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Friday, February 23, 2024

Teenage Engineering’s EP-133 KO II synthesizer: worth, options, and specs

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The Swedish tech and design firm Teenage Engineering is thought for many issues — serving to create the feel and appear of units like the Playdate and the Nothing Phone, creating outrageously expensive voice recorders coveted by each reporter you realize, constructing knobs and buttons higher than anybody else — however above all it’s a music firm. And it’s now launching its newest music gadget: the EP-133 KO II synthesizer. (The identify doesn’t precisely roll off the tongue, so we’re going to name it the KO II.)

The KO II is one thing like a higher-end model of the Pocket Operator, the extraordinarily cool and customizable $59 synthesizers Teenage Engineering launched in 2015. The Pocket Operator line has been an enormous hit for Teenage Engineering, and the corporate now sells a variety of those minimalist music-makers that allow you to make and blend music from wherever. At $299, the KO II will not be precisely an impulse purchase, however David Eriksson, Teenage Engineering’s co-founder and {hardware} lead, says he hopes it could actually nonetheless attraction to individuals who simply need to use it for enjoyable. It’s meant to reside someplace between the Pocket Operators and the OP-1, the corporate’s iconic — and $1,400 — synthesizer.

That rationalization, although, assumes a form of roadmapping that Eriksson says was completely not the case. The KO II was created purely out of necessity. “It was form of an insurance coverage mission when the chip disaster occurred,” he says. Provide chains had been massively constrained through the pandemic, and even in the summertime of 2022, the Teenage Engineering staff couldn’t get among the elements they wanted to make the corporate’s different synths. In order an experiment and a hedge towards additional shortages, the staff reversed their design course of and basically positioned an order for a 12 months’s value of no matter elements they might discover earlier than really deciding how these elements would match collectively. The staff additionally labored to arrange a brand new manufacturing line in Barcelona, so they might management the entire course of themselves.

Many of the KO II’s elements are simply off-the-shelf elements, together with the show. (Can’t converse for the glove, although.)
Picture: Teenage Engineering

The one actual plan in the beginning, Eriksson says, was to make a much bigger Pocket Operator that price lower than $300. What they ended up with is, nicely, just about that. The gadget itself is a good-looking gadget-y panel of buttons, knobs, and connectors with a small rectangular display up high. Its keys are clicky “like an accountant-style calculator,” Eriksson says, and are force-sensitive so you possibly can change what you play by urgent tougher or softer.

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The KO II has 64MB of reminiscence, which is each a bit and rather a lot: it’s clearly not a pc’s value of storage, but it surely’s a lot to retailer a number of songs and a few works in progress. “It’s limitation,” Eriksson says. “We imagine with this type of factor that you need to make music and end your songs. If you happen to supply an excessive amount of storage… you form of give the person the choice to complete later.” 

That will help you make these songs, the KO II has 999 slots for various samples, an inner microphone for recording your individual sound, plus Teenage Engineering’s sometimes huge set of devices to play with. (About half the gadget’s storage will come full of pre-recorded samples, drum tracks, and different sounds that Eriksson and his staff spent months creating and assembling.) You may plug it in with a USB-C cable or use 4 AAA batteries on the go. The KO II can connect with MIDI units, plug into your laptop, or work with absolutely anything with a 3.5mm jack. 

The KO II has a number of enter and output, which ought to assist it match into most music-making methods.
Picture: Teenage Engineering

From a music-making perspective, the KO II is way more succesful than a Pocket Operator. Eriksson says he hopes you need to use the KO II to make complete songs, and that Teenage Engineering made among the buttons and knobs orange so you possibly can extra simply discover them whilst you’re live-DJing on a darkish stage. 

On the identical time, although, he additionally thinks this might be a neater gadget for brand spanking new customers than even the Pocket Operator. “We tried to jot down the guide for a person that has by no means touched a synth,” he says. “We discuss, like, ‘sampling is if you report a chunk of audio,’ as an alternative of assuming you realize what it’s.” From the corporate well-known for making ultra-luxury merchandise solely reasonably priced to a couple and solely understood by professionals, the KO II is a flip towards the mainstream. Sick beats and higher buttons for everyone.

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