Muzen Audio press event Feb. 6 at NY NOW: From TuneGO's John Kohl, Radio Caroline's Richard Lavelle and Steve Taplin, and Muzen's Dejun Zeng.
With the theme of “The Big Dream Never Dies,” Hong Kong’s Muzen Audio last week debuted its successfully crowdfunded Muzen OTR Wood, Radio Caroline Edition at the winter NY NOW home/lifestyle/gift market trade show at New York’s Javits Center.
The press event starred Muzen Audio founder Dejun Zeng, the five-time CES Innovation Awards-winning designer of China’s first commercial tube amplifier. With him were representatives from the project’s partners: England’s legendary Radio Caroline pirate radio station, the TuneGO multi-platform music discovery network for independent artists, and China music entertainment company Modern Sky.
TuneGo act Charlie Faye & The Fayettes performed.
“TuneGO and Muzen share a common mission,” noted Zeng, “[to] create a place where artists can be heard and the music can shine through.”
TuneGO co-founder/CEO John Kohl said that partnering with Muzen helps further TuneGO’s goal of “providing increased distribution opportunities through additional platforms for artists who otherwise may not be heard,” via being featured on Muzen OTR internationally--especially in China, one of the world’s biggest markets.
“At the same time, with its great retro design and sound, we are sure to create awareness of Muzen’s radio and speaker in the U.S.,” said Kohl.
The Muzen OTR Wood, which won a CES Innovation Award last year, is a miniature handmade retro wooden desktop radio speaker incorporating modern wireless technology into the traditional design of old wooden radios.
It features FM, Bluetooth, three types of AUX audio inputs and a lithium battery providing 10 hours of playtime per charge. Made of rosewood, its Bluetooth speaker can play music accessed through computer, tablet and mobile phone.
Now 61, Zeng brought over 40 years of audio research to the product, initially as a hobbyist.
“It’s the radio that opened my door to the outside world,” he said. “I was born in a small remote county, when everyone lived on the poverty line. When I saw the radio for the first time, I found that there was such a magical thing in the world that you could hear messages from thousands of miles away, and it was the information that was constantly coming from the radio that had changed me subtly. It has taught me more knowledge and changed my destiny. It made me a university professor and a designer in the field of acoustics from a child in a poor mountain area.”
In his Muzen OTR Wood radio, Zeng sought to recapture that magical experience by creating a radio “tribute” to “the golden age of radio”—and the German, American and European radios--of his childhood. But he found that recreating them was harder than he thought, and the process, with the help of many other radio enthusiasts and hundreds of modifications, took 10 years.
“The radio products I make now are no different from the golden age of radio, and even then there is an improvement in some respects,” said Zeng. “My radio may have a bit better sound quality and is more distinctive than other radios. In addition, it’s powered by Bluetooth [and] can connect not only traditional radio programs, but also radio stations, podcasts and music connected to the Internet.”
Zeng’s Radio Caroline Edition of his Muzen OTR Wood radio is itself a tribute to England’s pirate radio station, which was founded in 1964 to program the rock ‘n’ roll music that was barely being played on the mainstream radio channel at the time. By broadcasting 24/7 from a boat off the coast of England, the station inspired DJs, musicians and music lovers around the world, eventually incurring the wrath of the British government.
But the non-profit Radio Caroline, which was the subject of the 2009 feature film Pirate Radio starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, has continued to operate almost without interruption since its inception. To further its mission, Muzen and Zeng are donating 10 percent of their crowdfunding to the station.
“When Mr. Zeng met the team of Radio Caroline, an amazing friendship was created out of the love of music, a passion for radio and the importance of what it means to ‘Keep Radio On,’” said Radio Caroline’s Steve Taplin. “The culmination of their efforts has brought us all here to participate in this incredible product launch and event.”
“We were very pleased with the event turnout and feedback we received from attendees,” said Zeng. “The U.S. market has been very welcoming to our first product that was successfully crowdfunded and launched here. We see tremendous potential for our products in the U.S.”
In this regard, he said that Muzen has developed a new technology “that can listen to almost all the radio programs around the world without changing the habits of people who use radios,” that is not limited by geography or hindered by high-rise buildings.
“It makes listening to music as convenient as running water, and it flows out as soon as the knob is twisted,” said Zeng.
The MUZEN OTR Wood (Radio Caroline Edition)