PO Series

The BOOP series has talked briefly about Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operator Series. Aaron picked up the PO-20 and PO-33 in the fall of 2018. I just nabbed the PO-12 as an XMas gift from my parents.

These things are simple to start using. I unwrapped this, put some batteries in the back, hit play and passed it to my Mom. The pre-set drum pattern on the PO-12 was clean, my Mom unwittingly hit the BPM button and we went from 80 bpm to 140 bpm and things started sounding funny. Then my 2-year-old got in the mix hitting buttons because they light up. Things went from chill drum-beat to open gifts too, to heart-pounding adrenaline-inducing thrash beat in seconds. That might be a fun new game for me. Program in some goofy beat or sound and pass it off to someone unwitting person.

Aaron and I are planning to do more learning and testing with these things. Through that process we are planning to post some videos. The device is laid out in a 5 by 5 grid. The top row is split between 3 buttons and 2 knobs. Then on the right you have the 1 knob (the same knob from the top row) and 4 buttons. These controls here run the features and functions on the device. The remaining 16 buttons serve the primary function of being the instrument for the device. The POs have 16 sounds, you select a sound to play or program back into the machine into sequence steps. The 16 buttons also represent the 16 sequence steps within the PO. The PO-12 is the most basic synth device. It appears to me to be the ideal drum driver in the series. There are other POs that also have drum machines and microdrum machine features. This one is stripped down to just be the beat maker.

The POs can also be chained together. The first PO in the series becomes the master and the remaining POs fall in line in terms of bpm. Having only one device right now I’m not chaining them together. In liu of chaining my devices together to make sounds I’m simple using the pattern and patterning chaining features on my single device. That is until the two new POs I’ve ordered show up this next week.

Most background. The POs currently have three series the 10s, 20s, and 30s. The one I have the PO-12 is in the 10s series. Each series has three devices. The 30s were released in early 2018, 20s in 2017 and 10s in 2016. The build quality is basic. The 10s and 20s are just circuit boards with the 30s being all metal or the metal series. Everything that matters internally is placed behind the LCD screen. Each device has an internal clock that can be used as an alarm. When I initially set mine up a week ago I didn’t take the time to read the manual to set the clock. My clock is off by 7 or so hours so I haven’t reset it or used the alarm because if I’m too lazy to reset the clock I’m too lazy to mentally figure out what time I’d need to set on the alarm to actually work for me.

On the right hand side of the buttons there is a button to play the currently selected pattern.

When you hit play whatever pattern was most recently selected starts playing. The preset pattern 1 that was selected when I first fired this up and handed it to my Mom is what started playing in that scenario. The “bpm” button to the left of the knobs is what my Mom unwittingly hit to speed things up into warp drive.

To change patterns you hold down the “pattern” button (adjacent to the left of “bpm”). When you hold down the “pattern” button the currently selected pattern will light up on the number pad 1-16. If you want to choose a different pattern you just hit a different button. You can then chain up to 16 patterns in a row. Chaining is simple you just hit another button. Or the same button. If you want you can go 1,1,1,4 or any combo up to 16 in a row. Once the final pattern in your chain plays it loops back to the start again.

I started off by saying this thing is easy, which it is, but I’m multiple paragraphs in before I even explained how to play a pattern. Before you start a pattern you can just hit keys 1-16 and make a sound and play that sound live as your own song. It won’t be recorded or stored in the device in this scenario but you can make music just by hitting buttons.

If you want you can hit and hold the record button on the bottom right-hand corner of the layout. While holding the button you can punch-in anything on the keys 1-16 and it’ll be recorded and quantized to the current bpm and swing settings. I haven’t mentioned swing yet but yeah you can swing stuff with this thing. From straight on the note to nearly pushed to the next note. The swing is set by holding the “bpm” button and turning knob “A” or the left knob. Its slick and easy. Here is a better image to really understand the control. I took this from the official User Guide and its better than me just adding arrows to the picture of my device in my hand.

If you click the image you’ll be taken to the actual user guide.

After you’ve written a few things you can go back in and add-in effects. And you can take the sounds in the device and augment them with the “A” and “B” knobs. There really are a lot of things you can do with each sound within the device even though its not the most fully featured synth in the PO line-up there are lots of synth features people should know.

This five minute write-up should give people more than five minutes worth of stuff to chop around with till Aaron and I get more hands-on time with these devices. Peace