We’ve been big fans of Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operator synths for a while now. These little devices offer a (relatively) cheap and fun way to create your own electronic music, with different versions available for making melodies, bass lines, rhythms, and so on. The latest entry in the series though — the PO-32 Tonic drum machine — has some important upgrades, including the ability to import and export sounds via a 3.5mm jack or built-in microphone.
This means you can create a beat on the PO-32 and transfer it to another unit as a data burst played through the microphone (just like a modem), or store it on your computer or phone via the audio cable. Users can also load new sound effects onto the device using a program called Microtonic — a drum machine plug-in for Mac and Windows that’s built by Magnus Lidström and which provides all the pre-loaded sounds in the PO-32. Both of these features are firsts for the Pocket Operator series, and although it’s not the same as, say, converting the beats you make into a piano roll you can edit in Fruity Loops, it still offers a lot more flexibility than previous devices.
As with other Pocket Operators, the PO-32 is about the size of a phone with a retro-looking LCD screen and goofy UI visualization. (Previous versions looked like arcade machines, factories, and the inside of a submarine — this time it’s people drinking at a bar.) There are 16 buttons for selecting sounds, patterns, or effects; two knobs for tweaking things like pitch and modulation; and you can chain the synths together or connect it straight to whatever speaker set-up you like. The whole thing is powered by a pair of AAA batteries, gets up to a month’s battery life, and there’s an optional case if you want to take it on the road.
The PO-32 Tonic costs $90 and goes on sale in the first week of April, or you can buy it bundled with the Microtonic software for $140 shipping on February 2nd. Check out the video below from Magnus Lidström to get an idea of the sort of sounds the PO-32 can make: