Audio

Listen to music the retro way

Bluetooth speakers.
Bluetooth speakers.

There are many Bluetooth speakers in the market, but perhaps none as unique as the Muzen OTR Metal. OTR stands for "On The Road".

Its design is an ode to the 1960s. It is shaped like an old radio set and has a big physical knob surrounded by a circular FM frequency band scale that lets you manually tune to your favourite radio station.

To further accentuate its "retro-ness", it is coated with acrylic stoving enamel, a type of paint used for automobile finishes in the 1960s. It comes in black, green, pink and red (version tested).

It is slightly bigger than a travel power adaptor and fits in most bags. But its high-density metal alloy body makes it a tad heavy at 440g.

There are two small dials below the radio knob - one to adjust volume and the other to select modes such as Power Off, Bluetooth, Auxiliary and FM. There is an indicator light beside the two dials.

Pairing the OTR Metal with a smartphone is a breeze. Turn the dial to Bluetooth mode and a "didi" sound will ring. Next, tap on the OTR Metal option in your smartphone's Bluetooth settings, wait for the indicator light to turn white and you are ready to rock and roll.

Inside the OTR Metal is a 40mm neodymium driver. While the speaker puts out only up to five watts in Bluetooth mode, I am surprised by its audio quality and output.

  • FOR

  • •Retro design

    •Affordable

    •Decent audio output

    AGAINST

    •A tad heavy

    •No battery indicator

    SPECS

    PRICE: $139

    DRIVER: 40mm neodymium

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 4.0, Auxiliary input

    WEIGHT: 440g

    RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3.5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 3.5/5

There is decent bass and it has a room-filling sound. When I crank up the volume to maximum, vocals remain crisp without breaking up. And it can go loud enough such that your neighbours might come knocking at your door.

Using the FM radio mode is a walk down memory lane.

When using the knob to tune to a radio station, I am always wondering if I got the right station without a "digital reading". For example, I was trying to get the UFM100.3 station, but the needle seemed to be on FM 101, even though the indicator light was green - meaning the signal was strong. It was only until the station jingle started playing that I knew I was on the right station.

Audio output is less powerful in the FM radio mode (two watts) and you will hear the usual static noise of radio.

The bigger issue is the lack of a battery indicator. Thus, I do not know when is a good time to charge the OTR Metal. On paper, playing at maximum volume, it can last four hours in Bluetooth mode on a full charge. I found it to be close to advertised during the review.

At $139, the Muzen OTR Metal is quite affordable. Of course, if you compare it with "no-brand" Bluetooth speakers sold at Sim Lim Square, its price can be considered to be on the high side.

But it comes with unique accessories such as a carrying case, a leather travel case with a strap, two sticker sets and even a poster.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2019, with the headline 'Listen to music the retro way'. Print Edition | Subscribe