Teenage Engineering announced two new Pocket Operators at this year’s NAMM — the PO-35 Speak, a vocal synthesizer and sequencer, and the PO-33 KO!, a sampler. Both models are part of the Metal line, which previously only included the PO-32 Tonic drum machine.
Pocket Operators are small, hand-sized devices for making electronic music and at under $100, are relatively cheap. I heard rumors that Teenage Engineering was going to be at NAMM, but I didn’t find them on the showroom floor. Instead of a booth, the company had camped out in a white Ford Expedition in a parking lot near the expo halls. We were greeted by a lanky rep in pineapple-colored Hunter S. Thompson sunglasses who ushered us inside and clambered in the back seat. Once the doors slammed shut, I looked down to see three daisy-chained Pocket Operators neatly laid out on a makeshift presentation table. The first Pocket Operator in the chain I recognized as the PO-32 Tonic drum machine. The other two, I was told, were brand-new. Altogether, the three complete the company’s Metal line.
The PO-32 Tonic drum machine had some firsts for Pocket Operators, including the ability to load new sounds onto the device using a program called Microtonic. These two new models, the PO-33 KO! and PO-35 Speak, also work with Microtonic and have another first for the company: built-in microphones that allow you to record audio samples. This capability makes the PO-33 KO! and PO-35 Speak act more like grooveboxes, as you can play with and layer preset sounds or record in your own samples to distort and add character.
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