Teenage Engineering have been charming us for a couple of years now with handheld, pocket calculator, Nintendo Game&Watch-style synth and drum machines. And you might think they’d be out of weird ideas. You’d be wrong.

The PO-32 looks to be both the most surprising, and most serious entry yet. It has an entire drum synth in there. And it’s not just any drum synth – it’s Magnus Lidström’s Microtonic, more or less squeezed into $89 hardware.

Now, at this stage, anyone who’s ever used Sonic Charge’s desktop drum percussion synth pattern sequencer plug-in is going to be a little confused. Microtonic, aka µTONIC, has elaborate on-screen controls for tweaking synth parameters, which you can access via a computer GUI with faders and switches and knobs, all of them labeled.

po-32-front

po-32-hand

The PO-32 is a business card-sized circuit board with some tiny buttons on it and some pictures of people out drinking and a mouse apparently making a phone call and … spiders. A number of spiders.

Fortunately, the Teenage Engineers have provided the ability design sounds in the computer plug-in, then load that sound into the standalone hardware.

I’ll be honest: this whole thing was so far-fetched that I had to confirm it with them. But because the hardware has a compatible engine to the plug-in, it’s real. You can make sounds on your computer and load them on the hardware, or move them from PO-32 to PO-32. Jesper Kouthoofd from TE says this is the next-generation Pocket Operator platform, and that the functionality will be used on future tools, too.

po-32-hero

Parameters and patterns move between software and hardware and hardware and hardware.

There will be a new, updated Microtonic plug-in to go with it. (Note: there’s only confirmation that you can load tweaked sounds/patterns from the plug-in onto the hardware — not the other way around. I hope they do find a way to go from hardware to plug-in, though, as that would be really useful with patterns.)

Don’t own the plug-in yet? Teenage Engineering are offering a bundle of the plug-in and hardware together for $139, as a limited edition.

Here’s Magnus – who also worked with TE on the CWO effect for their OP-1 – showing how it all works:

Teenage Engineering have also let CDM on another little touch they’ve given this instrument. There’s a “write-protect” tab, inspired by cassette tapes. Jesper explains, “The idea is that you can fill a machine with your personal patterns and sounds and keep them in that state forever. Perhaps give to a friend or sell on eBay? You can still perform live punch-in effects for live performance, but never destroy the original data. sort of a mix tape concept…”

screenshot_696

Frankly, it looks like a serious little tool. I think they’re going to be nearly impossible to buy, they’ll be so popular when they ship in worldwide (estimated for April).

This and a Nintendo Switch and basically you’re going to be happy all summer.

Full features:

mic for transferring sounds
16 sounds
16 punch-in effects
sequencer
parameter locks
built-in speaker
3.5 mm audio I/O
jam sync
LCD display
folding stand
watch + alarm clock
battery powered (2 x AAA)
1 month battery life
pattern chaining -up to 64 patterns
compatible with microtonic

You read that right: serious drum machines users, you get parameter locks. People who oversleep and have fond memories of Casio and Nintendo, you get an alarm clock.

As per usual, if you don’t like the bare board look – or want this to be more road-worthy – there’s an accessory case, which looks like this:

ca-x-buttons

po-32-with-ca-x

Store (doesn’t look like it’s ready yet)
https://teenage.engineering/store#po-32

  • Chase Dobson

    brilliant. love the plugin.

  • Jeremy G

    It’s software, it’s hardware, it can be only software or only hardware if you want. Their approach here looks like a serious candidate for an upcoming-dominant-paradigm-in-electronic-music. I can easily imagine the next generation of Ableton’s Push based on the same principle – say you’ve designed a synth preset with Ableton’s Operator, but you don’t want to bring a laptop/computer on stage, for instance? Boom: just bring your Push 3 and recall the parameters. I’m probably dreaming a little bit but with current stuff like Elektron Overbridge, MPC 2.0 or this PO-32, it looks like a very possible future. Exciting.

  • WANT.

  • Foosnark

    “TENCHO” 😀

    MicroTonic is great. For my puposes I’ll just stick with the plugin, but this a neat idea and I’m surprised it’s squeezed into a little Pocket Operator.

  • quantize=evil

    So can this record patterns without quantization that can be opened and tweaked with the micro tonic plugin inside Ableton/etc?

    Looking for the cheepest hardware drum machine that doesn’t quantize, maybe this is it?

  • Matt Boone

    There are instructions on the reverse of the device to “Transfer Data” Write + Sound, so presumably you can send something out – to either other POs or to microtonic?

    • Will

      yes, sounds at least are bi-directional. Can also send them to other PO-32s.

  • chap

    MicroTonic was the only DrumSynth VST i ever used. I loved it and i’m so excited to load its sounds in a PO !

  • chap

    Question : can it be trigged by a modular synth ?

    • Thomas Jefferson

      Yes with an op-lab it sure can

  • tralivallo

    Question: can you tweak and motion record drum synth parameters when it transfered to PO? With those 2 knobs.

    • Thomas Jefferson

      Yes

  • Will

    The bundle price is an awfully friendly deal on Microtonic but would love to see a single voice, no sequencer version of Microtonic for even less; just for swapping sounds in and out of the PO. I’d likely swap out my PO-12 for this but I don’t have any need for a desktop drum plugin, great as it sounds.

  • aaron

    Wait. I can get my favorite software drum machine engine in a revamped PO-16 which I’ve owned and fiddle with constantly for over a year? Can it also do pattern exports? Because man.. that would be extra sweet..

    • griotspeak

      It looks like you can’t export from the PO-32 to Microtonic. You can go from Microtonic to PO-32 though.

  • Leo Maymind

    is it possible to get this to sync with midi or DIN? very intrigued…

    • Thomas Jefferson

      Yes with a op-lab it can be synced via cv.