After quite a nice success with mini keyboard called OP-1 in 2009, Teenage Engineering came with another great thing called Pocket Operators. There are three separate products, three magic boxes that allows you to control drums, basslines and leads. They are very similar to OP1 with design and functionality, but are they really worth to buy? And what are they actually capable of? Let´s have a closer look on them.
Pocket operator X
All of those gadgets are powered by two pieces of AAA batteries on the back side of the unit. The manufacturer states that such a power source is strong enough to keep the unit in standby mode for two years. Front side of each unit is covered by 23 separate buttons. Lack of space led TE to give them only cryptic symbols. As you would surely expect, 23 buttons would not be enough to ensure all of required functions, so each unit can work with shift functions. To understand them all you will definitely need to read manual, because it is not very intuitive. However, on such a small space there is no other choice.
Unit called PO-12 Rhytm is used to operate drums and well, let´s say that it performs fantastic. It can be compared with several times more expensive machines. You can control volume by holding button called BPM and choosing one of 16 levels of volume by buttons 1-16. Hit and miss function produces sounds similar to old videogames, but the other functions could give amazing performance, if you know how to set them up properly. With ability to record and adjust sequences, together with variable BPM rate it gives you outstanding options to play. There are three presets for BPM, but you can also manually change it to any level between 60 – 206 BPM.
By holding the FX button, you can achieve adding one of 16 sound effects. FX button also serves as erasing button if you hold it without selecting other button. The manual does not say what does each of the effects do, so trying to mix new sounds is exactly as funny as with previously noticed OP-1 keyboard. Sometimes you can also accidentally achieve something extraordinary, so you should rather never forget to record what you´re doing.
PO-14 Sub Po-12 Rhythm
The other two devices are very similar to PO-12. PO-14 Sub unit is provided by extra button to take control over arpeggiator, vibrato or tape stop. You are able to change notes, but only in C major or A minor. The device offers 16 sounds and 16 patterns.
The most of the users would like and idea to play with the device on road. You know, all of the times you have an idea and want to record it. But don´t forget one thing – the effects cannot be assigned to single patterns, because they are just global effects. On its own sound going out from PO-14 sounds rather rough than pure, but you can adjust it if you want. With using the effects and function called parameter lock you may simply adjust anything you need. The 16th effect is micro drum, which unfortunately gives just a very thin output, but all in all it may be useful sometimes.
The last device called PO-16 is very similar to PO-14, because the only difference is color and pattern of the screen. However, it´s not so enjoyable to use as PO-12 and PO-14, because it has no breath taking feature that would make you stare with your mouth open wide.
You can synchronize all of the devices via 3,5 mm jack on their left sides. It´s not very professional solution, but according to size of the devices it is just all right. Simply set everything up and then let the last device in the chain to produce the final sound. However, it is only a provisional solution, maybe even you won´t be impressed by final output.
So, what is the final verdict? Pocket Operators are not designed to be professional instruments. But if you don´t take sound and music too seriously, you may enjoy lot of fun with it. Just be careful about water and other liquids, because it´s clear that Pocket operators units wouldn´t survive contact with water.
|Internal Sound Engine||Yes|
|Manufacturer Presets||16 drum sounds|
|Number of Effects||16|
|Effects Types||Delay, distortion, filters, stutter, bit crush, vibrato|
|Analog Inputs||1 x 1/8″ TRS|
|Analog Outputs||1 x 1/8″ TRS|
|Power Supply||2 x AAA batteries|
|Manufacturer Part Number||TE010AS012|