon-designed pendant lighting and an ever-changing digital ‘wallpaper’ projected above the seating area.
From the outset, music has been an integral part of the MiNiBAR concept – no surprise when you discover that one of the owners, Christiaan Macdonald, was co-founder of music sites and  “I compile most playlists,” says Macdonald. “Next to that we have many national and international DJs compiling playlists on a regular basis. We also have DJs playing every now and then, so they can showcase their more intimate sets.”

An intimate, warm sound was an essential element to the ‘all back to mine’ feel of MiNiBar and to achieve it the team brought in Wieger Fransen of KNOKKi Audio Technologies. Fransen felt the best way to create the required Hi-Fi quality audio was to install a collection of passive Monitor 6’s from DAS Audio. 

“A monitor set-up has the advantage over consumer gear in that higher SPLs can be achieved -  much needed when the aim is to make people dance,” says Fransen. “The disadvantageous near-field characteristics of proper monitors have been overcome by using several monitors with relatively short distances between them and placing them relatively close to the visitors.”

With respect to bass management, it was decided to go for control over extension, helping to prevent listener fatigue. Accordingly, the Monitor 6’s were connected to passive DAS Audio Sub 12F’s with high-pass filtering. “As measures to prevent noise pollution to neighbouring enterprises and to the public domain are less effective as frequencies get lower, going for control over extension offers the additional advantage that music can be played subjectively louder before legally determined limits are exceeded,” Fransen continues.

Finding the right amplification was yet another challenge. “Most pro-gear is just not fluid enough to achieve the Hi-Fi sound required, while most consumer gear is not build to deliver, say, 250 watts at 8 Ohm 24 hours a day,” says Fransen. “The right proposition seemed to be the vintage Yamaha PC2602: a power-house with audiophile properties, judging from discussions on the internet. They were taken over from the renowned Carré theatre in Amsterdam and refurbished before installation.”

On a normal night in MiNiBAR, music comes from ripped audio files in WAV or other lossless formats, but when DJs play, they bring their own gear and set up in a dedicated booth where XLR connectors link them up to the main system.

Switching between DJ booth and the standard audio set-up is performed via a standard Behringer mixing console with balanced in- and outputs.
With a laid back atmosphere, great sounding music and easy access to drinks and snacks, the MiNiBAR concept seems destined for great things.


6 x DAS Monitor 6 satellite; 6 x DAS AX-M bracket; 3 x DAS Sub-12F sub; 2 x Yamaha PC2602 amp; Neutrik  connectors; 1 x Behringer Xenyx 1002 mixing console; foil-shielded balanced Kelsey Uni CS1 installation line level cabling; Smartcable 2 x 2,5 mm2 speaker cabling





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