Radio has come a long way since the very first signal was received in December 12th, 1901. Back then, all the broadcaster in Poldhu, England could send across to his mates in Newfoundland, Canada was a single word ‘S’.
Fast forward to today, and we have seen the popularity of radio surge and recede, much like other technologies like free-to-air TV, the walkman, discman, (and for the lucky Gen Y people who can still recall) the mini-disc and blu-ray. These days, you wouldn’t be thinking of tuning into the radio station unless you are stuck in commute or if your digital music player-slash-mobile device is running low on battery. But the thing is, radio will never go out of fashion or use, in fact, during times of war (touch wood) the radio is the only reliable way that the government can relay messages to the nation.
Along comes Zeng Dejun, who has been fascinated with radios since the day he first heard music coming out of one as a child, and he became the catalyst bringing back radio culture. Dejun created his first radio in 2004, and with a bit of crowdfunding help, he developed Muzen.
Now Muzen OTR is a petite radio, roughly the size of a box of namecards. It’s also light as well, coming in at around 440g. The OTR (On The Road) series offers two finishes – wood and metal, along with several different colourways. Meant to be compact and portable, the radio unit can be charged with a USB cable, with each charge offering up to 10 hours of playtime. Users can also tune into a frequency range of FM 87 to 108MHz, which means you can receive any station in Singapore.
Muzen also functions capably as a speaker, since it can be paired via bluetooth or wire to your phone or music player.
Why get the Muzen? Well, the hipster retro look is all the rage right now (kinda like Mambo making a comeback), and people are beginning to appreciate things our grandfathers used to do, like writing letters with a fountain pen or typewriter, taking polaroids with an instant camera and tossing the digital camera in favour of the old-fashioned photo negative film. We are in the age of learning to enjoy the finer things in life once again, so why not the radio too right. The saving grace, of course, is that Muzen has combined the very best in terms of vintage aesthetics along with modern technology into its OTR radios.
My experience with Muzen
From the viewpoint of a homeowner and a music junky, I have to say that Muzen’s audio output measures up admirably to the other speakers I have at home. But what really impressed me was that I could detect a strong and robust bass coming from such a small device. The speaker was also capable of playing a wide range of music with crystal clarity. I tried out Eric Clapton’s live performances as well as Taylor Swift’s new tracks, and enjoyed the quality tremendously.
Quality-wise the unit looks strong enough to withstand knocks and bumps when transported from place to place. The Muzen OTR Metal is built using a high density alloy, and coated using acrylic stoving enamel – a type of paint used for automobile finishes in the 1960s. It comes in Jet Black, Crimson Red, Flamingo Pink, and Mint Green colour options. The Muzen OTR Wood replaces the hardy metal coating with handcrafted walnut, which is a light, resonant tonewood used in instruments, and helps to produce a richer sound.
As a radio, I had some issue trying to tune into my desired channel (Kiss 92 – because I am old school like that), maybe because I was situated on a low floor at the time. The reception became a lot clearer when I moved towards a window area, but I guess this wouldn’t be an issue if you intend to bring the radio outside on a picnic, or to a gathering.
I also like that there is a large range of accessories to go with your radio, even though you already have lots of freebies that already comes with the radio upon purchase. For a start, it’s packed beautifully in a vintage-like suitcase, inside you’ll find postcards, stickers as well as a faux-leather carrying case and strap for your radio. Wires are also provided for charging.
For those who, like me, have pets at home, it is a good idea to have the radio playing in the background when you are not around, and that’s what I use the Muzen for as well. It is compact and sturdy enough to be placed near my pets, without having to worry that they would damage it. I can only do it with Muzen because few digital speakers on the market now come equipped with the radio function. I notice that my pets do not react as negatively to me leaving for work when they can hear voices coming through the radio, I guess they also feel less anxiety from being separated from me.
So was it a good purchase? I definitely think so, because few speakers out there can bundle so many benefits into a small package, and all for the affordable price of $135. It’s definitely a conversation starter when you bring it out, and chic enough that you wouldn’t look dowdy with it.