It’s called the PO-12. It’s $50. It’s absolutely tiny – a little stand props it up, inspired by the Nintendo Game & Watch. And it’s already sounding like a drum machine.
The drum machine first revealed to the world at a panel I moderated at Moogfest is finally, after manufacturing and customs delays, making its way to a select group of first owners – mainly VIPs and artists from that festival. What you’re seeing here is just a prototype; Teenage Engineering now says they’ll have a fully fleshed-out version some time in 2015.
There are two things, apart from the impossibly-low price, that make this appealing. First, it sounds really good. The bass drum and snare sound especially convincing; the other sounds are definitely glitchy and lo-fi, but they have a pleasant aesthetic – it sounds intentional. This has the digital character and quirk you’d expect from the makers of the OP-1. If you saw the video this week on Synthtopia, its creator has fixed his YouTube upload (at top) with one that doesn’t phase.
Second, you get parameter locks, which are beautifully featured in the hands-on video at top from Cuckoo. Human translation: you can add effects and triggers live and turn this into a performance interface. And that’s no coincidence, either. Jesper Kouthoofd of TE helped build the original Machinedrum.
More videos demonstrate the design.
Norberg Festival in Sweden is a small but absolutely superb adventurous electronic music festival. The TE guys chose Norberg to finally reveal what the PO-12 sounds like (the board at Moogfest was silent):
Note the mention of a display. As TE had previously told CDM, you can expect that the display, like the pop-up stand, will be inspired by Nintendo Game & Watch displays. (Whether all of this remains under $50, we’ll see.)
Moog Music, unsolicited (and I believe surprising even Teenage), had so much fun with theirs that they released a little video pairing the board with a Minifooger. Good times:
To me, the PO-12 is more than a novelty board. It’s a design statement: a demonstration of the extracted essence of what makes a great drum machine, reduced to its bare minimum. Might you want fancier features – say sync, MIDI, or, um, a case? Absolutely. But even in the pre-release form, the PO-12, like the clever volca beats before it, reignites the sense of what makes this sort of machine fun.
I desperately want mine, ahem, Teenage – and need to get working on a sync solution and sequencer so I can pair this with MeeBlip. You could have an entire live dance music rig for less than a discount flight from Detroit to Chicago.
Teenage Engineering PO-12 Unveiling, Norberg 2014