The new Pocket Operator modular kits are reminiscent of the cardboard Labo toys Nintendo created to expand the Switch’s capabilities as an interactive toy. In Teenage Engineering’s case, the new instruments are assembled from electronic components, plastic knobs and dials, and pre-cut pieces of sheet metal that need to be folded into housings. In other words, if you can follow an Ikea instruction manual, you can probably build yourself an analog synthesizer or sequencer on the cheap.
There are 12 different sound and function modules that make up the new Pocket Operator collection, and Teenage Engineering expects some users to build their own racks and housings for the collection, and wire them up themselves. But the company’s electronic instruments have appealed to those who aren’t professional performers or engineers and simply like to tinker with digital music production. So the company has put together three kits to get users started, ranging in price from $149 to $499 (shipping starts in about four weeks) with increasing levels of complexity and capabilities.
At the $149 end is a programmable 16-key keyboard with a built-in sequencer, but it’s only designed to control other synthesizers and doesn’t produce any sound on its own. You’ll need to step up to the $349 PO-170, or the $499 PO-400, to really start churning out the tunes. The PO-170 includes a 16-key keyboard of its own, and seems tailored as a more all-in-one music production solution, while the yellow PO-400 can accommodate more modules, and appears to serve as a complement to your existing music production equipment.
More on Teenage Engineering’s website.