As part of an on-going series on audiophile bars, rooms, and events, from around the World, here I talk to Miguel Guedes and James Keating – the founders of Quarto Mundo, in Porto, Portugal.
I first met Miguel many years ago through his Aventuras em Movimento parties, and a mutual friend who has now sadly passed – Japanese DJ / guitarist / tattoo-artist, Zecky (RIP).
Quarto Mundo takes its name from Jon Hassell`s Fourth World concept and its aim is to create a “deep listening” space and bring “deep listeners” together. Their promotional material features quotes from J. Krishnamurti and Pauline Oliveras.
Where are you from?
Miguel: I am from Porto, Portugal
James: I`m from Dublin, in Ireland. I met Miguel in Porto a couple of years back at a Braun//Dieter Rams exhibition. We got talking about music, labels/records we were into, and kept in touch and I moved out here, to Porto, about a year ago.
How many people are involved in running Quarto Mundo?
M: Just the two of us.
When did Quarto Mundo open?
M: We were set up in a different location in January 2019, but we’ve been in the current space since September 2019. At first we shared somewhere with a painter. That’s where we began to test and build up the system. That place was sold, so need to find a new home, and now we`re on one of the most historic streets in downtown Porto.
J: It kind of started when we bought a second set of Kenwood speakers on Ebay from the U.S. last winter. We then thought ‘We really need to do something now!’
How did you get into “Hi-Fi”? What inspired you to start the venue? Was it a party, an event, another venue?
M: For 5 years I worked for Audolici Audio, a high-end tube amplifier brand, based in Portugal. Through that work I meet Valeriy Kuchkovsky – an Ukranian engineer who lives in Porto – with 40 years of sound engineering experience – from the Russian School of Electronics. He is a master and we are lucky to have him with us tweaking the Quarto Mundo soundsystem. Also since 2012 I have been organizing parties and sessions in Porto – under the banner Aventuras em Movimento – working with local DJs and bringing in international guests such as Chee Shimizu, Zecky (RIP), Dubby, Basso, ASN, Fumi Sato…
J: I`m pretty new to HiFi. My Dad had a nice set of tall Wharfedale speakers when I was growing up so I was always attracted to the aesthetic. I bought a set of vintage speakers and a Japanese amp a few years back in a flea market in Dublin and always preferred the sound of older units, not that I really understood why.
M: I`ve drawn inspiration from people and places like Chee Shimizu, SHeLteR ,Brilliant Corners, Giant Steps, Potato Head, Hosoi… – labels and stores such as Music From Memory, Organic Music, Ondas, Red Light Radio, The Growing Bin…
J: For me it`s definitely all of those Miguel has mentioned, but also smaller labels/events like Seance Centre, Yoga Records, Leaving Records, Stroom, Low Company, and ,of course, NTS!
At the time of setting up Quarto Mundo were you aware of Japanese Jazz Kissaten culture?
M: Yes, but now I have realised that this culture is all over Japan, not just Tokyo, with high grade record collections and refined sound-systems. Wise hosts who dedicate their lives to it. Respect!
J: I went to Japan last year for the first time. I was aware of SHeLteR and the other listening bars but never went. Since then “kissaten” seems to becoming a thing in Europe as tastes have changed. I recently read this academic PDF called ‘2·5×6 metres of space: Japanese music coffeehouses and experimental practices of listening’ which gives a really nice history of the culture.
What were you doing before opening Quarto Mundo?
M: Well right now I work in a vintage design shop, and am doing other side projects such as Aventuras em Movimento, Airborne slipmats, and restoring hi-fi and the Braun Audio collection.
J: I was working away in Dublin, traveling quite a bit but was looking for a change of location so that’s why I’m here in Porto – which is a very nice place to be I must add.
How did you finance the venue? Was this easy to do?
M: All the system units have been gathered over the years while working with Audolici. During the day the space works as a showroom for all the Aventuras em Movimento activities. We are thinking of making events donations-based, where visitors tip via ‘magic box.’
J: We’ve kind of built things piece by piece – firstly with the speakers, furniture and now paying rent. So the investment was very steady and organic, kind of like our project as a whole which is nice.
Can you describe Quarto Mundo? Opening hours, how many customers is comfortable? Are you a cafe, bar, restaurant?
M: The idea behind Quarto Mundo is to provide an environment where music can be experienced on a high fidelity analogue soundsystem. We are not a “listening bar” per se, but more of a “listening room” or “quarto”. We like to serve teas and port wine but people can bring whatever makes them comfortable. However we don’t want the event to be focused around drinking/smoking etc. Key to the event is listening – the deeper the better.
