It’s called the PO-12. It’s $50. It’s absolutely tiny – a little stand props it up, inspired by the Nintendo Game & Watch. And it’s already sounding like a drum machine.

The drum machine first revealed to the world at a panel I moderated at Moogfest is finally, after manufacturing and customs delays, making its way to a select group of first owners – mainly VIPs and artists from that festival. What you’re seeing here is just a prototype; Teenage Engineering now says they’ll have a fully fleshed-out version some time in 2015.

There are two things, apart from the impossibly-low price, that make this appealing. First, it sounds really good. The bass drum and snare sound especially convincing; the other sounds are definitely glitchy and lo-fi, but they have a pleasant aesthetic – it sounds intentional. This has the digital character and quirk you’d expect from the makers of the OP-1. If you saw the video this week on Synthtopia, its creator has fixed his YouTube upload (at top) with one that doesn’t phase.

Second, you get parameter locks, which are beautifully featured in the hands-on video at top from Cuckoo. Human translation: you can add effects and triggers live and turn this into a performance interface. And that’s no coincidence, either. Jesper Kouthoofd of TE helped build the original Machinedrum.

More videos demonstrate the design.

Norberg Festival in Sweden is a small but absolutely superb adventurous electronic music festival. The TE guys chose Norberg to finally reveal what the PO-12 sounds like (the board at Moogfest was silent):

Note the mention of a display. As TE had previously told CDM, you can expect that the display, like the pop-up stand, will be inspired by Nintendo Game & Watch displays. (Whether all of this remains under $50, we’ll see.)

Moog Music, unsolicited (and I believe surprising even Teenage), had so much fun with theirs that they released a little video pairing the board with a Minifooger. Good times:

To me, the PO-12 is more than a novelty board. It’s a design statement: a demonstration of the extracted essence of what makes a great drum machine, reduced to its bare minimum. Might you want fancier features – say sync, MIDI, or, um, a case? Absolutely. But even in the pre-release form, the PO-12, like the clever volca beats before it, reignites the sense of what makes this sort of machine fun.

I desperately want mine, ahem, Teenage – and need to get working on a sync solution and sequencer so I can pair this with MeeBlip. You could have an entire live dance music rig for less than a discount flight from Detroit to Chicago.

Teenage Engineering PO-12 Unveiling, Norberg 2014

  • Kim

    Lovely stuff. In the Nordberg Festival video I think the guy says finished design will also feature a screen. (That video is missing from your post by the way—featuring instead the Moog one twice.)

    • Kim

      Oh, the bearded one says it in his video too. Small display.

    • Peter Kirn

      That’s correct. We’d covered that detail previously – they don’t say this here, but again, think Game & Watch.

    • Peter Kirn

      oh, and thanks for the catch. That’s the problem with being at airports trying to post stories from phone connections!

  • Bynar

    The question is can drum machines get any cheaper?! I think I will sit on the fence until we get a $5 drum machine (sarcasm).

    • Peter Kirn

      Well, it gets significantly easier when you lose the case, most of the controls, the MIDI jack, and so on. 😉

  • Nick Shepherd

    damn i want one… running this cute thing through some nice pedals and outboard looks sooo tempting :)

  • Foosnark

    Even ignoring the cost, just in terms of sound, this is about 20 times more exciting to me than the Aira stuff or the Rhythm Wolf. To do that in a $50 toy is just fantastic!

  • Andrew Stien

    I wonder if it would even be possible to load samples.

  • Nick

    Looks awesome, but why limit it to 3 tempos? Limits can be great sometimes, but I think that would stop me from trying this.

  • Xebulon

    Sounds way better than Rhythm Wolf already. The audio input jack makes me really hopeful for lo-fi sampling on this. I hope they fix the BPM feature though.

  • Jesse Engel

    What great design choices, make the most out of so little

  • Gimp Techno

    Are they gonna put a case on it? I’ll give them $59 if they put a case on it…

  • Boris Nagel

    i hope there is a case simply so that it doesn’t get confiscated by the TSA… -______-