The Otone BluWall Direct is a multi room, high-res audio capable, Wi-Fi enabled Bluetooth speaker system from the UK audio company. With a number of Bluetooth speakers from Otone already on the market, the BluWall Direct raises the bar with the addition of Hi Def FLAC playback and Wi-Fi Direct connectivity.
The unit itself opts for discreet, subtle styling, available in six different colour schemes to suit different tastes or to match the decoration in different rooms of the house.
It has removable plastic grills covered with fabric on both the front and back, and an aluminium bezel with five buttons and a couple of status lights on the top. A detachable rubber carry handle matches the colour of the grill.
Under the hood are two 2-inch mid/high drivers and a 3-inch woofer, and round the back is a 4.5 x 3-inch rectangular passive radiator. This is what gives the BluWall its massive bass response...but more about that later.
On the back are an AC input for the power cable, 3.5mm line in and out, and a USB socket for connecting external drives and sticks. It will also charge your phone from the mains or its internal battery too. There's also a slot for a microSD card, which you won't find unless you remove the back grill.
The BluWall looks and feels well made, and although it's quite big compared to lots of portable speakers, it isn't that deep, meaning it can sit quite happily on small shelf or table.
It has weight to it, but it's not so heavy that you couldn't chuck it in a backpack.
The different colours mean you can either pick one that blends into the background or one that screams for your attention.
The BluWall has loads of input options. You can hook it up to your home Wi-Fi network, you can connect straight to it using Wi-Fi Direct, it has Bluetooth, you can plug a USB stick in the back, or a microSD card. It even has a good old line in.
It might seem a little unnecessary having all these inputs, but actually, they are all useful for doing slightly different things.
Linked to your home Wi-Fi network, the BluWall can play music stored on any Android or iOS device. It works with Spotify, as well as having built in radio apps, including TuneIn.
Linking the BluWall to your network is really easy, you just hold down both volume buttons for a couple of seconds and it scans for networks, then you enter your network password in the app and it's done. Do this once, and it will just show up in the app as long as it's switched on.
Connecting to the BluWall using Wi-Fi Direct is equally easy.
Just go to your Wi-Fi settings and the BluWall will show up in the list of available networks. Just tap to connect and you're done. You can now stream any music on your device, including Hi-Res FLAC files.
That's it though - you can't stream from the internet from sites like Spotify. This would be a big issue if the BluWall didn't also have Bluetooth connectivity, but it does. And as Bluetooth doesn't support Hi-Res audio yet it means you can make the most of the BluWall's capability when you're on the move.
If you do want to stream music from the web then connect to the BluWall via Bluetooth and it will play anything your phone or tablet can, including sites like Soundcloud and Mixcloud and, of course, YouTube.
If you want to save battery on your phone then the BluWall will play files from a USB drive or MicroSD card. This works nicely, still controlled from the app and for me preferable to filling my phones memory up with large Hi-Res audio files.
As it's a multiroom system, two or more BluWall Directs can be linked to play the same audio in different rooms of the house.
This works well, wandering the house with the same music playing is nice if you're busy doing stuff and can't stay in one room. You can also link a pair and use each one as a separate channel and have a stereo setup.
I found the BluWall struggled here - there was a slight delay in audio between speakers, which gave a weird delayed phasing sound rather than a nice wide stereo image. This could be down to my home Wi-Fi, but even with the BluWalls in the same room as the router I had this problem.
The Otone app itself is quite simple to use. It's easy on the eye, and is quick to navigate to settings and other options. Your music is listed by song, artist and album and you can build playlists of your favourite tracks within the app.