J: We`re located in a historic building and most of our neighbours are small businesses, so we’re conscious of keeping noise and numbers down. Our aim is to have small, intimate sessions. At the moment we are doing listening sessions every Friday but we`re planning other events. For example, collaborations with artists, musicians, record shops/labels, tea and incense workshops etc. The times are usually from 21:00 – 23:00 but this is flexible dependent on the event.
How would you describe your clientele?
M: Those who are interested in listening to music closely in a relaxed way.
J: We’re open to anyone who’s willing to listen – we’re hoping to do the same! – and to meet interesting people along the way.
Can you give me some of the spec on your kit?
Sound Kit powered by two Audolici tube amplifiers (2x40W; 2x50W)
Audolici SVP tube pre-amp
Two sets of vintage Kenwood speakers – KL-10000 Z, KL-777S
Quality interconnects, carts, wood headshells, OFC copper cables.
What is your most prized piece of equipment? Can you tell me why?
M: For me, the Audolici SWING amplifier with NOS ex.URSS Svetlana 6550 tubes that has handmade heavy transformers. It has a beautiful black glossy finish. It changed my way of listening to music!
J: The original Bozak DL-C, which was refurbished by Buzzy Beck.
Is there a piece of equipment that you’d really like to have? A wish list?
M: Not before I visit Kenrick Sound in Japan!
J: Some guy down in the middle of Portugal has some JBLs. Would be nice some day (laughs).
How easy is it to pick up high end audiophile gear?
M: Nowadays everything is possible. But I am a fan of vintage stuff, and sometimes to restore some items can be more difficult, but at the same time more interesting.
How hard is it to maintain the sound system in Quarto Mundo?
M: There are always compromises and things to improve. Vintage material sometimes can surprise you..
Are you always looking to ways to “improve” the sound?
M: Yes of course. For example we made improvements with the speakers stands, taking the concept from vintage Pioneer designs, making them with expanded black cork with a Portuguese company. The result was fantastic!
Do you have DJs, or are you like the original Jazz Kissas – making selections from your own collection?
M: For the moment we are selecting the music but we are keen to invite locals to play as well as some international heroes.
J: Yes we’re keen to reach out to Porto DJs first and then bring a few international acts over when we find tha budget/ have built a community. Personally I`ve always been a bit uncomfortable calling myself a ‘DJ’ but I do like playing records out and finding interesting connections between records.
Is your collection housed onsite? How many records do you have onsite?
M: We are slowly filling the shelves.
J: We bought these old magazine racks which house about 500 records. We could potentially stock the place more but it’s nice to be limited by selection sometimes, rather than being submerged in records, as aesthetically pleasing as it is!
Do you stick to a particular sound, or are you playing music across all genres?
M: All across the genres, but I really like music played by real instruments, mixed with early electronica from the 80s.
J: At the moment we are on a bit of a Fourth World / Ambient / Organic / Nature buzz but the idea is that we will play anything that is good for listening. I only brought about 100 records from home – all the rest are boxed up in my parent’s house – so it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I do have a lot of boogie/soul/gospel records with me which I’d like to play at some point!
Could you name any pieces of music that you use to test your system?
M: Basically I think the best pressings are those from before 1980. Personally I like the sound of the piano through the system.
J: Yes some of the music Miguel plays that is purely instrumental is really beautiful as you can hear all the layers of instrumentation through the speakers. So tracks stripped pretty bare are really nice and sound as they should – or as they were recorded.
Audiophile bars seem to be on the increase, globally. Do you have any idea why this might be?
M: People have realized that they can have good times with a different BPM, played on a different type of soundsystem with quality music that feeds you.
J: There’s so much good music that doesn’t get played in the club. Tastes and selections have grown – thanks to so many music lovers out there it would be hard to mention just one! – and I think people also want to chill a bit more these days and meditate to music. Dancing is important but listening has to be more so, right?
Do you have any local competition?
M: In terms of listening bars/rooms, at this time, I guess not.
J: Competitors, not really in terms of listening bars/rooms etc., but collaborators hopefully.
Is there a global community of audiophile venues – sharing sound tips, equipment discoveries, etc?
M: We`ve always wanted to visit some of the other venues to meet the people personally involved, and experience these sound-systems with our own ears.
J: We hope to meet some people along the way – people that we can learn from and also share our own journey with.
Quarto Mundo are keen to find collaborators and partners for events so please so get in touch if you are within a realistic radius of Porto. You can find them in the Porto downtown area at Rua Cândido dos Reis, 46, 2º , or contact them via Instagram.